Eagles ready to hit the ground running – literally
Ready, set, go.
The Philadelphia Eagles might as well be running a track meet
under new coach Chip Kelly.
Everything they do is faster from the way they practice to their
up-tempo offense. Kelly even speaks fast when talking to reporters,
answering questions quickly and moving to the next one.
His ratio of words per minute certainly leaves Andy Reid in the
dust. But the most important question in Philadelphia is whether
Kelly can top Reid’s success and win that elusive Super Bowl.
Kelly took over a 4-12 team after Reid was fired following 14
seasons. He’s brought a unique approach that worked well at the
University of Oregon. The players have been on board since the
start. Now, we’ll see if their enthusiasm translates into wins.
”They’ve embraced everything, and that’s a real credit to
them,” Kelly said. ”Since Day 1, there was not a whole lot of
salesmanship in terms of why we have to do all these things because
their thought process is that if you can help me become a better
football player, then I’m in, and everyone has been that way. That
part, I think, was an unknown going in. You didn’t know about that.
And if you’re a guy from the outside and haven’t been a part of it,
you hear it’s tough to coach professional athletes, they’ve got
their own mindset, they want to do things their own way. I’ve never
encountered that with one player on this team, and that part as a
coach has been refreshing.
”It makes you excited to come to work every day.”
Five things to know about the Eagles:
EXPECT SOME GROWING PAINS: This isn’t the Pac-10. The Eagles
aren’t going to dominate the way the Ducks did for four seasons
under Kelly. His task is a tough one. The Eagles were bad in 2011
and downright awful last year. It’s going to take some time for
Kelly to turn them into a winner again. Kelly has some talented
players, particularly on offense, and that should make the Eagles
an exciting team to watch. But there are enough holes on this team
that even a losing season – if they went 7-9 – would have to be
considered a success and major step forward.
MICHAEL VICK HAS TO PROTECT THE BALL: Vick was outstanding in
the first two preseason games, winning the starting job over Nick
Foles and showing a solid grasp of Kelly’s system. But the old Vick
showed up in the third preseason game. He made some dazzling plays,
including several with his legs that proved he’s still a weapon
running the ball at age 33. But he also made questionable decisions
similar to the ones that plagued him the last two years. Vick was
indecisive at times in the pocket, forced one throw that resulted
in an interception and nearly had another pick when he foolishly
tossed the ball straight up in the air while going down on a sack.
If Vick plays more like the Pro Bowl starter he was in 2010 rather
than the turnover machine he was in 2011-12, he could shine in
Kelly’s offense. Otherwise, Foles looked sharp and he’ll get his
OFFENSE IS THE TEAM’S STRENGTH: Whether it’s Vick or Foles under
center, the Eagles have potential to be a dynamic offense.
Playmakers LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson seem poised to thrive in
Kelly’s high-octane system. Jason Avant appears ready to make up
for the loss of Jeremy Maclin and tight ends Brent Celek and Zach
Ertz could post big numbers. Bryce Brown complements McCoy nicely,
giving the Eagles two strong running backs. Brown, however, needs
to solve his fumbling issues. The offensive line is healthy and
boosted by the addition of first-round pick Lane Johnson. Overall,
the Eagles should score plenty of points and they’re going to need
it with a suspect defense.
OPPONENTS WILL TRY TO PASS OFTEN: A secondary that was one of
the worst in NFL history last year underwent a major overhaul. Gone
are cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie,
two former Pro Bowl guys who were part of a unit that allowed 33
touchdown passes and had only eight interceptions. Free-agent
acquisitions Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are the starters
and there’s not much depth behind them. There hasn’t been a
playmaker at safety since Brian Dawkins left. Quarterbacks had a
99.6 passer rating against the Eagles last year, and it doesn’t
appear there’s a reason for them to stop throwing against this
DEFENSE IS WORK IN PROGRESS: Billy Davis is the team’s fourth
defensive coordinator in five years. Davis brings a new 3-4
alignment that requires several holdovers to make adjustments,
including defensive ends Trent Cole and Brandon Graham moving to
linebacker. There’s depth on the line and strong potential among
the front seven. End Fletcher Cox, a 2012 first-round pick, could
be a breakout player.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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