Eagles-Panthers Game Review: The Offense

Below is a position-by-position review of how the Eagles’ offense looked against the Panthers, after having reviewed the game.

* Note: Snap counts are courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

QUARTERBACKS

* It was an up-and-down performance for Nick Foles. He played 19 snaps, fumbled twice (recovered both) and threw one interception. On the other hand, he was 6-for-8 for 53 yards. In four preseason drives, Foles has led the offense to a pair of touchdowns, but has turned it over twice. On the first drive, Foles showed good anticipation on this throw to Riley Cooper.

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You can see Cooper has a defensive back all over him when Foles releases the ball. But the throw is put on the money where only Cooper can catch it.

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Later in the quarter, Foles kept the ball on an option play and picked up 6 yards. He also made a smart decision in taking off on the 7-yard touchdown. Through two games, Foles looks capable of running the offense and has made good decisions for the most part. Even the interception in the end zone was more bad execution than bad decision-making.

* There’s no denying that Michael Vick brings a dynamic element to the offense. Through his first four preseason drives, he was 12-for-13 (92.3 percent) for 190 yards (14.6 YPA). Vick also had two rushes for 20 yards and had not been sacked. On the final drive at the end of the first half Thursday night, he was finally sacked and threw an up-for-grabs interception. But there’s no denying that he looks comfortable in Chip Kelly’s offense. Vick is averaging a whopping 13.3 yards per attempt, compared to 7.1 for Foles.

He looked patient, poised and accurate on a 15-yard strike to Jason Avant on 3rd-and-12. And Vick threw a laser to Emil Igwenagu for 15 more. He avoided a rusher, rolled to his left and delivered to Cooper for 22 yards in the second.

Is there room for improvement? Sure. It looked like Vick was late on a throw to DeSean Jackson on a corner route near the sideline. And he still seems to absorb awkward hits every time he takes off and runs. But if this really was an open competition, Vick is the winner through two games.

* I did not review the fourth quarter, but Matt Barkley went 8-for-14 for 72 yards. He made a nice throw to Zach Ertz in between defenders for 21 yards in the third. Overall, though, too many throws that seem to get his receivers crushed. Don’t know if that’s an arm strength issue, a timing issue or something else. But it’s something to keep an eye on in the final two games.

RUNNING BACKS

* If the offensive line stays healthy, LeSean McCoy is going to have a monster year. He looked great, carrying eight times for 47 yards and catching three balls for 16. McCoy has been up-and-down with his blitz pickup in the past, but he looked excellent in that aspect vs. Carolina. Take a look at the first play of the game:

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The defensive back is going to blitz untouched from Foles’ back side. McCoy has to recognize him inching up pre-snap, then carry out the fake handoff and then stone the pass-rusher. Not an easy play, but he executes his blocking assignment flawlessly.

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McCoy did a great job here of finishing the play too, carrying out his block deep into the end zone until the whistle blew.

As a runner, he showed his usual wiggle. On the first series, the Eagles ran the read-option, and even though the defensive end crashed inside, McCoy made him miss and picked up 8. He juked linebacker Luke Kuechly on 3rd-and-4 to pick up 5. And of course, everyone saw the 21-yard highlight where he made most of the Panthers’ defense look silly.

* Chris Polk mixed in with McCoy on the first series and had runs of 5 and 7 yards. Later, he did a great job of running through a Kuechly arm tackle for a 12-yard pickup, but the play was brought back because of a holding call. Polk, of course, had the costly fumble with the team driving. Other than that, he played pretty well, carrying five times for 24 yards.

WIDE RECEIVERS

* It looks like the Eagles are going to be content taking the underneath stuff if defenses guard against the deep ball with DeSean Jackson. On this 12-yard completion in the second, you’ll see the Panthers have only one safety deep, and it’s to the other side of the field.

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That means the corner opposite Jackson is bailing at the line of scrimmage. He can’t afford to get beat deep. Jackson runs a simple comeback route and gets a huge cushion. Easy throw for Vick and a 12-yard pickup.

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Jackson had two catches for 28 yards. And while he’ll never be the best blocking receiver in the game, I thought he gave good effort in that aspect.

* Jason Avant was his reliable self, picking up 10 on a bubble screen in the first, flashing great hands for an 11-yard grab on third down and picking up 15 on a 3rd-and-12. Same ole, same ole. Nothing to see here.

* Good job by Riley Cooper turning into a blocker on Foles’ touchdown run. He also did a nice job of coming back to the ball for a 22-yard catch from Vick in the second.

* If preseason is any indication, the Eagles are going to be massively improved on special teams. Damaris Johnson made a great cut on his 18-yard punt return in the first, making a pair of Panthers defenders look silly. In the third, he picked up 15 on a bubble screen, running behind Zach Ertz and Clay Harbor. And Johnson went up in between defenders for a 7-yard gain in the third. Overall, four catches on five targets for 21 yards.

TIGHT ENDS

* Zach Ertz only had two balls thrown his way, but he made nice grabs on both of them. One was a sliding 15-yard catch on the first possession. The other was a 21-yard pickup from Barkley in the third.

