Roseman doesn't foresee extreme roster overhaul for Eagles

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Roseman doesn't foresee extreme roster overhaul for Eagles

INDIANAPOLIS -- A popular pastime when your football team goes 4-12, fires its head coach and his staff, hires a new vice president of player personnel and brings in a new head coach with a novel offensive system is to try and figure out just exactly how dramatically the roster will change.

Will the Eagles bring back 20 players from Andy Reid’s last team? Thirty? Six?

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, one of Eagles general manager Howie Roseman’s closest friends, replaced 42 out of 53 players on the Colts’ opening-day 2011 roster when he went to Indy, and the Colts went from a two-win, last-place team to an 11-win playoff team.

But Roseman said he doesn’t foresee the Eagles having that extreme a turnover this offseason.

“I don’t,” he said. “Obviously, the relationship with Ryan, we talked throughout when he took the job and what his mind set was and you understood it.

“He felt like that was needed for his particular team. There will be change here, but to talk about the overhaul at that level, that’s monumental.”

So how much change?

As Roseman, Chip Kelly and the Eagles’ scouting and coaching staffs descend on Indianapolis for the NFL’s scouting combine, it’s a pivotal question facing the Eagles.

Certainly there will be dramatic change, but Roseman said the Eagles won’t gut the roster just for the sake of gutting the roster or changing the proverbial “culture of the team.”

He doesn’t believe in that.

“You’re still a 4-12 team, so you’re talking about a situation where we want to compete every year and have a chance to be in the tournament and that gives you a chance to win a Super Bowl, and for us, that means make sure we have the best possible team around the schemes that we’re putting together,” Roseman said.

“Because we are changing our scheme and changing our coaching staff, there’s going to be change. There’s natural change even when you keep your coaching staff together, so there’s naturally going to be change, but there are players in place here that we think can be here for the foreseeable future.”

Who stays?

There aren’t many locks on defense. Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Brandon Boykin. Most likely Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Trent Cole, although figuring out how these linebackers and linemen project in a 3-4 will certainly be a crucial aspect of who the Eagles keep.

On offense, there’s some talent. LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Bryce Brown, Brent Celek. Michael Vick stays, to everybody’s surprise. The Eagles return some talented offensive linemen, but how many can run what Kelly runs? That remains to be seen.

Add in Alex Henery, and, really, there aren’t more than a dozen absolute locks on the roster.

“It’s not about the number we bring back,” Roseman said. “It’s about bringing the right players back and guys who fit into the scheme and fit into the program and what we ask them to do, and what we’re doing defensively fits the guys that we’re bringing back.

“It’s so important that the players fit into the culture and the scheme of what you’re doing on both sides of the ball. That’s really important.

“There may be a really good player that’s out there, but he might not fit what we’re trying to do offensively or defensively and it may not make sense to put resources into that player, even though that’s a really good player, and I think that’s the important thing as we go through this offseason, that who may be a fit for us may not be a fit for other teams.”

Then there’s the notion of fixing the culture of the franchise, a vague concept that essentially means weeding out guys who aren’t committed to being Eagles. Cutting ties with guys who might be talented but don’t really mind losing and whose negative mentality can spread throughout a locker room, thereby creating a losing “culture.”

There was certainly an element of this in 2011, when the Eagles lost eight of their first 12 games, and last year, when they lost 11 of their last 12.

But Roseman said some of that can be eliminated simply with a coaching change.

“When you change coaches, you’re changing the culture,” he said. “When you bring a whole new coaching staff into the building and a coaching staff that does things differently than not only the large majority of National Football League but college football, he is a culture changer.

“We felt that when we interviewed [Kelly]. It wasn’t about just the scheme, and I think that was the biggest difference between what maybe the perception was and what we found out about him. It wasn’t just whether his offensive scheme would work, it was about him building a program and changing the culture, and so for us, that’s where it starts.

