Welcome to The Big Question. Every Monday during the offseason, Dave Spadaro, Chris McPherson and Bo Wulf will debate one of the hot topics surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles. We invite fans to continue the discussion in the comments section. Enjoy ...
BW:** OK, with the players gone and the spring offseason officially in the past, Dave proposed the following question: What stood out the most to you from the Eagles' offseason? Let's get started ...
DS: No injuries, of course, and that's first and most important. But I thought the defense stood out, despite the absence of contact and the limited amount we could really see given the rules. I like the length of this defense and I like the way the roster has been strengthened with depth throughout. The defensive line group has some quality all the way through. Fletcher Cox is the headliner here and he's a top young talent, but there is plenty to like about the Eagles up front, and I'm excited to see the group in pads to see how players like Taylor Hart and Vinny Curry and some of the younger prospects fare. At linebacker, the Eagles appear to be really, really deep inside, and while there are questions about the edge and the depth there, you get the sense that there is enough versatility among players like Curry, Mychal Kendricks and Kiko Alonso to compensate if needed.
The secondary, particularly at cornerback, looks much improved. Byron Maxwell plays with a confidence that is contagious. JaCorey Shepherd looked like he was growing into the secondary quickly. Eric Rowe is pushing and improving every day. Nolan Carroll looks like a totally different player than he was a year ago.
Can't wait to see the pads go on to see how much of what the defense showed in the spring comes true.
CM: Yes, I agree that the fact that the Eagles are healthy going into the summer is a huge positive, but if we're looking at what stood out most this offseason, as a whole, you have to start with Chip Kelly. First, he wasn't satisfied with the roster that went 10-6 last season. He could have easily brought back last year's squad and with some tweaks here and there had this team in contention to win 10 or more games again and battle for a playoff spot. But that wasn't good enough. He knew the team he had wasn't a Super Bowl team so, with full control of personnel, he remade it in his image. The amount of turnover this season wasn't abnormal, but the marquee names who left this offseason were noteworthy – a Pro Bowl quarterback, the franchise's all-time leading rusher and on and on. In his two seasons, Kelly has produced franchise-record-setting offenses despite a multitude of changes at quarterback, wide receiver and along the offensive line. He's got talent to work with there. He didn't on defense and invested a wealth of resources utilizing free agency, the draft and the trade route. He's smart enough to know what's working and what's not and willing to change.
BW: If we're talking about the offseason as a whole, Chris is right, the glaring takeaway is that Kelly is going to run this team and this program how he wants, skepticism be damned. Last year's leading passer, rusher and receiver are all gone, as are two starting offensive linemen. The secondary will feature three new starters. And everything else we've covered ad nauseam since Kelly took over control of personnel in January.
As for the takeaways from what we saw on the field, I don't disagree with Dave that defense should take a big step forward – though the caveats of not seeing anyone in pads do apply.
Which individual player stood out the most to you guys?
DS: If I had to say one player who stood out, it would be running back DeMarco Murray. He is much more fluid as a pass catcher than I thought, and he's in tremendous shape and just looks like he "fits" into this offensive structure perfectly. The backfield is a must-see group with all of that talent.
CM: The player who stood out in the spring was Walter Thurmond. Injuries have kept him from reaching his potential, but he's been an effective nickel when on the field. The Eagles approached him about transitioning to safety and he embraced it. He's played on the inside so that helped with the change. He has cover skills and that was evident in the spring. Can he hold up when the pads go on? He doesn't have the typical safety build, so that's something to watch in Training Camp and the preseason.
BW: For me, despite his limited participation, the answer is Sam Bradford. Sure, Mark Sanchez will compete for the top job this summer and he has looked much improved from last spring. But Bradford, to me, was the critical addition of the offseason, with apologies to Murray, Maxwell and all the rest. That Kelly and Ed Marynowitz valued Bradford so highly that they were willing to part with an experienced, and cheap, starter in Foles and a future second-round pick tells you all you need to know about the expectations for Bradford in this offense. Watching him this spring, there's no doubt that the ball comes out of his right hand with a different zip than we've been accustomed to over the last couple years. He has to prove that he can stay healthy, but Bradford remains the key, for me.
CM: Bradford was indeed impressive in his limited showing, and the upside of the offense with him in the lineup is exciting. But Mark Sanchez made big strides from last season. I know Eagles fans think of the offense's struggles in the final quarter of the season, but I believe there is still upside if – IF – he had to play. Bradford being at full health is the ideal situation for this team and the reason they made the trade. The point I'm trying to make is the offense – with either player at quarterback – can thrive. The defense needs to take the next step.
DS: I must comment on Sam Bradford, who made strides throughout the spring. He faced soooooo many questions about his knee and his progress and his target date for full recovery -- he really was given the sense of the hunger and the media frenzy in this city. He was great with the media. On the field, Bradford threw the ball exceptionally well. He's accurate. He's got a big arm. He got the ball out quickly and made good decisions and the offense hummed while he was out there. With Bradford, we all want to see more, more, more. Sounds like he's on the right path to step it up in Training Camp.
BW: Well guess who has Eagles fans covered for the most in-depth coverage of Training Camp comes August …
DS: You know, that's the other thing that stood out from the spring – the sheer number of reporters and television cameras present. The Eagles are the talk of this town, even on slow news days in June. A good number of national reporters checked in to see what all the buzz was about. I thought the players, particularly the quarterbacks who were in the spotlight so much, handled things well.