* Brent Celek only had one catch for 6 yards, but he and Allen Barbre did a good job with their double-team on Polk’s 5-yard run in the first.

* In case you missed it, we posted a No-22 breakdown of how the Eagles used 4-TE packages to their advantage.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

* The Eagles’ five starters played the entire first half together (40 snaps) and looked great. Let’s start with the rookie. Lane Johnson had two issues in pass protection. On one, Vick got away from the defensive end and made a nice play. On the other, Johnson gave up a sack. Other than those two plays, though, he was really good. Johnson showed his athleticism getting to the linebacker on McCoy’s 8-yard run. He was good in protection on Foles’ 15-yard completion to Ertz and picked up a blitzing cornerback on Vick’s first throw.

McCoy’s 21-yard run probably presented a learning moment for Johnson. After initially executing his assignment, he sees McCoy on the other side of the field, probably figures his work is done and decides he can get ready for the next play.

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But after breaking a couple ankles, McCoy reverses field, and Johnson realizes he better kick it into high gear and help out his running back.

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Granted, McCoy’s already going down, but Johnson finally finds someone to hit, about 28 yards downfield.

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Gotta like that (eventual) hustle.

* We criticized Todd Herremans in this space last week, but he was probably the Eagles’ best offensive lineman vs. Carolina. Good job pulling on Polk’s 7-yard run. Really nice job getting to the linebacker on McCoy’s 7-yard red-zone run in the first. Pulled again and got to the linebacker on McCoy’s 21-yard run. I also thought the holding call against him was bogus.

* The Allen Barbre pickup is looking like a good one. He showed a lot of improvement this week. I didn’t see Barbre give up a hurry all night long. He showed good athleticism on the double-team with Celek on Polk’s 5-yard run in the first. And did a good job again on McCoy’s 7-yard run. Barbre had an issue with the defensive end on a McCoy run that got stuffed at the line, but overall, he played well. He looks like a competent, versatile backup lineman through two preseason games.

* Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis each had a couple issues, but played well overall. Kelce got to Kuechly on McCoy’s 8-yard run in the first. And he did a great job on the linebacker on Polk’s 12-yard run. In the first, he nearly got pushed back into McCoy on a red-zone run. Mathis might have let his defender through too early on a screen that was blown up in the first. He also had some trouble on the play where McCoy was stopped for no gain. Good blocks by Mathis on Polk’s 7-yard run and 12-yard run.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles-Patriots Game Review: The Offense

Lane JohnsonWe went over a couple specific offensive concepts on Saturday, and you can click here for a breakdown of the defense.

But below is a position-by-position look at how the offense performed, after having reviewed the game.

QUARTERBACKS

* Michael Vick was sharp on the Eagles’ first two possessions, completing four of five passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. He showed great patience in the pocket, finding Jason Avant for 22 yards over the middle on the first possession, a big-time throw with three defenders closing in. And his 47-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson was a beauty. It’s worth noting that pass came against a blitz from New England. The ball traveled 48 yards in the air and landed right in Jackson’s hands. Later, Vick delivered a strike to Riley Cooper on a rollout to his right. The Eagles slowed things down to start the game, and I don’t recall seeing Vick run a true zone read. But don’t be surprised if we see him go no-huddle next week vs. Carolina.

Nick Foles played well also, although the style of play was different when he was in the game. The Eagles pushed tempo and went with a more controlled attack. While Vick chucked it down the field, none of Foles’ six attempts traveled more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. He showed good command in the no-huddle though and completed five of six passes for 43 yards. The Patriots brought a five-man blitz on third down in the second, and Foles got rid of the ball quickly, finding Bryce Brown for 8 yards and a first down. He also did a great job with the play-fake before rolling to his left and finding Avant for a gain of 12. Foles will get the start Thursday vs. Carolina.

* Up-and down performance for Matt Barkley. He underthrew Russell Shepard deep on his first pass attempt and made too many throws that left receivers vulnerable to big hits. There were at least two throws that could have been picked off. Barkley made the right decision on a zone read. The DE crashed inside, and he took off for 8 yards. He seemed to settle down later in the game, finding Clay Harbor for a couple of big gains and leading the Eagles on a touchdown drive.

RUNNING BACKS

* The coaches decided to start Chris Polk since he played well in camp. He carried four times for 7 yards, and none of his attempts picked up more than 4 yards. Polk is the Eagles’ best blocking back, and that showed on the 47-yard touchdown to Jackson. He did an excellent job picking up blitzing linebacker Jerod Mayo.

Chris Polk

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You can see Vick has a clean pocket to deliver.

* I thought Bryce Brown really played well. Five carries for 22 yards and two catches for 19 yards. Brown hasn’t flashed good hands at practice, but he got matched up against a linebacker and had a nice 8-yard catch and run on 3rd-and-5. He picked up 11 on another reception. There were a couple occasions where it looked like he might have missed his blocking assignments. One was when Foles faced an unblocked defender and scrambled for 11 yards. Brown also had the 8-yard touchdown run.

* Felix Jones did not look good. Eight carries for 31 yards. He also had a drop, and it looked like he missed a blitz pickup assignment.

