QBs on the Rise

Posted: July 27th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 23 Comments »

One of the big concerns heading into Training Camp was the QB position. Everyone is high on starter Nick Foles, but the backups appeared to be a major question based on what we saw in the spring. Neither Mark Sanchez nor Matt Barkley stood out in their competition to see who would be the primary backup. Both struggled at times and didn’t generate much confidence.

Things have changed. Now 2 days into TC, both Sanchez and Barkley are playing much better. Each player has made multiple throws that impressed the media members watching the practices.

From Geoff Mosher’s practice notes:

Thread of the day
With great timing and some zip on the ol’ fastball, Sanchez placed one right between Malcolm Jenkins and Nate Allen to hit rookie Jordan Matthews in stride for a first-down along the right seam.

Sheil Kapadia mentioned this in his practice notes:

Matt Barkley, meanwhile, finds Damaris Johnson on a deep out, placing the ball perfectly over defenders. Barkley has looked much better in two summer practices than he did all spring.

And

1:17 - Barkley drops back and hits Kadron Boone in stride down the left sideline. The ball probably traveled 40 to 50 yards in the air and was on the money. Quite possibly the best pass we’ve seen Barkley throw in two years. That was a beauty.

Prevailing thought of the day: All three quarterbacks have looked really good the past two days.

This is very encouraging. Nobody is rushing to put Sanchez or Barkley in the Hall of Fame, but it is good to hear that the players are throwing the ball well and looking much improved over the spring. Chip Kelly talks all the time about how you need at least 2 QBs in the NFL. Last year the Eagles had Vick, Foles and Barkley all play significant snaps in at least 2 games. It would be great if Foles started all 16 games and only left the field in blowout victories, but you sure can’t count on that.

Sanchez playing better makes sense. He was new to the team and the scheme in the spring. Learning on the fly in the Chip Kelly offense isn’t the easiest thing in the world. By now, Sanchez has had a chance to really digest the playbook and get used to the pace of practice. He is a talented, veteran QB and should play well.

Barkley’s struggles in the spring are still a bit of a mystery. It might have been the result of his frustration with the fact the Eagles didn’t push him into the backup QB role. Or maybe it is simply the fact he’s a young player and they can be erratic. No matter the reason, his struggles were a real concern. Barkley figured things out, whether physically or mentally, and is looking better. Hopefully he’ll continue to improve and will start to look like the player that Kelly was so eager to draft in April of 2013.

* * * * *

More praise for CB Nolan Carroll.

From Mosher:

Mix and match
Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis got creative with personnel pairings, often mixing the starting front seven with the backup secondary or vice-versa. The looks gave Brandon Boykin extra reps at outside cornerback in base defense, along with Nolan Carroll. Carroll made a nice pass breakup.

Quote of the day
“He’s a very well‑rounded talent. He’s got size, he’s got length, he’s got speed. He’s a real tenacious competitor. I love his attitude out there the way he presses and competes and puts his hands on the people, and he’s got a good knack for the ball.” — Bill Davis, on free-agent corner Nolan Carroll.

From Sheil

Later, Foles runs play-action, rolls to his left and looks for Ertz near the sideline, but Carroll breaks it up. I repeat myself every day, but Carroll gets his hands on more passes at practice than any other defensive back, and it’s not even close.

Carroll has been a terrific free agent pickup to this point. He is pushing the starters and seems to stand out in every practice. Carroll can steal a starting job if he continues to shine. The Eagles like starters Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, but don’t love them.

Several of you wonder why the common thought is that Carroll is challenging Fletcher and not Williams. Since Williams is older and more expensive, shouldn’t he be the guy Carroll replaces? The Eagles want the best players on the field. They seem to like Williams better. One of the simple differences between he and Fletcher is reliability. Williams started all 16 games. Fletcher started 13. Beyond that, Fletcher missed time in games. Williams played 1067 snaps. Fletcher played 850.

The Eagles will put the best CBs on the field. We don’t know what combination of Williams, Fletcher and Carroll that will be. It is up to the players to decide that.

