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:

OFFENSE

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.

DEFENSE

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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  • Ben

    Good Article. I can remember last season when we were first starting to see this offense give us glimpses of how the tempo affects may aspects of the game. What really got me excited is when Chip does his press conference and shows a little disappointment with how slow of a tempo we ran as he thought we could have been much faster. The reporter that asked him the question thought he was joking but he wasn’t.
    It’s actually a little scary how good this team can be when they truly get the tempo to where Chip is satisfied. They left defenses bending over in exhaustion at halftime with the tempo we had last season and this season they should be twice as fast.
    All I know is you better not blink or take a bathroom break while were on offense. LOL.

    • Max Lightfoot

      And don’t forget all the other teams’ defensive players having inexplicable “injury timeouts” in the second half. I hope the League takes a closer look at this phenomenon, and come up with a rule that punishes these shenanigans.

    • Cyrus Robinson

      I remember the first game of the season last year against the Redskins when the game felt like it was supposed to be over already from all the plays the Eagles had run, yet it was only halftime.
      Year 2 will likely be even more extreme, unless teams start to Philip Rivers us.

  • Will

    Not so sure low turnover of starters bodes well… basically the team did little to improve…

    • Andy124

      I’d counter that roster turnover isn’t the ideal way to improve. Internal improvement (essentially, young players progressing) is the optimal path, and while there’s no sure thing, if ever there was a situation where internal improvement could be expected, it’s this.

      There is reason to believe we have improved at:
      LT, C, RG, RT, QB, RB2, WR2, WR3, WR4, TE2, DE1, NT, DE2, ROLB, ILB2, CB4, S1, S2 and our special teams coverage and return units. That’s a lot of improvement.

      • Andy124

        Breaking taboos, self reply, and a long one.
        I hadn’t really thought about it like that before posting it, but it is freaking exciting when you look at it like that imo. So I figured I’d go through the list with a little more detail.

        LT – Peters will be another year removed from double achilles ruptures.
        C – Kelce will be another year removed from destroying his knee
        RG – Herremens will be in his second year at RG and fully healthy from the get-go.
        RT – Johnson: duh.
        QB – Nick: duh
        RB2 – Sproles > Brown
        WR2 – Riley won’t have to play 6 games with a qb that breaks out in hives when he even thinks about throwing his direction
        WR3 – Matthews > Avant
        WR4 – Huff > Maehl
        TE2 – Ertz: duh
        DE1 – Cox in his second year playing 3-4 DE, only his 3rd year in the league.
        NT – Logan: duh
        DE2 – Thorton in his second year playing 3-4 DE
        ROLB – Cole in his second year in the 3-4 + sports science + Marcus Smith (I know he’s practicing on the left… for now).
        ILB2 – Kendriks in his second year in the 3-4.
        CB4 – CarrolWatkins > Carmicheal
        S1 – Jenkins > Allen
        S2 – Allen/Wolff > Chung

        Add in another full year of sports science and year 2 in the same systems for the applicable players and I am not buying Cohen’s step back theory.

        • myeaglescantwin

          yeah man!

        • Richard Colton

          pretty good self-reply. here’s where we disagree (blood feud alert): I’m not willing to assume a 2nd or 3rd year player gets better just because it’s his second or third year. That, and we can’t just minimize aging players getting older by saying “sports science.”

          • Andy124

            That’s why I didn’t include DeMeco.

          • Richard Colton

            No, but you do have Trent Cole in there. Worst case scenario (non-injury): this is the year he drops off completely, Graham officially hits bust status, Smith isn’t ready or busts. In that case, we got worse at ROLB.

          • Andy124

            I don’t disagree.
            On the one hand you’ve got Cole getting older.
            But on the other hand you’ve got
            second year in system +
            sports science +
            showed a little better at the end of the year +
            and this is the big one
            I think there’re decent odds of Smith taking over here and being an upgrade OR Smith taking over LOLB and Connor being an upgrade at ROLB.

            I think all those put together outweigh the additional year of age.

            I also had editted and put ROLB among the least likely of my reason to believe in upgrade.

          • peteike

            great little thread here. I disagree on WR a tad and I wont be sold on ST til I see it.

          • UKEagle99

            I agree completely with you.

            My concerns would be Peters, Herremans & Cole all being a further year removed from being the right side of 30. I also think in some peoples minds (not necessarily Andy’s) that Sports Science has morphed in to the Holy Grail, 2 smoothies and you’re 5 years younger. In my mind it is more to do with the ability to recover week to week than removing years!

