Five Reasons the Eagles Might Be Successful in 2013

Five Reasons the Eagles Might Be Successful in 2013

For the first time since Chip Kelly came to Philadelphia, we were provided an actual glimpse into what the Eagles will be like under a new head coach on Monday. It will be a few months yet before we can get a read on what direction the team is heading – and as long as we’re being honest, probably longer – but excitement seems to be on the rise.

Expectations on the other hand, well… not quite so much.

We’re only a handful of practices deep, not to mention a few short months removed from a 4-12 campaign, so I suppose it’s only natural. That said, a lot of people might be underselling the Birds already at this juncture. I don’t mean to suggest they are a legitimate contender or anything like that at the moment, but somewhere in the broad spectrum of 6 to 10 wins is a possibility in the season ahead.

10 wins? Yes, I have been told that sounds steep. Frankly it’s not a prediction, which I would not even attempt to make before knowing who the starting quarterback is going to be at the very least.

There are several reasons to believe the Eagles might be heading for a nice rebound season of sorts under Kelly – despite the uncertainty under center. With the squad in the news a bunch over the past 24 hours, here are my strongest five.

1. Improved offensive line

Some might say the Eagles’ season was over before it ever began in 2012. When left tackle Jason Peters went down with a ruptured Achilles that March, the club lost arguably the most dominant offensive lineman in the NFL. Center Jason Kelce followed suit with a torn ACL in Week 2, and right tackle Todd Herremans completed the trifecta with a broken foot around the midway point.

Good news: two of the three were full participants at OTAs on Monday. Peters is back where he belongs, anchoring the left side of the line. Herremans was in his new home at right guard – no worries, he played well there (albeit on the left side) for the better part of six seasons.

Kelce was only a limited participant, although he is expected to be a full go for training camp. Evan Mathis recently underwent a cleanup procedure on his knee and was absent, but should also be ready by July.

Just having those four players healthy alone would have been an upgrade over last season, and that doesn’t even include rookie Lane Johnson. The fourth-overall pick was getting his feet wet with the second stringers at practice, however he figures as the opening day starter at right tackle come September.

Regardless of which quarterback is at the helm, that person stands a far better chance behind this group than they did the likes of Demetress Bell, King Dunlap, Dallas Reynolds, Danny Watkins, etc.

2. Unpredictable schemes

We think we have some inkling as to what the Eagles might look like under Chip. By now we’re all familiar on some level with the spread offense/read option his offenses ran at Oregon. We know defensive coordinator Billy Davis has experience with hybrid defenses that utilize aspects of both the 4-3 and 3-4 alignments.

What we don’t know – and more importantly, what the rest of the league does not know yet – is precisely how all of these different philosophies will be incorporated into the Eagles.

For at least the first few weeks of the season, perhaps longer, Chip Kelly will hold the element of surprise against his opponents. Heck, it’s entirely possible we may not even have an official announcement about who the quarterback is until the weeks leading up to the first game of the season.

Do opposing defenses prepare for the read option similar to what Kelly used at Oregon, or should they ready themselves for elements of the west coast attack that offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is versed in? And how are Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Robert Griffin going to react to the varying fronts Davis will throw at them when those passers have had a general idea as to where exactly the Birds’ pass rush was coming from over the past two seasons?

Add the anticipated no-huddle offense into the equation, and Kelly should have the opposing sidelines on their toes. The advantages might be slight – might not – and the coaching staff won’t necessarily reinvent the game, but after 14 years of Andy Reid, any deviation from the norm should have an impact.

3. Culture change

Speaking of Andy, as good of a run he had, there is no denying how completely the wheels fell of over the last two seasons. It began at the very top with an alleged power struggle. How much of that was with former club president Joe Banner is unclear, but Reid and general manager Howie Roseman almost certainly did not see eye to eye on some players.

