Continuing our series of NFL season previews, next on deck is the Philadelphia Eagles. A season of change is underway in Philadelphia, long time Head Coach Andy Reid lost his job with the team after a disappointing stretch for a squad which the media nicknamed ‘the Dream Team.’
Sticking to their flashy, high profile ways, this team brought in former Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly to take over for Reid. Kelly runs one of the fastest pace offenses that football has ever seen, so the Eagles figure to put a lot of points on the board this season.
Several positions are unsettled heading into training camp, and how they work their way out will go a long way in how the Eagles end up finishing this season. In the case of a highly contested debate, a prediction will be given as to how we think the battle will play out over the course of the year.
As usual, a position by position preview follows, concluded by a prediction of how the Philadelphia Eagles will finish the season. Enjoy.
This is one of the most interesting quarterback battles in the league this off season. Almost certain to end in a controversy at some point this year, Michael Vick will begin training camp as the favorite to win the starting gig with this new offense. Nick Foles played adequately last season when asked to replace Vick in the lineup, and showed that he could potentially develop into a decent NFL quarterback. Add USC product Matt Barkley into the equation after this year’s draft, and you have one heck of a mess at the quarterback position.
All three of these men embody at least one of the three desired traits for success in a Kelly offense. Michael Vick has the strong arm and mobility to keep plays alive and stretch the field. Barkley has the deep arm and ability to read defenses, while Foles may be the most well rounded pocket passer of the three, despite his lack of mobility compared to Vick.
Kelly has made no announcement as to who he plans on playing in week one, but by the end of the year we just might see all three appear in game situations. Quarterback controversy is never a good thing, yet the Eagles may have the quarterback of their future on their roster if they give Foles or Barkley the necessary time to develop into a quality NFL passer. You’ll see one of them under center instead of Vick by the end of the season.
Lesean McCoy is one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL, despite the fact he just lost a footrace to Michael Vick. ‘Shady’ McCoy is incredibly good at changing directions and finding the open hole to squeeze into the second level of a defense.
His ability to be used in the passing game out of the backfield provides a safety net for a passing game that tended to go for the home run far too often last year.
An increase in the stat line is in order for Lesean this season as Chip Kelly likes to run the ball out of his spread offense to keep teams on their toes. This will also help to take pressure off of the young quarterback that ends up beating Mike Vick for the starting job by the end of the year.
Desean Jackson has made more headlines by signing with Jay Z than he did with his play all of last season. A talented speedster that still needs to develop into a quality all around receiver. Limited to deep routes and bubble screens to remain effective, he will have to develop a more well rounded game if he wants to prove he is worth the huge contract he received two years ago.
Jeremy Maclin is a better all around receiver as of now, although the talent is there for him to be surpassed by Jackson. He was the favorite target in this offense last year, and the team simply looked better with him on the field. If you pair him with Jason Avant in the slot, plus the addition of Arrelious Benn from Tampa Bay, this team has the ability to put quite a spread of receivers on the field this season. Defenses should prepare to be stretched, all of these men have the ability to make a huge play if given the opportunity.
Brent Celek is unheralded but effective as a receiver from the tight end position. He seems to show up with a few huge games year in and year out, and is one of Mike Vick’s favorite and most reliable targets. Celek isn’t the flashiest or prettiest player, yet he gets the job done. The Eagles have no worries about this position, and have only bolstered it by adding Zach Ertz in this year’s draft.
Fourth overall pick Lane Johnson out of this year’s draft appears to have solidified this group. The right tackle will be joined by four offensive lineman who are coming off of surgeries that caused them to miss time last season. Jason Kelce (center) tore an ACL last season, while ankle and foot problems plagued Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis (guard.)
Health will be a major issue for this team again due to the new up tempo offense. In order to keep control of the pace in their offense, they need to avoid injury timeouts. This team needs to jell together and be on the same page throughout the games, making adjustments fast and keeping up the pace so that Chip Kelly can tire out the opposing defense.
Although Cullen Jenkins left this team in the off season, they did bring in Isaac Sopoaga to man the inside of their 3-4 system. This line is youthful and has the size to clog up the gaps and enable linebackers to make plays all over the field. Fletcher Cox, entering his third season, is the only starter on this line that is under 300 pounds. He barely is under himself, weighing in at a skinny 298 lbs.
The linebacking corps that has been assembled in Philadelphia is impressive, and this preview believes they will be a group that will attract attention all over the NFL by year’s end. DeMeco Ryans and Connor Barwin are studs. Trent Cole, who has been with the Eagles since 2005, is the longest tenured member of this linebacking group, and will provide an excellent pass rush opposite Barwin.
Pressure coming from both edges enables the middle linebackers to sit back and make plays in the middle of the field. Ryans has been a top notch player for the Texans when healthy, and third year player Mychal Kendricks was able to compile 75 tackles in only spot duty last year.
Losing Nnamdi Asomugha will hurt this team more than people know. Although his stats have been down since he joined the Eagles, it isn’t entirely his fault. Learning an entirely new defense on the other side of the country is no easy task with the pressure of the world on your shoulders. He is still an elite cornerback and will be eager to show the world that the Eagles made the wrong move by letting him go.
That being said the safety acquisitions were huge for this team. Getting Patrick Chung from New England and Kenny Phillips from the Giants are two big name landings. The safety position is another strong point for this team heading into the season. Young talent that can make impact plays aren’t easy to come by in this day and age, yet the Eagles managed to land two of them this year.
Corner is a bit inexperienced, Cary Williams previously of Baltimore, is entering his prime and is expected to start. However the four interceptions he was able to muster last year with the Ravens were the only picks of his five year career thus far. Brandon Fletcher joins him after coming over from the Rams, and in his five years in the league he has snagged just one more interception than Williams, with five in his career.
The Eagles have the talent needed to put together a run at a division title. However a quarterback controversy and new coaching staff are going to create headaches out of the gate. As this team sputters through the first half of the season, they will dig themselves a sizable hole in a competitive division.
Once they settle on a quarterback not named Vick, this NFL previewer feels that the Philadelphia Eagles will become a winning team instantly. The only variable is whether or not Chip Kelly realizes this soon enough in the season for his team to save the record and qualify for the post season.
Record Prediction- 8-8 (misses post season)
In case you missed it, here are the previous editions of our NFL Preview series.
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Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express
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