          • Andy124

            Oh please. It takes at least a half-dozen smoothies to do that.

            fwiw, I think the year of age outweighs the sports science for all of those guys you just mentioned.
            But for Peters, I’m also adding in another year removed from surgery.
            For Herremans it’s a second year in a new position.
            And for Cole, it’s more about Smith than Cole.

            And the list was obviously completely subjective. The great thing is, take those names off the list and it’s still a long, exciting list.

          • All Things Bad@ss

            On the money. But the good truth about it is, we’ll find out a helluva lot more about the young players in year 2 as well as everyone in general and how they fit into this scheme. Ertzy, Bennie, Cox, Kendricks, Wolff, etc .. will they make great strides or be only marginally better? And though we hope to not have to find out more about our reserve linemen during game-time, surely the coaches will get greater perspective on who’s waiting in the wings. I think this next offseason and draft is when we’ll have the greatest gains towards a championship team and Big Balls Chip’s vision.

        • Chris

          Optimistic, but I do agree with it for the most part. S is slightly upgraded, slot receiver upgraded; but the real “upgrade” to me is the depth. Just because we didn’t turn over starters doesn’t mean the team didn’t get better. I think backups should be better this year thank last, and we can hope the team as a whole takes a sophomore step in the right direction with CK’s system, which you pointed out in more detail. Should be fun

      • Richard Colton

        a lot of hoping involved here. I don’t see a single position on your list that’s a guaranteed improvement over last year.

        WR3 I’d put at 95% – because I think its a lock that whomever becomes that 3rd WR out of Cooper/Matthews/Huff is a better option than Avant would have been.
        S1 and S1 – let’s say 92%

        Other than that, you’ll have to explain it to me.

        • Andy124

          My threshold was more like 51%. “Reason to believe”

          • Richard Colton

            in that case, right on.

    • Clamdigger

      But it was their debut season in this scheme, so you would expect some improvement from familiarity alone.

    • myeaglescantwin

      They didn’t lose anyone pivotal. They gained a few pieces in the secondary. They also gained size and continuity with the younger players. They added size on the DL and LB core.

      & as Andy124 points out, a full year in the system on both sides is going to do wonders for this teams’ efficiency.

      • Reasonableeaglefan

        Improvement in the system because it’s year 2 versus the league has a years worth of tape on our offense and defense. I think both sides have merit.

        • myeaglescantwin

          very true.
          i feel that would effect the offense more. But at the same token, i don’t feel that chip opened up the entire playbook last year.
          That’s why this season will be so telling.

          hell, Josh McDaniels looked like the second coming of Shula for about 7 games, then the NFL figured him out. I’m betting Chipper has a few more schemes then Joshie

  • Dominik

    “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.”

    Reminds me of the approach the 49ers Defense has since Harbaugh took over. “We’ll do nothing fancy, we just play our style of Defense, but you won’t score much against us anyway, because we’re good at what we’re doing.”

    Of course, Chip always has his wrinkles, trick plays etc. But from a core philosophy, it’s how he thinks, too, I think. ;)

    • Fly High

      I think that was a great description of Kelly’s philosophy. I think a lot of folks don’t get his focus on simplicity.

      • Dominik

        Yeah, but it can be hard to get his focus on simplicity when his QBs has like 5 options on a playcall. ;) It’s a fascinating mix of very simple and extremely complex what Chip is doing on offense.

    • Bullwinkle

      I’m an old guy, so it reminds me of Vince Lombardi and the Packers. They ran several core plays and executed them to near perfection. It’s hard to scheme against exceptional teamwork and execution.

      • Dominik

        Problem with that philosophy is: someday, there will be somebody who has developed the perfect scheme to counter your core plays, even if they are executed perfectly.

        Then you have to re-counter that move. Good thing is, I think Kelly can do that. Even better is, he already showed he can do it, in College, but in the NFL also (Casey coming in as a blocker from the weak side in the Zone Read, f.e.).

        • Malcolm Jones

          You can know a play is coming and you can know how to beat it….but if our execution is better than yours… we still win every time…execution is the difference maker.

          • Dominik

            Not really. For example, if you know that they will run on the left side between the Guard and the Tackle, you can load this zone and stop the run – doesn’t matter how good the execution is, it’s math. Football lifes through perception what the other team is doing.

            On the other hand, with enough wrinkles and options, you can keep it simple. That’s what Chip is doing. And of course, execution is key.

          • bill

            I think the key is that if a team does that, the players are reading their keys and adjust their execution. That’s why the plays are almost all options based off of zone blocking. If the D loads up on one side against Kelly, he doesn’t change the play that he’s called, his players adjust, and Shady takes the massive cutback lane provided, for example. I think that’s the wrinkle Chip has put on the Lombardi model. And then, he speeds the game up after his players have successfully executed against whatever the D did, and doesn’t allow the D to catch its breath and get back into base.