* * * * *

Trent Cole and LeSean McCoy got into a fight today. McCoy was ticked off that Cole and other defenders were being too physical with him on pass routes. This makes for a nice story for the media, but it isn’t a big deal. McCoy and Cole have played together since 2009. This was just an emotional flare-up during a summer practice session.

* * * * *

Here is some STs stuff from Jimmy over the last couple of days.

• In the kicker competition, both Alex Henery and Murderleg went 4/5 on field goal attempts. Murderleg was 4/4 until his final kick, and he had a chance to win the day… but he pushed it right.

I also watched them on kickoffs. Henery kicked off three times during one portion of the practice, and his kickoffs were as follows: 4 yards deep in the end zone, 7 yards deep, 2 yards deep. Murderleg on the other hand, had two kickoffs that I observed. One was fielded at about the one yard line, the other at the 14 on a wobbly line drive. It’s not a good sign when Alex Henery is clearly better than you on kickoffs.

• Staying with special teams, Damaris Johnson fumbled in a non-contract drill and Josh Huff muffed an ugly looking line drive kickoff.

And 

• Damaris Johnson had his second muff in as many days. Jordan Matthews also had a punt eat him up. On a short punt, he wasn’t able to run up and field it in the air. Then when he tried to catch it on the bounce, it deflected off of him, and bounced further down the field. Then instead of jumping on it, he tried to pick it up and run, but missed it again. That all happened right in front of the Chippah, who likely reminded Matthews that that sequence was ugly.

• This is something that was already known, but Brent Celek is the emergency long snapper. He got some long snap reps today. No offense to Brent, but Jon Dorenbos is better at long snapping than Brent Celek.

Go read the whole posts to see Jimmy profess his love for Donnie Jones.

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Barbre It Is

Posted: July 26th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 73 Comments »

Chip Kelly held a press conference this morning and announced that Allen Barbre will be the RT for now. Kelly believes in competition so he’s not anointing Barbre as having locked down the job. To Kelly, everything has to be earned. By what he did last year and in the OTAs, Barbre earned the first shot at being the RT while Lane Johnson enjoys his September vacation.

Kelly was asked if the Eagles considered moving Todd Herremans to RT, but indicated that the plan all along was to go with Barbre. Kelly said that the Eagles really like him and that’s the reason they signed him to an extension. There was some speculation that Barbre got the extension because of Johnson’s suspension. That wasn’t the case.

Barbre will get all the reps with the 1′s. Lane Johnson will work with the #2 offense. You got the feeling that Kelly was pretty pissed off at Johnson for the whole situation. He didn’t throw him under the bus, but made it clear that the focus would be on getting the starters ready for the first 4 games. Johnson will have to do everything he can to be ready to challenge for his job when Game 5 rolls around, but it sure doesn’t sound like he’ll jump right back into his old job with no questions asked. Kelly is going to make him win that job.

“We’ve got to prepare for our first four games, so we’ve got to get the guy who is going to be the starting right tackle for the first four games in there,” Kelly said.

Kelly understands at the same time that Johnson, last year’s first-round pick, still needs to continue to develop.

“He’ll get reps, but they won’t be with the first team right now,” Kelly said.

The NFL announced on Wednesday that Johnson will miss the first four games after violating the league’s policy regarding performance-enhancing substances. The Eagles’ open the season at home against Jacksonville, then travel to Indianapolis before hosting Washington and going back on the road to face the San Francisco 49ers.

Johnson can participate in Training Camp and the preseason, but is not allowed to be with the team once the suspension begins. He will be eligible to play in Week 5 against the St. Louis Rams.

“We’ll see,” Kelly responded when asked how Johnson will adjust upon his return. “The ball’s in his court in a lot of these situations.”

We don’t know what happened with Johnson. Was this an accident or did he get caught cheating? Everyone can have an opinion, but we don’t know for a fact. The key to the situation is that Johnson learns from it and moves on. He’s got to work his butt off this summer and then be ready for October. If he handles this situation the right way, all is forgiven. If Johnson doesn’t handle it well, this could snowball into something bigger. Johnson has the right kind of people around him. Let’s hope they help him get through this with minimal problems.

