In praise of Tommy Lawlor— and a sneak peek at his Eagles “Mach 10” pilot episode…

I like Tommy Lawlor as a football writer and an Eagles analyst, and he’s been doing it for many years now for not only his Fandemonium column at, but also his independent blog Iggles Blitz and as a contributor to the reborn

Lawlor writes in straight-forward sentences and gets to the point. He is not overly loquacious or sentimental. His style is almost Hemingway-esque in that he tells you what he’s going to tell you, then he tells you, then he tells you what he told you.

Tommy Lawlor also writes for Scouting…  this is Lawlor’s most recent PR photo, which indicates Tommy has been working out of late…I would not be surprised to see Lawlor on the NFL Network someday as an analyst in the current Jason LaCanfora mode…Nice to see a hard-working local guy do good…

Like a kid waiting for Christmas, I always have looked forward to Lawlor’s preliminary “Mock” of the Eagles impending draft through their first 10 selections.  Around these parts we call it the Eagles “Mach 10” (copyright GK Brizer 2007)…

Just released yesterday, here are Lawlor’s studied Mach 10 picks for the Eagles:

1st Round (No. 15 overall) – DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State, 6-4, 295
2nd Round (No. 46 overall) – DE Chandler Jones, Syracuse, 6-5, 265
2nd Round (No. 51 overall) – CB Brandon Boykin, Georgia, 5-9, 183
3rd Round (No. 77 overall) – LB Keenan Robinson, Texas, 6-3, 240
4th Round – WR T.Y. Hilton, Florida International, 5-10, 175
4th Round – OT Nate Potter, Boise State, 6-6, 295
5th Round – LB Demario Davis, Arkansas State, 6-2, 235
6th Round – S Jerron McMillian, Maine, 5-10, 205
6th Round – WR B.J. Cunningham, Michigan State, 6-1, 206
6th Round – S Sean Richardson, Vanderbilt, 6-2, 218

As Lawlor himself points out, this Mach 10 scenario is not exactly what he would want but what he thinks the Eagles will do…

I am thrilled that Lawlor sees Texas linebacker Keenan Robinson in the 3rd Round picture…of course mostly because I’ve been touting the guy for about a month now myself… But noticeably missing in this picture is LB Luke Kuechly in the 1st Round…who I thought would be the Eagles’ priority choice if Luke were still available at pick #15.

“I know linebacker Luke Kuechly is the primary pick for the Eagles in mock drafts, but I tend to think the team will go for a veteran in free agency to improve middle linebacker,” writes Lawlor. “I would love to see them get Kuechly, but I’m not expecting it at this point.”

Fair enough.

So what’s the fascination with Fletcher Cox at DE?

Fletcher Cox (#94) is a defensive tackle who plays with the reckless abandon and athleticism of a pass-rushing DE…

Here’s a bit of what Lawlor had to say about Fletcher:

“Cox is a really interesting player. MSU lined him up all over the place. He was defensive tackle, defensive end and nose tackle. He played on the right and left side. You never knew where he would be when the defense broke the huddle. Cox is a good athlete. He has the burst to get off the ball and into the backfield. He’s comfortable playing at end. Cox is a good pass rusher, not just a quick guy. He had five sacks this year. He could beat you with burst, a move, or even come up with hustle sacks.”

“I think the Eagles would like someone to be the backup under tackle. Cullen Jenkins starts in that role and he was the only inside guy who could regularly get pressure on the passer. Adding a guy like Cox would make perfect sense. He’s got the athleticism and skill to be a good pass rusher. He also has value because you could play him at end if you wanted. I’m guessing he’ll do well at the Combine and will be someone who does make sense in that range. We’ll find out for sure next week.”

So be it… I’m open-minded to Fletcher Cox now because of Lawlor’s analysis.

Thankfully Lawlor backed up my own desire for Texas LB Keenan Robinson to be drafted by the Eagles in the 3rd Round:

Keenan Robinson, LB, Texas

Writes Lawlor: “Robinson has the potential to be a big-time SAM linebacker. He has an ideal frame. Robinson is a good athlete. He can cover. He’s got good pass rush skills. At his best, Robinson can be a physical player and good run defender. The reason he’s on the board this late is inconsistency. Watch the Texas/Oklahoma game from 2010 and you’ll think Robinson would be a first-round pick. Other times he was more up and down. There is no lack of skill or potential. Robinson had a good showing at the Senior Bowl. He’s experienced enough to challenge for a starting job right away. Last year, Seattle took a somewhat inconsistent player in the mid-rounds named K.J. Wright. He became their SAM and was good enough to send Aaron Curry, a former top-five pick, out of town. You can still find good starting linebackers in this part of the draft.”

Thank you in advance for that, Mr. Lawlor.  I couldn’t say it any better, other than Keenan Robinson is “my boy”…

So there you have it— the prototype for your Mach 10 Draft entry soon to be field-tested at the Brizer Bowl…

For the record, Lawlor has previously hit on 4 of his Eagles Mach 10 selections in his best annual showing over the past 5 years… Last year (2011), he hit on 3 selections.
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Turning the conversation to Free Agency, here are the big questions I’m pondering today:

 Which big-name free agents won’t really be “free?”

If you think the Saints are letting NFL Offensive Player of the Year Drew Brees get out of town, you haven’t been paying attention for the past six years or so. If you believe 49ers quarterback Alex Smith really will be available next month, then you probably missed the fact that Smith is caddying for his head coach and BFF Jim Harbaugh in Thursday’s first round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Ray Rice, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch and Wes Welker? I’ll give you odds that all four either wear the franchise tag at some point in March, or they’ll have new long-term contracts in Baltimore, Chicago, Seattle and New England, respectively.

It just makes economic sense in terms of this year’s franchise tag salary levels. The franchise tag is down to just $7.7 million for running backs, and $9.4 million for receivers. Rice, Forte, Lynch and Welker are well worth keeping around for another year at those numbers. And Brees and Smith are far too valuable to the Saints and 49ers, respectively, to let them get a sniff of the open market.

Who will be the biggest prize in free agency?

Houston defensive end/outside linebacker Mario Williams probably isn’t going to coax the Texans into a franchise tag designation, given that his number would be more than $22 million and the team has some cap issues this offseason. That means a 27-year-old pass rusher with 53 sacks in less than six full seasons will reach the market, and that could kick up a little dust from teams fighting over him.

On the other hand, Williams might prefer to stay with the ascending Texans and work with the team to make that happen. He had five sacks in five games playing outside linebacker in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense before a torn pectoral muscle ended his 2011 season. Houston, of course, didn’t fall off a cliff without Williams, finishing second in overall defense and winning the franchise’s first playoff game ever.

There are pass-rush-needy teams that could come after Williams and make it very difficult for Houston to keep the player who went first overall in 2006. Three that come quickly to mind: Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville. In addition, the 3-4 Packers are hungry for another pass rusher at outside linebacker, although the big free agency splash hasn’t been the Green Bay way under Ted Thompson.

[Thanks to Derek Pease of “This Given Sunday” for his contributions to this blurb…check him out at  Derek Pease (@SportsbyWeeze) ]

Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.