        • Marquis122

          It kind of reminds me what the Seahawks do on defense as well. It’s not a surprise it’s just executed well. I’m actually excited to see how this offense does against their defense. If it takes another step forward. they could be really good games. Hopefully the defense takes a step forward also…..

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  • Addicted2MAmula

    I just found out that you can pay for “All 22″ coaches film. I’m a happy camper!!

    • Richard Colton

      admitting you have a problem is the first step

      • Addicted2MAmula

        I admitted it the other day on here saying I turned into a Eagles/football junkie. If i’m not on here i’m looking at games and interviews. Someone help me!!!

        • Richard Colton

          Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place. We can help.

          Step #2: you have to admit there’s a higher power. in this case, Chip Kelly.

          • Addicted2MAmula

            Lol. I blame CK, because I wasn’t like this during AR era.

          • cliff henny

            yup, 1, it’s fun football. 2, players, said yesterday this teams reminds me of ’93 phils, bunch of gamers, talented and every easy to root for. toughest guy is probably Cary Williams, during games he drives me nutz, but is walking sound bite, and I like those things. 3, direction of franchise…little doubt Kelly will get Eagles there, nfccgs and better, see what happens then. heck, fans are even lightening-up of Rosebud!

      • Amar

        I bought the iTunes copy of the Eagles-Lions Snowbowl ($1.99). Have seen it a few times since. Worth ever penny.

        • Corey Dawson

          I still have it on my DVR. Set that bad boy to “Delete: never” as soon as I eventually got home that day.

    • Andy124

      how much?

      • Addicted2MAmula

        69.99 for all teams including playoffs and Super Bowl.

        39.99 just for the season

        29.99 just for a specific team

        https://gamerewind.nfl.com/nflgr/secure/packages

        Its exciting because its the same way coaches looks at the tapes. All angles and slow mode. Sheeesh I will have no life soon

        • Andy124

          Thanks. I can’t afford that. $29.99 isn’t so much, but divorce is pricey.

          • Addicted2MAmula

            They allow payments as well. But i thought it was cool and mad i didn’t see this last year

          • daveH

            you should get a commission!! im in nyc and will gladly pay 30 bucks to watch games!! thank you

          • Addicted2MAmula

            I live in VA and hate always having to watch the skins game now I dnt have to for 30 bucks! And your welcome!

          • Jerry Pomroy

            There are a few hitches to GameRewind…

            *Live game broadcasts are not included with the NFL Game Rewind service. NFL Game Rewind provides on-demand online video access to NFL games after they have aired on broadcast television. Sunday afternoon (1PM ET & 4pm ET) and Sunday night NFL games are available following the conclusion of the Sunday Night Football game telecast. Monday NFL games are available 24 hours after the conclusion of the Monday Night Football game telecast. Thursday NFL games are available shortly after the conclusion of the Thursday Night Football game telecast. – NFL.com

          • Addicted2MAmula

            Oh I know as long as I get to watch/rewatch the games ill be good. Especially since its all 22 . I just want to break down games

          • Jerry Pomroy

            You also cannot access the service at all during the Monday night game, until that game has concluded. So you’ve got certain windows on Sunday & Monday to watch. But if you’ve got cable, you can easily watch the game on ESPN if the Birds are playing. I live in MD, north of Baltimore now for the past 2yrs and I’ve used the service. It’s online only, but if you’ve got that Google Chromecast, I believe you can stream it over to your TV if your TV has a usable USB port.

          • Andy124

            Your tv just needs an HDMI input. The Chromecast can plug in to your tv’s USB port for power, or plug in to the wall if it doesn’t. It comes with both options. It’s a great product and only like $35.

          • Jerry Pomroy

            Oh I didn’t know about the ability to plug into an outlet. I’m so getting it.

            By the way, to others out there, you still need to control the Game Rewind on your laptop, unless you’ve got some fancy set-up like a Bluetooth keyboard.

          • Addicted2MAmula

            Even better

          • reb

            All true, and most of it is clearly stated (plus, the name is “game rewind.”). Occasionally they don’t get games posted like they should (e.g, Thanksgiving evening game) but for the most part it’s pretty awesome.

          • Jerry Pomroy

            Just trying to keep the masses informed before the question comes up of whether they can watch live. DTV also has an online only Sunday Ticket. It’s supposed to be for customers that don’t have an open line of sight for satellite signal reception. You can use the Chromecast with that as well. Personally, I’m probably going with Rewind again as I don’t really need access to all 32 team games and am on a strict budget recently being out of work since April of last year.