* Matthew Tucker only had 33 yards on 10 carries, but he caught the 2-point conversion. Has a chance to stick if Jones doesn’t improve.

WIDE RECEIVERS

* Not much to add that hasn’t already been mentioned on DeSean Jackson. Vick said he went deep because the Patriots had a single high safety. I’m curious about what his route would have been had the coverage been different.

* Great job by Jason Avant not only going up for the 22-yard catch in between three defenders, but also getting down quickly and avoiding a big hit.

* Riley Cooper got the start opposite Jackson and came down with a 19-yard grab in the second.

* Russell Shepard led the team with six targets, but didn’t get much of a chance to make plays. He had just one grab for 4 yards. Nice effort on the deep ball from Barkley that was underthrown.

* Ifeanyi Momah simply does not look like he’s ready. Poor job as a blocker when Barkley took off on the zone read in the second. Momah then had a false start on the very next play. He got laid out down the right sideline in the third. And Momah was shoved out of bounds by the defender on the next play. Practice squad seems likely for 2013.

* Very nice 62-yard punt return by Damaris Johnson.

* I probably haven’t shown Greg Salas enough love up to this point. I thought Kelly said it best after the game: Salas just keeps showing up. Great individual effort on the touchdown in the fourth. Salas got no blocking on the quick screen, but avoided three defenders and scampered into the end zone. He also made a sensational 35-yard grab on the final drive. He’s got a chance to stick.

TIGHT ENDS

* Per Pro Football Focus, 14 of Zach Ertz’s 22 snaps were pass plays. And Ertz went out into his route on 13 of those 14. He was in the slot on the first two plays from scrimmage. Two catches for 10 yards on three targets. Did not look good as a blocker. Ertz was slow to get to Brandon Spikes on an early Polk run.

Did you see Brent Celek in the backfield on the Eagles’ first play? He fumbled after making a grab in the second. At this point, looks like a much better blocker than Ertz.

* Still not sure if there’s a spot here for Clay Harbor, but he made a couple nice grabs – a 22-yarder and a 20-yarder from Barkley in the second half.

OFFENSIVE LINE

* Really liked what I saw from Lane Johnson as a run-blocker. This was the second play of the game. Johnson is matched up with outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich.

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Couldn’t get a good shot of Johnson taking Ninkovich to the ground, but that’s exactly what he did. And afterwards, Johnson used Ninkovich to prop himself up.

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Later, he showed off his great athleticism, starting off on a double-team with Celek, before peeling off and looking for a defensive back to hit downfield. Johnson had some issues in pass protection, but an encouraging start for the rookie.

* Given his resume, there’s probably no need to panic, but Todd Herremans did not play well. He whiffed on his block, pulling to the left side on a Polk run that picked up just 1 yard. And Herremans got beaten badly by Tommy Kelly on the Foles sack/fumble. The bright spot for Herremans was his block on Brown’s TD run.

* As for the rest of the starters, Jason Kelce looked good, especially on Brown’s TD run. Evan Mathis was solid as usual. And Allen Barbre was up and down. No one’s going to confuse him for Jason Peters, and he had some issues in pass protection, but was OK overall.

* In terms of the backups, Danny Watkins had a few good moments. He did a nice job on Barkley’s deep attempt to Sheppard. And later, he switched off his man against a stunt on a Barkley incompletion. Watkins was called for holding in the third. Matt Kopa had issues. And Julian Vandervelde played center with the second team. He got overpowered at times and was called for holding, but otherwise was OK. Looked better than he did last preseason.

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Twitter Mailbag: Biggest Surprises Of Camp

Vinny CurryEvery Thursday we select a few of your Twitter questions and provide the long-form answers they deserve. For a chance to have your question published on Birds 24/7, send it to @Tim_McManus.

From @InsultComicDog: What players have exceeded your expectations for them in camp so far? And who has disappointed the most?

Chris Polk has definitely exceeded expectations. It’s not easy to distinguish yourself as a running back in a non-tackling environment, but he’s done it. He came in 15 pounds lighter than his 2012 playing weight of 230 and is looking nimble and explosive. He says he hasn’t felt this fast since high school.

“I feel way faster, especially coming in and out of my cuts, being able to run away, pick up the legs. I just feel way better.”‘

Let’s wait for some live action before we get carried away, but he has nudged himself into the competition for the No. 2 running back spot with Bryce Brown.

Polk, who played receiver in high school, has lined up in the slot at times. He has an advantage in the pass-catching area over Brown, who has dropped several passes in camp.

On the defensive side, Brandon Boykin looks better than I anticipated.

As far as disappointments? Not sure I had super high expectations, but receiver Ifeanyi Momah has not had many standout moments. Cary Williams hasn’t participated hardly at all, which is a downer, and Kenny Phillips still isn’t moving very well from what I can tell.

From @Ngu_Year: With Benn out now with an ACL injury, what are your predictions for which wide receivers make the team?

Four seem like locks: DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson and Riley Cooper.

