On Wednesday, head coach Chip Kelly spoke to reporters about the challenge of hosting the red-hot Arizona Cardinals this Sunday, the recent play of quarterback Sam Bradford and the status of a handful of wounded Eagles. Here are a few takeaways …
At 11-2, the Cardinals boast the second-best record in the NFL, bested only by the 13-0 Carolina Panthers. Winners of seven straight games, Arizona ranks second in the league in scoring and its defense allows the seventh-fewest points per game. A big part of the Cardinals' success on offense can be attributed to the play of quarterback Carson Palmer, but also to an outstanding trio of wide receivers led by Larry Fitzgerald, who has 96 catches for 1,088 yards and seven touchdowns. On the year, the Cardinals rank third in the league in passing yards (3,888) and second in passing touchdowns (31).
"It's an outstanding group. You've got a Hall of Famer, arguably in Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd is playing really well, (John) Brown is really a speed guy that can take the top off the coverage," Kelly said. "Carson (Palmer) can push the ball down the field, and he's got some receivers who can get down the field. So those three are maybe the best group of three that we've seen so far this year."
Take a closer look at the key Cardinals players that the Eagles will be matching up against this Sunday. View the full gallery here...
Defensively, Arizona embraces an aggressive personality, maintaining the blitz-heavy scheme brought to the team by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who left in the offseason to become the head coach of the New York Jets. Under new defensive coordinator James Bettcher, an outside linebackers coach with the team in the two seasons prior, Arizona sends a blitz on just about half their defensive snaps.
"They lead the National Football League in blitzing," Kelly said. "They bring them from all different areas, so they've continued what Todd was doing there and actually are doing it a little bit more … These last two opponents, the Bills and the Cardinals are teams that are really going to come after you.
"I think we're in a good spot. We have a lot of preparation that we have to do, because of what (the Cardinals) do schematically to attack you. But I think our guys are excited about that opportunity to really have a good week of preparation and get ready for this game."
Not Half Badford
In Sam Bradford's last four starts, three of which have resulted in wins, the veteran quarterback has completed 65.9 percent of his passes for 898 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception. During the stretch, he has a passer rating of 97.5, and the Eagles' offense has looked as sharp as it has all season long. On Wednesday, Coach Kelly noted that while outside critics questioned Bradford early in the season, he and the rest of the coaching staff continued to believe in him. The strong play we've seen as of late, he says, is what he expects to see from Bradford moving forward.
"I think Sam progressed as the season went along. I don't think Sam or anybody else in this building is concerned with what people outside this building thought," he said. "He's gotten better each week, I think he has a better understanding of what's going on – the game slows down for him, and you can see him getting to different things, which puts him in a position where he can now get to the second, third, fourth option on some plays.
"I don't think (his talent) is tapped out by any stretch of the imagination. I think he'll continue to work at it. He's not a big talker, but he's a big worker."
Three Return To Practice
After sitting out practice on Tuesday, offensive linemen Matt Tobin and Allen Barbre, as well as wide receiver Jordan Matthews returned to the field for Wednesday's session. Chip Kelly told reporters that he expected cornerback Byron Maxwell to return to practice as well, as the veteran corner is dealing with an ankle injury.