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As The Coaching Search Continues ...

Posted Jan 5, 2016

The locker room is empty. The weight room is silent. A football season ends and the NovaCare Complex goes dark as the Eagles put their focus in multiple areas ...

The locker room is empty. The weight room is silent. A football season ends and the NovaCare Complex goes dark as the Eagles put their focus in multiple areas.

The most important project is hiring a new head coach, and that process is ongoing. The Eagles have their search committee meeting candidates, making lists and narrowing down to find the right man. The football operations department has Tom Donahoe overseeing things on a day-to-day basis with an eye on college all-star games, finalizing player reports and the NFL Draft in the spring.

Otherwise, it's quiet. We are left to look back at a 7-9 season and to look ahead into an uncertain future. Some thoughts ...

  • The issue of quarterback Sam Bradford's future is, of course, extremely important. What is Sam Bradford's future? It is a question that doesn't have an answer until the head coach is in place, for starters, and then we will see how negotiations proceed. How much is a team willing to invest in a quarterback with Bradford's injury history? How much does his week-by-week improvement mean as teams evaluate his "trajectory," which is going to be a key word around here in the months to come? Bradford is approaching his future with an open mind. He and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, whom the Eagles interviewed for the head coaching position on Monday, have an excellent relationship. Does that factor into any decisions the Eagles make? All good questions. All awaiting answers.
     
  • A rising player who took the necessary next steps in his career during 2015 is tight end Zach Ertz, and not just because he had 450 receiving yards in the final four games of the season. Ertz has improved his blocking a lot, has really worked at it, and looks ready to be a complete tight end. Throughout the game against the Giants a voice in the MetLife Stadium press box referred to Ertz as "Boy, he looks like Jason Witten to me" and maybe there is some resemblance. Both are 6-5. Witten is listed at 263 pounds, while Ertz is listed at 250 pounds. Ertz is probably faster down the field, while Witten uses his big body to block out defensive players as well as anyone in league history. And, certainly, Ertz has a long way to go to catch up to Witten, who has has not missed a game since 2003 and who has 1,020 receptions for 11,215 yards and 60 touchdowns.
     
  • Count on Jordan Hicks to be a key part of the Eagles' defense in 2016, no matter if the Eagles play a 3-4 front or a 4-3 front. The reality is that the Eagles used a four-man front when they went to their "big" nickel this season, so the linebackers won't have to make too much of an adjustment in any case. Hicks just needs to stay healthy to have a fine career. He's got all the tools and the intelligence and he's a hungry kid. Credit some good coaching (inside linebackers coach Rick Minter) and Hicks' maturity for his quick rise as a rookie before his torn pectoral injury ended his season.
     
  • Cody Parkey is going to spend a lot of his offseason recovering from groin surgery and he's also going to hit the weight room and increase his leg strength and drive. It could be a wide-open kicking competition when the team reconvenes in the spring, as Caleb Sturgis did a nice job replacing Parkey. Sturgis has a big leg and he and long snapper Jon Dorenbos and holder Donnie Jones got their timing down after some early struggles upon Sturgis' arrival. "That's fine if there's a kicking competition," Parkey said. "It makes you better. It sharpens you. I did it in Indianapolis with (Adam) Vinatieri and I knew that if I missed a kick, I was done for the day."
     
  • So much for all of the curiosity about how the Eagles might use the new PAT rule and whether moving the line of scrimmage to the 15-yard line would give head coach Chip Kelly more reason to try two-point conversions. Turns out, the Eagles didn't try a single two-point play after a touchdown this season. Parkey (7 for 7) and Sturgis (35-of-37) combined to make 42 of 44 PAT kicks for a success rate of 95.5 percent, a bit above the league average of 94.1 percent.
     
  • Maybe the most improved player from the start of Training Camp until the end of the season was rookie cornerback Eric Rowe, and that's a big plus for secondary coach Cory Undlin. Rowe was raw as could be when the Eagles opened camp and he had a very tough time in the preseason. But once Rowe was moved into a starting job when Nolan Carroll was injured, he thrived. He has a lot of work to do, but Rowe looks like he is moving very nicely in the right direction. "I'm really encouraged by the way I improved," Rowe said. "I have a lot of confidence. I went out there against some of the best receivers every week and got better and better with my footwork, my technique and everything."

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