Wake-Up Call: Kendricks’ Search For Consistency

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Mychal Kendricks was in the midst of a rough patch and in need of a boost back  in mid-September when his phone rang.

“I was getting a massage and I picked up…and it was my Pop Warner coach,” Kendricks  told Jim Rome last week in New York. “And he just told me, ‘Man, just go out there and own the field like I know you can. Get that pep in your step. When you take the field, know that you own it.’

“It was good for me, man. Every game I went into after that, I just told myself, ‘Take the field with confidence. Own this [thing].’ ” Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Barkley And the Chin Strap

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Chip Kelly regularly held quarterback competitions during his time at Oregon. He did the same in his first year on the job in Philadelphia. Kelly was asked if  that process is no longer needed considering Nick Foles established himself with a monster 2013 season.

“No, there’s always competition, and I think you can ask Nick that, too,” said Kelly.  “I think everybody kind of feeds off of that, and they understand that.  And then if you also have a guy that’s not competing to be the starter with Nick, then what if Nick gets hurt and then all of a sudden the other guy goes, ‘Oh, my God, I’m not ready to play because I thought Nick was going to be the guy.’  It’s a cliché, but you are a chin strap away from playing in this league and when your opportunity comes, you have to take advantage of that.”

A chin strap away. That’s one of the more frequently-used Chipisms, as Kelly often talks about the need to have two good quarterbacks on your roster in the NFL. One of the significant questions facing the Eagles this offseason is whether Matt Barkley can be the man to push Foles in camp, and step in capably if the situation arises. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Ertz On Track

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings
Back in early October, Michael Vick made a bold prediction regarding rookie tight end Zach Ertz.

“There are three players that I told that they would be great players in this league: I always told Alge Crumpler that he was going to be great, I always told Shady McCoy that he was going to be a great player in this league, and I always told Roddy White. And now I’m saying Zach Ertz. And I think in time, he will be one of the best tight ends in this game.”

Ertz had all of five NFL catches at that point. Still working through a learning curve —  steepened by his inability to participate in the offseason program because of graduation rules — the Stanford product played a limited role initially. He was featured more as the year went on and ended with 36 catches for 469 yards with four touchdowns. While we still have a ways to go before determining whether Vick’s intuition is correct, it’s fair to say that there are encouraging signs. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: What About Orakpo?

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The Eagles need to improve their pass rush and Brian Orakpo is largely considered the top outside linebacker on the free-agent market, so we figured we would take a closer look to see if this is a potential fit.

Why it works

Orakpo (6-4, 257 pounds) is 27 years old, which falls within  Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman‘s preferred age range.  They want to bring in players who can not only contribute now but also be a part of the core moving forward, and Orakpo seemingly fits the bill. After dealing with a pec injury that cost him most of 2012, he played in 15 games this past season and finished with 10 sacks, nine stuffs, two fumble recoveries and 29 hurries. He was named to his third Pro Bowl. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Too Soon To Elevate Foles

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One of the great things about the NFL is how one week, one series, one pass can alter perception.

How many times have you gone into a Sunday feeling one way about a team or player, only to walk away with a fresh perspective? Sometimes, that happens even if the team or player in question isn’t part of the proceedings. Take Nick Foles, for instance.

Even though he hasn’t played  since January 4th, the conversation around Foles continues to evolve as the playoffs unfold. He is being compared to Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson — in many circles, favorably. An argument I have heard several times since the NFC Championship Game is that Kaepernick and Wilson are beneficiaries of a strong supporting cast, and that Foles would be as successful (maybe more successful) if he was backed by the type of nasty defense that the Niners and Seahawks enjoy. Kaepernick’s three turnovers on San Francisco’s final three drives in the NFC Championship game are helping to fuel this conversation.