Barbre isn’t as good a player as Johnson, but he is a veteran who fits the Eagles system well. He looked very good last year vs the Packers when Jason Peters got hurt and missed part of the game. Barbre can be an adequate replacement, maybe even better than that. He’ll have plenty of time to get ready for his 4 games as the RT.

* * * * *

The Eagles practiced in shorts today. Some quick tweets of interest.

We’ll have full TC reports later on. Lots of positive comments about Mark Sanchez on Twitter. Sounds like he’s much better than he was this spring, which is good. Need someone to emerge as the backup QB.

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Beware of Shiny Objects

Posted: July 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 60 Comments »

There was a lot of speculation in the spring about whether the Eagles would draft Johnny Manziel. Chip Kelly had recruited him to Oregon so it was widely assumed that Kelly would want him in Philly. No matter what happens or what is said, the notion that Chip covets a mobile QB just won’t go away.

I didn’t expect the Eagles to go after Manziel, but I’ve been wrong before. I was relieved when the Eagles dealt the pick away and Cleveland then drafted Manziel back in May.

Manziel is one of the best college QBs that I have ever seen play. He did things that look like crazy scenes from a bad movie about a college football superstar. You know how in every football movie the director feels the need for every play to be some over-the-top moment? That was Manziel for 2 years at Texas A&M. He made the impossible seem almost common. I’m glad I got to see him play and I’ll never forget Johnny Football.

But I wanted no part of him for the Eagles.

The first thing that got my radar up was the Manning Passing Academy incident, where Manziel was sent home early. Did he simply oversleep or was he hungover? I don’t know what happened, but I know things didn’t go the way they should have. Then there was the brilliant piece by Wright Thompson from last summer. Manziel came off as a spoiled brat with a huge sense of entitlement.

The last year featured a lot of moments that were awkward, if not awful. Manziel doing his little money thing with his fingers just feels so wrong. He did it in games and even at the draft. Hanging with Justin Bieber, who doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation, probably isn’t ideal. The photo of the rolled up $20 bill from the bathroom, which loosely insinuated cocaine use, was another head-scratcher.

I have no idea what kind of NFL player Manziel will be, but I sure don’t like his personality and I sure don’t trust him. And that’s the biggest thing. No matter how well Manziel plays, you’re always going to be scared to pull up Twitter or PFT or turn on ESPN because Bad Johnny is always lurking.

Apparently the Browns have already seen this side of him (and it’s not even August!).

The Browns have been ‘alarmed’ by some of Johnny Manziel’s antics since the draft — especially a photo of him rolling up a $20 bill in the bathroom of a bar — and some in the organization feel he’s lost ground in the quarterback competition heading into camp, sources have told Northeast Ohio Media Group.

And…

Team officials had bought into Manziel’s pre-draft promises to tone down the partying and leave his frat-boy lifestyle back in College Station, Texas, and they’ve been stunned by his non-stop antics, sources said.

Since they traded up to draft him in the first round, No. 22 overall, on May 8, he’s partied hard in New York City, Las Vegas twice, Los Angeles with hip-hop star Drake, Austin, Tex., Houston, Tex. and at pop star Justin Bieber’s house in Beverly Hills with the likes of world boxing champ Floyd Mayweather.

The romp across the country — complete with photos of him drinking magnums of champagne and spraying it around clubs — has been completely opposite of what Manziel told the Browns during his private workout for them at Texas A&M and during his pre-draft visit to Cleveland. It’s also been contrary to what he said publicly in the months leading up to the draft and after the Browns traded up to No. 22 to select him.

Is this the guy you want to build your franchise around? I know some people will point out that he’s a rich kid and that stuff happened in the offseason. Why not let him have his fun? We all have trade-offs in life. If you work at Burger King, nobody will care what you do away from work. If you work at a factory, no one will expect you to take work home with you. Put in your 40 hours and go home. If you want to be an NFL QB, you are on the job 24/7. Everything you say and do will be heavily scrutinized. That may not seem fair, but that’s just how it is.

