While it was great fun doing the last -- wholly fictitious and imaginary -- mailbag, it's certainly more interesting responding to actual reader questions. Thanks to everyone who sent in ideas. If I couldn't include yours, I'll get to it next time around. With this week's big news, it's not surprising that this will be a very linebacker-focused mailbag. Also, since I don't have a blanket policy here, I'll just stick with first names for now.
Q: My theory about Trot going is that Reid wanted to bench him and Trot said he'd rather go elsewhere and try and start; Reid had enough respect for him to release him and give him that shot, even if it meant having depth issues in the LB corps. Thoughts? -- Ben.
A: It's a good theory, but I'm a big fan of the idea put forward by Daily News writer Les Bown today:
The picture that has emerged over the past few days is of two things happening to produce Tuesday's surprise Trotter departure, one event leading directly to the other. Johnson decided, over the weekend, after watching film of the Carolina game, to make Gaither the starter... Once that happened, Reid made the decision that it would be better to cut the cord cleanly than to try to fit Trotter's dominant, oversized personality into a reserve role, after four Pro Bowl invitations.
We may be over-thinking this whole thing a bit, since that's one thing Philly fans are good at and because Trotter was such a fixture in this organization. Trotter just didn't have it any more and the Eagles decided to move on, albeit in a classy and dignified way. When was the last time we saw Trotter make a play like this:
You could argue that Omar only had the chance to make that play because the offensive lineman didn't get there fast enough on his block, but that's the great thing about young speed. Trot just can't do that these days.
Q: Gaither, Gocong, and Bradley. Two words come to mind: Talent and Inexperience. What can we really expect from the linebackers this year? I am glad Spikes is there to teach, but aren't we still going to see an abundance of mistakes due to lack of experience? -- Andrew
A: Other than Gaither, the two words that come to mind for me on that list are "oh" and "crap." But since last year we had Dhani and McCoy starting -- aka "crap" and "also crap" -- it's still a 50 percent upgrade.
Gaither will be fine in the middle. He's not the biggest or fastest guy, but he knows how to make plays. Look at what a nice job he does ducking his shoulder to attack that block in the clip above. He should be fine.
I think we have to be a lot more worried about the other two guys on your list. Gocong hasn't looked very effective in the first two preseason games. One mistake I made on him early on was assuming that he would do well blitzing the quarterback, since he played defensive end in college and led the nation in sacks. The thing I forgot is that rushing from a linebacker position isn't the same as it is from the line.
Brian Dawkins is probably the best blitzer the Eagles have, and it's because he's got great timing and explosive quickness. Here's an FO stat for all the people who think Jim Johnson's blitz scheme no longer works: "The Eagles defense forced seven intentional grounding passes, or one-quarter of all intentional grounding passes in the entire NFL. No other defense forced more than two... The Eagles defense ranked third in sacks listed as Rusher Untouched, behind the Steelers and Jets."
What that tells us is that the scheme is still springing guys for free runs at the quarterback. The problem is that in those situations, what matters most is acceleration and quickness -- two things with which Gocong doesn't seem to be overly endowed.
Gocong should keep improving, and the Eagles are going to give him every chance to do so, but if he doesn't, we still haven't seen enough of Bradley to know whether he's a future Gaither or a Gardner. Which kind of leads to the next question...
Q: How good does Kevin Kolb have to be to justify not picking Pozluszny? -- Jon
Very, very good. Pos has looked outstanding in the preseason. He's leading the Bills in tackles and was involved in two crucial stops last week on third-and-goal and fourth-and-goal from the one yard line. He has made the NFL adjustment just fine and is going to be a very good player for a very long time.
With that said, he obviously plays a more replaceable position, so do you gather the best talent possible for the last few years of the McNabb window ... or do you start planning for the day that window closes? I would have chosen option #1, but you can certainly see their point.
Q: As an Eagles blogger, you showed some interest in Joe Savery, a pitcher drafted by the Phillies from your alma mater the University of Houston. On a similar note, I'm a Phillies blogger who is quite interested in the progress of Eagles draft pick Akeem Jordan, since he went to my alma mater, James Madison University... What have you heard or seen about him, particularly in light of the release of Jeremiah Trotter?" -- Tom
A: So first of all, let's clear up the college reference. Savery and I both went to Rice University, which is also in Houston, but otherwise entirely unrelated to Cougar High. And any time you can draft a power pitcher with a history of shoulder problems, you have to make that pick.
Tom runs the Phillies blog Balls, Sticks and Stuff, which I highly recommend checking out if you are a Phillies fan with a strong stomach that can handle all the terrible injury news. Personally, I'm amazed Tom didn't go into hiding after the Cole Hamels thing came out.
As for Jordan's chances ... they don't look good. The Eagles may not even keep seven linebackers this year, let alone eight. So far he hasn't done enough in the preseason to suggest he's got anything other than a shot at the practice squad.
Q: I have a little exercise for you: Project the 45 active players on Sundays. I know, it's way too early, but I think actually trying to do it goes a long way toward explaining the Trotter cut. I took a couple minutes and got to about 47 before absurd scenarios started to creep in. ("Come on, do I really need more than one reserve offensive lineman?") Whether or not Trotter could contribute wasn't the issue. Of course they'd be a better team with him. It wasn't his contract either. There just wasn't a spot for a one-position, situational, non-special-teamer. Gaither with a sprinkling of Bradley/Roper (i.e., Bradley) at Mike makes a whole lot more sense than, say, not activating Hunt, or choosing between Avant and Baskett, or diminishing the DL rotation. Plus, someone has to bust the wedge (do you risk Gocong? Bradley? Whom, then?), and two guys have to be the gunners. It's very sad, but it's also very simple. To oversimplify: blame Dorenbos. -- Name withheld by request.
A: And Bloom. The Eagles are looking at carrying two guys this year who really only fill special teams roles. That's going to be a squeeze. If I had to guess right this second, I'd say:
QB - McNabb, Feeley
RB - Westbrook, Buckhalter, Hunt, Tapeh
WR - Curtis, Brown, Avant, Baskett
OL - Thomas, Herremans, Jackson, Andrews (please), Runyan, Cole, Jean-Gilles
TE - LJ, Schobel, Celek
DE - Kearse, Cole, Howard, Thomas
DT - Bunkley, Patterson, Reagor, Ramsey
LB - Spikes, Gaither, Gocong, Bradley, McCoy, Daniels
CB - Sheppard, Brown, James, Hansen (at first)
S - Dawkins, Considine, Mikell, Gaddis
ST - Akers, Rocca, Dorenbos, Bloom
47 46 players [evidently I can't count]. Wow, that does get kind of tricky. Even if you bench guys like Greg Lewis and Ian Scott -- and make Kolb the "emergency QB" -- it's still pretty tough.
If you want to keep the defensive line rotation intact, you really only have a couple of choices. Can you really keep three tight ends here? Maybe not, but then who gets benched, especially with LJ's injury risk.
Hmmm. I guess I'd go with Gaddis
and or Daniels as the final two guy s on the pine, at least to start out while Gaddis is still learning the system. That could leave the team awfully thin in the secondary, but if LJ isn't 100 percent I think you need the reinforcements. If Celek's magic holds up during the season, maybe the birds give Schobel some weeks off. Although Schobel is the emergency kicker...
Q: If the Eagles cut Sav Rocca, will you spin off an ancillary blog covering the man himself?