Twitter Mailbag: How Far Away Are They?

Before we get started: DeSean Jackson was named to the Pro Bowl on Friday. He replaces Andre Johnson, who is not participating because of an unspecified injury, according to the league.

Jackson is the fifth Eagle selected to this year’s Pro Bowl, joining LeSean McCoy, Jason Peters, Nick Foles and Evan Mathis. Peters has opted not to play in the game.

Now onto the mailbag:

From @DerrickRedmond: now that#Foles is set as the starter, what’s the #Eagles backup options moving into the preseason? Is Chip high on Barkley?

I think Chip Kelly‘s quote about Matt Barkley earlier this month tells us pretty much everything we need to know.

“Matt was awesome,” he said. “I’m excited to get a full offseason with Matt in here to really get a chance to work with him because I think he’s got a skill set that’s exciting when you see him, how the ball comes out of his hands, the decisions that he makes, and that’s part of this whole deal.

“I think you can never have enough quarterbacks.  I’ve said that no matter where I was.  In this league, we were fortunate that we had two this year, and that was a huge benefit to us that we had two, and we’ll continue to always look at quarterbacks, and I think anybody that’s any good in this league always does that.”

Kelly competed against Barkley on the collegiate level, and thought enough of the USC product to use a fourth-round pick on him. He spent part of every pregame watching Barkley throw, observed him at every practice. His opinion of the rookie QB isn’t based on a couple rough cameos alone.

Still, he was honest in saying that the Eagles had two viable options at quarterback this season, not three. He can’t know for sure that Barkley will be a good enough No. 2 option in 2014. As he said, they’ll continue to look at quarterbacks. I believe Barkley will have a real chance to lock down the backup role but Kelly will bring in competition, whether it be through free agency or the draft. I think Michael Vick will end up elsewhere, possibly with the Jets or Vikings.

From @adamwein79: looking at the two teams in the conf champ, how far away are the birds and what pieces get them there?

Good question. Given that every season is its own event and the number of variables that are involved, it’s hard to define just “how far away” a team is from being championship-caliber.

Like most, I believe a  playmaking safety and a havoc-wreaking pass rusher would certainly help the cause. I think an upgrade at the kicker position is in order as well. But the bigger key for me is seasoning. Kelly will benefit from experience. Same with Nick Foles, Mychal Kendricks, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Boykin, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, etc. As the core strengthens and develops, so too will the team’s chances of advancing deep into the tournament.

If not for a letdown here and there the Eagles would have made it past the Saints, and could still be dancing for all we know. But the letdowns did happen. Being young and green probably had a little something to do with that.

The other key component is quarterback play. Look at the four remaining QBs: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson. Not a bad group. You need to have a few things going for you to become a Super Bowl champion, but having a stud quarterback is a  great start. If Foles can continue to play at a high level, the Eagles should be in pretty good shape.

From @joshuastein0414: do you think if the Eagles have a shot in round 1 at 1 of the marquee WRs, would they take them over the other defensive needs?

One thing to keep in mind is that their needs might look a lot different once we hit the free agency period. If they sign a stud safety and an outside linebacker, say, and Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper end up inking deals elsewhere, the dynamic obviously shifts.

Outside of that factor, the Eagles have been pretty adamant about selecting the best available player over the past couple years. They go after need only if the grades are really close between the players in question. If there is any significant talent gap, their philosophy is to go with the better player even if he doesn’t address an immediate need. So yes, I could see them drafting a receiver over a defensive player in the first round.

For what it’s worth, Mel Kiper called receiver “one of the strongest positions in the draft, at least early” and has seven wideouts being selected in the first round in his mock draft.