With the Eagles and Patriots scheduled to face off on Friday night, I reached out to our friends over at Pats Pulpit. The great Greg Knopping kindly took the time to answer my questions.
Let's take a look at the answers.
1) I'm sure you noticed that Eagles cornerback Cary Williams called the Patriots "cheaters" a few weeks ago and went on to point out that New England hasn't won a Super Bowl since the Spygate scandal. How did Patriots fans react to those comments? Did they even care?
By this point, if you've been a Patriots fan since before 2007, you've developed thick skin to this type of thing. If it's not Cary Williams, it's Marshall Faulk. If it's not Marshall Faulk it's LaDanian Tomlinson. Patriots fans might get a bit irked, and Bill Belichick might have used Williams' comments as bulletin board material if Friday's game actually mattered - but this is just the preseason and it's tough to care too much about such things.
2) I attended the Eagles-Patriots joint-practices in Philadelphia last year. It was so easy to see that New England was way ahead of where the Eagles were. After watching practices from this year, both Philadelphia and New England beat reporters have indicated that the gap is closer. Do you think this is a result of the Eagles taking a step forward, the Patriots taking a step back, both, or none of the above?
It definitely has to do with the Eagles taking a step forward, and not the other way around. The Patriots should be improved on both sides of the football this season. In fact, there are some who believe that this could be the strongest Patriots team since 2007. Therefore, the Eagles' competitiveness in these practices is noteworthy.
3) It seems cool to me that the Eagles and Patriots are organizations that have a lot of respect for each other. Jeffrey Lurie and Robert Kraft are some of the best owners in the league and have a close relationship. Chip Kelly doesn't have the track record of Bill Belichick but they're both intelligent and forward-thinking coaches. What are some of the key similarities and differences you see between these franchises? (Aside from recent championships, of course…)
I think you hit the nail on the head: the similarities start with great ownership, and the Eagles and Patriots have two of the most active and beneficial for the league in Lurie and Kraft. And the relationship between Kelly and Belichick is an interesting one. On the outside, Belichick seems like a very conservative and old-school person, but he's not like that at all when it comes to the game of football. Both are progressive football minds, and their respect for the game and each other has created a very proactive relationship even if they do have differences in their schemes and coaching styles. Their collaboration might not be possible if they were in the same division or even in the same conference. But seeing that they only play each other once every four years, it's pretty cool to see these two well-respected organizations come together as they have.
4) Tom Brady is obviously still very good, but he's also 37 and people are starting to wonder about his decline. How much longer do you think Brady has before he will need to be replaced?
Well, there's a difference between when he'll "need" to be replaced and when he will actually be replaced. I strongly believe Brady will play out the final four years of his contract, which will take him through the 2017 season. After that, who knows? The Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round for a reason, and he could very well be the heir apparent even if Brady plays at age 42 and beyond. It is important to note that while Brady's supporting cast of receivers wasn't very strong in 2013, has accuracy did really decline a bit. Whether that was an aberration or the start of an actual decline in his playing ability... Well, 2014 should be pretty telling in that regard.
5) If you could steal one player off the Eagles' roster, who are you taking?
I picked DeSean Jackson with an honorable mention to Zach Ertz last year. This year, I'm going with LeSean McCoy with an honorable mention going to Ertz again. McCoy would be an instant upgrade to the Ridley/Vereen combo in the backfield, and Bill Belichick would love his ability to assist in all facets of the game. He's the easy pick, but I'm still impressed with Ertz as well. I think he would be a natural compliment to Rob Gronkowski.
Bonus: Score prediction? It's only preseason but hey, why not.
Eagles 27 Patriots 24: I'd like to pick the Patriots, but when I get biased during the season and only pick the Pats, at least I can look back to this one and say: "Hey, well there was that one time I picked against them in the preseason!"
[Ed. note: Very fair strategy.]