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What We Have Learned So Far

Posted Apr 8, 2013

The draft draws closer and the realization that the 2013 roster is about to change dramatically is upon us, but for a moment let’s reflect on the week that was ...

It was only last Monday, April 1, when the 2013 Eagles gathered as one for the first time, and the days that have followed have been marked by a tremendously high level of energy and enthusiasm. It’s the spring, after all, and every team is 0-0 in the NFL and every team has reason for hope.

The Eagles are feeding off of head coach Chip Kelly’s intensity. “It starts at the top,” said linebacker DeMeco Ryans, “and he has so much energy you can’t help but follow.”

So what did we learn in Week 1? Let’s take a look at the week that was …

NICK FOLES: HE UNDERSTANDS THE LANDSCAPE

One of the most impressive parts of Nick Foles’ makeup is the maturity he exhibits on and off the field. The kid handled a tough situation last year with great leadership and responsibility. He clearly understands the demands of the job and so when Foles met the media this week, he was prepared.

Nick Foles

The word that he repeated more than any was “compete,” and Foles understands that the quarterback position is wide open and that the best man is going to win the job to run this offense. We’re not even close to reaching the point where Kelly names a starter, so in the meantime Foles and Michael Vick and Dennis Dixon and Trent Edwards and GJ Kinne are learning the X’s and O’s of the offense and working on their conditioning and mastering the mechanics of the position.

I love the way Foles handles the media and the way he leads in the locker room and the relationship he has with Vick and his fellow quarterbacks. What nobody knows at this point is how Foles will operate the offensive scheme – whatever it turns out to be – on the field. That’s the great unknown.

You can speculate all you want about the scheme and which quarterback is the best fit and that’s fine. We don’t know yet. The coaching staff doesn’t know yet. The Eagles have five quarterbacks here and they’re all going to get a look.

What’s important to know is that they all understand. The best man is going to be the starter and the second- and third-best players will back up, should the Eagles keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.

THE DEFENSIVE SCHEME IS NOT DEFINED TO US

Maybe the coaching staff has laid everything out for the players and emphasized the scheme. If that’s the case, and I’m not sure that it is, then the players have done a very nice job keeping the plan under wraps. From this point forward, until we learn otherwise, let’s just figure that this defense will contain some elements of a 4-3 front and some of a 3-4 look. A hybrid, if you will.

Kelly and his coaching staff have used the word “versatility” often and it appears the Eagles want to bring in as many talented, all-around players as they can. The Eagles have been doing their research, and they clearly addressed that side of the ball in free agency with a crop of signings.

As it looks now, the Eagles could have an overhauled secondary and quite a few new faces in the front seven. Isaac Sopoaga was brought here to be a load in the middle of the defensive line and Connor Barwin was added to make an impact as a linebacker, both in coverage and in rushing the quarterback.

What we do know about the defense is that it has to be a lot better than it was last season, and that the Eagles have used a lot of resources in free agency to upgrade throughout. The roster is not yet complete. We’ll see where the Eagles go in the draft.

MOST IMPORTANT: THE PLAYERS HAVE BOUGHT IN

Kelly’s impact at Oregon was an important one for all of football, and not just because of the fancy uniforms the Ducks wore from one week to the next. Kelly’s innovative mind and up-tempo style of play resonated throughout the game both at the college level and in the NFL, which has never been shy to borrow successful concepts.

It is absolutely clear that the players who have been at the NovaCare Complex for the first week have totally bought into whatever Kelly is selling in terms of training, preparation and game operations. The latter has been addressed only minimally, but the level of excitement among the players has been inspiring. Those who were here last year want to move forward and never again experience a season like 2012, and so they have attacked the offseason program with great vigor.

It’s fun around the NovaCare Complex. It’s football again after a long period away. The players are upbeat and confident and the new coaching staff is eager to teach. A lot of work remains, but the players are most definitely all in to get the Eagles back into the playoff picture in the NFC.

PRESEASON SCHEDULE IS JUST ONE PART OF THE FUN

I don’t know if you were as jazzed as I about the release of the preseason schedule, but just the idea of having football games to watch this new Eagles product get me excited. And to understand that, at the very least, the newfangled Eagles defense will see Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for a series or two and that we will get a taste of what Bill Davis has in mind for that side of the ball is really a good way to kick things off in the preseason.

There’s more, of course. Training camp in Philadelphia is going to be a new, energy-filled experience as the Eagles make plans to have camp at both the NovaCare Complex for some invitation-only practices and at Lincoln Financial Field for come-one, come-all workouts. That will be a great lead in to the preseason schedule and then to the regular season.

What about the regular season? We’re going to learn the schedule at some point very soon as the NFL finalizes the week-by-week schedule and then, well, we’re there. We’re in the season!

What we’ve learned more than anything in the last week is that Eagles football is back, and with it comes exciting changes and great optimism and a franchise that has seen its energy level taken up three notches with all of the changes.

It has been a fine start to the offseason, an appetizer of what is to come. The main course is just around the corner and Eagles fans are eager to gobble up the meal.

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