THE DAY IS HERE! But first, we heard you loud and clear, readers. Particularly you, corn on the kolb. Let's get right to it. Here are the NON-SOFTBALL questions posed in the comments section of the original article.
1) Is Nick Foles a product of the Chip Kelly offense? And would 25td/15int still be "okay"?
Klausner: I suppose that would be "okay," depending on your expectations. I went on record with 32/12 for Foles, but I am willing to modify that to 30/15 and would still be quite happy. The final success of this team will fall on the defense, that's how I feel.
Furthermore, I don't like "product of the Chip Kelly offense" narrative. What is the Chip Kelly offense anyway? I think Foles would be more than capable in a more traditional NFL pass offense, but the bottom line is he has adjusted his game to fit Kelly's desires and vice versa. I'm eager to see how they progress together, particularly as Kelly and Pat Shurmur infuse the playbook with even more pro passing concepts.
Kaye: I think that is a very fair question. I don't think Foles is the product of Kelly's offense, but I do think Kelly's offense has allowed him to expand and improve his game. Foles showed some real flashes as a rookie and likely would have been the starter from the jump if Gus Bradley had been hired as the Eagles head coach. I think you could say that Foles would be more like Alex Smith last season if he was not with Kelly, but I think Kelly allows him to play on the level of a more accurate Andrew Luck or Jay Cutler from a passing standpoint. The west coast element of Kelly's play-calling fits Foles like a glove, but it is a credit to him that he has improved greatly in the other elements of the offense.
The 25-15 stat line wouldn't be terrible on paper and I wouldn't have an issue with it if it also came attached with 4,500 yards and 10 wins. That said, there will be critics regardless of that line. I think people are looking to have Foles either be a Future Hall of Fame passer or a one-year wonder. They don't want to be realistic and be okay with a well-above average quarterback, because you know that Pro Bowl passers grow on trees. Is he Marcus Mariota? No. Is he Jameis Winston? No. But how do we know that's not a bad thing in the NFL? We don't.
2) What is the biggest issue on the offense? Offensive line age, lack of a #1 wide receiver, or depth behind McCoy?
Klausner: I'm starting to think it's not just the offensive line age, but also the scarcity of proven depth. Allen Barbre is the only backup you can be comfortable with becoming a starter at the moment, and that's exactly what's going to happen the first four games of the season. Matt Tobin is going to be a primary backup at guard and could even push for playing time if Todd Herremans falters. Lane Johnson's suspension opens the door for Dennis Kelly -- hopefully fully healthy -- to show the promise he did as a rookie. That's actually an interesting subplot heading into training camp. DIBS. Also I'm calling that my dear friend Karim Barton makes the practice squad. Keep an eye on undrafted tackle Kevin Graf out of USC. He could steal a roster spot -- or be in the first round of cuts.
About the age factor. Herremans turns 32 in November, but has a lot of miles. Evan Mathis is the oldest starting guard in the league (but with "less tread on his tires!") and thankfully he's not going to hold out because he's a professional and getting paid lots of money to play football. He turns 33 in October and I, for one, think he can continue to be durable. We'll see. I wonder about Jason Peters. He returned to full strength by the end of last season and then got a lucrative extension. We all know Peters is the pinnacle athletic freak of athletic freaks, is it possible that at age 32 he has an even stronger, better season in 2014? I'd be ok betting on him and certainly hope it happens.
I think the "lack of a #1 wide receiver" concern is mostly crap -- I really like the array of weapons on offense -- and that the depth behind McCoy is pretty good. I keep trying to tell people, Chris Polk's going to have a nice season. He can contribute, hit on big plays and be a legit asset in La Liga. LeSean McCoy got 314 carries last season, Bryce Brown got 75. Darren Sproles had 53 with the Saints. Polk had just 11 -- and he averaged 8.9 yards per carry. I know, small sample size, but I think that sample size should be increased considerably. Matthew Tucker will be a valuable special teams player and get spot/mop-up carries. He was impressive in the preseason as a rookie, and the Eagles like him.
I think McCoy will see a slight reduction in carries. Let's go with 290 for the season. Polk gets 80, Sproles gets 55. Now for the fun part, yardage and touchdown predictions!