Nick Miller, Ifeanyi Momah, Will Murphy, Greg Salas and Russell Shepard will be competing for the last couple of slots. I can’t see the Eagles keeping more than two from this group on the 53-man. Too many other needs across the roster to justify it. My picks would be Shepard and Salas.

Howie Roseman will try to bolster this position between now and Week 1. If it stays the same, I predict Jackson, Avant, Johnson, Cooper, Shepard and Salas. And no, I’m not doing back flips over this corps if I’m the Eagles.

From @NateCalvanese: Any news on Vinny Curry? Haven’t heard much of anything about him from camp.

Curry is listed behind his good friend Fletcher Cox at right defensive end on the unofficial depth chart. The transition to playing 3-4 end is a fairly easy one for Cox but not for Curry, who is more of a natural 4-3 edge rusher. Curry may very well be struggling with some of the two-gap principles and other nuances that come with the position.

 Billy Davis is trying to figure out how to best utilize the talent at his disposal, and will have to get creative when it comes to the former second-round pick. Seems like deploying him in some four-man fronts would be a decent option. It’s yet to be seen whether Curry can fit into this scheme long-term.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Three Things We’ve Learned At Camp

Chris PolkThe Eagles will have a walk-through today with the Patriots, but for all intents and purposes, the first wave of training camp is over.

Eleven full-squad practices, each running a little more than two hours. That means plenty of film for the coaches to evaluate as they prepare for Friday night’s preseason game.

Keeping that in mind, here are three things we’ve learned so far on the practice fields:

1. Chris Polk is in the mix for the No. 2 RB job.

Going into camp, I thought the first two spots were accounted for with LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown. I also thought Polk would be on the roster bubble, fighting for a job.

But the second-year running back has been impressive. Back in June, Polk said he shed 15 pounds and was down to 215. And it’s shown. He’s reeled off big runs on a daily basis, can catch the ball out of the backfield and is the Eagles’ best blocking back.

Granted, there has been no tackling to the ground, and Polk will need to prove himself in games, but clearly, Chip Kelly and the coaches have taken notice. Kelly called Polk the most improved back on the roster earlier this week, and on Wednesday, with McCoy sidelined, Polk took the bulk of the first-team reps.

With the expectation being that the Eagles are going to rely on a heavy dose of the run game, Polk has a chance to steal carries away from Brown if he outplays him in the coming weeks.

2. The secondary is a giant question mark.

This might not really be something we “learned” since we knew it in the spring. But there was some thought that we’d get a clearer picture of what the defensive backfield might look like by this point in camp. That hasn’t happened.

Cary Williams didn’t show up for much of the spring. He was pulled on Tuesday after getting into a scuffle. And he has also been dealing with a hamstring injury that has kept him off the field. Bradley Fletcher, meanwhile, has not shown any consistency whatsoever. And Curtis Marsh got abused by the Patriots during Wednesday’s practice.

Brandon Boykin has been easily the Eagles’ best corner at camp. It looks like he’ll get a legitimate shot to start on the outside.

Safety might be the biggest mystery on the team. Patrick Chung will likely start at one spot, but even that’s no lock. Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Kenny Phillips, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson and David Sims are all competing for playing time. But there’s been no clear separation from the pack during camp.

The faces are different, and so is the scheme. But there’s no guarantee that the results will be different for the Eagles’ defensive backs.

3. There’s no defined plan for Brandon Graham.

He was the Eagles’ best pass-rusher a year ago, but Graham’s role is very much a mystery. Most of his reps have come at left outside linebacker with the second team behind Connor Barwin. If there’s a way to get Barwin, Graham and Trent Cole on the field together, defensive coordinator Billy Davis has yet to unveil it.

Davis has maintained that he needs pads and live tackling to properly evaluate his players. But Graham has not looked comfortable dropping back into coverage.

Will Graham get a chance to consistently rush the passer? Will he play a prominent role in 2013? Those are questions that still need answers in the coming weeks.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Here is your running diary of practice observations from Wednesday’s session.

The secondary, minus Cary Williams, got lit up by Tom Brady.

A roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles.

T-Mac takes a look at the Eagles’ wide receiver options in free agency.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Dick Vermeil weighs in on the QB situation, via Les Bowen of the Daily News:

Of course, Vermeil is 76 now and he isn’t coaching the Eagles, hasn’t in three decades. But he was watching Chip Kelly’s training camp practice with the Patriots Wednesday, and it was an obvious question to ask him. “It doesn’t make any difference what I think. I don’t see ‘em every day,” Vermeil said by way of disclaimer. “I’ve seen Michael Vick play a lot over the years, and I just kind of believe when it all boils down … if I were going to bet on it, I would bet on him.”

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com offers thoughts on Mychal Kendricks:

He can be a playmaking ILB. If you want to run a good 3-4, you need that. Brian Cushing, Houston. Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh. Both guys in SF. And so on. I think we all remember what a wrecking crew Daryl Washington was all by himself last September.

COMING UP

A light joint practice at 10:25. We’ll be there.

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Which Eagles Will Make the Second-Year Leap?

Hang around enough NFL coaches and players in the offseason, and you’re sure to hear about the second-year leap.