          • Amar

            I was in Arizona when I got the Sunday Ticket last year…Seemed like every time there wasn’t a Cards game on, they would telecast the Eagles and the iPad would say locally telecast game cannot be shown. Complete waste of $70.

          • Jerry Pomroy

            Just giving the peeps some info to get around signing up for DTV satellite service & still get Sunday Ticket if they want it. Obviously if you don’t have any TV provider and the game is broadcast locally on a network you’re screwed. But it’s an option for those that do & want every game. I personally don’t need every game, every week. I can watch some Ravens games or whomever else is broadcast locally for a general NFL fix.

          • DLRJ

            Wait, how did you get Sunday Ticket for only $70? I thought it was more like $250 (plus the cost of DTV, which I wouldn’t otherwise get).

          • Amar

            Amazon had a 1 time deal last year on the first 1000 buyers of EA NFL game on Xbox.

          • Addicted2MAmula

            In which I do. Thank you kind sir

          • DetmerWonAHeisman

            Fantastic! I’m about an hour north of Baltimore just over the Mason Dixon line in PA…suburban Philly transplant….surrounded by Ravens and Steelers fans….get to watch most of the Eagles games thru Harrisburg FOX station, but sometimes when the the Eagles are covered on CBS I’m stuck with the Steelers or Ravens….Will spend the $30 just to not miss the game or two this season…will be at the Titans game in person so won’t have to worry about that one….

          • DLRJ

            I found a slight loophole there last season. As long as I STARTED watching (or at least loaded it up to start watching) before MNF, it let me watch the game during MNF.

          • anon

            that’s as much as it costs to watch a game in a bar (1 beer per quarter).

          • Broadcasting Wisdom

            So is getting fired

          • G_WallyHunter

            Come on Andy u took half her stuff

          • Andy124

            Nah, I meant I’d have to pay for a divorce if I got All-22, because watching that all the time would ruin the marriage. lol No divorce for me please and thank you.

          • G_WallyHunter

            LOL misunderstood, that’s hilarious, I feel if I bought it I’d probably just not get the time to use it as much as is needed

          • Jerry Pomroy

            Watch when you’re taking your morning glory. Nobody will ever be the wiser…

          • Jerry Pomroy

            It’s $29.99 for all 16 regular season games Andy. Save your pocket change and come 3 months from now you’ll be set or close.

        • Andrew Bruno

          You just had to put the link didn’t you…I just payed my credit card bill today too….

          • Addicted2MAmula

            Lol i was thinking about the 69.99 one but i’m like i’m basically paying 30 more just to watch the playoff games. eehhh i don’t think so lol

          • reb

            Oh yeah, the $30 for playoffs is worth it. I didn’t get it the first year at the beginning, but shelled out when the playoffs started. Now I just get it from the beginning.
            Best features, besides All-22, is the removal of commercials and time between plays.

        • botto

          yes! thank you this is the best ever!
          how am i going to work now?

    • Tom Kazansky

      As a non-local Eagles fan, Game Rewind is an awesome tool for a great price. I think you guys will be happy with the features.

  • Addicted2MAmula

    I would like to see Tim & Sheil reply to our comments more. Or am I asking for too much?

    • reb

      yes, you are. let them write articles and generate good content.

      • Addicted2MAmula

        I mean they have a tweeter mail ill rather them answer questions from here

        • reb

          True enough. I believe that they have produced posts based on comment threads before. Maybe they’re just trying to make their twitter feeds more active?

          • PaoliBulldog

            They use Twitter mainly to notify followers of content updates here, which is kinda Web 1.0. I’m older than Connie Mack’s orthopedic sneakers, but I think T&S are just beginning to tap the potential of social media to drive this project forward.

        • G_WallyHunter

          Too much work for them, they do enough, they’ll respond to a few things here and there, corrections, answering someone who offers a well thought out perspective..

        • southy

          This is what interns are for

  • Max Lightfoot

    Having fewer rookies start each year can actually be a good thing … let’s hope this is a trend for the Eagles as we try to add some depth to the defense and O-line.

  • anon

    Watkins looks like he has t-rex arms. Or is it just me?

    • Jerry Pomroy

      30 5/8″

      • Atvcar

        Is that good?

        • Andy124

          No, it’s not. 20th percentile among corner backs measured at this year’s combine.

    • Chip Kelly

      LOL this comment is hilarious as I scroll up to view the pic

    • dollamakeuholla

      just scrolled back up…………… 100% T-REX!!!!!!

  • NickS1

    That Kelly quote from the Nike camp is remiscent of one Vince Lombardi. You can tell the defense your play, but as long as you know how to execute and follow through with execution, they won’t be able to stop you.