The Eagles can do a couple of simple things to guarantee 2013 will be better than 2012…stay healthy and not turn the ball over.
Brent over at Eagles Rewind put up an interesting piece today on injuries. The 2012 team lost a lot of games and the players were important. There is no disputing that. The bad news from him is that you cannot count on the Eagles staying healthier this year. Brent explains that injuries aren’t always a one-year anomaly. He points out that some players are injury prone. I would also mention that when you have players coming off an injury, they can be susceptible to a follow-up injury. I don’t think of this as injury prone since it is time specific. Jason Kelce was healthy in college. He was healthy as a rookie. Since he tore his ACL last year, there could be an issue that will affect him this year. In the future, he may get right back to being completely durable.
We all hope the Eagles stay healthy this year, but I do think they’ll be better prepared to handle injuries. Think back to what happened last year.
Jason Peters hurt – team had career backup King Dunlap and oddball free agent Demetress Bell take his place
Michael Vick hurt – team had mid-round rookie QB replace him
LeSean McCoy hurt – team had late-round rookie RB replace him
Jason Kelce hurt – team had him replaced by player with no NFL experience
Todd Herremans hurt – team had Dunlap and mid-round rookie replace him
Those players were new to the Eagles, new to starting and/or new to the NFL. They had to learn on the fly. There were some painful lessons along the way. Dallas Reynolds was awful in the Arizona game (Week 3). He played much better down the stretch. I am comfortable with him as the backup C this year. He’s nothing special and isn’t a guy you want on the field every play, but proved to be adequate as a backup.
Foles and Brown made a ton of rookie mistakes. Both should be better players this year. Dennis Kelly spent time at RG and RT. He was up and down. I’m sure he’ll be better this year.
The obvious preference is for the injury bug to stay away, but if not we should reap the benefits of the backups having to learn in 2012. This doesn’t mean all the players will be significantly better, but you have to understand that rookies and new/young guys who are thrown into the action during the season face a major challenge. It is tough to learn on the fly.
As for turnovers, a new coach can make a difference. This can be due to his teaching methods (Coughlin and Tiki Barber) or due to the significance he places on ball safety. Marty Schottenheimer’s teams were almost always among league leaders in fewest giveaways. He preached ball security all the time. He beat it into the heads of his players. He also chose starters that were going to hold onto the ball.
Chip Kelly has already started teaching Mike Vick about how to hold the ball when he runs. Either Vick wasn’t getting this coaching in the past or he wasn’t listening. He is now. Foles also had a big fumbling problem. He lost the ball 8 times (Vick 11). I think Foles primary issue was inexperience. He either can’t hold the ball as long on some plays or he must be more protective. I think the coaches can fix that. Few rookies understand the speed of the NFL game. They think when they are in the pocket and no one is near them that they’re safe. Wrong. Some rusher is getting off a block and will be hitting you momentarily.
I’m sure Kelly and the assistants are all over Bryce Brown for his fumbles. His dynamic ability will go to waste if he doesn’t start holding onto the ball.
Interceptions are trickier. Vick threw 10, Foles 5. Neither of those numbers is all that bad, but that might be deceiving. Both QBs had more than a couple of INTs dropped or wiped out. Heck, Vick had a couple dropped in the season opener when he did throw 4. Foles had the disastrous play vs Dallas when he threw the terrible pick-6 to a LB that was erased by a Dallas penalty. He also had some Red Zone throws that got dropped. 15 isn’t bad, but you would prefer it to get down to around 10 or so for the QB position for the entire season.
Kelly will watch the tape closely and figure out what is poor execution (sloppy mechanics, bad throws) vs what is poor decision-making. He and the staff can fix both areas, but they require different solutions.
You also know that poor pass protection led to some QB turnovers. If the O-line is better this year, that will help the QBs protect the ball better. The QBs should have a cleaner pocket to throw from. This can help with better mechanics and decision-making.
The other day when I was on 97.5, Phil asked me about the win total for the Eagles this year. Someone in Vegas has the over/under at 7.5. I took the over. Without hesitation.
It isn’t that I believe the Eagles are going to suddenly be dominant. I think the team will quit turning the ball over as much. I think the defense will be improved. I think special teams will be improved. I think the Eagles will either stay healthy or benefit from the backups who played last year and gained invaluable experience. Finally, the Kelly factor. I think his ideas and enthusiasm will affect this team and help them win 8 to 10 games. It probably also doesn’t hurt that the Eagles will be playing a last place schedule.
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Many of you want to know what’s up with Jimmy Bama. Be patient. You’ll get the details soon enough.
What will happen to the H2H show? Nothing. Jimmy and I will continue to do that. Although, I have open invitations out to Alex Flanagan, James Earl Jones and Lindsay Lohan. Should any of them respond, I’ll send Jimmy packing in a heartbeat.
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There is an ESPN special that you must watch. It is 20 minutes long, but this will be the best 20 minutes of your day, week or maybe year. It is incredibly inspirational.