And this isn’t a morality tale. It is about how you play. Randall Cunningham and Michael Vick both focused on having a good time more than how to find holes in the opposing defense. They both did remarkable things on the field, but left the game as underachievers. They didn’t work hard enough to develop their natural gifts.

Think about Nick Foles and how he carries himself. He’s boring, and I mean that as a compliment. Foles just wants to spend time with his family. He talks about the team in interviews and prefers not to focus on himself. Foles is a guy that you can absolutely build a team around, in terms of the kind of person he is. The test for Foles is for him to show that he can be that good on the field (for a full season…we all loved what he did for 10 starts in 2013).

I hope Manziel pans out as an NFL player because the league is more fun when there are great QBs to watch, but I am glad the Eagles passed on him. It would have been nerve-racking to follow his every off-the-field move. Nick Foles won’t have your jaw hitting the floor on many Sundays, but he also won’t have you cringing every time time you hear his name in the offseason.

* * * * *

If you want to hear Nick say boring things, PE.com has his press conference from today.

Bliss.

* * * * *

Great stuff from Philly writers on Chip Kelly.

Les Bowen

MY FAVORITE instance of Chip being Chip came last August, when he named me the Eagles’ starting quarterback.

Kelly, harried by reporters (darn those reporters!) who wanted to know how he possibly could avoid naming Michael Vick the starter over Nick Foles, given Vick’s 13-for-15 performance through the first two preseason games, was trying to make the point that naming someone a starter in the preseason wasn’t that big a deal. So he said if we had to have a name, fine, Les Bowen was the starter.

My tenure only lasted a few days, before Kelly had a chance to sit down with Vick and Foles and tell them what they’d undoubtedly figured out – that Vick had won the preseason competition. Of course, Mike, like me, eventually fell victim to Chip’s fickle nature (also to Foles throwing seven TD passes in Oakland, and Mike not being able to stay healthy.) By Thanksgiving, Chip had sarcastically proclaimed Nick the starter for the next thousand years.

But Mike and I know Nick shouldn’t count on that.

That’s great stuff from Les.

Domo was less funny, but offered interesting insight.

Paul Domowitch

WHEN ANDY REID was the Eagles’ coach and wanted to go to a Phillies game, he usually had someone from the organization call over and arrange for him to enter through a private entrance so he wouldn’t have to mingle with the common folk.

Reid liked the city’s sports fans, liked their passion. But he liked them a lot better from a distance.

Not Chip Kelly. The guy owns a place in Center City. He eats and drinks and shops in the city. He is as approachable as an insurance man and enjoys shooting the bull with the natives.

When he goes to a Phillies game, he picks up his tickets himself and enters through one of the main gates and sits with the working-stiff peeps, not up in a hoity-toity luxury suite. Maybe all of that will change if he has a losing season and the fans unload on him. But I doubt it. He is who he is.

Asked recently about the perception that he doesn’t take himself or anything else too seriously, he replied: “I have great respect for the game [of football]. I always will have great respect for the game. But I don’t think anybody should take themselves too seriously. I take my job very seriously, but I don’t take myself very seriously.”

I think Chip Kelly is one popular coach, with just about everybody.

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Covering and Catching

Posted: July 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 45 Comments »

There were a pair of terrific articles on Thursday about the Eagles and their thinking behind specific positions. Sheil Kapadia wrote a great article on the secondary, while Paul Domowitch wrote about the changes taking place at WR.

Let’s start with Sheil and the DBs. First, this is a partial piece of writing. It is an excerpt from something Sheil wrote for the Eagles Almanac.

 

Eagles Almanac 2014

Most of you are probably familiar with the almanac, but for those who aren’t…imagine taking the movie The Expendables and replacing the action stars with Eagles hacks. Boom. That’s the Eagles Almanac.

