What They’re Saying About the Eagles

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Here’s a bonus roundup of this week’s national media coverage.

Urban Meyer raved about his visit with Chip Kelly last month, according to Joel Klatt of FOX Sports:

Mark Sanchez is embracing his fresh start with the Eagles, reports Ashley Fox of ESPN.com:

Compliments have been difficult to come by for the 27-year-old Sanchez, who flamed out of New York after a blazing start as the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft. After four road playoff wins in his first two seasons, there was the Butt Fumble, the benching and the boos. There was the Tim Tebow experiment, and the arrival of Geno Smith, the Jets’ second-round draft pick last year, and a quarterback competition in training camp that Sanchez had all but wrapped up in August until the final indignity.

In the fourth quarter of the Jets’ third preseason game against the Giants, coach Rex Ryan tapped Sanchez to replace the turnover-prone Smith under center. Sanchez wasn’t expecting to play and was eating sunflower seeds on the sideline, and the Jets’ second-string offensive line proved incapable of protecting him. When defensive tackle Marvin Austin drilled Sanchez in the shoulder, Sanchez’s season and his Jets career were all but over.

The Eagles have the 10th best offensive line in the NFL, says Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated:

Second-year right tackle Lane Johnson will miss the first four games of the 2014 season after violating the league’s policies on performance-enhancing substances, and Johnson really could have used the work. He appeared overmatched for the most part in pass protection, though he improved as the season progressed. He’ll most likely be replace by Allen Barbre in the short term. Left tackle Jason Peters didn’t have his best season, but held up well in a scheme that tests linemen to their limits with zone concepts and wide splits. The superstar here is left guard Evan Mathis, who adapted perfectly to the complications inherent in Chip Kelly’s offensive structures. Center Jason Kelce and right guard Todd Herremans filled out a line that stayed on the field all the way through the regular season and into the playoffs. If they can do that again, and can further integrate their talents into what Kelly does, this entire offense could be ridiculously good.​

Farrar also explained why Kelly’s system is a running back’s best friend:

Because Oregon ran a lot of spread formations when Kelly served as the school’s head coach from 2009 through ’12 after two years as offensive coordinator, many assumed the Eagles would be throwing the ball even more than they did when Reid was the coach. That assumption proved to be an erroneous generalization of what a spread offense can do — many spread-style collegiate systems lead with the running game, and Kelly’s did at Oregon, as well. In Kelly’s first year as head coach, the Ducks ran the ball 42.1 times per game to 26 passing attempts per contest. In 2012, the only thing that changed was the incredibly fast pace at which the team played — that year, Oregon ran the ball 52.7 times per game against 28.7 passing attempts. Kelly has always evangelized the power of the run game, whether it comes through play action, various quarterback option plays, or inside power running out of wide-open sets that catch defenses completely by surprise.

That transferred well to Philly last season — the Eagles ran the ball 500 times and passed it 508 times, an unusually balanced ratio in an era when NFL teams are throwing it more than ever, with a couple of outliers. In the last three seasons, Kelly’s primary running back has enjoyed a career season. In 2011, LaMichael James ran for a school-record 1,805 yards on just 247 carries and scored 18 rushing touchdowns with a 7.3 yards-per-carry average. In 2012, Kenjon Barner replaced James with a season just as great — 1,767 rushing yards on 278 carries and 18 rushing touchdowns with a 6.4 yards-per-carry mark.

Dave Richard of CBSSports.com wonders how Darren Sproles will impact LeSean McCoy‘s touches:

So the thought here is that Kelly could aim to go back to his roots — but not all the way back. He’d be cuckoo to not use McCoy as a receiver, though he’d be just as cuckoo to not take advantage of Sproles’ skill-set. He also has to account for the loss of DeSean Jackson, and even though Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews and others (Zach Ertz!) will be asked to replace D-Jax’s numbers, Sproles will help too. Eagles backs totaled 64 receptions last year. That number’s going up.

Even with Kelly’s comments this week, I’m anticipating a drop in receptions for McCoy, though not one on par with what Barner or James had at Oregon. I’m also expecting Sproles to fill Thomas’ role almost down to the letter — a guy who gets 3 to 4 catches per game and does a little bit on handoffs. Probably not enough to drag down McCoy’s 19.6 carry average from last season, though. That’s a good thing for those who take McCoy in Round 1.

