Tuesday Shoot-Around With The Iggles

The other day I took a moment before training camp started and I sent out a few questions to one of our esteemed NFC East counterparts –  Inside The Iggles.  Co-lead bloggers Adam MacDonald and Ryan Messick entertained a few of my questions as I hoped to gain access to the magic bullet that would finally lead to a victory over the Eagles this season at the hands of the Giants.  But gauging the answers I got from our Fansided foe, it turns out the Eagles are still going give the Giants a handful twice a year in 2010.

Q. Donovan McNabb, now a Redskin — obviously an interesting trade within the division that maybe elevates Washington to a new level.  Will the Eagles front office be prepared to handle any kind of blowback that may occur if McNabb leads the Redskins to a winning season? What are the risks and rewards of such a trade?

I think that ultimately the Eagles wanted to send McNabb to a place where he’d be happy, and I think Washington was one of those places.  That said, they wouldn’t have taken a lot less from the Redskins to do it.  McNabb certainly makes the Redskins better, but the Eagles were ready to move on to Kolb and the key people involved (owner Jeffrey Lurie, president Joe Banner and head coach Andy Reid) were prepared to take that risk.  Here’s a great article about it.

I still cannot believe they dealt McNabb inside the division.  It’s certainly going to make each matchup in the NFC East that much more interesting.

Q. Kevin Kolb — he took 163 snaps as Eagles QB in 2009. 741 yards passing at 64.6% completion, 4 TDs, 3 INTs, 7.7 yards per attempt… what else do we as Giants fans need to know about Kolb?  What are the positives and negatives that come with Kolb taking over the starting QB role from McNabb?

Kolb is more accurate than McNabb and makes quicker decisions, making him a more prototypical fit for the west coast offense.  He can get the ball deep, but his arm isn’t as strong as McNabb’s. He’ll get rid of the ball a lot faster than McNabb did, so in turn he’ll most likely take less sacks. McNabb was one of the least intercepted quarterbacks in NFL history, so there will definitely be an increase in interceptions.

Perhaps he’s more accurate from short to mid-range, but there is no question that McNabb has a huge arm that loves to punish his opposition with the deep ball.  Like this time, and that time.  And it’s on the money. I think McNabb still is very mobile, and has good vision — but aside from screen passes, McNabb is surprisingly inconsistent with the short to mid range passes. Counter-intuitive, but true.

Q. Is there any chance Michael Vick is going to be the starting QB for the Eagles in 2010?  At times last year, Vick came in for a few plays and was able to provide a much needed spark to the Eagles offense – is there a larger role there for Vick as the full time starter?

In a word, no.  Vick may see a few snaps, but I think that’s one of the unanswered questions – are they willing to carry 52 instead of 53 men on the roster to get him snaps.  At this point, it’s too soon to tell, but Vick looks like a solid backup based on his camp performance thus far.

Vick surprised me last year in that he was able to drop back and really let it fly – he hit a couple of really nice mid to long range balls against the Giants and it left me both impressed and nervous.  And against the Cowboys, he was really the spark the Eagles needed.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the crafty Andy Reid used him more throughout the game to add that extra dimension, especially if it gets tight and Kobb’s not up to the challenge.

Q. Desean Jackson is obviously a huge part of the Eagles offense — recent news is that he went down with a back injury at camp. Although it’s minor… if Jackson becomes injured are there any concerns about the resolve of the WR group in Philly?

It was a minor injury and the Eagles say he should be fine. They’d certainly be losing their most dynamic offensive player if Jackson went down, but they still have a talented receiving corp.  Jeremy Maclin is expected to have a breakout year and already had a strong season in 2009.  Jason Avant is always reliable and Riley Cooper is turning some heads in camp.  Hank Baskett also adds size and depth to the mix.  If Jackson went down, Philadelphia’s receivers would go from great to just good.

No, no – that was Hank Baskett’s wife turning heads. I kid.  Maclin is dangerous, Avant is imposing and consistent.  But Jackson is lethal. He’s a scoring threat every time he touches the ball… whether it’s a screen pass or a bomb, or a punt return for that matter.   The Giants are going to have to invent an answer for that guy. Speaking of Giant problems…

Q. Brian Westbrook is known around NY as a Giants killer, and many of us are glad he’s no longer on the Eagles roster. But between LeSean McCoy, Mike Bell, Leonard Weaver – who should the Giants fear most now in the backfield? What can we expect to see out of the Eagles running game in 2010?

LeSean McCoy is a better back at this point than Brian Westbrook, and I think you could have said that last year as well.  The team says McCoy is in better shape this year, and his endurance will be key.  The Eagles backs have a different mix this year, with McCoy being the feature back who is elusive and can catch the ball.  Mike Bell adds power to the mix, but can catch the ball out of the backfield as well.  Leonard Weaver is a key part of the backfield as well and was tremendous last season, becoming a fan favorite.

I’ve not seen anything from McCoy that makes me nervous, yet.  Nor Bell.  But Weaver is like the Giants answer for Brandon Jacobs, and he’s surprisingly quick and punishing. I have no doubt he is a fan favorite.  I actually picked him up in my fantasy league.  And it’s funny but the Eagles use Weaver in the correct spot for a guy his size – as a full back that can expand his role when asked. I’ve often wondered if the Giants would be better off utilizing Jacobs in that capacity but after his 1000+ yard seasons it’s going to be a tough sell.  I’m just thinking about all those dropped passes by Madison Hedgecock compared to this from Jacobs.

Q. Is the offensive line, now a cohesive group for the Eagles, going to stay healthy in 2010?  What is the best case / worst case scenario at o-line?

