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September 01, 2015

Breakfast with the Birds: Pumping the brakes

Eagles NFL

Take a deep breath. Let’s ease up with all of this Super Bowl talk. Other teams aren’t even game planning for Chip’s offense! Can’t we see if Bradford, Murray, Mathews, and co. stay upright for a few games first? Notice that it said “and co.” there? Offensive guard is still a huge question mark, so is the secondary, and let’s not even get started on outside linebacker depth. Listen to voices of reason Les Bowen and Adam Caplan, everyone:

All of those things are true to a degree, but to be fair, what else is anyone supposed to say? While both reporters (whose work I respect a lot) are very likely correct in pointing out the season won’t be all roses, the Eagles look like a damn good football team at the moment. And while they’re doing nothing else but destroying good teams in all three phases, it’s difficult to write anything different than, “They look really good.”

The Eagles certainly have their question marks, though. Today, I figured we would highlight a couple of them by linking out to stories/columns from the Daily News and Inquirer, respectively. Let’s start with David Murphy, who correctly points out the Eagles’ secondary is still very much untested:

The Eagles have a pretty good idea of what to expect out of their top four defensive backs, with Byron Maxwell and Nolan Carroll on the outside. Beyond that, there are a heck of a lot of unknowns, leaving them one injury away from some serious questions. Their most pressing need is to decide on a nickel back, which leaves them in pretty much the same place they were on the first day of training camp, when they traded Brandon Boykin to the Steelers. The Eagles had planned on rookie JaCorey Shepherd filling that role, but he tore his ACL early in camp and is lost for the season. Second-round pick Eric Rowe has played a lot with the first unit over the last two games, but he has not put a ton of distance between himself and the rest of the pack, which includes second-year players Jaylen Watkins and Jerome Couplin, veteran free agent E.J. Biggers, and rookies Randall Evans and Denzel Rice.

Moving to the linebacking corps, Kiko Alonso hasn’t played one snap this preseason, as Zach Berman writes. It will be interesting to see him attempt to adapt on the fly if he doesn’t suit up on Thursday:

Kiko Alonso practiced on Monday after missing the third preseason game on Saturday because his leg bothered him during pregame warm-ups. Alonso said his knee is "nagging" him and he's "just being cautious with it." He added that he feels fine and will be ready for opening day.

Alonso did not specify which knee is nagging him. He missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Coach Chip Kelly said after Saturday's game that the injury was not related to the torn ACL.

This next story can also be viewed as a positive because the young receivers have stepped up, but Bob Ford notes that Riley Cooper has been invisible so far this preseason:

Agholor and second-year receiver Jordan Matthews bring speed and athleticism, Darren Sproles brings an elusiveness out of the backfield or in the slot, and the Eagles also have Josh Huff and possession receiver Miles Austin to blend into the mix.

It's reasonable to wonder where that leaves Cooper, and whether the sixth-year veteran, best known for his willingness to block downfield and do the dirty work, will struggle to find a role this season. Given his liabilities with speed and getting separation on defenders, the question of when the Eagles will move past Cooper, might have been answered. If the unreliable preseason does become an indication, they already have.

These are all areas of concern, but it’s still impossible to stop the optimism from flowing all around the Delaware Valley. Until the Eagles come back down to Earth in the regular season, don’t expect it to change.

Monday recap

1. Bennie Logan, taking names: Jimmy went HAM yesterday, and it all started off with a GIF recap of Logan’s strong preseason. Bill Simmons popularized “The Leap” as a basketball term for when a player becomes a star (usually in his third or fourth season). In a way, Logan might be making an equivalent leap in football. We’ve come a long way from that playoff game against New Orleans a couple of years ago.

2. Chip Kelly, Mic’d up: When the Chippah agrees to wear a microphone, he usually produces some great sound. Just last year, that’s where we got “Culture beats scheme.” The year before, “F@^*#%& score points, what’s your plan?” From the video at open practice a couple of weeks ago, we learned that Chip’s verbal tic is “YannowhatImean?” and saw him compliment head equipment manager Greg Delimitros on “a solid jugs performance.”

3. 10/1 odds: People must be hammering the Birds in Vegas, because their odds to win the Super Bowl were cut in half in only a little less than two months. Who says preseason football doesn’t matter?

4. LOLSkins: This is a quick summary of what went down yesterday in Ashburn, Virginia. "We feel like at this time, Kirk Cousins gives us the best chance to win,” Jay Gruden said. Um, yeah, good luck with that.

5. RG3 to the Eagles? Speaking of Washington, would the quarterback that Gruden reportedly wants to get rid of interest the Birds? Considering that Griffin would likely only get the third-string quarterback job this close to the season, Jimmy doesn’t think that the two parties would be a match.

6. Two quarterbacks: And while we’re talking about the third-string quarterback job, Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow both haven’t played well. Those two-point conversion attempts were about the only thing that went wrong the other night at Lambeau (and oh baby, they went wrong). In a move to create another roster spot, could Kelly roll with just Bradford and Sanchez at QB? Risky move considering the injury history of those guys, but it could mean keeping someone who has stood out like Kenjon Barner.

7. Breakout candidates: Bradford is one of the players listed here, but you have to click the link to see the other four.

8. Chip’s transcript: From Mullin, here is everything that the Eagles head coach had to say yesterday about topics like TEBOW, the receiving corps, and injured players like Cody Parkey, Lane Johnson, and Kiko Alonso.

What they’re saying

Fast forward to the 2:30 mark of the clip to hear DeMarco Murray’s favorite moment from playing on “Sunday Night Football.” Good stuff from NBC, and some nice comedic chops from Murray.

Remember when Washington’s official Twitter account tweeted the Kermit sipping tea meme after the Eagles signed Tebow? Good job, good effort. On the other hand, this was pretty well played by the Eagles Insider account:

Eagle Eye: Inside Bradford's Perfect Night: Fran Duffy, Eagles.com

Great stuff from Duffy here, as he goes to the All-22 footage to illustrate how the Eagles are staying pretty vanilla (snag, drive, and mesh) but just executing at a really high level. In particular, Bradford is making some especially quick and accurate reads before pulling the trigger.

Philadelphia Eagles season preview: NFC East favorites: Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com

The good folks at NFL.com are high on the Eagles (3rd in the NFC, 6th in the NFL), but continuing with the theme of the day, here are their concerns. I wish I thought of the concept of “The Sanchez Zone”:

The Eagles are putting their sports science secret formulas to the test. So many of Philadelphia's pickups are coming off serious injury or at extra risk of injury: Bradford, Murray, Mathews, Alonso and safety Walter Thurmond. Kelly also spent big money to retain DeMeco Ryans, coming off an Achilles tear. An avalanche of injuries is a worst-case scenario and another injury to Bradford would put Philadelphia right back into the Sanchez Zone: Good enough to win games, but not as a real Super Bowl contender.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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