"We have a lot of core players who are here and under contract that the dynamic with them will change because they’re used in a different way, they talk to different coaches, so I think when you’re around the building and around the coaching staff, you see that it’s different,” Roseman said.

“Obviously, we had a tremendous amount of success with Coach Reid and a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Reid and his coaching staff, but when you do bring in a new coaching staff, it is a culture change.”

Penn State's Saquon Barkley staying patient with sluggish run game

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Penn State's Saquon Barkley staying patient with sluggish run game

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Saquon Barkley believes he can score a touchdown every time he takes a handoff.

Don't mistake the Penn State running back's confidence for arrogance. He's put plenty of evidence on tape in just 15 games to earn a growing reputation as one of the country's most dangerous backs in space.

But with each game this season, Barkley's discovering that space isn't always there in Penn State's new zone-read rushing attack that ranks near the bottom of every major statistical category. Barkley's sure if he remains persistent, more of those highlight-reel runs will come, however.

"We've got to be patient," Barkley said Wednesday. "Stuff will open up and I've got to step up as a player and make more guys miss and break more tackles and we've really got to start getting our run game going because if we get the run game going, that can open up the passing game even more."

Barkley leads the Big Ten with six rushing touchdowns but Penn State ranks last in the conference and 122nd in the nation with just over 101 rushing yards per game. Those sagging rushing numbers can be traced to the big-play back being bottled up before he even gets going.

Usually Barkley's first step is backward in Joe Moorhead's zone-read rushing attack. A delayed handoff follows and Barkley or quarterback Trace McSorley have at times been swallowed up quickly as defenders converge on the mesh point. Although his 55-yard score against Temple came on an inside zone run, Barkley's average on such plays over the last three games falls to just 1.4 yards without it.

It's a cause for concern for Penn State's offensive staff, which is committed to finding more ways to get Barkley the ball as the team prepares to face Minnesota (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) on Saturday.

Shovel passes and pitches have made brief appearances. Barkley's also caught 10 passes thus far and direct snaps may show up in the future.

Eliminating inside zone reads isn't an option, though.

"There's a lot of different ways," Penn State coach James Franklin said.

Penn State has had success on the outside. Even with a delayed start, Barkley's done most of his damage over the last three games when he's been able to flank defenders. He's averaging 10.8 yards per carry on those plays, further evidence of his skill on the edge.

"He's a game-changing player," center Brian Gaia said.

But one that's not comfortable lobbying his coaches for more touches or criticizing a young offensive line that will likely start two freshmen guards this weekend. Like Franklin, Barkley believes a little more early physicality coupled with his own patience will open things up in the middle.

"I would say the thing that we really need to improve the most is just coming out stronger, coming out faster and starting fast," Barkley said. "Physically, I think we're there. Mentally, we've really got a good grasp of the system but, especially in away games, we've been starting out really slow."

Temple readying for conference play, SMU's uptempo attack

Temple readying for conference play, SMU's uptempo attack

Take a look at the standings and you’ll see the Temple Owls are 2-2 so far this season with wins over Stony Brook and Charlotte and losses to Army and Penn State.

But take a peek to the right of that 2-2 mark and you’ll see a 0-0 record in AAC conference play.

While the Owls would most certainly like to have a better record than the 2-2 record they sport at this very moment, the silver lining is that none of those games were conference games. Therefore, those games don’t affect Temple’s overall goal of defending its AAC Eastern Division crown.

But, on Saturday afternoon, that title defense finally begins when Temple welcomes SMU and its uptempo offensive attack to Lincoln Financial Field in the first of eight straight AAC games that will close out the regular season.

“It sort of feels like a new start to the season,” Temple senior quarterback Phillip Walker said following Tuesday’s practice on campus at Edberg-Olsen Hall. “It’s just another great opportunity for us not to look back on anything or think about anything that happened in the past in the first four games. Now it’s an opportunity to play our next eight games and enjoy playing the conference again.”

