Philadelphia Sports Nation got to catch up with Adam Caplan and ask him about the Eagles’ training camp, preseason, and his thoughts on the upcoming season. Adam Caplan is a reporter, who is in his 12th season of covering the NFL on a national basis. He specializes in contracts, personnel, and other pertinent information (especially in NFL injuries). He is also a major contributor on PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio (XM 87/Sirius 210), and FantasyGuru.com. Thank you Adam for giving us your time with this interview and answering these questions, which can only be found on PHLSportsNation.com:
With Jeremy Maclin’s injury, do you think the Eagles are going to sign somebody to replace him?
Well right now, it looks like they still want to kind of go with what they have and try to figure out what they have. Just kind of try to develop some of the younger players like Damaris Johnson, who’s had a great camp. They’d like to get Arrelious Benn back from his hyperextended left knee.
Even with the Riley Cooper news that he’s going to out for some time?
I mean, they still have nine receivers on the roster, you’d like to have about eleven for training camp. They’re giving Momah, the undrafted free agent, a lot of time there. I think 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. I think what they might wind up doing is working a bunch of receivers out in the near future. The list of available receivers is not very good, a lot of guys with injury histories and off-the-field issues. I think they’ll look at an emergency list, but I wouldn’t expect much.
Who do you think is going to win the quarterback competition?
I’m still picking Nick Foles, it’s very even as we speak right now. The big issue for Michael Vick coming into last week was getting the ball out quickly, and he’s doing a better job of it. He’s throwing with much better timing and anticipation, and that’s big in this offense, and that’s one area where Michael Vick needed to improve and he has. Nick Foles’ arm has gotten much stronger, it’s very clear. This thing is very even it’s going to be interesting to see what happens here.
There was a story recently with the refs, and how they’re going to allow Chip Kelly to run his offense, and the pace of it. Do you believe that the rules with the refs trying to slow the game down, is that going to hamper the offense?
I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. There’s a certain pace that Kelly would like, it’s 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. That 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. The good thing is, they had refs there today and it was not an issue. So, I don’t think it’s a big deal.
What do you think of the fact that Chip Kelly’s not [fully] tackling in the camp?
They’re using what’s called the ‘thud period’ where they get hit but they don’t tackle to the ground. That’s the thing, you’d like to see players wrapped up and taken to the ground, and that’s something that they’re only going to get in the four preseason games. I would call that a small issue. Chip Kelly said he doesn’t want to get anyone hurt, and I get that, but based on the tackling the last couple of years you’d like to see that. But they’ll get it in those four preseason games.
Do you think any of the tight ends have stood out as being a number one, or do you think they’re going to get even time?
I think it’s going to be sort of a committee. I think each will have a role. Brent Celek is going to be the in-line tight end. Zach Ertz will be the split, outside end, the X tight end. He’s a really good down field threat, that’s the thing that stand out to him. I think Clay Harbor even though he’s been a good blocker, he’s been an inconsistent pass catcher, he’s fighting for that number three job. And then, James Casey’s going to be a “move” H-Back, which is exactly why they signed him. So, here’s what we do know: Celek, Ertz, and Casey will be on the team. It’s a matter of if they keep four or five tight ends, a combination of H-Backs and tight ends. They’d like to develop Derrick Carrier, who they signed as an undrafted free agent last year, or Will Shaw, who’s an H-Back, who played safety and a little bit of tight end in college. I think four is a lock, and they may keep five.
What do you think of the defense as a whole, as there are a lot of questions. After last year’s poor play, they didn’t really add any big names and people are questioning how they are going to do this year.
I think the strength of the team will be on offense. Defensively, I like the projected front three of Thornton, Sopoaga, and Cox. But behind them, not any playing experience, and that’s a problem. Clifton Geathers has bounced around with five teams. He was sort of a surprise in OTAs, he’s a big guy. He’ll make the team if they don’t sign anyone, because they don’t have anyone else. If they sign a veteran, the chances of him making it would be severely reduced. But they do like Bennie Logan. 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. Vinny Curry’s learning that position on a three-man line, but it certainly is an issue. The strength of the defense is probably at inside linebacker, with Kendricks and Ryans they should be fantastic. Ryans will also be used as a pass rusher at times. They do have depth at outside linebacker, but not a lot of guys they have have played outside linebacker. The biggest issue for me is in the secondary, where there’s just a lack of depth and a lack of productivity. This scheme their going to play a lot of man coverage, and a lot of match up zone. This is what Billy Davis uses as the defensive coordinator. His roots are with the Steelers, and I know that cornerbacks especially like [man coverage].
How do you think Trent Cole will fit in to the new defense?
That’s a good question. 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. That’s going to be hard, that’s a tough move for him. It remains to be seen, but again, he’s a pass rusher. 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.
What do you think DeSean Jackson’s role is going to be this year, because he’s expected to have a big role in this offense?
I think what they’ll do is they’ll move him around, to create matchups. A lot of short-area quickness things where he can run and catch. Occasionally they’ll throw the ball down field. This offense is completely different from the Andy Reid, five-step, seven-step drop for the quarterback and throw down field. It’s a three and five-step drop offense for the quarterback, throw the ball in the middle of the field and let the receiver or the tight end run with it. That’s the difference here.
Which rookie do you think is going to surprise the league and really have a big year?
Damion Square is a guy that I think has been the biggest surprise to me. He had a draftable grade by a lot of teams. He’s a little bit older, he’s 24. But he’s a guy, that I think is going to make the team. If he really performs well in the preseason, they may keep seven defensive linemen. I think they’ll keep six right now, but I think Square will make it interesting. I think Square’s got a realistic chance to make the team.
Lastly, how do you think the Eagles are going to do this year, as there are a lot of ranging expectations from 4-12 to 10-6?
I have them at 8-8, it’s funny you mention the records I have them in the middle there. I think the offense will be very interesting, I think they’re going to catch a defense by surprise, with the pacing they’re going to have. We didn’t even talk about the running backs, they’re running game ought to be fantastic. They probably have the best group of running backs, one to four, in the National Football League. So, that will be the strength of this football team, running the football. I think defensively is where they’re going to struggle. I think 8-8 is the best you can expect, right now that’s what I would give them.