Eagles Wake-Up Call: State Of the NFC East

Andrew Weber / USA Today

Andrew Weber / USA Today

Today’s question comes from reader Kevin, via email:

Who in the NFC East has the most issues before camp?

This question happened to come before the Cowboys and Dez Bryant agreed to terms on a new contract, but now seems like a good time to take a look at strengths and weaknesses within the division.

Dallas Cowboys – The strength last year was obviously the run game. The Cowboys still have their offensive line intact, but will they be able to dominate on the ground with Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden? That’s the obvious question that needs to be answered, but I’m not sure how much we’ll learn until the regular season begins.

The Cowboys ranked fourth overall offensively in DVOA last year – third in rushing and fourth in passing. With Tony Romo coming off a season in which he posted a career best 113.2 passer rating and Bryant back in the fold, the offense should still be pretty good. Read more »

Mailbag: Bradford/Foles, Carroll And the Rookies

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Photo By Jeff Fusco

I’m pinch-blogging for T-Mac on the mailbag this week. Let’s get right to the questions.

The simple answer is upside. Regular readers know that I was never a huge Nick Foles guy. I like his size and toughness, but it always felt like he had limitations. Of course, the same can be said about a lot of quarterbacks.

Sam Bradford has a better arm, could be a better decision-maker (his 2.2 INT rate is third-best among active QBs who have thrown at least 1,500 passes) and matches Foles in the intangible categories (toughness, leadership, character, etc.). Clearly, Chip Kelly felt like what he can get out of Bradford at 100 percent will be better than what he got out of Foles. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: ‘We’re Looking For Non-Impostors’

Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Below is an excerpt from my Eagles Almanac chapter on the changes on defense. If you haven’t done so already, click here to purchase this year’s edition of the Almanac.

***

In Year 3, we have a pretty good idea of what the defense is going to look like from a schematic standpoint. The Eagles run a two-gap 3-4 that focuses on stopping the run first and foremost.

Billy Davis and the players did a good job last year of generating pressure, and the plan in the secondary will be to play mostly with a single high safety and disrupt routes/timing within the 5-yard window.

“I think we want to be a press, single high team that gets after you with a pass rush,” said Malcolm Jenkins. “That’s what they’ve been coaching. That’s what Cory Undlin specializes in is teaching press and technique. We have the front to get after the quarterback so we don’t have to cover for a long time. And we’ve got safeties with range. So I think we have the personnel to get that done.”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Team gets rid of assistant coach and adds his replacement. Players rave about the new guy and subtly take jabs at the old guy. Everyone assumes the problems are solved. Then the regular season begins, and the narrative gets thrown out the window. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: The Most Indispensable Eagle

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Oakland Raiders

On most playoff-contending teams, a serious injury to the starting quarterback in August would be devastating.

In Philadelphia though, that might not necessarily be the case. It’s impossible to say with certainty that a healthy Sam Bradford would provide a massive upgrade over Mark Sanchez, especially considering that Bradford won’t be able to practice fully until training camp. Bradford has more upside and a greater skill set, but that doesn’t always translate to better on-field performance.

In Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England and Denver (among others), the QB is without question the most indispensable player. But who holds that title in Philadelphia?

This is a classic mid-July question that we kick around every year as we count down to training camp. So here’s my list of the top five. Read more »

All-22: Deploying Mychal Kendricks

mychal-kendricks-940x540

When looking for an opinion from Chip Kelly, sometimes simpler is better.

Present a bunch of background information before getting to your question, chances are he’ll get bored and cut you off.

So back in March at the owners meetings when we were looking to get Kelly’s take on Mychal Kendricks, we asked directly for Kelly to evaluate the inside linebacker’s play in 2015.

“When he was healthy, he played really well for us,” Kelly said. “But we missed him for… four games. And the health aspect was a difficult thing. We were a different team without him on the field. But when he played, he played really well for us.”

The answer was peculiar considering the Eagles’ other moves at the position. They had traded LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso, a player who had missed all of 2014 with a knee injury. And they were in the process of extending DeMeco Ryans, a player rehabbing from an injured Achilles’.