The theory goes like this: Rookies need time to adjust to several different factors. The structure and rules associated with a college program are gone. They are on their own, away from friends and family. And they are earning (legal) paychecks.

Add in the speed and talent associated with the pro game, and it’s clear life in the NFL requires an adjustment period.

That’s why the offseason from Year 1 to Year 2 is considered crucial. Initial questions have been answered, and expectations have been set. Second-year players can focus more on just on-field improvement.

“It’s already easier,” said linebacker Mychal Kendricks during mini-camps. “It’s crazy, knowing the formations and knowing the count without even having to look.

“Everything slows down the second year. It’s crazy, I can’t explain it.”

We’ve spent plenty of time talking about the Eagles’ new additions, and Tim covered the rookies a couple days ago. But below is a look at the second-year players and where they stand going into camp.

Fletcher Cox – Everything we saw from him as a rookie suggests he has the potential to go to multiple Pro Bowls. Cox was the Eagles’ best defensive lineman against the run and showed improvement as a pass-rusher, finishing with 5.5 sacks and 24 hurries (according to team stats). When the Eagles drafted him, they liked that Cox had the versatility to play in a 4-3 or a 3-4. He’s the Eagles’ best defensive player and one of the guys they will build around.

Nick Foles – With six starts under his belt, Foles has already accomplished more than most quarterbacks taken after the second round. He had turnover issues (five interceptions, eight fumbles) and struggled to get the ball downfield (6.4 YPA), but at the very least, he looked competent. Foles now finds himself in a new scheme, and Chip Kelly is serious about letting the QB competition play out on the practice field. Foles will have a chance to steal the starting job this summer.

Mychal Kendricks – His athleticism translated well from college to the NFL last season. Kendricks faced some issues getting off of blocks but showed signs that he can be a playmaker against the run. Where his real strength lies, though, is coverage. Kendricks is expected to play alongside DeMeco Ryans as an inside linebacker in the Eagles’ new 3-4 scheme. Look for him to have to deal less with blockers in his face. Kendricks rushed the passer quite a bit in college, and Billy Davis will seek to find ways to take advantage of that versatility.

Brandon Boykin – Given how often teams use three and four wide receivers, Boykin is a valuable piece as the Eagles’ nickel corner. Even as the defense was crumbling around him, Boykin was tremendous during the second half of last season. In the Eagles’ final seven games, he allowed just five completions on 12 targets, per Pro Football Focus  (hat tip to Derek Sarley of Iggles Blog). There’s been some talk of Boykin moving to the outside, but the guess here is that he’ll continue to fill the nickel role.

Bryce Brown – Fumbling issues aside, the Eagles look like they may have gotten a steal with Brown in the seventh round. As a rookie, he ran for 564 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry, showing a rare combination of size and speed. Evan Silva of Rotoworld had a good breakdown of Brown and concluded that he bounced too many runs to the outside. Given his lack of college experience (and college coaching), Brown might be poised to make the biggest leap of any player on this list.

Cedric Thornton - He played 37.7 percent of the defensive snaps last year and has the size (6-4, 309) that Kelly covets. Thornton figures to play the 5-technique DE spot in the Eagles’ 3-4. He lined up as a starter for most of the spring, but will have to hold on to that spot this summer.

** Note: As a reader pointed out, Thornton is actually a third-year pro, although he didn’t play a defensive snap in 2011.

Vinny Curry – His role remains a mystery. Curry had a tough time getting on the field as a rookie and now finds himself being asked to play up front in a 3-4. During the spring, Curry ran exclusively with the second team. He’ll need to show the coaches he can be effective in his new role if Curry wants to get more playing time in his second season.

Damaris Johnson – He played 25.4 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps and finished with 19 catches for 256 yards. But there is reason to believe Johnson could be a nice fit for Kelly’s offense, considering he averaged a team-best 5.5 yards after the catch in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus. Johnson also showed improvement as the team’s primary punt returner. Beyond DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, no wide receiver is guaranteed a spot. But Johnson has a good chance of sticking.

Dennis Kelly - He was up and down in 10 games as a rookie, gaining experience at both guard and tackle. At times, Kelly showed promise. In other instances, he looked like Demetress Bell. But the new coaching staff seems to like him. Kelly filled in with the starters this spring before Lane Johnson made the jump. Given the team’s lack of offensive line depth, Kelly will likely earn a spot as a swing tackle.

Chris Polk – In this offense, the third running back figures to have added importance. If LeSean McCoy or Brown goes down, the Eagles will need a backup who can play significant snaps. Polk will challenge for that role, along with Felix Jones and undrafted free agent Matthew Tucker. Polk didn’t play a single offensive snap in 2012, but has dropped weight and is motivated to get on the field. He’ll have to earn a roster spot this summer.

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Projected Depth Chart: Eagles’ Offense

We went over the defense yesterday.

Here is the projected depth chart for the Eagles’ offense, based on what we saw during spring practices. Explanations below.