We assemble the greatest Eagles writers on Earth and have them contribute an article or two on a variety of subjects. I chose to write 2 pieces. I wrote an article comparing the 1995 and 2013 seasons. Both years featured new coaches taking the teams to 10-6 records and the playoffs. But both seasons were also very different. 1995 is one of my all-time favorite seasons so I enjoyed covering that and I think we all loved last year.

I also wrote a draft review for the Eagles. I went back and re-watched the prospects, now knowing they are Eagles, and tried to come up with some original material on the players. This wasn’t just a copy ‘n paste from May articles on the draft.

Go here for full details on the Eagles Almanac. For $10 you get an online copy. For $25 you can have a hard copy. For $237,000 you can have the full set of writers come to your home and read their pieces to your kids as bedtime stories.

Okay, let’s get back to Sheil and his great excerpt from the Eagles Almanac. He wrote about how the Eagles use a lot of Cover 3. Sheil got players and coaches to give him quotes on how this is executed and how it works. Truly great stuff. Must read material.

“We played basically a traditional three-deep and quarters type coverage, and then quarter-quarter-half zone coverage,” said defensive backs coach John Lovett. “[Those] were our main calls. And then on third down, we tightened things up. We played some different forms of man coverage. If you look back in a nutshell as far as what we did, it would fall into those general categories.”

The one coverage the Eagles went to over and over again (specifically on early downs) was the three-deep zone, or Cover 3. That featured three deep defenders (two cornerbacks and a safety) splitting the field into thirds and four “rally” defenders (usually two inside linebackers, an outside linebacker and a safety) underneath.

The Eagles plans made a lot of sense. Don’t get beat deep. Keep things in front of you and then rally to the ball. Bend, but don’t break. The problem is that the Eagles missed some key tackles and also lacked the speed in the middle of the field to make these ideas work really well.

The team’s tackling got better as the season went along and that helped the defense quite a bit. Remember the nightmare of the KC game? The Eagles would get the Chiefs into 3rd and long, only to have Donnie Avery catch a 5-yard pass (or less) and then run around the middle of the field for 15 to 20 yards and a 1st down. I don’t know if that was part of Dante’s levels of Hell, but it sure felt like it that night. Ugh.

Malcolm Jenkins is going to bring some aggression  to the middle of the field and that’s a good thing.

“I’m in the middle of the field so I’m protecting the corners on post routes,” said Malcolm Jenkins, who admitted he did not play a lot of Cover 3 in New Orleans. “I’m protecting inside players on verticals by your tight ends and wide receivers. But at the same time, somebody like me, I get a little nosy and I like to try to rob some things when I know my corners can lock down their sides, and then I don’t have to babysit them. You can make a lot of plays, especially off tipped balls and overthrows. You’ve just gotta find a way to get around the ball.”

If you watch the Saints game, you’ll see Nate Allen playing on his heels. That’s fine in some situations, but not all game long. You need Safeties that can and will attack, whether this means a pass over the middle or a RB coming their way. Attack.

While the Cover 3 is a zone defense, you don’t guard blades of grass. You line up in a zone (or area), but the job is to then cover whatever comes inside of that zone. You need to be tight to the receiver or in a position to break on the ball if it is thrown to your area. Simply being in the right spot isn’t enough.

I’m hoping Allen will be more confident this year and will play more aggressively. I also hope Earl Wolff stays healthy and really pushes him for the starting job. I don’t care who wins it, I just want better Safety play than 2013.

Go read the whole piece by Sheil. There are lots of insightful quotes by players on what their specific duties are within the framework of the defense. I can’t wait to read the Eagles Almanac so I can see the entire article.

* * * * *

Domo wrote about the Eagles getting bigger at WR and what the thinking is.

“People want to put you in man-to-man coverage,” Kelly said. “We saw that more than other people. Having guys who can get open against man coverage is a key deal. I think that’s the one thing we know as a group going in. One-on-one coverage is a big deal for us. It’s a big deal in this league. We’re always looking for guys who can exploit that matchup.”