That dysfunction trickled down to the coaching staff, particularly on the defense end beginning when Reid promoted offensive line coach Juan Castillo to coordinator. The hire was intently scrutinized, and Castillo was undermined at every turn – directly by Jim Washburn, indirectly through the presence of Todd Bowles, and a bit of both by some players – until he was fired six weeks into his second season on the job.

Then there were those very players, guys Reid himself brought in. Whether it was Nnamdi Asomugha, Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie, or Jason Babin, several of the franchise’s biggest additions over the last two seasons came from losing organizations and brought attitudes with them to boot.

Turning over a new leaf was just what this franchise needed. A fresh start with a different coaching staff can only be a positive for the remaining players. Bringing in free agents such as Connor Barwin, Cary Williams, Patrick Chung, Kenny Phillips, and Isaac Sopoaga from winning programs should affect change on the mindset in the locker room. Add a smart, impressionable draft class into the mix, and this is suddenly a very different organization.

4. Usual playoff turnover

12 clubs earn a berth into the NFL playoffs. History portends that roughly half of the past season’s entrants will not return next January.

Since 1996 between five and seven new qualifiers have emerged in all but three postseasons. One year – 2008 – there was actually eight. So in 15 of the last 17 seasons there have been at least five substitutes in the tournament, and on average it’s roughly half the field.

Those factoids are far from some kind of assurance the Eagles will land a spot after the dust settles in ‘13, but they certainly don’t hurt Philly’s chances, either. The NFL is unpredictable, so although inter-conference opponents such as the 49ers, Falcons, and Packers appear to be locks in May, a lot can change between now and December.

And even though the Eagles finished 4-12 last season, having one of the worst records in the league doesn’t necessarily preclude them from making the jump. The Colts, Vikings, and Redskins all finished with five wins or less in ‘11, and each followed up with widely unexpected runs in ‘12.

Playoff turnover is the norm in pro football. There will very likely be a minimum of two, and possibly as many as three or four new challengers in the NFC next season. With everything going on at the NovaCare Complex these days, why can’t one of them be the Birds?

5. The talent is there

Nobody is suggesting this team as currently constructed is Super Bowl bound. This may have been mentioned once or twice before, but we can’t even be sure who the quarterback is.

The Eagles have three talented quarterbacks though. They have an All-Pro running back, a Pro-Bowl wide receiver (maybe two), along with a healthy group of prospects and veterans on offense. The defense is more a work in progress, but there is some flexibility in terms of scheme, plus a fair mix of young players from recent drafts and quality free agent competition from this offseason.

While they only won four games last season, does that tell the whole story of the current Eagles? How many games were lost before the opening kickoff without a competitive O-line, or because some folks in the organization just weren’t buying in? How hard is it to believe with a little shake-up some of these players can produce more, or what they were before everything apart?

The Birds could win six games this upcoming season, they could win 10 – let’s be real, that’s just about every team in the NFL. But if all went well, they could win 10.

Just a little something to tide you over until training camp.

Penn State blasted at home by red-hot George Mason

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Penn State blasted at home by red-hot George Mason

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The cheers reverberating from George Mason's locker room came from players experiencing their hottest streak in years. The quiet from Penn State's mirrored the whimper of the Nittany Lions in the second half as their run was snapped.

Marquise Moore scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Otis Livingston added 18 points and the Patriots beat Penn State 85-66 for their sixth straight win and best stretch since 2011-12 on Wednesday.

"It was a great win for our team, really proud of our guys," George Mason coach Dave Paulsen said. "We really, really competed with toughness in the second half, especially I think our second-half defense was really good."

Jalen Jenkins added 15 points for the Patriots (7-3) who snapped Penn State's four-game winning streak.

Penn State led 38-37 after a wild first half that featured 12 lead changes. But the Raiders took control starting with Livingston's 3-pointer that made it 42-40 early in the second. They dominated from there, leading for the remaining 18:58 and outrebounded the Nittany Lions 44-29, outscored them 44-16 in the paint and held a speedy Penn State team to just two fastbreak points.

