Eagles Chat: The team's a work in progress?

It's too early to be dismayed, says the Inquirer's Ashley Fox

Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse (93) gets pressure, forcing Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to throw a pass away. Could Kearse, a fan asks, be the next high-priced vet out the door?

Ashley Fox: Hello all. ... We're ready to go. Send me what you've got.

Peter: Ashley, should we worry about this defense? Ends too light? Linebackers not first-tier? Safety also a concern?
 
Ashley Fox: Hi Peter. Yes, I think there are issues on the defense. The linebackers, aside from Takeo Spikes, are young and inexperienced. They are going to have growing pains. And I'm not convinced that Gocong is the answer. He's got to prove it, and neither he nor Gaither really proved anything last night.

Jay: Ashley, thanks for taking the time to chat with us...the offensive line looks a little shaky out there so far, are we to believe that a group who has been referred to as one of the better units in football and was kept together has forgotten how to block (particularly run block)?

Ashley Fox: Hi Jay. Thanks for taking the time to join in. I think the offfensive line will find its rhythm. It is a very good line, and did well run blocking late last year. A lot of that is grinding through a game, wearing down the opposition. That can't happen playing just one or two quarters. But, you can't discount the fact that Shawn Andrews isn't out there. They need him to be healthy, and to be on the field. We'll see if he makes it to Green Bay.

Chase: Any thoughts as to what linebackers the Eagles may go after if they are cut by other teams? Right now Gaither is a quality backup middle linebacker.

Ashley Fox: Chase, that's a good question. Even if they were looking -- which I don't think they will be, at least for a guy in the middle -- the Eagles likely wouldn't find a quality guy off some other team's cutting room floor. They like Gaither. They think he's their guy for the present and the future. He's going to need work, but obviously they are willing to suffer through the growing pains. The d-tackles could certainly help him out.

Von H.: In 2004, the year the Eagles went to the Super Bowl, what happened in their third preseason game?

Ashley Fox: Exactly. For the record, they lost to Pittsburgh, 27-21 at the Linc, and finished the preseason 1-3.

Peter: John Madden's losing it. Last night, he told the same anecdote twice about Andy liking Kolb as a freshman.

Ashley Fox: He is pretty scary, too, in HD. But I love the guy. There's no one else I'd rather listen to analyze a game. I'll take him telling the same story twice, as long as he's got the facts straight.

Jay: One more (sorry for being greedy) ... Am I the only one who thinks Jason Avant has outplayed every receiver not named Kevin Curtis, and even with Curtis he's neck and neck. Have they put Avant's name in ink on the depth chart for the slot position? And what's with our boy Downtown Reggie Brown? He's not getting a lot of looks and when he does he's dropping the ball.

Ashley Fox: Jay, be greedy. Avant has had a good preseason, which is why he started in the third receiver spot last night. Baskett got the leg up based on all his playing time last year, but Avant has talent and he'll play. Reggie Brown dropping the football is problematic. I chalk it up to preseason football, and being unfocused. If that happens early in the season, then be worried.

Joe: Doesn't this look like last year with a good offense and lackluster defense. Doesn't it look like another 1 or 2 playoff win team that will have trouble winning the NFC? Teams with average or below average defenses usually don't go too far.

Ashley Fox: I agree with that, Joe. Except, look at Indy last year. Their defense couldn't stop anyone until, essentially, the playoffs. Now, their offense was special. Special. Generally speaking, defenses win championships, but Chicago had a great defense last year, and couldn't get it done. Obviously, the Eagles have to be better defensively than last year, especially against the run. It's too early to say whether they will be/are.

Bob Walk: What are the chances they will cut Jevon Kearse?

Ashley Fox: Bob, a week ago, I would've said no chance. But we saw the Eagles say goodbye to Trotter, so never say never. I do think that they'll hold onto him, but Kearse is on a short list of veteran players who have to produce and stay healthy this season, otherwise no question he'll be gone.

GM: I'm concerned about fundamentals. I know it's preseason but too many penalties, sloppy or no tackling. Even Dawk looked slow. Is it just knocking off the last of the rust or has the window on this core group really started to close?

Ashley Fox: GM, honestly, I think it's too early to say the window has closed, or is closing. Keep in mind, it was Dawk's first game of the preseason, and he's only gotten about a week's worth of practice. If you look at the defense, the core group has changed considerably from the Super Bowl team. Of the front seven, only one starter -- Kearse -- remains. That's significant turnover.

John H.: Did Lee Vickers play himself on the roster?

Ashley Fox: Too early to say, John H. He's got considerable competition in front of him. L.J., Schobel, Celek. Can't imagine they'd keep four tight ends.
 
Andy Reid: Which punter should I keep?

Ashley Fox: Well, Andy -- and that's pretty funny, by the way -- I'd go with Rocca. I thought it was interesting what Madden said last night about the Aussie punters, about how their kicks travel end over end, as opposed to in a spiral. Seems like an advantage to me. With things seeming equal, I'd ask David Akers who he wants, then go with him. The holding duty is equally important.

Rodd: Hey Ash, I've been pretty impressed with both young tight ends Celek and Vickers. Obviously, Shobel stays, but do you think they can keep both rookies?

Ashley Fox: Rodd, I think it'll be tough for them to keep four tights. But if they think L.J. is going to be sidelined for a while, they might be more inclined to do so. Or, they could put Vickers on the practice squad.

GM: Yeah, but Sheldon looked bad, and it's not just the "D". The offense couldn't get moving, and special teams (other than Rocca) weren't impressive. It's like a different team than the one that played against Carolina. I know they're not the Steelers, but....

Ashley Fox: Hang in there, GM. It's early... All right guys, thanks for the questions. Sorry for the abbreviated session this week. I've got to bounce. Check back next week, when -- finally -- it'll be the regular season. Since it's a holiday on Monday, we'll move the chat to Tuesday. Have a great week...