That’s a major reason the 5-9, 175-pound Jackson was released in March, and it’s a major reason the Eagles acquired pass-catching running back Darren Sproles and drafted 6-3, 222-pound wide receiver Jordan Matthews and sturdy (5-11, 206) Josh Huff.

“The addition of Sproles, are you [still] going to play us in man?” Kelly said. “If you do, then now you’re going to have a linebacker covering him if he’s the back. That’s kind of a huge addition when we thought about bringing him in.”

Another interesting twist: Kelly plans to use Matthews in the slot, where his size potentially will create problems for smaller slot corners. Most teams use smaller, quicker receivers in the slot.

“I think people match up to us [in man coverage] because of what we do and the speed and tempo that we play,” Kelly said after the draft. “It’s the easiest thing to get lined up quick [in man coverage]. [They say] ‘Hey, you’ve got him and I’ve got him.’

“If we’re going to see [man coverage] a lot, how do you get guys that exploit that coverage? In a league where sometimes people put smaller guys in the slot, we want to put a bigger guy in there. I think that matchup, if you’re a smaller DB in the slot and have to match up with a 220-pound guy like Jordan who also can run 4.46, that’s going to favor us.”

The Eagles have 13 wide receivers on their training-camp roster. Just one – Damaris Johnson – is shorter than 5-11. Seven are 6-2 or taller. There’s a good possibility that four of the six wideouts who make the season-opening roster will be 6-2 or taller.

“I know I talk about big people beating up little people, but that’s more of a defensive philosophy for us,” Kelly said. “But at the receiver position, it’s your ability to beat one-on-one coverage. And honestly, I don’t think people really beat it that often. You’re going to have to catch a lot of contested footballs.

“I think that’s one of the things that makes Riley [Cooper] such a good target. He’s 6-3 and over 230 now. He can muscle [defenders] and go get the ball. I think people play defense so close in this league, that your ability to go get the football is really what kind of separates people.”

I remember watching the Eagles in 1995. Jon Gruden’s WCO wanted receivers who could really work the middle of the field. Fred Barnett and Calvin Williams preferred working down the field or to the outside. The passing attack was a mess, to put it mildly. The Eagles let go of both guys and replaced them with Chris T. Jones and Irving Fryar, a pair of big, physical receivers. The passing offense looked night and day different in 1996. You must have the right receivers for the right situation. Fred Barnett was a terrific receiver, but not for the WCO. Fryar was made for that role.

We don’t know how the Eagles new set of receivers will do, but I love the fact there is distinct planning going on and not just random change. Kelly’s plan might not work, but there is a well-thought out plan behind the moves. I do think having the bigger receivers will work, and as a bonus they will block better in the run game.

It was also interesting to read that Cooper is now more than 230 pounds. He is one big WR.

Good stuff from Domo.

* * * * *

Players report today and Training Camp officially starts tomorrow. Is everyone excited?

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Let’s Talk About RBs

Posted: July 24th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 35 Comments »

The Eagles have a great RB in LeSean McCoy. He’s the kind of special talent you can build an offense around. Luckily Chip Kelly got here while McCoy was still in his prime and is feeding him the ball quite a bit. Last year McCoy won the NFL rushing title. You can think of him as the best RB in the league, which McCoy himself does. I still think Adrian Peterson is a better player, but McCoy would be #2. Even his harshest critics aren’t going to have him much below that.

After McCoy is where things open up quite a bit.

Last year Bryce Brown was the clear backup, but the Eagles dealt him during the NFL draft. We can’t really talk about the RB situation without talking about Brown and that deal. Why would the Eagles trade a player with Brown’s talent?

We don’t have a definitive answer, but there are a few guesses. First up, you wonder how Brown fit Kelly’s football culture. This isn’t to say Brown was a bad guy at all. He never got in trouble and I didn’t hear a word about him, but his background suggests there may have been some issues with fitting in a football program. Kelly wants players that buy in to his Total Football concept. Maybe Brown didn’t do that.

