Eagles will 'shock the world,' new Eagle Isaac Sopoaga vows

ED HILLE / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Isaac Sopoaga, the Eagles' new defensive lineman, promised that the team will 'shock the world' with how good they will be in 2013.
ED HILLE / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Isaac Sopoaga, the Eagles' new defensive lineman, promised that the team will 'shock the world' with how good they will be in 2013.
Posted: March 15, 2013

BOLD predictions are best served warm in the 90-plus degree heat of August two-a-days when you can see the regular season right around the next bend.

They also are best served by someone with a higher profile than a new-to-the-team nose tackle, like maybe the head coach or the quarterback.

But Chip Kelly wasn't inclined to do a foot-in-mouth impersonation of Rex Ryan on Wednesday and Michael Vick was off canceling book-tour appearances. So Isaac Sopoaga had to do.

"We are here to hunt," said Sopoaga, a 32-year-old defensive lineman who was one of five players the Eagles signed on the first day of free agency. "We are here to win.

"We are here - and I believe and I promise - that we were going to shock the world. And I believe that coach Kelly has a big, solid book out there for us, and we're willing and anxious to taste it and to show it and to show it in action."

You'll have to excuse Isaac. He's coming off a Super Bowl high with the 49ers, and I'm not sure it's sunk in with him yet that Colin Kaepernick, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith no longer are his teammates.

He left one of the best teams in NFL league to sign with one of the worst. The Eagles are coming off a dreadful 4-12 season in which they set a franchise record for touchdown passes allowed (33) and had a league-high 37 giveaways.

Shocking the world might be overreaching a bit. But, hey, as my high school guidance counselor said when I informed him I was going to be the next Ernest Hemingway, it's good to aim high.

"I want to bring my leadership [to the Eagles] like I used it with my previous team," Sopoaga said. "And then, coach Kelly has a solid book that teams in this league haven't seen yet. They've seen it in college, but we're going to utilize it on this level.

"I know they're doing their best to hunt and look for the perfect right guys for the system on defense, offense and also our special teams. And that's what I mean by that [when I say] we're going to surprise and shock the world."

Alrighty then.

The NFL is ripe with rags-to-riches stories. In the last 3 years, five teams have made the playoffs the year after winning four or fewer games, including the Colts and Vikings this past season.

It can happen, and who knows, maybe it will happen to the Eagles, though I doubt it. Eight and eight? Maybe. Shock the world? Get back to me next March.

The Eagles aren't sitting on their hands. Their five signings Tuesday were the most of any NFL club on the first day of the free-agent signing period.

But I don't know how much those signings - Sopoaga, safety Patrick Chung, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, linebacker Jason Phillips and tight end James Casey - really helped as far as making them a better team.

Sopoaga gives the Eagles, who are switching to a 3-4 defensive alignment, or at least a hybrid of it, an experienced nose tackle. He's a 320-pound space-eater who rarely gets driven off the line of scrimmage. But he's 32. He played only 335 snaps with the 49ers last season, which was 131 fewer than the previous year.

Chung is an oft-injured safety who has started only 30 games in 4 years and rode the bench the last eight games last season for a Patriots defense that was ranked 25th in the league.

"When you're signing these guys, you're looking at the body of work," general manager Howie Roseman said. "Just like college players.

"You're looking at a guy who, going into [the 2012 season], we felt was one of the up-and-coming safeties in this league. For one reason or another, he didn't play as well. He'll admit to it. Sometimes that happens in a contract year. Sometimes you're pressing. Sometimes you're trying to make every play."

At 6-foot and 200 pounds, Fletcher is a freakishly athletic corner with long arms and a 38 1/2-inch vertical jump. But like Chung, he also has been injury-prone. He played in more than seven games only twice in his first four NFL seasons.

Phillips, who was a fifth-round pick of the Ravens in '09 and spent the last two seasons with Carolina, is essentially a special-teams player. He has only two career starts.

Casey might be the most intriguing player of the bunch. Kelly will be able to line up the athletic 6-3, 240-pounder all over the field and create mismatches.

He caught a career-high 34 passes and had only one drop last year with Houston, lining up primarily at fullback. That said, he doesn't bring anything to the table that the Eagles don't already have in their current backup tight end, Clay Harbor. And Harbor is a slightly better blocker.

Kelly didn't wince at all Wednesday when Sopoaga made his shock-the-world comment. And I'm sure the Eagles were being perfectly truthful when they ushered Sopoaga away after the news conference and said he had a plane to catch. Wink, wink.

"I think it's evident when you watch Isaac play on tape the passion that he has for this game, and that's why we want him to be a part of our organization," Kelly said. "If you don't plan on coming in here and winning, then we're not going to talk to you. So the statements that he makes are exactly how everybody in this football program feels and what it's all about.

"But we also know it's not about talk, because what you say in March and what you say in April doesn't really have anything to do with what you do on Sundays [in the fall].

"The one thing I know about Isaac and about James [Casey] is they both have unbelievable work ethics, and that's the key for us - getting a bunch of guys that aren't afraid to get down and dirty and go to work. We're in a blue-collar town. We've got a bunch of blue-collar guys that are going to go to work every single day, and we'll pick our heads up sometime next January and figure out if it was good enough."

Email: pdomo@aol.com

On Twitter: @Pdomo

Blog: eagletarian.com

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