"We looked young tonight for whatever reason," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "We have to figure that out. We have to play much harder."

Payton Banks led Penn State (6-4) with 21 points. Shep Garner and Lamar Stevens chipped in 13 apiece for the Nittany Lions.

The big picture
George Mason: The Patriots are on a roll and keeping pace in a competitive Atlantic 10 conference that had five teams with six wins entering the night. They seem to have flipped a switch following a 93-65 loss to Houston on Nov. 21 and haven't lost since.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions had been winning despite deficiencies in a few areas while making up for them in others over the last four games. They weren't able to make up for their lack of production in the paint, however.

Guards on the glass
Paulsen was wary of the size advantage Penn State's forwards had heading in. The Patriots didn't start anyone over 6-foot-7 while Penn State boasted a trio of forwards at or taller than that. Paulsen was particularly concerned about 6-foot-9 Mike Watkins who was fresh off his best game where he blocked 12 shots against Wright State.

But the George Mason coach had faith in his guards' ability to attack the net and win those rebounds. Moore entered the game as the country's top rebounding guard with 10 per game and posted his sixth double-double of the season.

"We have some pretty good rebounding guards," Paulsen said. "So you can't do it unless you have really active, rebounding guards."

Veteran responsibility
Penn State's gotten big time contributions from a handful of freshmen and started three as usual. But it was one of the veterans who shouldered blame afterward.

Banks was dejected after the game and pointed the finger at himself. Despite leading the team in points, he wasn't able to help on the glass.

"A lot of it just starts with me right here," Banks said. "I had zero rebounds. We can't rely on Lamar (Miller) and Mike for the scoring load and Julian (Moore). Our guards have to rebound and that's what we lacked this game and it definitely showed on the scoreboard."

Up next
George Mason plays at Penn on Saturday and has three of their final five games in 2016 at home.

Penn State plays Pittsburgh in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday and has another on the road before closing out 2016 with a pair of games at home, including the Big Ten opener on Dec. 27.

Instant Replay: George Washington 66, Temple 63

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Instant Replay: George Washington 66, Temple 63

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With one second on the shot clock, George Washington forward Tyler Cavanaugh let a three-point shot fly from the corner right in front of his bench.

Cavanaugh’s shot hit the bottom of the net to give the Colonials a three-point lead with 8.2 seconds left. Moments later, Temple redshirt senior swingman Daniel Dingle’s open look at a game-tying shot hit off the back of the rim, and George Washington handed the Owls a 66-63 loss on Wednesday at the Liacouras Center.

Temple (6-3) came into the game on a five-game winning streak but looked sluggish from the start. The Owls scored just five points in the game’s first six minutes, 34 seconds.

Temple went into halftime down, 31-25, and trailed George Washington (6-4) by as many as 15 points in the second half. Senior guard Josh Brown hit two threes late in the second half to bring Temple within six. Dingle hit two more to tie the game at 61-61 with 2:44 left. 

Two Cavanaugh free throws followed by a jumper from Temple sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr. then tied the game at 63-63 with 39.1 seconds left.

The Owls played the game’s final moments without junior forward Obi Enechionyia, who fouled out with 3:41 left.

Enechionyia cooling off
Enechionyia was held in check for the second game in a row. He scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds but made only one basket in the second half.

The junior went 5 of 17 for 12 points against Penn on Saturday. He scored 20-plus points in five of Temple’s first seven games.

Inside the box score
• Colonials guard Jordan Roland came into the game averaging 4.3 points per game. Roland scored 14 points on Wednesday.

• Brown, who played his first game of the season last Wednesday against St. Joe’s, played a season-high 24 minutes. He played a combined 25 minutes in his first two contests.

• George Washington outrebounded Temple, 37-23. The Colonials had 18 turnovers compared to nine for Temple.

Up next
Temple plays DePaul in the Miami Hoophall Invitational on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.