 
First Team
Second Team
Third Team
QBMichael Vick/Nick FolesMichael Vick/Nick FolesMatt Barkley
RBLeSean McCoyBryce BrownChris Polk
LTJason PetersDennis KellyEd Wang
LGEvan MathisDanny WatkinsNate Menkin
CJason KelceDallas ReynoldsMatt Tennant
RGTodd HerremansAllen BarbreMatt Kopa
RTLane JohnsonDennis KellyMatt Tobin
TEBrent CelekZach ErtzJames Casey
WRDeSean JacksonDamaris JohnsonGreg Salas
WRJeremy MaclinRiley CooperIfeanyi Momah
WRJason AvantArrelious BennRussell Shepard

Quarterback: You can view it as a cop-out, but really this is the most accurate way to rank them. Vick and Foles split first-team reps at every practice I attended. I know some people charted overall reps, but that can be a bit deceiving. For example, if a quarterback throws a 50-yard touchdown on the first play of a drill, he generally comes off. That’s only one rep, but it’s a successful one. The same thing happens if the quarterback throws an interception.

Expect Vick and Foles to continue the back-and-forth well into the preseason. Chip Kelly wants to see how each guy responds when faced with the possibility of getting crushed by an opposing defensive player. He has plenty of tape to go off of, but Kelly needs to see how each quarterback handles the new concepts he and his coaching staff have implemented.

Barkley appears to be a clear No. 3 at this point, but I’m not ready to rule anything out.

Kelly has said consistently that the competition will play itself out on the field, and the best performer will be named the starter. His track record at Oregon suggests that’s one of his core beliefs and not just lip service.

Settle in. I wouldn’t expect a winner to be announced until close to that Week 1 matchup against the Redskins.

Running back: McCoy and Brown both figure to see plenty of action in this offense.

Behind them, Polk, Felix Jones and undrafted free agent Matthew Tucker will be competing for roster spots. Polk has dropped weight from a year ago and seemed to be ahead of the other two during spring practices.

Jones provides versatility and could have a leg up if he can be effective as a returner and stay healthy.

Since the Eagles don’t have a fullback on the roster, they could potentially keep four running backs.

Wide receiver: This was a tough one. You’ll notice that the depth chart I’m using features “11″ personnel, or one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers.

Avant is a difficult player to evaluate in this scheme. He doesn’t have exceptional size or speed, but he catches anything near him and is the toughest receiver on the roster. Avant is also someone who can set an example for younger players. He’s already taken Sheppard under his wing this offseason.

Benn is not exclusively a slot receiver, even though I put him behind Avant. He was a disappointment in Tampa, but has a versatile skill set. Benn’s chance to prove himself will come in the summer when the pads are on. He’s probably the best blocker among this group.

Cooper and Johnson return from last year’s squad and will have to earn spots. Johnson improved throughout the course of his rookie season and showed the ability to make plays after the catch. He’s also in the mix as a return man. Cooper didn’t do much when given the opportunity to start last year, but he has good measurables and is only 25.

Sheppard looked good during the spring, and Momah’s size (6-foot-7) is intriguing.

This is a crowded position with players with different skill sets. We’ll find out a lot about what Kelly is looking for from his wide receivers after the roster is trimmed down to 53.

Tight end: The depth chart here is a bit misleading. By all accounts, the Eagles are expected to use a lot of two tight-end sets under Kelly. I still think Celek will play the most snaps this season, but he could be on the field with Ertz or Casey quite a bit.

Ertz missed spring practices because of the NCAA graduation rule. And Casey spent several practices on the bike, following arthroscopic knee surgery .

Left tackle/right tackle: Peters has drawn glowing reviews from coaches and teammates, and Johnson has taken over as the starting right tackle.

Kelly looks to be the favorite to be the first backup at both spots (which is why he’s listed twice). He doesn’t appear to have a lot of competition.

Left guard/right guard: Mathis missed time with an ankle injury, but returned last week. Herremans makes the switch to right guard from right tackle.

In terms of depth, Barbre and Watkins are vying for the first backup guard spot.

Center: Kelly has praised Kelce for being in the building rehabbing all offseason. The third-year center is coming off of ACL surgery, but participated in team drills for the first time last week. He’s expected to be fully cleared by training camp.

The backup spot is up for grabs. Reynolds and Tennant are both in the mix.

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Polk: ‘I Didn’t Come To This League To Be a Cheerleader’

Philadelphia Eagles running back Chris Polk.When Chris Polk watched tape last year, he didn’t like what he saw.

“I saw myself on film, like man I don’t look too good, especially with those tight-fitting jerseys,” Polk said. “I’ve got to shed a few pounds.”

And so he did.

Polk said he has dropped 15 pounds this offseason and is currently practicing at 215.

“That’s where I want to be at, especially with this high-paced offense,” Polk said. “You’ve got to make people miss and run in space, catch it. You’ve got to have your wind. So it was the best thing to really fit this scheme, get down lighter, be faster, get your wind up.

“I was on that kind of diet where whatever you could find, eat,” Polk said. “But now, definitely more vegetables. I’ve got a meal plan with the strength coaches, working harder with the shakes and taking care of my body, taking my vitamins and doing what’s necessary.”

