Behind Enemy Lines- Part I

This is where we ask Eagles publisher Justin Henry some intricate questions about the team he covers and this Sunday's matchup.

CB: Nick Foles had an unbelievably productive season in 2013 which very few people saw coming (myself included as he struggled when I covered him in the Senior Bowl). Obviously his TD/INT ratio from last year can't be duplicated, what are your expectations for him in 2014 and is there any doubt that he's the Eagles franchise guy?

JH: Don't believe there are any doubts, no, even if Donovan McNabb seems to disagree. As for expectations, I believe he'll remain as strong as the offensive line allows him to be. The preseason game with the Steelers is a sample-size of his ceiling: continuing to move the ball quickly, and at will. A whole year to find kinks in Chip Kelly's game plan will dent his ratio a tad, yes, but I think 38 TD and 9 INT isn't unreasonable. He's a leader who doesn't see the hype in himself, and that makes me confident in him long-term.

CB: The Eagles took a huge step forward last season with Chip Kelly as he changed seemingly everything about the way the team did business. How is he being accepted in maybe the toughest sports town in America?

JH: It's not hard at this point to be hailed as a genius in Philly, especially with Ruben Amaro (the Phillies GM) ensured employment. Other than his insistence on bringing in his Oregon kids (nine of them were still on the roster very late into the cut period, with five making the team, and two going to the squad), there's been little to question about Kelly. Personally, I noted the other day that his confidence and quick wit sometimes make him seem like the smartest man in the room, and with his obvious self-assuredness, he just may be regularly. He's not hesitant, which is a huge leap from Andy Reid, and quite the relief.

CB: There are obvious questions about the Eagles receiving corps without DeSean Jackson. How is Jeremy Maclin's health and what are the expectations from Jordan Matthews?

JH: Maclin did have that scare against the Steelers on August 21, where he spiked his foot and his entire leg seemed to hyper-extend, untouched by any defender. The cynical Birds fans on Twitter immediately degenerated to, "Maclin's done, we're screwed", but he was miraculously back in a few plays later, hauling in a pass. Maclin concerns me, but so far, all seems to be well with him. As for Matthews, expectations have reached near Chuck Norris Facts-levels in the blogosphere, with comparisons to Jerry Rice's work ethic and Reggie Wayne's velcro-hands. I'll leave my expectations at him creating favorable slot mismatches with his size, and see where he goes from there.

CB: It appears that the Eagles best defense is a very good offense. Can Philadelphia win a slow-paced, low scoring slugfest?

JH: The defense looks to be an improvement on paper, though last season's run defense was among the league's best (fourth in lowest YPA allowed). Additions of Malcolm Jenkins and Nolan Carroll will aid the pass defense, certainly. The pass rush itself will be the biggest hurdle to clear, because the Eagles just didn't have one last season. As for low-scoring games, there were nine straight games last season where the Eagles didn't allow over 21 points (three times 17 or less), so they're fairly strong at buckling down to prevent touchdowns. Low-scoring to Kelly would be what, 24 points? It's well within the realm of possibility.

CB:Who will be the breakout players this season for Philadelphia- offensively and defensively?

JH: Offense is hard to say, because many of the usual suspects will be contributing once more. For a sleeper, I think if they use Trey Burton (undrafted TE out of Florida) to his fullest, he could surprise people with his amazing catches and deceiving speed. He's well behind incumbents Brent Celek and Zach Ertz on the depth chart, so finding him snaps won't be easy. As for defense, Vinny Curry's finally poised to be used to his full potential. The Eagles defense experimented heavily in that Steelers game with a 4-1-6 formation (Mychal Kendricks as the lone linebacker), and it exploits Curry's inhuman quickness off the snap. He's a 4-3 end that hit a wall when the Eagles switched to 3-4, but they're committed to getting the most out of his explosiveness.

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