FOR a second consecutive year the Eagles were 4-2 in the division and 10-6 overall. Normally 10-6 wouldn’t be considered a horribly failed season; but you have to consider that we started 9-3 and then utterly imploded, finishing 1-3 down the stretch. Since season’s end a massive shake-up has hit this roster and all indications are that there may still be some big moves in the works.
QB: Starter Nick Foles was traded to St. Louis for Sam Bradford. Bradford has a number of tools (arm strength, accuracy, the ability to make quick reads and deliver the ball on-time), but he also comes with some serious red flags (two blown ACL’s in his left knee, and he was considering quitting this year). Behind Bradford is Mark Sanchez, who played like a very good back-up when Foles was injured for the season last year. Word on the street is that Bradford will be traded to help us move up in this year’s Draft to help land QB Marcus Mariota. This position is extremely fluid at the moment, and at this position “fluid” is not a strength. (-)
RB: LeSean McCoy was traded for a LB with knee issues, but the Eagles did manage to replace him with two RB’s in the form of DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. Both are pretty good when healthy, but therein lies the rub, as both men are no strangers to wearing street clothes on the sidelines. The 3rd stringer here? Darren Sproles. All told the Eagles are shelling out 15M$ for three RB’s which is about what they’d be spending for two had they not traded McCoy. On paper it’s hard to argue with the simple math. (+)
WR: Let’s not mention who we lost, and focus on who we have. Jordan Matthews had a promising rookie campaign, but all indications are that he’ll be left in the slot as opposed to being moved to the edge. On the outsides we’re looking at Riley Cooper and Miles Austin, who (despite lacking significant speed) we’ll rely on to stretch defenses and give the backs room to run underneath. Josh Huff is physically gifted but prone to mental errors. (-)
TE: Brent Celek is the most complete TE on the roster as far as blocking and catching the ball. Zach Ertz is more of an overgrown WR, but he moves the sticks. Trey Burton is a can also play (QB, RB, and WR). This has been an underutilized position for us for a few years, but with the falloff and question marks in other skill positions, maybe this one will be called upon to pick up the slack. (+)
OL: Most Eagles fans are fine with our Offensive Line, but last year we got to see that going against physical front sevens, our front line is soft. Sorry to say it, but it’s true and ignoring it won’t help get us over the hump. In too many games last year our line failed to generate much room in the run game. The scapegoat for that has been traded to Buffalo, so he won’t be here to blame in 2015. In the meantime there’s still no named replacement for departed RG Todd Herremans, and there’s been chatter about trading or simply releasing LG Evan Mathis like we did with DeSean Jackson. I find that disturbing because it’s pretty hard to run the ball without an interior line. It’d be even harder if 2/5 of the guys responsible for creating the holes are newer than the top 2 RB’s hitting those holes. Or we could fall back on the back-ups who failed us so utterly in 2014… Nah! Didn’t think so. So we need work here. (-)
In a nutshell: This team has spent 2 years now not replacing the talent it shed with anything better. The result is that now there are significant holes with no real answers on the horizon. Unless Josh Huff is worked in as a starter, our entire Offense is now devoid of a truly explosive/dynamic player. (-)
DE: Now that Cedric Thornton has signed a one year deal, we’ll keep our situation from last year, for at least one more. In this 3-4 system the linemen are expected to be aggressive and make plays not just suck up blockers. Problem is they don’t make many plays. Two years ago our starting line grabbed us 6 sacks. Last year it was 4. We also finished 15th vs the run. I marked this position down as a minus last year. This year: (-)
NT: Bennie Logan is our starter, but I’m not convinced that the staff is sold on him. Beau Allen was drafted last year and Wade Keliikipi (Duck) was undrafted but always seems to be hanging around the roster. Logan is good at holding his position, but he’s not a guy you need to double-team, so blocking schemes are unaffected by his presence and you can even run some vanilla stuff against our front seven as a result. (-)
OLB: With Trent Cole in Indy now, Brandon Graham should inherit a starting role to go with his new contract. Like Cole, he’s a better DE than OLB, but he isn’t really an upgrade so we’ll be about the same at ROLB. He gets after passers, which is great, but in coverage…in two years playing LB in this system, Graham has yet to defense a single pass. Connor Barwin is also clearly a better pass rusher than coverage ‘backer. You have to wonder where (if at all), Marcus Smith (our 1st round pick last year) figures in all of this. I generally wouldn’t say this was a good position, but they are good at delivering what the Eagles want from them. (+)
ILB: DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks are a solid pair. If Kiko Alonso can come in and be what he’s being sold to us as, we could begin to phase out Ryans, while sporting a high power interior behind a lackluster D-line. (+)
S: Malcolm Jenkins can play. Everyone else is a project and or a question mark. (-)
CB: We just dumped a ton of cash on Byron Maxwell who has 17 career starts and has already confused our 3 Deep/Man Coverage scheme as being similar to what he played in Seattle. Brandon Boykin may be traded before long and Nolan Carroll (remember him?), didn’t get a real start even after the Bryant/Fletcher Fiasco. (-)
In a nutshell: This boat has more holes than it has floor. However, more of it is tied to the scheme we run and how we choose to utilize our talent, than it is about what talent we may lack. (-)
P: Donnie Jones is a monster! 76 punts last year and only 29 of them were returned. If our Defense was better, we could be a 14-2, 15-1 sort of team. (+)
K: Cody Parkey had heck of a rookie year, though he did have 4 misses in just 36 attempts. That’s probably 2 misses too many for such a low number of attempts, and it did cost us at least one game. You’d also like to see his Kickoffs get better, as he had 98 last year with only 46 TB and 52 returned. I know he went to a Pro Bowl, but the point of Special Teams is to win the hidden yardage battle and right now Parkey doesn’t help do that. It’s a close vote,but I gotta keep this real. (-)
RS: Darren Sproles Brought back 2 punts for TDs last year and averaged 13 yards per return. That’s worth crowing about. Josh Huff and Chris Polk split kickoff returns and each scored a TD from over 100 yards, while averaging 30.2 yards per return between them. (+)
Bottom Line: I mentioned in my lede that the Eagles imploded last year and that’s exactly what it was. It was poor internal structure, not external stressors that were our downfall. Unfortunately more of our core had been mined away and now there’s just been too much talent shed and not replaced, as well as too much concentration of talent at too few spots (RB, TE, LB). The team is unevenly built, and once more teams catch up to the gimmick of this Offense (as some showed flashes of last year), this team won’t have the sort of players it needs to fight through and win games. Unless of course the Draft this year absolutely crazy for us.
Thanks for your insight once again Eagle because I have/had no clue what to expect from our “new” squad. The QB question mark worries me the most. Also, the lack of a veteran deep threat at WR. I really wish Chip would keep Boykin and give him more playing time, I love his spunk!
Most fans (including me) agree with you Andrea. Boykin deserves a chance to show that he can be a starter. But the knock on him (for Kelly) is that he’s only 5’10”.
I know Kelly is said to require 6 feet or better from his corners, but 6 foot CB’s who can play man coverage don’t just drop off of trees. Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown both played at 5’10”. Darrelle Revis is 5’11”. Eric Allen is also played at 5’10”. Remember mark McMillian? 5’7″ and still had 8 picks in 1997.
I think some teams make too much of sports metrics, while other teams keep making the playoffs, and hoisting trophies.