Kendricks’ name has surfaced in trade talks multiple times during the offseason. The Eagles took action to make sure Alonso and Ryans would be part of this team for the next couple of years. They also drafted inside linebacker Jordan Hicks in the third round. Meanwhile, there have been no indications that the team is talking extension with Kendricks as he enters the final year of his deal.

Yesterday, reader Dustin asked about Kendricks’ performance in coverage. Perhaps that was a reason the Eagles were a little cool on him?

So we went to the tape for answers. And the truth is, Kendricks was not only very good in coverage, but as the defense fell apart down the stretch last year, he was a true bright spot and played some of the best football of his career. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Chip’s Need For Two QBs

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Today’s question comes from reader Nick, via Twitter:

I don’t think it’s a college notion, and I hear what you’re saying Nick, but Chip Kelly is talking strictly about injury when he says he needs two quarterbacks. And it’s not a controversial opinion. Coaches around the league would agree.

When you look at Kelly specifically, he lost Michael Vick in Year 1 to injury, then lost Nick Foles and had to play a rookie in Matt Barkley. Last year, Kelly lost Foles and had to go to his backup again. Now he’s rolling the dice on Sam Bradford, so he better have a capable backup.

In 2013, Kelly held a true QB competition between Vick and Foles. In Year 2, though, Kelly was clear that Foles would start and Sanchez would back him up. He may have paid lip service to the whole “competition” notion, but Kelly had his starter before training camp had opened. Foles had earned that with his performance in 2013. It’s not like he was going into the season anticipating both QBs playing.

What about this year?

Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Familiarity Factor With Chip

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Today’s question comes via email from Rob:

So, I compiled this list out of curiosity last night – players & coaches released/traded/signed from the Eagles since Chip Kelly’s hire (1/16/13):

Executive Tom Gamble
QB coach Bill Lazor
QB coach Bill Musgrave
WR Jason Avant
WR DeSean Jackson
WR Damaris Johnson 
WR Jeremy Maclin
RB Bryce Brown
RB LeSean McCoy
ILB Jake Knott
OG Todd Herremans
OG Evan Mathis
OLB Trent Cole
CB Cary Williams
CB Bradley Fletcher
S Nate Allen
S Patrick Chung
QB Nick Foles

That’s 15 players and three coaches/execs who moved on to play for 13 different teams (plus wherever Mathis ends up).

For Kelly, a coach with few & simple packages cloaked in different pre-snap formations, how likely is it the NFL is able to catch on and adapt? Or, if nothing else, steal from him? Read more »

Football School: Three Things We Learned This Week

Jimmy Johnson. Kirby Lee/USA Today

Jimmy Johnson. Kirby Lee/USA Today

Like many of you, I am a football consumer. And one reason I like this slow period from mid-June to early August is I can catch up on things I’ve been meaning to read, watch, listen to, etc. So from time to time between now and training camp, I’ll share three items I find interesting.

1. Back in March, Peter King revealed that Chip Kelly had been using Jimmy Johnson as a sounding board this offseason. Johnson said one piece of advice he gave to Kelly after Kelly was given full personnel control was to go with players who fit his personality and his system.

The 30 For 30 short on Johnson that focused on the Herschel Walker trade provided further insight into Johnson’s mindset and perhaps what he shared with Kelly.

“I considered trading every player on our roster, everybody, even a player that I loved, Michael Irvin, who played for me at Miami,” Johnson said. “…I didn’t understand the way the NFL worked. But back then, teams didn’t trade that much. I think everybody on our football team realized that anything could happen.”

Per Johnson, the Cowboys made 51 trades in five years, more than the rest of the league put together. The biggest one, of course, was the Walker trade with the Vikings. Why did Johnson make such a bold move with that deal?

“You had to have the system for Herschel Walker for him to be productive,” he said. “I was more interested in the nifty back that could get the big run rather than the power back that was a straight line runner.” Read more »

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