Twitter Mailbag: Will Any Starters Be Replaced?


Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Eagles cornerback Jaylen Watkins. Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

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Honestly, I don’t think anyone will. Let’s break it down by position:


Quarterback: Foles, clearly.
Running back: Think they’ll stick with that McCoy guy. 
Wide receiver: The changes have already been made here. DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant are out. Jeremy Maclin and (probably) Jordan Matthews are in.  Riley Cooper continues to man the other outside spot opposite Maclin. 
Tight end: Zach Ertz will be featured more but Brent Celek isn’t quite ready to give up the starting role. 
Offensive line: Returns intact.


Defensive line:  Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan and Fletcher Cox are the favorites to return as starters. Maybe Vinny Curry or Joe Kruger makes a push at defensive end, but they will probably begin as rotational players. 
Linebacker: DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks are locks on the inside. Connor Barwin will start at left outside linebacker and I’m guessing that Trent Cole holds onto the starting right outside linebacker spot as first-round pick Marcus Smith is eased into action.
Cornerback: Think Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher hold off Nolan Carroll and Jaylen Watkins, respectively. 
Safety: Malcolm Jenkins will be paired with either Nate Allen (the current favorite and full-time starter in 2013) or Earl Wolff, who started six games last season. If you want to say Wolff would replace Allen as a starter I guess you could go there, but I’m betting on Allen anyway — at least at the beginning of the year.  

Not a whole lot of turnover, which you can certainly look at as a good sign for this team.

As Sheil noted the other day, Kruger seemed to be working primarily with the threes when we were at practice but did get some time with the first and second team. Outside of depth chart notes, very difficult to speak on a lineman’s progress based on non-contact practices. He is about 20 pounds heavier this season and says he is feeling much more powerful.

As I mentioned above, I think Watkins begins as a reserve. It’s possible he is used in sub-packages this season at some point but he is playing cornerback for now. Safety is more of a down-the-road option far as I can tell. He definitely has more of a cornerback build at the moment and would have to bulk up before making the switch.

I went back and read the presentation Kelly gave at a NIKE coaches clinic a few years ago where he was talking about his approach to the ground game (and, seemingly, football overall). Some of his thoughts are relevant to this topic, I think:

“Our offensive line leads the country in yards per carry and rushing touchdowns and we only run four plays in the running game…

“If you give your players something to hang their hats on, they will perform. If they can run the offense with any scenario they may face, you will be successful in running the ball. If they have all the answers to the problems the defense may give them, they will be good…

“Instead of trying to outscheme your opponent, put your players in an environment where they can be successful because they understand exactly what they have to do.”

As new-wave as Kelly might be in certain respects, I think he is a throwback when it comes to some of his core philosophies. He has a handful of bread and butter plays (like the inside zone) that he uses over and over, believing that it will be successful even if the defense knows it’s coming so long as his 11 executes properly against their 11. He dresses up the looks, designs unique game plans for each opponent, uses up-tempo to limit the defense’s options and response time and creatively branches out from the root, but the root remains.

I believe defensive coordinators will be better prepared to deal with the tempo this year and will have a more sound understanding of the Eagles offense overall. From Kelly’s perspective, his unit should run at an even faster pace and execute at a higher rate now that players have a season-plus of experience in the system. And, of course, he can make tweaks to try and answer the answers. We’ll see how it plays out, but I don’t think Kelly is worried about defenses identifying what he likes to do. He doesn’t really try to hide it.

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