Tag Archives: Nolan Carroll

Eagles 2015 Training Camp Preview: Several Unanswered Questions

2 Aug

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles running back Darren Sproles ability to make plays in space makes the Eagles an exciting offense.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles running back Darren Sproles ability to make plays in space makes the Eagles an exciting offense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA –With the Phillies playing out a bad season, sports fans in the City of Brotherly Love are now focused on the only team that has a chance to have a winning season and make a run to the postseason.

As Philadelphia Eagles training camp approaches, fans have a lot to be excited about and also a lot of reasons to be concerned. The Birds situation is arguably better than that of the city’s other three teams because despite all of the changes, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.

One thing that Eagles fans have to feel good about is that DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher last season, will be their starting running back. They will also have good change of pace backs in Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still a whole lot of question marks on the offense. After cutting offensive linemen Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans, the Birds are hoping that Allen Barbre (6-4, 310 pounds), likely the new left guard, and Matt Tobin (6-6, 290), whose expected to win the starting job at right guard, will be upgrades at these positions.

The team also signed John Moffitt (6-4, 319) last month. Moffitt, who took a year away from football to deal with substance abuse issues, gives Eagles some much need depth along the offensive line in case someone gets hurt. The way things have gone for the Eagles in terms of injuries last year that might be important. Dennis Kelly (6-8, 321), Andrew Gardner (6-6, 308) and Kevin Graf (6-6, 309) also have to be ready to go are among the guys that need to be ready even if you have injuries to the starters.

Having a solid offensive line is crucial because the Eagles have to protect starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who hasn’t played a full season since 2012. If he can survive the season, fans will definitely be optimistic. But if Bradford gets hurt, can head coach Chip Kelly or the fan base stomach the idea of the mistake-prone Mark Sanchez running the Eagles offense for a sustained period of time?

Among the Eagles wide receiver corps, will second-year wide receiver Jordan Matthews become the go-to-guy in the passing game? Will rookie Nelson Agholor, with his 4.4 speed, be able to find his way on the field and be an important part of the Eagles passing game? It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

On defense, the Eagles will have a solid front-seven that includes linebackers DeMeco Ryans and newly acquired inside linebacker Kiko Alonso. This could also be a breakout season for defensive end Fletcher Cox, who is coming off a 2014 season in which he had a career-high in tackles with 70 (59 solo) and four sacks.

The sticking point for the Eagles defense coming into the 2015 season is the secondary, which got torched quite often late in the season. The inability of the Birds secondary to keep opposing receivers from piling up yards and lighting up the scoreboard kept them out of the playoffs despite a 10-6 record.

The Eagles ranked 31st in net passing yards per game in 2014 and the most touchdowns of 20 yards or more and the only holdover from that unit is safety Malcolm Jenkins.

The Birds got former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell, who played well during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run. But there’s uncertainty about Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe, the other two guys vying for cornerback spots. Carroll is a pro that couldn’t get much playing time in the other places he’s played and Rowe is a second-round draft pick who hasn’t played a down as a pro.

Meanwhile at the other safety spot, Kelly is counting on former Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond. Thurmond is a converted cornerback who has never played at the safety spot and has been injury-prone throughout his five-year career.

If the Eagles fail to shore up this part of their defense, New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson and Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant could be licking their chops.

Eagles Defense Hopes to Take it to the Next Level in 2014

30 Jul

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles hope Trent Cole and the defense will be even stronger in 2014

Eagles hope Trent Cole and the defense will be even stronger in 2014. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—The big noise at the opening of the Eagles 2014 training camp is how fast will Chip Kelly’s offense be in its second year?

How good will the offense be with the addition of running back Darren Sproles? Will Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper stretch opposing defenses in the way that DeSean Jackson did last season? Can Nick Foles duplicate his success from last season now that he is firmly established as the Birds starting quarterback?

For all the potential of the Birds high-powered offense, the improvement of the Eagles 3-4 defense is going to be the key to the team’s success in 2014. Considering how the New Orleans Saints rolled up over 400 yards of offense against the Eagles in their NFC Wildcard Playoff game last season, there is definitely room for improvement.

While the Eagles defense played well toward the end of the regular season, they finished the season 29th overall and 32nd against the pass. They were 10th against the run and finished tied for third in takeaways-giveaways margin. The Birds also had 37 sacks as a unit and ranked 20th in the league in that category.

In 10 out of their last 12 games, the Eagles held teams to under 100 yards rushing including the regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, who gained just 56 yards on the ground.

“I “I think the biggest thing you saw a year ago, you saw more assignment football,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis. “Guys were studying hard to know their assignment, what was asked of them, and they were trying real hard to get to their assignment and maybe not understanding their whole picture of how they exactly fit with their teammates and how it all came together.”

The one thing that the Eagles, both players and coaches, have been saying throughout organized team activities, minicamps and in the early days of training camp is that they all have a better grasp of the defense in their second year.

“It’s the second year around. …The first year we did a great job,” said inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks. “In the second year, it’s chemistry, camaraderie, checks, plays. It’s all down and so we’re able to focus on the little things. This second year, we should be a whole lot better.”

It helped that the Birds added some players in the secondary. Former Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll, who had three interceptions playing for the Miami Dolphins, and former New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins will help to shore up an area the Eagles coaches felt was a weakness last season.

The only real position battle on the defense is at the other safety spot between veteran Nate Allen and second-year player Earl Wolfe.

Meanwhile, Davis said the Eagles 2014 No. 1 draft choice linebacker Marcus Smith is still a work in progress in terms of learning the defense. He said Smith, who 14.5 sacks as a senior at Louisville, does have some familiarity with the Eagles scheme because it was similar to what he played in at the collegiate level.

“Marcus is a very hard worker and a very intelligent guy and very athletic,” Davis said. “He’s picked it up fairly quickly and one of the biggest things that attracted us to him was that Louisville and Charlie Strong’s defense was a lot like ours and the way they used him is lot like the way we use our ‘Jack’ position.”

In football lingo, the “Jack” position in a 3-4 defense refers to the outside linebacker serving as the primary pass rusher that can line up on either side of the ball.

For all the flash and dash of the offense, the Birds defense, at this point of the season, doesn’t have an identity in the way that Eagles defenses have had in the past whether you’re talking about the days of Reggie White or the hard-blitzing squads that played for the late Jim Johnson.

“The personality of this group will show itself when we play in the preseason and as we play games on Sunday,” Davis said. “Our goal defensively is to break the rhythm of the offense and to get them off the field as often as possible with turnovers and third downs.”

And so when it comes to the Eagles defense in 2014, fans want to know one thing. …who are these guys?

“Our team is going to come after you and create turnovers,” said defensive end Fletcher Cox. “We’re going to be a hard-nosed defense.”