Greg Bedard of TheMMQB.com has never seen a practice run as well as Kelly’s:

Kelly runs, by far, the most efficient practice in all of football. There is no wasted time on the field. I mean, why have guys standing around and watching when you do team drills side by side on the same field? And he’s also just smart. At one point, the offensive starters lined up against the entire defensive unit. At every defensive position, the four-deep roster was lined up, one behind the other at each position. As the offense was shifting and motioning, the defensive players went through their checks and calls. Each side of the ball only took a few steps into the play, but that’s the most important split second. By having the four-deep defense on the field, the less experienced players could mirror and learn from the players in front of them. That’s just smart. And it’s so simple. That’s the genius of Chip Kelly.

Jeremy Maclin is one of the most underrated receivers in fantasy football, writes KC Joyner of ESPN.com:

Before the 2013 season, DeSean Jackson had never posted more than 62 receptions, 1,156 receiving yards or nine touchdowns in a season. Chip Kelly’s offense changed that last year, as Jackson posted new highs in receptions (82) and receiving yards (1,332) and tied for his single-season high in touchdowns (nine).

That bodes well for Maclin to post new career highs now that he is taking Jackson’s place as the top vertical threat in the Philadelphia offense. Particularly telling for Maclin is that in the 2012 season he outpaced Jackson in nearly every vertical pass category. Maclin had a higher VYPA (14.8 for Maclin, 11.4 for Jackson) and SVYPA (17.8 for Maclin, 10.0 for Jackson), and did so on similar or higher target volumes (45 vertical/22 stretch-vertical targets for Maclin; 38 vertical/23 stretch-vertical targets for Jackson).

Even if for some reason Maclin doesn’t quite make it up to or over Jackson’s production levels, if he gets anywhere close to the No. 10 fantasy ranking among WRs that Jackson got to last year, it would call for a much higher draft value than Maclin currently has.

Joyner also thinks Riley Cooper is one of the most overvalued receivers in fantasy football:

Cooper is much like Hilton in that his fantasy numbers were heavily skewed by a couple of dominant performances. He scored 54 combined points in Week 9 (32 points against Oakland) and Week 10 (22 points against Green Bay) but scored only 74 points in the other 14 games. That latter pace places him at a low-WR4/high-WR5 level. The draft-day addition of Jordan Matthews, who has the skills to take over Cooper’s starting job eventually (and maybe as early as this year) will also siphon some targets away from Cooper.

Marc Sessler of NFL.com is excited about Zach Ertz‘ potential this year:

1. NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah stopped by the desk to echo our excitement over the potential of second-year tight end Zach Ertz. One of our “Making the Leap” candidates, the former Stanford playmaker is a physical after-the-catch receiver with the ability to punish smaller cover men. He lost snaps last year because Chip Kelly couldn’t trust him as an in-line blocker, but Ertz added weight and muscle this offseason. Our prediction of 60 grabs for 850 yards and eight touchdowns still feels reasonable — and possibly conservative.

2. A combination of Ertz, rookie slot man Jordan Matthews and a healthy Jeremy Maclin will help fill the void left by DeSean Jackson. So will jitterbug Darren Sproles. Coming out of last season’s playoff loss to the Saints, the memory of Sproles’ handiwork in that contest “remained fresh two months later” and prompted Kelly to swing a trade for the versatile ball-carrier. Chip insists he’s a running back, but we expect Sproles to line up all over the field this summer.

Kelly’s last director of sports nutrition at Oregon now works for the Packers, Jason Wilde of ESPN.com reports:

In his new job with the Green Bay Packers, [Adam] Korzun, who was named the team’s director of performance nutrition Sunday, will be charged with helping his players have a balanced diet to help them eat the Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears alive this season.

Korzun comes to the Packers after serving as the director of sports nutrition for the Oregon athletic department since August 2012. He started working as a sport dietitian for several sports for the United States Olympic Committee in May 2007 and later served as the full-time high-performance dietitian for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. He has also served as a consultant for Red Bull High Performance, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Cleveland Indians.

Madden NFL 15 rated Evan Mathis as tied for the best guard in the league:

The rest of your top five includes Evan Mathis (97 OVR), Josh Sitton (97 OVR), Trent Williams (94 OVR) and Joe Staley (94 OVR). Wait a second — no Seahawks in the top five? What gives?! They just won the Super Bowl for crying out loud. See what I mean? It’s like Rodney Dangerfield always said: “I tell ya, I don’t get no respect at all.” The Seahawks feel your pain, Rodney.