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Eagles Mailbag: Kickoff coverage problems, Trap games, Defensive line depth, more

Eagles Q and A.

Justin Edmonds

Welcome to the BGN Mailbag, where I do my best to answer your questions about the Philadelphia Eagles. Thanks again to everyone on Twitter who sent in a question.

To the Q&A...

@taoish asks: Break down ST - what was the problem on kickoff coverage last year, after Chip made it a priority?

The Eagles kickoff coverage unit wasn't spectacular last season, but it was closer to being average than it was being terrible. Philadelphia allowed an average kick return of 23.6 yards, which ranked 19th and was 0.2 more than the NFL average of 23.4 yards. The first problem was the lack of touchbacks. Eagles kicker Alex Henery registered a touchback on only 40% of his kickoffs, which ranked 24th out of 32 NFL teams. Only six kickers finished with a worse average kickoff distance than Henery's 64.7 yards. The average starting position from Henery's kicks for opposing teams was 24 yards. Only three kickers allowed a worse starting position. Other than Henery, the coverage unit lacked a strong group of standout players. Former ST ace Colt Anderson managed to miss an alarming six tackles which probably factored in to why the Eagles didn't re-sign him.

Moving forward, I think the Eagles kickoff coverage unit can be very good with contributions from James Casey, Brad Smith, Nolan Carroll, Chris Maragos, Bryan Braman, Jason Phillips, Jake Knott (after suspension), and Chris Polk.

@JKWallace96 asks: Which game looks like a trap this year?

The Tennessee Titans game on November 23rd has perfect makings of a trap game. It's sandwiched between a trip to Lambeau to take on the Packers (11/16) and the highly-anticipated Cowboys game on Thanksgiving (11/27).  Add in the fact that the Titans play in the AFC and it just looks out of place on the schedule.

@OhWowHmm asks: Cary Williams stinks right?

The Eagles signing of Cary Williams during the 2013 offseason didn't inspire much confidence at the time. It was even more annoying to find out that the Eagles missed out on free agent target CB Keenan Lewis. The Eagles reportedly offered more money to Lewis than the Saints did but Lewis took a discount to play in his hometown of New Orleans. While watching the Eagles defense last year, it started to make sense why they targeted Williams. He's the kind of cornerback with size and length that fits their "bend but don't break" defensive model. Williams plays off the ball and allows a lot of underneath catches but he won't get beat over the top. I don't think it's as simple as saying Williams is bad. Rather, he's really inconsistent. Some games are really good while others are really bad. I think Williams tends to play up to the level of his competition. The Eagles could do better but they could also do worse.

@KeeepSwinging asks: Do you expect Allen Barbre to see a lot of 1st team RT snaps in camp/preseason?

Good question. I hadn't thought about this and it's something I'm sure people will be keeping an eye on. Perhaps Barbre takes some more 1st team snaps than he usually would, but I don't imagine anything too dramatic. Johnson is still projected to start 12 games and he's still a younger player who could benefit from the extra reps. Increased reps may not be as important for a veteran like Barbre.

@BrandonfrmNJ asks: What is your most interesting training camp battle your gonna be watching?

Backup QB. Mark Sanchez has the lead for now but Matt Barkley still has the chance to beat him out. Conversely, Barkley could lose his job entirely if G.J. Kinne continues to impress like he did during OTAs/minicamp. Right now it seems like the winner of the backup QB job will be the player who struggles the least. It'd be nice to instead see someone step up and win the job outright.

@TomCEagles asks: What would be your expected d-line depth chart at this stage?

Starters: DE Cedric Thornton, NT Bennie Logan, DE Fletcher Cox
Backups: DE Vinny Curry, NT Damion Square, DE Joe Kruger
Backups: DE Taylor Hart, NT Beau Allen, DE Alejandro Villanueva/DE Frances Mayes

The starting spots are locked in. There's a battle for the backup NT spot between Square and Allen. Curry should be the first DE off the benc. Kruger and Hart could both make the team. Mayes and Villanueva are probably battling for a practice squad spot.

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