It’s a dangerous leap to make. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: The Sherman Lesson

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Before scaring the hell out of Erin Andrews and setting social media ablaze with his unfiltered thoughts on Michael Crabtree, Richard Sherman made the play of the game. Despite the corner’s assertions, Crabtree is far from mediocre. Yet Sherman stayed stride-for-stride with the receiver down the right sideline, turned his body, leapt into the air and stretched out his left arm to deflect a would-be go-ahead touchdown pass from Colin Kaepernick. Malcolm Smith came up with the interception, securing the Seahawks’ spot in Super Bowl XLVIII.

“There are not many guys who can make a play on this ball,” said Troy Aikman as the Seattle crowd boomed in the background.

Chip Kelly frequently calls the NFL a player’s league, and that sequence with under 30 ticks remaining Sunday night demonstrated his point. The fate of two franchises came down to a one-on-one matchup. If Sherman doesn’t get his paw on that ball, the Niners are playing for the title in New Jersey in two weeks. But he did, so the Seahawks advance. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Kiper Talks Eagles, Draft

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Mel Kiper released his first 2014 mock draft on Wednesday. He has the Eagles selecting Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin with the No. 22 overall pick.

I’d consider this more of a “best player available” pick than an outright need, but Benjamin would fill a distinctive role for the Eagles. Riley Cooper has decent size, but doesn’t create separation with speed (and is a free agent), and DeSean Jackson is exceptionally quick still, but lacks a physical presence. Benjamin combines some of both, with a huge frame for a wide receiver at near 6-5 and a lean 230-plus pounds. He possesses not just speed, but a lot of change-of-direction burst. He can simply overwhelm defenders and make plays, and would be a nice weapon for Chip Kelly.

Kiper joined Tony and Harry on 97.5 The Fanatic to discuss other potential options for the Eagles. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: The ‘Batting Average’ Approach

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There was no good reason for the Eagles to swing for the fences in free agency last season.

They were coming off a 4-12 campaign and were in the midst of an organizational reboot. The focus was on foundation building and no one knew exactly how long that build would take; it made little sense to splurge for big-ticket players at that time. Instead, they went shopping for “mid-level” free agents and ended up with the likes of Connor Barwin, James Casey, Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Patrick Chung, Donnie Jones, Jason Phillips, Isaac Sopoaga and Kenny Phillips. Some good, some bad, some in-between. Decent return rate.

“That group as a whole I think contributed a lot to our football team. We certainly weren’t perfect on our free-agent signings but I thought it matched what was out there in free agency last year and served us well,” said Howie Roseman.

The team is in a much different place than it was a year ago. The turnaround happened quickly, and Chip Kelly claimed an NFC East title in his first year. The Eagles are further along and presumably in position to contend. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will alter their plan when free agency opens on March 11. Last year’s approach was more about a shift in philosophy than it was a reaction to circumstance. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: On Graham And Curry

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Brandon Graham
knows exactly how much playing time he received in 2013.

“Twenty seven percent [of the snaps], right?”

Right. Or 353 of a possible 1,307 defensive plays. That’s obviously not the kind of workload the former No. 13 overall pick envisioned for himself.

“It’s one of them things where you can’t control it, but I tried to make the best out of the opportunities I got, and I guess we’ll see about my future whenever things start to happen,” he said.

Vinny Curry, similarly, is out for a bigger role. He played 337 snaps, or 26 percent of the time. He started off the season as an inactive on game day. His agent was open to a trade. There were reports that the Eagles were listening to offers for him.

“I think I shut all that up,” said Curry. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Curious Ending For Wolff

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Earl Wolff
sold out to break up a pass in the second quarter against the Bears and came up limping. He had missed the last four games with a hyper-extended right knee, and found himself back on the trainers table just moments into his return.

“When I tweaked it against Chicago, Cary [Williams] came over when I was sitting with [the doctor], and was like, ‘Earl, man, we need you out there. C’Mon, man. We want you out there, man.’ I was like, ‘Bro, I want to be out there. I guarantee I want to be out there and play.’ But I couldn’t.”

There were rumblings late in the season that Wolff had been given the green light for a return by the medical staff  but decided to hold  himself out. We asked Wolff if there was any truth to that. Read more »

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