Well, it’s not cohesive just yet.  Two of the starting five are down with injuries.  Center Jamaal Jackson is on the PUP list and is probably a long shot for opening day.  Left guard Todd Herremans is also on the PUP with a foot injury, and while the team is acting as though it’s nothing major, he seems to be behind the previously announced schedule that had him ready for camp.  Those injuries take a toll on the depth. Jason Peters and Winston Justice have been solid at the tackle spots, along with Stacy Andrews at right guard. Nick Cole is still trying to elevate his play at the center spot.  The offensive line is one of the team’s biggest question marks at this point.

Goes to show you that the optimistic Eagles fans over at the Bleacher Report do nothing but spew misinformation.  But this is perhaps the one piece of good news Giants fans can rally around from this article!

Q. What are the biggest defensive position battles at camp right now?

SAM linebacker, for sure.  Moise Fokou came in as the starter, but Akeem Jordan has unstead him and forced Fokou to take some snaps as a joker on the defensive line.  Expect that battle to last for awhile.  Also the left defensive end spot pits veteran Juqua Parker (the Eagles only position player over 30) against first round pick Brandon Graham.  That one may go down to the wire and even into the season.

I look for Brandon Graham to overtake that spot this season.

Q. What are the biggest offensive position battles at camp right now?

There aren’t many among the starters.  They are calling Nick Cole vs. Mike McGlynn and A.Q. Shipley a three way battle at the center spot, but the feeling among fans and media seems to be that Cole has the spot.  After that you probably have to go to the #4 wide receiver spot where Hank Baskett and rookie Riley Cooper are battling.  Also, the #3 running back position is up in the air with Eldra Buckley, Charles Scott and the newly acquired J.J. Arrington in the mix.

Baskett was cut, then brought back after injuries, correct?  Can they really cut him again two years in a row? Might turn into a Billy Martin scenario for Andy Reid there. (RIP Big Stein)

Q. I’m looking at last year’s Eagles secondary without a very special player. Quintin Mikell played more snaps than any other defensive member of the Eagles and struggled down the stretch. Macho Harris had a so-so year.  Sean Jones was worse. Earl Thomas and Eric Berry weren’t drafted this spring… even thought the Eagles were in position to do so.  Do the Eagles fans miss Brian Dawkins’ intensity and leadership on defense and what is going to be the ultimate answer for the Eagles in 2010 at safety?

Saying Brian Dawkins was a fan favorite would be an understatement.  You don’t replace him in the hearts of fans.  The answer at safety this year is Nate Allen, the second round pick.  He’ll make his rookie mistakes, but the Birds have high hopes for him.  Mikell will have the other safety spot, and Macho Harris has moved back to cornerback.  As far as leadership goes, Stewart Bradley is the guy who has stepped into that role.

I’m glad Dawkins is out of Philly, although he did just as much damage to the Gmen in Denver last year. That guy is a freak. But when it comes to safety problems, no one understands like a Giants fan after 2009.

Q. Brandon Graham – will he be starting and will he be worth the first round pick over Earl Thomas?

Graham is a defensive end, and he’s in the mix for a starting spot.  Given that the Eagles got a safety in Nate Allen who has a lot of talent, it’s hard to argue against the Graham pick at the moment.  Draft analysis takes a few years (at the least) to really be made accurately though.

I only mention Thomas because he was high on the Giants list as well.

Steve Spagnuolo the former Eagle defensive mastermind, what we would do to have him back as Giants Defensive coordinator.  But Sean McDermott’s defense – how does it compare / differ from Jim Johnson’s?  Any unusual pressure packages that Giants fans should be looking for that might surprise us?

A lot of people are calling Sean McDermott one of the most talented defensive coordinators in the league.  He is building off of Johnson’s defense and if anything might ramp up the blitzing.  Johnson backed down on it in his last few years.  You’ll see the joker rushing the quarterback, but that’s something that Johnson used to do as well.  I don’t think you’re going to see anything that completely shocks you, but you’ll see pressure coming from a lot of different angles.  Philadelphia is still installing its blitz packages in practice, so maybe something shocking will pop up soon.

I have no doubt anyone who’s worked under Jim Johnson will emerge as a fantastic coordinator. Johnson used to say that he recognized about 60% of what Steve Spagnuolo brought to the Giants defense in ’07 and ’08.  And 100% of the effective stuff was based in deception. I remember one time he lined up 4 defensive ends, two tackles, and a linebacker.  Who the hell is blitzing?  It resulted in a sack of course.  But sending the ‘joker’ in 2007 is what won the Superbowl in my mind – Kawika Mitchell and Sam Madison were everywhere and kept Tom Brady completely uncomfortable all game.  Never mind the front 4.  But I digress. I wish McDermott the best of luck this year, just not against NY.

Anything else you want to add?

That seems to have covered most positions.  Only thing I can think to add is that the Eagles expect their special teams to be as good as they’ve been in a while with Bobby April brought on to run them.  Speaking of coaches, what a staff Andy Reid has around him.  McDermott is fantastic, you’ve got Dick Jauron coaching the secondary, Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator.  Marty is a terrific coordinator, it’s a shame he’ll only be remembered for that coin flip.  Juan Castillo on the offensive line is also a great coach, although he’s relatively unknown.

Aside from clock management, I’ve always admired Andy Reid as a coach. He’s creative, he pushes the envelope, and he’s been consistent and successful in his approach. His supporting case in Philadelphia have their work cut out for them though in a hotly debated division this year – and the NFC East may once again be the best there is in football.

Thanks so much to Adam MacDonald and Ryan Messick from Inside The Iggles for giving us some perspective on our favorite rival the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s been a lot of fun and we’ll do it again soon once the season picks up I’m sure.

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