Truly an excellent team site, editor Brandon Lee Gowton and the staff at Bleeding Green Nation do as good a job covering their team as any other site does. Brandon took some time out of his furious posting schedule to let BTSC know a bit about the Eagles in our weekly 5 Questions series. Check out Bleeding Green Nation and follow them on Twitter @BleedingGreen
Chip Kelly is at the forefront of reversing a narrative that says coaches jumping from college to the pros aren't successful. The Eagles went from a top 5 draft spot to a front-runner in the NFC in a year and change. What are a few of the key reasons Kelly was able to lead such a shift in success?
The Philadelphia Eagles didn't just hire Chip Kelly because they thought he was some guy with a great offense. What really sold the Eagles on Kelly is his ability to build a program. In year one Kelly put together a solid coaching staff together, introduced a cutting-edge sports science program to the facility, and maximized the talent on the roster he inherited. The most critical position, of course, was quarterback. Kelly got the most out of Michael Vick before he went down with an injury and Nick Foles took over. From there, Foles obviously had an incredible season while the defense improved from "terrible" to simply just "below average." The Eagles also had some favorable situations. Most of their critical players stayed healthy and they faced a number of teams (on a last place schedule) who were missing some key players due to injury. The combination of progression to the mean and Kelly's revamped team culture made for a successful 2013 season.
For all the hype regarding the speed and efficiency of the Eagles' offense, it's their success in simple protection and lane creation that stands out to me the most. What is driving the Eagles' success in their protection and blocking schemes?
A lot of their success is based on execution. That execution is made easier by the fact they have one of the most talented offensive lines in all of football. Jason Peters is a Hall of Fame talent at left tackle. Left guard Evan Mathis is a force as a run blocker. Jason Kelce is one of the most athletic centers in the league. Right guard Todd Herremans has a quality starter since 2006. Rookie right tackle Lane Johnson was raw but he's extremely athletic and gifted. This is just a really good group.
We were big on Jordan Matthews around draft time. How has he been so far, and what kind of season do you think he'll have in 2014?
The Jordan Matthews hype this offseason has been pretty incredible. At the same time, it's hard to say it's not well-deserved. Matthews has been fantastic in the many Eagles practices that I've watched. He struggled against in the Eagles preseason debut against the Chicago Bears with a few drops but he rebounded nicely against the New England Patriots with 9 catches for 104 yards. I expect Matthews to have a decent, but not spectacular, rookie season. That's no slight to Matthews, who is an incredibly hard worker. It's just that the Eagles are a run-heavy team and there are many targets to feed in the passing game with other options like Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, etc. The one thing that can be said is that Matthews will be a huge upgrade over former slot receiver Jason Avant.
OLB Brandon Graham really stands out to me on tape. What kind of season are Eagles fans expecting from him?
I have no idea what the Eagles plan to do with Brandon Graham. It's pretty clear he's not a good fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker because while he can rush the passer with success, he just can't cover. If the Eagles keep him, he'll serve as a backup outside linebacker and situational pass rusher where he probably plays around 30 percent of the team's defensive snaps on the season. That's the role he served last year. It seems a little curious why the Eagles wouldn't trade him though because he doesn't seem to fit into the long-term plans and he will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2014 season ends.
Who's the Eagles player we don't know right now but we'll be talking about Friday morning?
You might already know him as a former second round pick but backup defensive end Vinny Curry will be a player that is sure to stands out. Like Graham, Curry is not exactly a perfect fit for the Eagles defensive system, but he can provide heck of a pass rush. Curry is explosive off the ball and he will be a problem for the Steelers' offensive lineman at times.