Then there is his on-field performance. Brown showed great potential in 2012, but struggled last year. His fumbling issue went away, but he never looked all that comfortable in the offense. Brown tried to run outside a lot, with poor results. In his defense, it seemed like the Eagles ran him outside a lot as well. Either way, we only saw glimpses of the player from 2012.

One of the things that drives Kelly the craziest is inconsistent players. He would rather have a good player that is consistent than a special talent who only plays great once a month. You can’t count on that guy. Maybe Kelly saw Brown as someone in that category.

We also have to talk about the other players. You don’t move your backup RB (and not replace him) unless you are comfortable with some players already on the roster. Maybe this move was as much about Chris Polk as it was Brown. Polk only ran 11 times in 2013, but did show good potential. Kelly played him more and more as the season went along. Polk is a N-S runner with good strength and is an excellent fit for Kelly’s system.

Beyond that, he is a great complement to McCoy. Shady loves to make dynamic cuts and that keeps the defense on their heels. Polk is an attacking RB. He runs behind his pads and gets upfield. Think of Shady as the pitcher with the devastating breaking ball and Polk as the guy who throws fastballs. That presents the defense with contrasting styles to deal with in the same game.

We also have to think about Darren Sproles. I wrote about him the other day. Sproles will technically be the backup RB, but I do wonder if he or Polk will have more carries. Sproles career high is 93 carries, which would be just under 6 a game. Polk is more of a workhorse based on what he did in college. He is a guy you can feed the ball to. If the Eagles get a lead, Polk might be the RB who gets used to spell McCoy late in the game. His running style also fits that situation.

The Eagles have a terrific set of RBs if McCoy stays healthy. If he gets hurt, things get interesting.

My guess is that Kelly would make Polk the starter and would keep Sproles as the role player. Kelly saw Polk in college and knows he can be a workhorse if needed. My first memory of Chris Polk came in a game vs Notre Dame. He was dragging multiple tacklers up the field on every play. I love tough runners who don’t go down easily. Polk took a beating in college, but is now completely healthy and I’m sure he’s dying to get touches.

Beyond the Big 3, you have Matthew Tucker, Henry Josey and David Fluellen. Tucker showed some potential last summer and has an advantage because he knows the scheme and at least has some idea what the NFL is like. The other 2 RBs are both UDFAs. I think Josey is the player to watch. He has the kind of running style that Kelly loves and has enough speed to create big plays if he gets free at the second level. Josey had serious injuries in college so he’s got to show he can stay healthy and take an NFL pounding. I’m just not sure Fluellen has quite enough quickness or speed for the NFL.

I really do hope we get to see Polk used more this year. I loved him in college and it would be good to see him emerge as a key role player for this team. I am curious to see if McCoy’s touches go down. Kelly talked about wanting to use him less, but McCoy always pleads for every touch possible. With Sproles in the mix and Polk on the rise, Kelly might use more of a group approach. Still expect McCoy to get his 250 ro 275 carries. He had 314 last year. And who knows…McCoy might get another 300 this year. Kelly is going to run the ball.

* * * * *

Mark Saltveit wrote a good piece on the Eagles STs for FishDuck. He covers all the units and their issues.

As he says, STs were a major disappointment in 2013. Kelly spent time and resources to improve them, but didn’t get the results last year. Kelly is again trying to fix the problem. We need to see better results.

Kelly and Dave Fipp know who did and didn’t play well last year. This involves more than just tackles. Did the players take good angles to the ball? Did they run around blocks instead of fighting through them? Did the players block well on returns? There is a lot of subtlety to STs that is lost on the casual viewer.

I think the STs will be upgraded this year.

Chris Maragos vs Colt Anderson
Bryan Braman vs Casey Matthews
Nolan Carroll vs Roc Carmichael

Marcus Smith replaces…Brandon Graham maybe?

Fipp will also have a full offseason with Najee Goode, who could be a key STer this year. Zach Ertz will be in Year 2. Some of the backup DL can help. I also think Brad Smith has good value, as a STer and as a leader for the STs.

There are plenty of reasons to be encouraged, but the proof will be in the pudding (and you know I love pudding). The players must perform better.

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