The good news for Temple heading into conference play is that the offense has found its stride. The Owls overwhelmed Charlotte last week, 48-20, behind 268 yards and two touchdowns throws from the arm of Walker and two touchdowns runs a piece from senior Jahad Thomas and Sophomore Ryquell Armstead. After early struggles, Walker is now up to 846 yards and five touchdowns on the year.

That’s after the tough loss at Penn State two weeks ago when the offense settled itself for the first time this season and found continuity. Thomas’ return to the backfield has helped, as he’s scored four touchdowns in two games since missing the first two games of the year with a dislocated left thumb.

The Temple defense is still hurting itself with a lackluster pass rush. The Owls have only five sacks through the first four games. Last season, they had 10 sacks in the first game alone. Big plays allowed are an issue, too, as Temple has allowed 10 plays of 20 yards or more from scrimmage through four games.

But the confidence is there and the Owls believe they are getting better each week.

“I think we’re better than where we were [earlier in the year,]” said redshirt senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick, who has five tackles for loss on the year. “A lot of guys are stepping up, locking in on the small details that were hurting us the first couple of weeks. We’ve got the younger guys playing better and harder, so I think we’ve come a long way. I still think there are some things we need to get better on, but we’re close.

“Those first four games, none of those teams were conference teams. It was like preseason to work out the kinks. Now it’s time to go. It’s full-throttle now. There’s no time to make mistakes. There’s no time to beat ourselves.”

Temple head coach Matt Rhule, on the other hand, doesn’t like to talk much about the “fresh start” or “restart” that comes with the beginning of AAC play this weekend.

He preaches the importance of conference play every week, and he has proof.

“Every week, I put up the conference rankings, no matter what,” he said Tuesday “Week 1 when we lost, I put up the conference rankings. Week 2 when we won, I put up the conference rankings. Week 3, Week 4, I do that every week because I want guys to understand the importance of conference wins, conference losses and conference play.

“I will say, to be fair, I did say we were going to try and get our kids to be ready for Week 4 or 5 or 6, because we knew we were going to have to play a lot of young guys and knew we were going to have to teach them.”

All the Owls, young and old, know they need to be prepared on Saturday.

The Mustangs have already equaled their win total from last season and have the same record, overall and conference, as the Owls heading into Saturday. They hung tough with Big 12 powerhouses Baylor (6-6 at half) and TCU (6-3 TCU at half) before eventually succumbing in the second half of both games.

Defensively, SMU is tied for tops in the nation with 10 interceptions. But plenty of focus goes on the Mustangs’ uptempo offense, which break off chunks of yardage in the blink of an eye with 448 yards per game so far this year. Rhule and the Owls know that fact better than anyone. The last two times these schools have met, SMU earned a 59-49 win in 2013 and Temple came away with a 60-40 victory last season. That’s 208 points combined in the last two meetings.

SMU’s fast-paced attack is exactly the type of offensive system Rhule’s Owls have historically struggled with, too.

“They have, obviously, a lot of offense,” Rhule said of Saturday’s foe. “(SMU head coach) Coach (Chad) Morris was one of the best offensive coordinators in the country. He did it at Clemson and he’s doing it there. There’s a lot to deal with. That’s the history of this series, though.”

Quarterback Matt Davis, who hurt Temple with both his arm and his feet last season, is out for the year with a knee injury suffered in Week 1. Ben Hicks has stepped in and thrown seven interceptions compared to just two touchdowns. But big-play receiver Cortland Sutton is still there and he already has four touchdown grabs on the year.

In practice this week, speed has been the theme of the Owls' defense, which is 28th in the nation with 327.3 yards allowed per game this year.

“It’s difficult to prepare for,” Reddick said of SMU’s offense. “You’ve got to just work on it in practice, going fast and getting the defensive calls faster. You have to look and read to the offense faster to see what you have to do faster. So you have to kick it up.”