Mosquito bites are minute. They are miniscule. But they are also pestering, bothersome for the everyday victim. They present a chronic itch, hindering and hampering the overall efficiency of a person.
Mosquito bites could be described as “small issues.” If that’s the case, Pro Football analyst Adam Caplan spotted a plethora of mosquito bites on the exposed skin of the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles.
Training camp alone has plagued the Eagles with rising concerns, though practices are barely a week in. The losses of wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn have hampered the skill set of the group. Coupled with Riley Cooper’s off-the-field troubles, wide receiver revolves as the door to the Borgata Casino & Spa does.Caplan believes that “they’d like to kind of take a look at what they have, but now they have a lack of size with Cooper and Maclin out.” In response, to the issue, Caplan predicts that the Eagles will “just kind of try to develop some of the younger players like Damaris Johnson, who’s had a great camp… They’re giving Momah, the undrafted free agent, a lot of time there.”
Caplan’s comments are interesting, considering the fact that Johnson and Momah possess playing styles on opposite ends of the spectrum. One would think that Chip Kelly would prefer a receiver with size and bulk to complement DeSean Jackson, much like Ifeanyi Momah and Cooper. Pragmatically, Damaris Johnson is a poor man’s DeSean Jackson, with arguably better hands. Jackson is to Johnson is as Gorgonzola is to cheese whiz. Giving Johnson significant playing time would make the offense one-dimensional, and limit its’ productivity. Should he perform in the upcoming preseason games, Momah should cash in on ample playing time out wide. Riley Cooper has already revealed that he faces trouble properly using his size. Various thoughts and opinions have been tossed around, but with Chip Kelly making decisions, anything could happen. Unfortunately, the clear absence of size may hamper the overall productivity of the receiver group.
In spite of the recent issues at receiver, the offense is expected to be the strength of this football team. However, Chip Kelly’s “need for speed” and his high-octane offense may hit a speed bump. There have been rumblings from NFL referees regarding this new pace. NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino declared recently that, “We have to make sure teams understand that they don’t control the tempo, our officials do.” Last checked, fans watch NFL games to see the players, not the referees. In college, Chip Kelly ran an offense that was “almost like a college basketball game where the ball goes in the net, you take it out of the net, and you throw it downfield,” Caplan explained. With the new “pace of game” rules the NFL has implemented, it is impossible for Kelly to duplicate his Oregon blueprint. The refereeing system for starting a play is completely different from college, and honestly, much more inefficient. “[Kelly’s Oregon offense] he’s not going to be able to run, the ball’s got to be reset, and everyone’s got to get set, and then you can go. I would call it a very small issue.” It appears that another bug has feasted on flesh. Though with Kelly’s innovation and ingenuity, this bite may not sting for long. Kelly will have prepared for the new rules months before Blandino’s comments, and surely, he will find a way around these rules. Still, the issue bodes close monitoring.
Another conundrum developing at camp is Chip Kelly’s pledge not to fully tackle. Adam Caplan explains, “they’re using what’s called the ‘thud period’ where they get hit but they don’t tackle to the ground.” For a defense that ranked 25th in tackling, the question of full tackling cannot even be considered. Caplan admits that “Chip Kelly said he doesn’t want to get anyone hurt,” which is noble. However, the Eagles lost Jeremy Maclin and Jason Phillips to ACL injuries, in non-contact drills. It would be logical to suggest that “based on the tackling the last couple of years you’d like to see [tackling].” The Eagles’ tackling consistency may not be defined by four or five full tackles a day. However, the habits that will be instilled by allowing full tackling will only add to the mean streak Chip Kelly desires from his defense. Chip Kelly may be setting himself up for major criticism should his defense become accustomed to hugging air.
Receiver issues aside, the offense is expected to be the strength of this team, and encumber the load of a leaky defense. The front seven present a plague of depth issues to coordinator Billy Davis. Issac Sopoaga, Cedric Thornton, and Fletcher Cox are expected to provide a strong push. However, as Adam Caplan explains, “behind them, not any playing experience, and that’s a problem.” Former Colt Clifton Geathers is expected to make the team solely due to his physical stature. Fan favorite Vinny Curry looks a sailor lost at sea after the defense changed identity, leaving him adrift. Curry is prominently a 4-3 end, and his lack of experience will hurt the depth of the 3-4 line. High draft pick Bennie Logan has stood out, and is expected to earn playing time: “Bennie Logan’s had a great camp. Not a lot of people are talking about him, but he really gets off the ball, he has good short-area quickness for a guy of his size.” In spite of Logan’s noteworthy play, Billy Davis will undoubtedly cross his fingers should a linemen come up gimpy. While the starting linemen seem stable, one of the four linebacker spots heeds watching. With newcomers Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, and Phillip Hunt learning the position, “not a lot of guys they have have played outside linebacker,” Caplan admits. The proverbial “big fish,” Trent Cole, may face the most difficulty in his transition: ” It’s going to be an issue, because he’s in his thirties, and he’s been injured the last two years, and he turns 31 in October. You’re going to now ask him to drop ten percent of the time.,” Caplan clarifies. In Sean McDermott’s defensive scheme, Cole exposed his coverage issues dropping in coverage against tight ends. Based on this history, the forecast looks bleak for a former face of the Eagle franchise. In the nickel, the Eagles will face matchup problems, Caplan acknowledges, “What they have to find is, they need to find nickel pass rushers. That’s a major challenge right now, not only that, but guys who can cover in nickel at linebacker. Jason Phillips probably would have been that guy at inside linebacker.”
The back four may carry the most glaring issues of all. An unknown quarter of Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams, Kenny Philips, and Patrick Chung were brought in on bargain deals. Their mission: to erase the memories of missed tackles from DRC, and the overall lack of toughness from Nnamdi Asomugha. It seems as if the Eagles have overcorrected: they went from players with only strong pedigrees, to players with everything but a strong pedigree. Adam Caplan declares, “The biggest issue for me is in the secondary, where there’s just a lack of depth and a lack of productivity.” Coordinator Billy Davis’ man coverage scheme looks to fit these players’ skill sets, “this scheme their going to play a lot of man coverage, and a lot of matchup zone…and I know cornerbacks like that,” Caplan says.
Fans expected the team to enter the season with issues, but many problems seem to have arisen underneath the surface. If Adam Caplan is correct in his evaluations, the Eagles may need a jumbo-sized net to cloak their rash of mosquito bites, no mater how minute or miniscule.