PHOENIX – This is about the best of the best coming together for a competitive football game and a lot of fun. This is the 2015 Pro Bowl, played on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
There are six Eagles who arrived on Tuesday in Arizona for the Pro Bowl and who will play in Sunday night's game: linebacker Connor Barwin, center Jason Kelce, guard Evan Mathis, running back/return man Darren Sproles, long snapper Jon Dorenbos and placekicker Cody Parkey. Left tackle Jason Peters, running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin won't play in the game.
The NFL is playing the game at the Super Bowl location with the hope of generating a two-week buzz in Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX. It's Team (Michael) Irvin against Team (Cris) Carter. It's a draft format, to be held on Wednesday at 8 p.m. (ET and live on NFL Network). It's about innovation, with PATs at 33 1/2 yards through more narrow uprights, and with coaches and players on the sidelines using video, rather than still shots, on their Microsoft Surface tablets to discuss previous plays and formations.
It's all of that, and it's the NFL and it works. The 2014 game from Honolulu generated 11.7 million television viewers, a slight decrease from the 2013 numbers of 12.2 million, and more than any Major League Baseball World Series game, or NBA Finals game, or NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs game that year.
At a press conference on Tuesday at the Arizona Biltmore, the league talked about the strategy.
"We're excited about Arizona. It's a phenomenal city, great facility. The format, I think, over the last three years, we were challenged. The players were challenged to make sure that the Pro Bowl game was competitive. I think over the last two years the players have shown that our all-star game, which is a very difficult game to be competitive. That last thing you want to do is have someone get injured," said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations and Eagles Hall of Fame cornerback Troy Vincent. "Our men have stepped up and they've accepted the challenge.
"At the NFL office, working with the Players Association, we've tried to make this an exciting game not just for the players, but for the fans, so that we can all continue to enjoy our great game leading up to the ultimate game, the greatest game of all, the Super Bowl."
Chip Kelly has made some changes to the coaching staff, adding Cory Undlin as defensive backs coach and promoting Justin Peelle to tight ends coach after he served as assistant tight ends coach the last two seasons.
What do we know about Undlin? He's got experience in New England (2004), Cleveland (2005-2008), Jacksonville (2009-2011) and Denver from 2012 to 2014 (defensive backs coach in Denver in 2013-2014). The Broncos promoted Undlin from defensive quality control coach prior to the 2013 campaign and then-Denver head coach John Fox spoke highly of Undlin at the time.
"Cory's a bright, experienced coach who has learned from some great defensive minds. He's worked with Jack (former Broncos defensive coordinator Del Rio) in the past as his defensive backs coach, and he knows our players very well."
ANOTHER QB COACH FOR NICK FOLES
Don't know specifically what it means in terms of career development, but quarterback Nick Foles will work with his fourth quarterbacks coach in his fourth season in 2015. He had Doug Pederson in 2012, Bill Lazor in 2013 and then Bill Musgrave in 2014. Musgrave is now the offensive coordinator in Oakland, which means that Kelly has to hire a new quarterbacks coach.
MICHAEL IRVIN: EAGLES WILL BE BACK
NFL Network's Michael Irvin talked about the Eagles and the season they had in 2014 and what he sees ahead for this football team: "Chip Kelly has done a wonderful job of putting players together and setting a tone on how to play the game of football all out. He's done a wonderful job with those guys.
"I remember thinking on Thanksgiving when the Eagles came in and played the Cowboys, 'Wow, boy, look at the difference in that needle – Eagles going up, and the Cowboys going down.' Then a couple of short weeks later, it was all flipped, and I thought, 'Wow, how crazy is that.'
"I though the Eagles had a good season, a very good season. It hurt not having Nick Foles at quarterback, but I think they'll get right back. That hurt the situation, although I thought (Mark) Sanchez came in and played well. I know Sanchez is saying, 'This is what it's like to have a real coach and a real system in Philadelphia and now my talent can take over.' I love Chip Kelly, man. I love what he's doing, how he coaches the guys and what he gets out of them."