Interview With Sheil Kapadia
By Sigmund Bloom
August 27th, 2010

Sigmund Bloom: Hi everybody we're back! It's the Audible and this is Sigmund Bloom. As you know this time of year we like to do a tour around the NFL franchises to talk to some of the insiders who have the most insight and knowledge about the teams they cover, to give us the latest on their teams. And today on the Fandraft VIP line we have Sheil Kapadia, the online sports editor from Philly.com. You can also catch him on twitter at Moving the Chains and the great Moving the Chains Blog to keep you up with everything going on with the Eagles. Sheil how's it going?

Sheil Kapadia: Good, thanks for having me.

Bloom: Great to have you back here. Certainly it was a busy offseason for the Eagles and it culminates now in a lot of new names, new players that are going to be in key roles and none bigger than Kevin Kolb. So we've had a preseason game now, you got to see him for a few weeks of training camp. Tell us how you feel about Kolb coming into the season, any Achilles heels being exposed? Do you think he's ready for prime time?

Kapadia: Yeah it's been kind of funny, you know? Kolb is a guy, only two starts under his belt. But really, at training camp it hasn't felt like one of those training camps with a rookie quarterback or a real unknown. I think the Eagles have some other question marks on defense and in other areas and Kolb just seems to have a good grasp of the offense. He's already won the locker room, his teammates, his coaches, everyone speaks highly of him. So it's been a little interesting there. You have this big kind of turnaround at quarterback from the Donovan McNabb era, but really Kolb - it almost feels like he's been in this role for a while. He had the preseason game - 6 of 11, I think 95 yards. I guess two things I would say about him. On the positive - one thing we learned a little bit is he can move. This guy isn't going to be a statue back there. He's mobile, he has good footwork, and he can feel the pressure, avoid the pressure and make throws on the run. And that's something the coaches told us, but I hadn't really seen before until that preseason game. So that was certainly a positive. On the negative side, the decision making is going to be something that - like all young, inexperienced quarterbacks - he's going to have growing pains. He's going to have ups and downs. Where it's key here is that Donovan McNabb really has one of the lowest - maybe the lowest - interception percentage in the history of the NFL, or since that stat was being recorded. The guy did not turn the ball over with interceptions. He was cautious, maybe sometimes too cautious, but he didn't turn the ball over. Kolb is going to turn the ball over a little bit, especially in his first season. I would say he's more of a risk taker and you saw that in the preseason game. I think there were two or three passes that the Jaguars defenders got their hands on that really could have been interceptions. So those are kind of the early observations I've had of him so far.

Bloom: Now behind Kolb we have a carryover from one of the biggest stories if last season for the Eagles: Michael Vick is back! And by some reports Michael Vick is truly back because he looks like Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons. Michael Vick the playmaker, Michael Vick the guy who is very dangerous as an open field runner. So, talk about whether you think that's accurate and just how this offense would change if Kolb goes down and Vick is at the helm.

Kapadia: I wouldn't say he's back to those Falcons days but when you look at the difference from a year ago until now, I think there certainly is a major difference. He looks faster, more athletic, in better shape and really we saw that in training camp and we saw it in the first preseason game. Now, if Kolb were to go down and Vick had to come in, the offense certainly would change. I think they would rely a little bit more on the big play. And they would call some plays probably to roll Vick out and get him on the move a little bit whereas with Kolb it's going to be a timing, rhythm offense which wants to hit receivers in stride. Pick up a lot of yards after the catch. So the offense certainly would have to change if Vick were to come in but, I think they could still certainly win some games with him in there.

Bloom: Now in the wake of the news that just came across the wire that Brian Westbrook is now a 49er, of course in Philadelphia we're ushering in the LeSean McCoy era. Much like Kevin Kolb, I just want your observations - a few weeks in now, how prepared is he to be that guy? Are the Eagles really going to plug him into that Westbrook role, is he going to be the engine of the backfield or will they maybe ease him in and use some of the complimentary backs, Leonard Weaver and Mike Bell, so he doesn't have to do it all himself?

Kapadia: I really think they're going to use him a lot. This is a young guy who, as a rookie, was sort of just thrown into the mix. Ideally, they wanted him to kind of learn from Westbrook so they could ease him in. But Westbrook had injury problems and McCoy really just had to learn on the fly. He had some very good moments; he had moments where he made mistakes. But he was really working on his lower body, strengthening that in the offseason. And really, just in the first preseason game, I noticed a couple of runs where he was breaking tackles. We didn't see a lot of that last year. He's a multidimensional back, he had forty catches as a rookie, but he really wasn't that home run threat that we see with Westbrook. So, when I look at McCoy in terms of how this guy can grow in his second season I think his receiving game is a huge part of it. If he can - he has good hands, but if he can show he can really make big plays in the passing game, he's going to be a very good back for this offense.

Bloom: Sheil, when we look at the young array of weapons - we just talked about LeSean McCoy, but there's also DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and of course Kevin Kolb's good buddy Brent Celek. So seeing things unfold in practice, do you see Kolb maybe favoring Celek or having any favorite receiver - anybody he particularly seems to be on the same page as? Or are we going to see Kolb, sort of run this offense true to form - let the defense decide who the target is and really spread the ball around?

