Welcome to The Big Question. Every Monday, 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 ...
CM: This is the final edition of The Big Question for the offseason. A week from now, we'll be delving into the on-field action at Training Camp. With that in mind, what is the biggest storyline to watch?
BW: I know we've said this all offseason, but it all starts at quarterback, right? There are so many intriguing storylines to follow over the next month, but the biggest one has to be the implementation of Sam Bradford into the offense, both health- and skill-wise, and whether Mark Sanchez pushes for the job himself. Bradford is the great unknown of the 2015 Eagles season. In trading Nick Foles and a second-round pick, Chip Kelly identified Bradford as the guy to run his offense this season. We saw the talent flash during the spring, when Bradford was a limited participant but released the ball quickly and with an easy arm strength, but now we'll find out just how recovered he is from the torn ACL and how much of a grasp he has for Kelly's offense. If Bradford stays healthy and is as good as Kelly hopes, the Eagles should be prohibitive division favorites. If not, well, it should be an interesting ride nonetheless.
DS: Quarterback is the answer to start this conversation, of course, but I'm going to look at the other side of the ball. Defense wins championships, right? The Eagles have overhauled their secondary, beefed up their linebacker corps and have continued to develop their young and very talented front. I want to see how this works. I want to see how the secondary improves both from a personnel standpoint and an approach perspective. Press coverage? I love it. Let's get physical. The Eagles allowed 72 plays of 20-plus yards in the passing game last season and that is not acceptable. Vast improvement must occur.
CM: There is no question that quarterback is the alpha and the omega to this discussion. I am fascinated by the defense. As players and coaches have noted, it's different once the pads go on. I'm not going to go as far with the whole defense wins championships, but the Eagles have proven that they can take an unsettled quarterback situation and be among the best offenses in the league. All that being written, I'm going to go with the evolution of the rushing attack. The Eagles trade away the franchise's all-time leading rusher. They sign two Pro Bowl backs, including the league's rushing champion – and former Cowboy – in DeMarco Murray. How will Darren Sproles be unleashed? Not as important, per se, as the quarterback picture or the state of the defense, but a storyline to watch nonetheless.
DS:The great thing about this team is that there are so many storylines. I'd rank them this way: 1. Quarterback, 2. Defensive secondary, 3. Offensive line, 4. Running backs and 5. Everything else. It just goes on and on. When you make so many changes to a roster you expect questions. It's really going to be fun to watch how Chip Kelly's mixture in the locker room grows together.
It's funny to talk about quarterback, because it's not just Bradford. It's him, of course, but it's also Mark Sanchez in Year 2 here and it's Matt Barkley and it's, oh what's his name?, Tim Tebow battling for a roster spot.
I guess I'm looking more on the defensive side of the ball only after digesting everything the quarterbacks provide on a daily basis.
CM: I think the Chip Kelly mixture is the other big storyline that is going to be watched by everyone in the league. Will the bold moves pay off or not? As new defensive backs coach Cory Undlin noted earlier this offseason, there are 31 teams doing it one way and one doing it another. Kelly's methods have produced favorable results in the first two seasons, but with full control of personnel and the draft for the first time the expectations are high. They always are in Philadelphia, but there is so much intrigue that the anticipation has been building here for months.
BW: We haven't really touched on Dave's No. 3 storyline, which is the state of the offensive line. The line remains the one spot where Kelly's offseason of upheaval left neither a clear upgrade nor a clear succession plan. I think we agree that Allen Barbre should be a more-than-capable replacement at left guard, but the crew of contenders for the other spot – Matt Tobin, Andrew Gardner, John Moffit, Dennis Kelly, etc. – is mostly unproven. If the line takes a step forward in 2015, I think Kelly will have earned our trust in evaluating the position. As for Training Camp, that race for right guard should be fun to follow.
DS: Let's be honest: This is a team of storylines, and all of them fit together. It's really the entire puzzle that we're watching, because in order for the Eagles to be a success they have to make all of these pieces fit. Starting at quarterback, yes, and winding through the rest of the offense and the entire defense. The offseason was pretty remarkable, really. How quickly do the Eagles come together in time to play great football starting on September 14?
CM: True, but I will end with this. Who will be the surprise darling of Training Camp? It happens every year. There's someone who emerges out of the shadows either through sheer talent or capitalizing on an opportunity. And I look forward to the debate at the end of Training Camp about who should have earned a roster spot, but didn't get it.