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2014 Team Report: Philadelphia Eagles
QuarterbacksStarter: Nick Foles
Backup(s): Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley Starting QB: A year ago there was rampant debate about the status of the Eagles quarterback hierarchy. New head coach Chip Kelly played his cards close and gave Michael Vick, Nick Foles and rookie Matt Barkley reason for optimism. Michael Vick earned the starting job but a hamstring injury sidelined him in early October. Foles stepped into the huddle and not only flourished, but played so well Chip Kelly would later declare Foles the "starter for the next 1,000 years." In 10 starts, Foles went 8-2 and threw for 2,891 yards, 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. To put those numbers into context, over a 16-game season they equate to 294 completions (64% completion rate), 4,232 yards, 38 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Those are Aaron Rodgers-esque MVP caliber numbers to say the least. Now whether or not Foles is capable of repeating last year's otherworldly productivity remains to be seen, but there's little reason to think he won't effectively manage Kelly's offense (which ranked 4th in points scored a year ago). Backup QB: Mark Sanchez and Michael Vick switched teams this offseason, and the Jets are better for it. Sanchez has always been a guy that looks great in practice, but when the bullets start flying, he falls apart with poor decisions and costly turnovers. Yet, Chip Kelly and his staff saw enough in Sanchez to bring him aboard as Nick Foles safety valve. Matt Barkley returns as the number three, but hasn't shown much to think he'll push for the #2 role in 2014.
Running BacksStarter: LeSean McCoy
Backup(s): Darren Sproles, Chris Polk
Fullback(s): NONE Starting RB: Adrian Peterson may still be the consensus choice for the league's top running back, but LeSean McCoy gives him a run for his money. McCoy, already an All Pro caliber back, thrived under Chip Kelly last year and became the league's most productive runner. McCoy led the league with 314 carries for 1,607 yards and 9 touchdowns, not to mention another 52 receptions for 539 yards and two receiving touchdowns. McCoy led the league in both rushing yards and total yards from scrimmage, and at 26 years old remains in his prime. There's nothing McCoy can't do and he'll be the centerpiece of the Eagles attack this season. Backup RBs: LeSean McCoy is too valuable to overuse, and the Eagles made it a priority to add a complementary weapon to the RB stable in the offseason. Darren Sproles was acquired from the New Orleans Saints and will step into the #2 role held by the departed Bryce Brown (who was traded to Buffalo). Sproles is 31 years old and is no threat to carry the ball much -- averaging 61 carries over seven seasons. But Sproles thrives as a receiver, in fact, he's the only RB other than LeSean McCoy that can lay claim to the best hands at his position. Sproles and McCoy will be on the field together at times, and Sproles will likely spell McCoy on 3rd downs where appropriate. Chris Polk is a more conventional runner and is the odds on favorite to serve as the main between-the-tackles runner in McCoy's absence. Fullback:
Wide ReceiversStarters: Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin
Backups: Jordan Matthews [R], Josh Huff [R], Jeff Maehl, Brad Smith Starting WRs: Riley Cooper's 2013 is almost impossible to believe. Early in the preseason Cooper seemed destined to be cut after racially insensitive comments surfaced. Remember, Cooper hadn't done much in his first three seasons (46 receptions and 5 TDs) and it was unclear whether Cooper had a place in Chip Kelly's offense. An injury to Jeremy Maclin gave Cooper another lease on life, and he delivered with a breakout season as the Eagles deep threat opposite DeSean Jackson. Cooper used his size (6'3", 214 lbs.) to win contested battles downfield, and finished the year with 47 receptions for 835 yards and 8 touchdowns. Cooper has a place in Kelly's offense, but his skill set doesn't project for significant growth beyond what we saw last year. Jeremy Maclin returns from a torn ACL last preseason and is playing on a one-year, $5.5 million deal. The fact the Eagles were willing to give $5.5 million to Maclin in spite of missing the entire season speaks volumes. Maclin has the all-around game, particularly after the catch, to dominate in Kelly's system, but he too must deliver a career best season in order to justify the Eagles' decision to let DeSean Jackson walk. Backup WRs: Jordan Matthews, the Eagles first round choice, will play early. Neither Eagles starter has ever had a 1,000-yard receiving season and there's a gaping hole in the route tree with DeSean Jackson gone. Unfortunately for Matthews' many talents, replacing DeSean as an outside threat isn't among them. Footballguys' own Matt Waldman explained it best in his Rookie Scouting Portfolio: "Matthews looks like the type of receiver who will make plays down field on play-action passes where heís featured on deep crosses, posts, or double moves. However, he's not going to straight-up beat corners in the league with pure deep speed. Where Matthews is consistent with getting good depth on short and intermediate routes, his breaks often have too many steps. While I saw Matthews work through press coverage on isolated plays on tape, he consistently struggled doing the same thing at Senior Bowl practices." Josh Huff is a mighty mite (5'11", 206 lbs.) that played at Oregon. He seems better suited for a special teams role as a rookie, but his connection to Kelly's collegiate days may open the door for more. Brad Smith rounds out the unit but will make his mark primarily on special teams.
Tight EndsStarters: Brent Celek, Zach Ertz
Backups: James Casey, Trey Burton [R] Brent Celek and Zach Ertz combined for 68 receptions, 971 yards and 10 touchdowns last season and will provide Nick Foles a dynamic one-two punch yet again. Celek, the veteran, was thought to be a poor fit in Chip Kelly's move offense but enjoyed a career best 15.7 yards per carry. Ertz' numbers may not have been eye-popping, but his snaps and role increased steadily over his rookie season, and his first year stats project well against other elite NFL tight ends. Ertz has star-making potential this year, while Celek will provide solid blocking and depth.
Place KickerCody Parkey: Cody Parkey, obtained in an August trade with the Colts, outlasted Alex Henery and will enter the season as the Eagles placekicker. He'll be working with the returning co-specialists - long snapper Jon Dorenbos and holder/punter Donnie Jones, who was re-signed to a 3-year deal. The Eagles have been relatively consistent in attempted kicking points the past three years, ranking 20th, 24th and 20th.
Kick and Punt ReturnersKick Returners: Josh Huff [R], Nolan Carroll, Darren Sproles, Nelson Agholor Last year there was speculation that newly acquired Darren Sproles might handle both punt and kick returns. Sproles saw only one kickoff return, the rest mostly split between Josh Huff and Chris Polk. The departure of Polk and Huff's 29.6 yard average and 1 kickoff return touchdown make Huff the favorite going into 2015. Nolan Carrol should have a chance to move into the backup position though could be tested by other players in preseason. Punt Returners: Darren Sproles, Nelson Agholor [R] When the Eagles drafted receiver and punt returner Nelson Agholor, there was speculation that the rookie might take over punt returns. Coach Chip Kelly quickly put that to rest and indicated Sproles will continue to handle punt returns with Agholor as a highly regarded backup. Kelly said, "If Darren has to come off the field, you feel like you have another guy, and you're trotting [number] 1 and 1-A out there."