McCoy - 290 carries, 1450 yards (5.0 ypc), 8 touchdowns / 45 receptions, 490 yards, 3 touchdowns
Polk - 80 carries, 390 yards (4.9 ypc), 5 touchdowns / 20 receptions, 215 yards, 1 touchdown
Sproles - 60 carries, 285 yards (4.8 ypc), 2 touchdowns / 60 receptions, 590 yards, 4 touchdowns
HOLD ME TO THESE NUMBERS THANKS
Kaye: The Eagles lack of "wow" starting wide receivers is a bit of a worry. I'd say the depth is fine, but the starters (much like at cornerback), are pretty average. I think that outweighs the offensive line's age and the depth behind McCoy. The running back depth features such individual talent that a committee could still be very successful with Darren Sproles, Chris Polk and Matthew Tucker.
The offensive line age probably won't be an issue until next season, but it is always in the back of your mind. The good news with that is that Barbre is viewed by the team as essentially a sixth starter who can play almost anywhere. Dennis Kelly and Matt Tobin are still intriguing. I think the injury status of Jeremy Maclin is the biggest deal for the Eagles. At full health, he's a very solid starter (probably not as a No. 1 though). That said, if he goes down, that thrusts Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff into roles that will ask a lot of them.
3) Can the Eagles generate a pass rush is year? The only change is a rookie and the (hopeful) growth of the defensive line. Not that two-gap linemen produce pressure.
Klausner: Fair question, and I'm inclined to think the pass rush won't be vastly improved in 2014. The concerns here are valid. Marcus Smith II was the only addition, and I can't imagine he's going to see an exorbitant amount of time on the field on the season. Maybe 40-45 percent of the snaps? I don't know, what's normal? I do think he's going to pan out and be productive, it's just going to be in more of a Connor Barwin way. His career-high for sacks might hit 10.0 one season. That's ok, though, he's going to do so much more for your defense, including cover hybrid tight ends and bat down a number of passes in key moments.
The Eagles are going to rely on Trent Cole to give a warrior's effort (he will) in what is likely his final season with the team and need Brandon Graham to step up in what is his final chance in Philadelphia. Speaking of possible final chances with the Eagles, we have Vinny Curry, who will be deployed as the penetrating one-gap tackle in sub package defenses and contribute on passing downs.
I think we need to see Fletcher Cox assert himself as a pass rushing force from the 3-4 end position. That's the step he has to take in his evolution if he's ever going to harness his immense talents and become an elite player. Cedric Thornton's going to be continue to be the stalwart run defender and unsung hero of the defense. I want to see what kind of leap Bennie Logan takes. He's one of my favorites on the field and on a personal level. Bennie got a raw deal with the blame from the playoff loss to the Saints, but there's no question they targeted him. Hopefully it will be a learning experience and drove him as he trained in the offseason. He's put on good weight and looks svelte. Yeah, Bennie's gonna be a stud. I'm going to keep an eye on Beau Allen against Damion Square for the backup NT spot. Nothing against Square, but I'd be disappointed in Allen if he doesn't win. I'm a big fan of Taylor Hart and was ecstatic the Eagles drafted him. The story behind his selection is even better. Hart is a lock, and I think he will contribute immediately as he's rotated into the lineup. Shoutout to Frank Mays for the practice squad.
The defense will likely need to get creative and generate pass rush from other positions, as well. I'm hoping Mychal Kendricks gets sent more on blitzes. He excelled at that in college and is a guided missile waiting to obliterate the quarterback.
Kaye: I think an extra year in the position will help Trent Cole and Brandon Graham at outside linebacker. Same can be said for Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan on the defensive line and we already know Cedric Thornton is working on his pass rush moves. That front seven could be very dangerous if they improve the way I think they will. Remember, continuity is key for this defense. I think Connor Barwin will be able pass rush more now that Cole is comfortable. I think the pass rushing success will be based solely being more knowledgeable of responsibilities and the defense in general. Malcolm Jenkins is also a quality blitzer.
4) The entire secondary feels average. Does Jenkins really elevate this group, or, like the pass rush, are we a year away and in for 10+ shootouts?
Klauser: Yeah, but average doesn't have to be bad. It just needs to be average in order for things to work. I'd love to have an elite defense, but we're not there yet. That takes time, and the Eagles are just in year two of rebuilding. I don't see 10+ shootouts, maybe eight, which I can handle because I like this team's odds in a shootout.