In his first season, Polk was active for seven games, but only played on special teams. Zero carries, zero receptions, zero offensive snaps for a player who averaged more than 22 touches per game during his final three seasons at Washington.

Asked what goals he has set for himself in 2013, Polk didn’t hesitate with his response.

“Play,” he said. “I don’t want to sit down no more. I didn’t come to this league to be a cheerleader, so I’ve just got to take care of my body. I just want to play.”

Chip Kelly’s offense is expected to rely on a heavy dose of the running game. Last year’s Oregon squad featured four different players who had at least 80 carries, and six different Ducks were credited with at least one rushing touchdown.

But Polk knows he has a difficult road ahead. The Eagles have LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown atop the depth chart. They also signed Felix Jones and added undrafted free agent Matthew Tucker out of TCU.

Polk got an up-close look at Kelly’s offense in college. His Washington teams went 0-4 against Oregon and were outscored, 174-62. Polk averaged just 3.8 yards per carry in four games against the Ducks.

“They would run all over us,” he said. “We weren’t ever able to keep up with them.”

Even at the lighter weight, Polk is still probably the most physical running back on the roster. His strengths are versatility (pass protection, catching the football) and the ability to run over defenders. While Polk feels faster, he knows he’s not McCoy or Brown. And he doesn’t think he’ll have to change his style to fit into Kelly’s’ scheme.

“The most important thing about a running back is stay true to your identity,” Polk said. “If you’re a ground and pound guy or a real shifty guy, you can’t try to run like someone else because doing what you do is what got you here. Doing what you do is what’s going to keep you here.”

Because of a shoulder injury, Polk went undrafted last year. But the Eagles signed him as a free agent, and Polk impressed the coaching staff during training camp and the preseason. He said he didn’t have any shoulder procedures in the offseason and is still confident he can play with the injury.

When Polk got a phone call from running backs coach Duce Staley last summer, he thought he was getting cut. But instead, Staley congratulated him on making the team. This year, he’s hoping not only to stick, but to get on the field.

“It’s very exciting to have an offense that features the running back, being that we run this high pace,” Polk said. “We’re going to have to rotate in guys because we can run like six plays in less than a minute. So I’m just really excited to put on the pads and see how this year ends up.”

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Eagles Depth Chart Outlook: Running Back

This is the sixth in a series. Click here for the earlier posts on the defensive positions.

Chip Kelly’s Oregon team averaged more than 52 rushing attempts per game in 2012, sixth-most in the nation.

Part of that was because they ran so many plays overall. Part of that was because they often held big leads. And part of that was, well, because it’s what Kelly liked to do.

Going into the 2013 offseason, the one area where the Eagles did not need much of a makeover was at running back. LeSean McCoy didn’t match his 2011 performance, but at 24, is still a key component of the team’s future. Seventh-round pick Bryce Brown had fumbling issues, but still captured the imagination of fans with back-to-back 178- and 169-yard performances in Weeks 11 and 12.

The Eagles dealt Dion Lewis to the Browns in the offseason and signed veteran Felix Jones. They also added TCU’s Matthew Tucker as an undrafted free agent and still have second-year player Chris Polk.

Here’s a look at all the running backs:

 
Height
Weight
Age
Years/Starts
Bryce Brown6-0223221/4
Felix Jones5-10215265/23
LeSean McCoy5-11208244/44
Chris Polk5-11222231/0
Matthew Tucker6-1227210/0

Pencil ‘em in: McCoy, Brown.

McCoy has had a couple off-the-field transgressions this offseason, but on the field, he should be as excited as anyone about the hiring of Kelly.

“There’s definitely a difference,” McCoy said, when I asked him to compare the new scheme to the old one. “Just being in shotgun all the time, for one.

“And two, being able to run the ball a lot more. I mean, look at his track record. A lot of his backs touched the ball quite a bit, so that’s the other different point that you’ve got to look at. And just the ability to get the guys in the open field. Our defensive guys can get so mixed up from trying to follow their keys, and there’s so much misdirection, going here, going there, the bootlegs, going deep, then running it. There’s so much you have to look at where sometimes a big hole might just happen from guys being out of place. The backs we have here, you don’t even need that much room to get going.”

McCoy’s numbers were down across the board last year (4.2 YPC, two rushing touchdowns), but he was playing behind a depleted offensive line that offered very little help. According to Football Outsiders, he broke at least one tackle on 44 plays, a league-high. McCoy should have the opportunity for plenty of big plays in Kelly’s offense.

And Brown too. The second-year back averaged 4.9 yards per carry as a rookie, totaling 564 yards on the ground. Brown’s issue was holding onto the football. He fumbled four times, or once every 28.75 attempts, way too high of a rate. If he can get that problem fixed, he should see plenty of touches in 2013.

Fighting for spots: Polk, Jones, Tucker.

The Eagles will likely keep one or two players from this group.

Polk was active for seven games, but did not play an offensive snap and was a non-factor on special teams. For what it’s worth, in college, he didn’t have much success against Oregon, running for 280 yards on 73 attempts (3.8 YPC) in four games.