Offensive LineProjected Starters: LT Jason Peters, LG Evan Mathis, C Jason Kelce, RG Todd Herremans, RT Lane Johnson
Key Backups: G/T Allen Barbre, T Matt Tobin, C Julian Venderwelde, T Dennis Kelly, T Michael Bamiro, C David Molk The Eagles begin the season as one of the top ranked lines in all of football. They return all five starters at all five positions, which is great for cohesion. In addition, two of their five starters made the most recent All-Pro team, a statement which no other line in the league can currently boast. At left tackle, Jason Peters has fully regained his form, after missing all of 2012 with a torn Achilles. During the second half of last season, Peters was unstoppable in run blocking and a dancing bear in pass protection. Next to him, left guard Evan Mathis is also coming off an outstanding season, especially in run blocking. These two players together create an almost automatic pathway for tailback LeSean McCoy. Center Jason Kelce made headlines this offseason for supporting the teamís release of Desean Jackson. But Kelce is good for more than just quotes, as he has rounded into one of the better centers in the league. Kelce is underrated nationally but local fans are aware of his value to the team. If the line has a weak spot it could be right guard Todd Herremans. A converted tackle, Herremans can sometimes play high and lose leverage. Still he is a solid player, and the team probably doesnít need to replace him right away. Right tackle Lane Johnson had an excellent rookie season and he has exhibited the athleticism to possibly move over and replace Peters, down the road. In terms of depth, Allen Barbre is likely the first player off the bench at every position but center. The coaching staff seems to really trust this player. Julian Vanderwelde and David Molk will likely battle for the backup center position, and there will be a similar competition between Dennis Kelly, Matt Tobin, and Michael Bamiro for backup tackle. Overall this is an excellent line, with tons of experience. They are dominant in the run and are a strength of the football team.
Team DefenseThe Eagles have a defense that's going to be on the field a ton, often with the other team in catch up mode. They have a young talented defensive line whose production is limited only by scheme. There's also a lot of talent in the LB corps with some of it not fully realized (Kendricks) and some of it starting to fade (Cole). This team should still be able to get after the quarterback, especially if they could get a little more help from their secondary. The problem is there just isn't a lot of upside in the secondary. They unit isn't awful but there's not much reason to think it will be considerably better than 2013. Unless it is this defense is again going to give up some big numbers from time to time.
Defensive LineStarters: DE Fletcher Cox, DE Cedric Thornton, NT Bennie Logan
Backups: DE Vinny Curry, DE Taylor Hart, DE Brandon Bair, NT Damion Square, NT Beau Allen [R] Starting DL: The Eagles have two of the more talented young 3-4 starting defensive ends in football in Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton. After a solid rookie season, we saw a dip in Cox' fantasy production in 2013. The decline wasn't altogether surprising given the Eagles switch to a 3-4 scheme last year. That said, Cox' on-the-field play continued to be quite strong especially for a young player in a new scheme. There's no reason to think his development won't continue. In terms of run defense, opposite end Cedric Thornton was perhaps even better than Cox garnering 58 total tackles in his first full season as a starter. Last year's 3rd round draft selection Bennie Logan fills out the starting front three at nose tackle and did a fine job in his inaugural NFL season. Backup DL: Although the new regime hasn't played him very much, former second-round pick Vinny Curry is probably the top backup at defensive end. Nose tackle Damion Square was forced into a heavier role after the Eagles traded Isaac Sopoaga in late October and it becomes obvious he wasn't capable of handling said workload as his play diminished dramatically as the season progressed. That said, the Eagles used their last draft pick on Wisconsin prospect Beau Allen who will help shoulder some of that load. The other rookie defensive lineman selected was Taylor Hart out of Oregon. It's no surprise he was selected given the obvious connection to Chip Kelly. The 3-4 scheme run in Oregon closely resembles the one currently installed in Philadelphia. This scheme familiarity should help Hart carve out an early role for himself at least in a backup capacity.