I'm totally on board with the Malcolm Jenkins addition and think he'll be a stabilizing force in the secondary. Will it be sexy? Maybe not, but on the whole it'll be effective. I'm fascinated -- that's right, FASCINATED -- by the Nate Allen-Earl Wolff battle for the second starting safety spot. Allen takes way too much flack in this city and is more the target of projected anger because he's not Next Dawkins. As he proved last year, in a scheme that isn't a clusterfuck, he's actually a functional, solid starter. I was ambivalent to Wolff after watching him in college. I recognized the remarkable athleticism and loved the compact combination of explosion, speed and power. He had jaw-dropping displays of individual ability but also took bad angles as the last line of defense and was fooled on play fakes. What I saw as a rookie was a player understanding how to transition his innate gifts to the NFL level, who really worked at it to excel on and off the field. Wolff definitely has more potential as an impact player and possible Next Dawkins. That's right -- Earl Wolff, Next Dawkins. Just kidding, though I hope it's true. He was starting to emerge prior to the injury against the Packers, and he battled that the rest of the season. Maybe he never just regained the confidence he needed in his knee. Either way, he's healthy now. After spending a season around Wolff and getting to know him from interviews and locker room interactions, I can honestly say he's a good dude and I wish him nothing but success.
I think the cornerback situation is pretty advantageous, too. We have four legitimate starting-caliber players at the position.
Kaye: I think the secondary will improve similarly to the pass rush. I think each unit helps the other. Part of the reason the defensive backs were getting burned is because the pass rushers weren't getting to the quarterback. I think the starters are solid but not spectacular. Jenkins is an upgrade, but I think the way he elevates the lineup is with his leadership and ability to understand the defense. He isn't a world-beater but he will make a mark from a positioning standpoint. Guys will know where to go at all times.
5) Who now is our biggest divisional threat?
Klausner: Giants. I actually think they win the division. Sorry, hope I'm wrong. They finished strong last season and got better in the offseason. The Jon Beason injury is huge, as the defense became a strength after his acquisition. We'll see about his status. That defensive line will probably bounce back. Jason Pierre-Paul says he's feeling better than ever (of course), and Jonathan Hankins was a draft favorite of mine, so I guess I have to think he'll break out. One-time-future-second-overall-pick Damontre Moore will have a chance to prove he doesn't suck. Matthias Kiwaunka is the most seasoned veteran of the group. Speaking of season veterans, I'm sure Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson will each record a few sacks against us -- same goes for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie but with interceptions, though I hope we burn him infinity times.
No matter the funny gifs out there about Eli Manning's interceptions, I refuse to believe he can be that bad again. Not like last season. The offense is formidable at the wide receiver position, with Victor Cruz, Ruben Randle (fantasy BUY and KEEP), Mario Manningham and rookie Odell Beckham Jr. Luckily the Eagles have four cornerbacks to match up with them. Funny how that works, almost like it's planned. Watch some jabroni tight end -- I'll go with Adrien Robinson or some stupid shit even though he's never done anything, but he DID go to Cincinnati -- step up and be the next Jake Ballard. I know Rashad Jennings is the sexy pick at running back, but that just means David Wilson will finally develop into the explosive playmaker the Giants thought they were getting when they drafted him. Maybe their offensive line, sans decade-long foundation piece Chris Snee, will be a mess.* Yeah, that's it, and maybe our blah pass rush will be able to get something going!
*Justin Pugh is the next rock solid 10-year Giant who anchors the offensive line, by the way.
I think Washington is dangerous and terrifying on offense, but the defense will make or break them. I want to say seven wins, eight max for that football squadron. We'll split the season series, no question there's going to be at least one loss. Cowboys, whatever. Is this finally the season they regress from average to below average? Hope so, folks! Six wins, max. Eat it, Dallas (please).
Kaye: I am not really sure to be honest. The Giants had their own "Dream Team" shopping spree and Robert Griffin seems to be fully healthy and now has DeSean Jackson. I think both are legit threats, but I like the Giants team on paper a lot more. The Redskins defense is laughable and they will have to score 27-30 points a game to win in the NFC East. The Cowboys will struggle this year, we just have to hope they only struggle so much so they don't get a quality young quarterback.
Ed. note: That was a fun exercise, happy to answer the NON-SOFTBALL questions. Exciting stuff coming up, it's the official beginning of the 2014 season! Get out of work early and go drink in doubly celebration of it also being Friday.