Offense, offense, offense.
How fast will the Philadelphia Eagles play? What can be expected from Michael Vick in a fast-paced spread? Can LeSean McCoy use this offense to rebound? How will the tight ends be used?
These questions and more have been asked about the Eagles offense since the arrival of Chip Kelly and his scheme in Philadelphia.
How many points Kelly's playbook can put up and how are the storylines in Philadelphia for 2013, especially considering the state of the NFL and how new offenses are being prepared for and developed.
With that said, what might get overlooked in Philadelphia is the 3-4 defense that coordinator Billy Davis has installed and the players who are set to make an impact throughout 2013-14. Here are three of them.
Fletcher Cox doesn't have the most experience on the Eagles defensive line, but if last year is any indication of his potential, the switch to defensive end could cater to his skills.
As a rookie, he combined for 39 tackles, forced a fumble and took down opposing quarterbacks 5.5 times. The fact that he was able to sack the quarterback that many times (third-most all time among Eagles rookies) as a defensive tackle is impressive.
The Mississippi State product weighs in at 300 pounds, which might be a bit much for a defensive end with contain responsibilities. With Philly having just four down linemen, Cox could garner more bodies on him, thus theoretically limiting the damage he creates in the backfield.
But he should receive help from nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga—a seasoned veteran who knows how to manipulate offensive lines and draw attention.
As the only Bulldog to make the All-Conference team in his final year in college, Cox attracted attention at Mississippi State by giant offensive lines and did well with 56 tackles and five sacks.
The NFL is obviously a different animal, but he has the motor and tenacity to succeed.
That motor coupled with Cox’s explosion off the line should bode well for him as a defensive end, so expect him to expand on what he did in his rookie year.
The bottom line is that he won’t have a sophomore slump.
Another youngster who stepped into a starting role last year on defense was linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
The California Golden Bears didn’t pack too much of a bite to opposing West Coast opponents, but Kendricks intimidated during his time in college, and that attitude transferred over to the NFL.
He totaled 75 tackles in 15 games played, averaging out to five tackles per game. While those are positive contributions from a rookie, expect bigger stats in 2013-14.
Moving to inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, Kendricks will be tasked with more coverage assignments and has the athleticism to come up in run defense when need be.
Kelly put it best when speaking with Rich Hofmann of Philly.com: "Do you want to bring him and create pressure or do you bring the other guys and leave him in coverage? But I think his ability to do both, that versatility is going to be key for us."
Don’t be surprised if Kendricks thrives in his new role in this defense, especially considering his physical tools.
While my brain told me to stay away from the Eagles secondary, the physicality that safety Patrick Chung has brought to Philly is refreshing.
By no stretch of the imagination, the Eagles defensive backs will be the defense’s strong point in 2013, but Chung seems itching to get out there and make an impact.
He was the only Eagles safety who impressed game by game in the preseason when it came to tackling, and he is experienced at taking down ball-carriers.
Injuries hampered Chung as a reliable option after he missed four games with a shoulder issue in 2012.
But a change of scenery might be the change of pace he needs to get back to his 2010 form. A year after his rookie season, Chung posted 96 tackles, nine passes defended and three interceptions.
Since then, he has recorded 106 tackles in 2011 and 2012 combined in 20 games played.
However, his play in the preseason, especially against the Carolina Panthers, showed the aggressive, physical potential he can bring to the secondary.
If he can resurrect his 2010 self, Eagles fans will be in for a pleasant surprise.
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