Jones has a skill set that appeals to Kelly and is only 26, but when a free agent who’s not asking for a lot of money can’t find a team until May, there’s usually a reason. Jones will have to show he’s healthy and can be productive to stick.

Tucker was a rotational player in college and will have to beat out one (or both) of the players listed above.

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Making Sense Of the Eagles’ Inactives

The following players are inactive for the Eagles’ NFC East matchup against the Cowboys: Trent Edwards, Mardy Gilyard, Chris Polk, Danny Watkins, Nate Menkin, Vinny Curry and Phillip Hunt.

Hunt, who had a great preseason, is a healthy scratch and inactive for the first time all season. Curry, a second-round pick, still has not dressed for a game. The Eagles have five defensive tackles active: Fletcher Cox, Cullen Jenkins, Derek LandriMike Patterson and Cedric Thornton.

Watkins is out for the third consecutive game with an ankle injury. Rookie Dennis Kelly was solid against the Falcons, but really struggled last week vs. the Saints.

King Dunlap, who turned in his worst performance of the season against New Orleans, moves from left tackle to right tackle. Demetress Bell, who has struggled all season, will take over at left tackle and see a healthy dose of DeMarcus Ware.

After forcing a fumble on special teams last week, Polk sits against the Cowboys because of a toe injury. Dion Lewis is active for the third time all season. LeSean McCoy, who was probable, is active and will start.

With Gilyard out, Damaris Johnson is expected to once again handle punt returns.

The Eagles have two backup offensive linemen - Matt Tennant and Julian Vandervelde. Should a tackle get injured, Kelly would likely swing out.

Be sure to join me and Tim for a live chat. Kickoff is set for 4:25.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Trade Deadline Approaches

Philadelphia Eagles running back Dion Lewis.The NFL trade deadline will likely come and go today at 4 p.m. (EST) without much of a splash.

What are the chances the Eagles make a deal?

The answer is probably slim, but don’t rule out the possibility altogether. Scanning the roster, you can certainly find areas where the Birds could use some help. Offensive line and safety depth are the two that come to mind. A good special-teams player, regardless of position, would be helpful also. The problem is teams are unlikely to unload quality players who can contribute right away at this point in the season.

As for the Eagles, running back and defensive line are a couple areas where they could look to deal someone. Dion Lewis, for example, has been inactive for six of seven games, as Bryce Brown continues to serve as the team’s backup running back. Chris Polk has played special teams only and has not produced there for Bobby April. My guess is either guy could probably be had, but would a team give something up for Lewis or Polk? I’m not so sure.

On the defensive line, one name to keep an eye on is Darryl Tapp. Tapp has filled in for Trent Cole at right defensive end and has played 31.6 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. But Jim Washburn could give those snaps to Brandon Graham, Phillip Hunt or second-round pick Vinny Curry, who has yet to dress for a game this season.

Also keep in mind that the Eagles currently have 10 defensive linemen on their 53-man roster. They could very well add Mike Patterson (returned to practice last week) soon. Eleven would be a lot to keep, so you could see a preemptive move here.

The Eagles have made a trade (or tried to make a trade) near the deadline in each of the past three seasons. Last year, they tried to trade Ronnie Brown to the Lions for Jerome Harrison, but Harrison was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and the deal didn’t go through. In 2010, they traded Mike Bell to Cleveland for Harrison. And in 2009, they sent a draft pick and wide receiver Brandon Gibson to the Rams in exchange for linebacker Will Witherspoon.

So don’t rule out the possibility of the Eagles making a move today.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Tim and I went All-22 crazy yesterday. He broke down Nnamdi Asomugha’s performance from last week, and I took a look at why the Eagles’ offense was a mess.

Andy Reid announced that Michael Vick will start Monday night against the Saints.

Here’s the weekly roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles.

And finally, Tim wonders whether Jeffrey Lurie was listening to the fans at the Linc last week.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Don Banks of SI.com has the Eagles 16th in his power rankings:

The Eagles’ problems at offensive line create so many ripple effects, but one of them is a passing game that doesn’t seem to challenge anyone vertically any more. Most of what Michael Vick has time to complete is underneath these days, and that means it takes Philly going on long and methodical drives to score. And given Vick’s penchant for mistakes in the season’s first seven games, long, methodical drives are in short supply.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com, a former scout for the Eagles, thinks it might be time to give Nick Foles a shot:

Vick played soundly in the final four games of the 2011 season. He made quick decisions, protected the football and took what the defense gave him. He utilized tight end Brent Celek and took advantage of opposing safeties lining up extremely deep. I thought that I would see that version of Michael Vick this season, but that hasn’t been the case. In 2012, Vick hasn’t been getting the ball out on time. He’s forcing too many throws into coverage and failing to protect the ball as a runner.

There has been a lot of speculation that Eagles coach Andy Reid could make a change at quarterback in the very near future. Rookie signal-caller Nick Foles played well during the preseason; now might be the right time to see what he can do in a regular-season setting.

COMING UP

The Eagles are back at Novacare preparing for the Saints. We’ll hear from Andy Reid and the players, so be sure to check back early and often.

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