Kapadia: Yeah, I think you're going to see him spread the ball around. That's the way this offense is set up. Him and Celek are very close off the field, I think, you know like I mentioned in that preseason game he looked for him I think four times in one quarter of play which is a lot. But DeSean Jackson is by far the biggest weapon on this offense. When you watch him in practice, really it's not even close. So you're talking about Jackson had over 60 catches, Celek had over 75 catches, Maclin had 56 catches. Even Jason Avant and McCoy, like I mentioned, those guys had over 40 catches last year so, this offense is going to throw the ball a lot and I think you're going to see Kolb spread it out but I could see Celek having a high number of targets but in terms of playmakers, you know receiving yards, those types of things - it's going to be DeSean Jackson.

Bloom: Now on the defensive side of the ball, again, revisiting this time last year, a lot of high hopes for Stewart Bradley, he went down with an ACL tear that really seemed to signal a snake bit preseason for the Eagles. Now he's back - is it just like picking up where he left off before the injury or do you think there's still a little of time to go, a little bit of rehab. A little bit of knocking off the rust before Bradley can be as good as they hope he can be?

Kapadia: Yeah I think a couple of years ago, Bradley was really coming into his own, but he's certainly had not peaked yet and he was just about to get there. A lot of people thought last year was going to be the breakout season but like you mentioned, he got injured. He's looked really good. If there's one unit on this defense that looks a lot more improved than it was a year ago, it's that linebacking unit. And he's the key. They're not really saying 'Go easy with your expectations for Bradley'. They're saying he's going to be the quarterback of this defense. He's going to make a huge difference in the passing game. He's a big guy - I think they rotated six different middle linebackers last year including bringing Jeremiah Trotter back. So Bradley looked very good. I don't know if he's at that 100%. Its right about a year ago, two weeks ago was when he tore that ACL. So it might still take a little time until he plays himself into it. But I've been nothing pleased and pleasantly surprised with how he's looked at training camp.

Bloom: You're listening to the Audible; on the Fandraft VIP line we have Sheil Kapadia, the online sports editor of Philly.com. We're talking Eagles. Now Sheil you mentioned earlier that there are some questions on defense. So for my last question I want to ask you to flesh that out a little bit more and then talk about how that plays into the larger expectations for this team - a team that we've certainly all come to expect to be a playoff team just about every year. Do you think that that's more in jeopardy this year or should they keep it up?

Kapadia: I'll start with the defense, the holes you mentioned. The biggest one right now is probably right cornerback where they're going to depend on Ellis Hobbs. Obviously, former Patriots corner, came over last season, played a little in the first half of the season and then went down with an injury. When he was on the field he really wasn't that great but Sean McDermott, defensive coordinator is saying you can't judge him based on that, second year in the system, the guy is going to be good. I will say this is a guy who at practice, every rep he takes seriously, he's going all out; he appears to be a good student of the game. He got into a fight with rookie wide receiver Riley Cooper and actually pointed out that Cooper in a college game pushed off against LSU and everyone was kind of surprised that he knew that. It shows you what kind of work he's putting into it. He's really playing with a chip on his shoulder now. Is that going to translate to him being good enough? I'm not sure. They traded away Sheldon Brown who was a veteran leader, who really was a very good player for them when he was healthy. So to me, that's really one of the biggest question marks. The other one is at safety, where they're probably going to start Nate Allen there at the free safety spot. A rookie second round pick, it'll be the second year in a row they're starting a rookie at the free safety spot. Now Allen's looked pretty good. He's seemed smart but again, there's going to be that learning curve so those are some questions in the secondary and the defensive line is something they focused on in the offseason, drafting Brandon Graham, making a trade for Darryl Tapp, so they really tried to revamp that defensive line. They play eight, nine, ten guys a game there. So we'll have to see if those new guys are really up to par and really can be difference makers and match the holes in the secondary. I will say Graham has been one of the most impressive players out here at training camp so, if early indications tell us anything, it's that that was a very good pick for them.

To get to the second part of your question - expectations? You know I think expectations, if you ask the players, they're not lowering them at all. They're saying Super Bowl is the expectation and always will be the expectation here. If you're looking for my vantage point, I think a playoff birth would be a very successful season. I would say if things go as I expect, you're looking probably around .500 but you know, an injury here, an injury there, someone not meeting expectations - that could go down to 6-10. Then again, if a couple of guys exceed expectations, if Kevin Kolb takes care of the football, 10-6 really wouldn't surprise me if this team did get into the playoffs. So I think that's the range you're looking at right now. Certainly expectations a little lower then previous seasons when Super Bowl was always what they were aiming for and what people really thought they could get to but maybe that's not such a bad thing. It's been over a decade here for Andy Reid, lower expectations here a little bit, a lot of young guys, a new energy so, I think they just want to play and see what happens.

Bloom: It's certainly a pivotal season for the Philadelphia Eagles and if you want to follow it, you go to philly.com and you check out everything that Sheil Kapadia writes on the moving Moving the Chains Blog, you follow him at www.twitter.com/movingthechains. Sheil, thanks for joining the show.

Kapadia: Thanks a lot - enjoyed it.

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