LinebackersStarters: ILB Mychal Kenricks, ILB DeMeco Ryans, OLB Connor Barwin, OLB Trent Cole
Backups: ILB Najee Goode, ILB Jason Phillips, ILB Jake Knott (suspended), ILB Emmanuel Acho, ILB Casey Matthews, OLB Brandon Graham, OLB Marcus Smith [R], OLB Phillip Hunt, OLB Bryan Braman, OLB Joe Kruger, OLB Travis Long, OLB Josh Kaddu Starting LBs: Mychal Kendricks had an underwhelming rookie season in 2012 as the speed of the NFL seemed to be a bit much for him at times. He showed similar signs during the early part of last season, but eventually turned a corner in the middle of the year as he started to play more consistently and showed flashes of true playmaker potential. The Eagles fast paced offense is going to put them near the top of the NFL in tackle opportunity (they were #1 last year) which opens up the door for Kendricks to have a monster season in the box scores if he can carry over that consistency into 2014. DeMeco Ryans had a bit of a career resurgence in Philadelphia posting his best numbers since his rookie season back in 2006 and finishing in the top 10 in fantasy points. Despite both players heavy presence on the stat sheet, the writing is on the wall in terms of who is the future at the position. Anticipate a changing of the guard in 2014 with Kendricks becoming the dominant linebacker in Philly and Ryans settling back down into a steady but not spectacular veteran role. Trent Cole and Connor Barwin provide the pass-rushing presence on the team. After struggling to adjust to a stand up role in 2012, Trent Cole was able to move forward and put up near double digit sacks and once again become the reliable pass-rushing presence the Eagles were in desperate need of. Connor Barwin was particularly good against the run but needs to find ways to get the quarterback at a more consistent rate as he only registered five sacks year ago. Backup LBs: The Eagles failed to add at the inside linebacker position via the draft or free agency, which may present a problem if DeMeco Ryans has issues playing near 1,200 snaps again this season. Outside of Najee Goode (who played well when called upon last season), the Eagles don't have much to rely on, especially considering Jake Knott is suspended for the first four games of the season. The Eagles did use their first round selection on DE/OLB Marcus Smith out of Louisville. Although perhaps a reach on the organization's part, he fills a need for the Eagles on the outside and is a good fit for the Eagles defense. He'll likely split snaps with both Connor Barwin and Trent Cole to start the season. Before the Eagles switched to a 3-4 defense under defensive coordinator Billy Davis last year, Brandon Graham was seen in many circles a breakout defensive end candidate. However, as often happens with scheme changes, Graham is now severely miscast as a stand up rusher and his value has consequently been abated. There's potential he gets traded at some point during this season.
Defensive BacksStarters: CB Bradley Fletcher, CB Cary Williams, SS Earl Wolff, FS Malcolm Jenkins
Backups: CB Brandon Boykin (KR), CB Nolan Carroll, CB Jaylen Watkins [R], CB Roc Carmichael, CB Curtis Marsh, SS Nate Allen, S Chris Maragos, S Keelan Johnson, S Ed Reynolds [R], S Daytawion Lowe Starting DBs: Even though they allowed more yards in the air than any other defense in 2013, the Eagles did very little to change the core of their secondary this offseason. Free agent safety Malcolm Jenkins was brought in to replace the oft-injured Patrick Chung, but outside of that the starting DBs are exactly the same as in 2013. Earl Wolff had the opportunity to start right off the bat with veteran Pat Chung on the shelf due to injury. However, Wolff was snake bite with an injury of his own mid-season that caused him to miss the remainder of the year. Now back healthy, Wolff will look to pick up where he left off in 2013. There is some nice fantasy upside with the Philadelphia strong safety position. 70-80 solo tackles out of the 2nd year player out of North Carolina State is a reasonable high-end projection expectation. Cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams are both dependable options at the position but aren't world-beaters. Backup DBs: Brandon Boykin is perhaps the team's best corner, playing out of the slot. He also serves as the team's kick returner on occasion. Outside of Boykin, a few second-tier free agents such as Nolan Carrol were added for competition. The Eagles waited until the 4th and 5th rounds of the draft before selecting CB/S Jaylen Watkins and safety Ed Reynolds. Watkins has the speed and athleticism that Chip Kelly likes and he should eventually develop into a solid nickel and special-teams contributor. Opinions on Reynolds, on the other hand, greatly differ. Apparently Kelly and crew value his experience in Stanford's NFL-like defensive scheme. He could wind up filling a need, but more than likely won't ever be fantasy-relevant. Last modified: 2015-05-10 20:18:27