Welcome to the BGN Mailbag, I will be filling in for Brandon Gowton for this week's edition. Thanks again to everyone on Twitter who sent in a question.
@ABigCatL92 asks: Do you think the Eagles will look to use [Matthew] Tucker as a "big back" this year, or will they use someone else? Or just not use one?
I have a pretty good feeling that Tucker has a very great shot at making the roster. He is tall, has very little wear on his tires (was in a rotation at TCU and barely played last year) and he is only 23. While the Eagles have brought in David Fluellen and Henry Josey, Tucker is probably the most physically imposing of the three and the most durable. He is also probably the most equipped to play the power back role on the roster. While Chris Polk has plenty of talent, I am not sure he has shown the durability to warrant the trust for a true backup running back. Add in the size and age of Darren Sproles and you could see why Tucker is appealing.
The Eagles like him quite a bit and proved so by not dropping him after Polk recovered from injury last season. He has shown flashes and really is an intriguing talent. While most fans will concentrate on the more high-profile Henry and the more productive (in college) Flullen, Tucker probably has the least amount of question marks and already has NFL experience as a special teams player. He has also been around and in the offense for over a year.
As far as using more than one power back, I don't really see that happening. McCoy should get roughly 75-percent of the running touches at least and Sproles will get about 15-percent. That leaves roughly 10-percent up for grabs between Polk (change-of-pace) and Tucker (power).
@E_Velazquez21 asks: Do you think [Jordan] Matthews is running with the 2's because they want him to earn the spot, or learn the offense first?
It's a bit of both. I think with any rookie, you don't want to anoint them because it doesn't really make a difference at this point. Matthews has a better work ethic than most of us have seen in a rookie in years. He is smart, a team player and has great ability, which is going to allow the Eagles to mold him into what they want. I think Brad Smith is a good mentor for him in the slot, which is why you give him the heads up in the position battle.
That said, I do think Matthews will be starting in the slot by the preseason. This kid just seems to "get it" and I am pretty sure he is going to be the Eagles most productive rookie by a mile. The expectations shouldn't be too high, but I do see him having a Zach Ertz-like role in the offense this year. Ertz had 36 catches for 469 receiving yards and four touchdowns as a move tight end and Jason Avant had 38 catches for 447 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the slot last year. I think something in between those two players would be a good benchmark (37 catches, 458 receiving yards and three touchdowns). If a starter goes down, those expectations may increase to Riley Cooper-level (47 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns).
@Blaquesouls23 asks: Do you think the high pace offense makes the rookie players on both offense and defense adjust to NFL pace faster?
I think the offense forces players to process information quicker in order to get on the field. Whether or not they are actually learning it quickly is likely dependent on the individual players' ability to learn a playbook. There are guys on both sides of the ball that want to impress coaches as well as their teammates, so those that take the time to really learn the playbook will likely be the ones that stick out the earliest. That said, a high or fast pace offense has the same basic play-calling behind it, but it is just taken at an abnormal speed. This means that they are learning the offense similar to other rookies on other teams but are being asked to execute it at a faster rate.
@KJBrophy (long-time BGNer) asks: People love to bring up that there are a lot of Oregon players on the 90 man roster, but how many will we see in the final 53?
By my count, there are eight former Ducks on the 90-man roster. They include Brandon Bair, Taylor Hart, Josh Huff, Wade Keliikipi, Jeff Maehl, Josh Kaddu, Casey Matthews and Will Murphy. Of those eight players, two are current draft picks, two played 16 games for the team in reserve roles last season, one has a realistic shot at one of the final roster spots and three are likely camp fodder.
I think Huff and Hart are locks for the roster, but after that, it gets a bit cloudy. Of the six other players, I do think Maehl will be the hardest for Kelly to cut. If you watched Maehl play at Oregon and saw the amount of playing time he received last season, you know how much Kelly appreciates him. However, he does face serious competition for the fifth and sixth wide receiver spots with Kadron Boone, Brad Smith, Damaris Johnson, Arrelious Benn and others on the roster. I think they may keep him if there is an injury.
Matthews is another guy that will likely be harder to cut due to his knowledge of the defense and experience on special teams. I think he finds a way to make the team somehow like he has the past couple of years. Kaddu is a wild card, because it could be Matthews against Kaddu for that final linebacker spot. I think one of the two will make the team. After those five players, the rest of the former Ducks are just camp bodies.
This is a long answer, but I'd say the final number is four for the former Oregon Ducks on the Eagles roster. I do think Murphy will be on the practice squad again with Keliikipi possibly joining him.
Our own Ders (@Mjoedgaard or AndersJ) asks: Do you think Nolan Carroll will start game one?
In a word: No. That said, I do think Nolan Carroll can be a starting-caliber cornerback in the NFL. He has good size and is extremely physical, plus he possesses the special teams prowess that Kelly adores. I think he has a shot at a starting gig, but I think Williams and Fletcher having way more experience in the defense will help them become Day 1 starters. I think Fletcher and Carroll are roughly on the same wavelength from a talent perspective, so if either starter falters, we could see him replace one of them. The good news is that three starting-caliber cornerbacks is better than two and is also more than this team had last year. The position is definitely better from a depth perspective.