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2013 NFL Team Previews, NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles - 4th

by Shasky Clarke on Aug. 21, 2013

 

2013 NFL Team Previews, NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles - 4th

 

OFFENSE

 

Quarterback:

Replacing longtime offensive guru Andy Reid is Chip Kelly, a hot young coach with an unconventional  offensive vision. When executed properly, Kelly's offense is seemingly unstoppable, presenting too many options for the defense to pay attention to and stop. The Eagles have multiple quarterbacks vying for the starting job and it looks like the team is going with veteran Michael Vick.

Vick is a big armed passer with quickness in the pocket and the speed to be a dangerous rushing option. If there was never a pass rush, Vick would be a top ten passer in the league. Unfortunately, Vick isn't as good having to quickly going through progressions and making good decisions. He is only 6'0” and this makes the game more difficult for him to consistently master the game inside the pocket. Vick has also been injury-prone over the past couple years, dealing with multiple head injuries.

Nick Foles should get an opportunity to take the starting job later in the season. At 6'5” 240, Foles is a prototypical pocket passer with excellent arm talent and ability to be accurate even under pressure. A smart quarterback, he just about matched Vick in overall performance as a rookie last year. In limited action in the preseason, he seemed capable enough, if not dynamic, to run some of Kelly's unique option plays. Behind Foles should be rookie 4th Rounder Matt Barkley, a hyper-productive college quarterback excelling at accuracy, touch and overall mechanics. He lacks a rocket arm and showed some propensity to force passes, but he is talented and could eventually be an NFL starter.

 

Running Back:

The Eagles have one of the best backfields in the NFL, led by LeSean McCoy. McCoy may be the most elusive running back in the game, terrorizing defenses with his cutbacks and start-stop moves in the open field. He has great hands as well and should be the biggest threat defenses have to worry about on this offense. Behind him, second-year Bryce Brown showcased his terrific talent as an unheralded rookie while McCoy was out. Brown provides more bulk at over 220 pounds and has game breaking speed, but did add to the team's turnover issues with his fumbling. Chris Polk and former first-round pick Felix Jones round out the group. Polk is a no-nonsense pounder between the tackles and Jones is a faster, experienced option with good ball skills.

 

Wide Receiver:

Unlike the quarterbacks and running backs, the wide receivers lack much talent and depth heading into 2013. Out with a season-ending knee injury is leading receiver Jeremy Maclin. The constants are veterans Desean Jackson, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper. Though diminutive, Jackson is one of the fastest players in the league and combines that with good hands to be a consistently terrifying deep threat. Avant is one the top few most reliable slot receivers. He, however, lacks dynamic athleticism or open field running skills. 6'3” Cooper brings good size and athleticism but has been largely unproductive as a complementary guy on the outside. Arrelious Benn was supposed to bring more physicality and open field ability but also went down with a season-ending injury. The guy to watch here is the explosive 5'7” 175-pound Damaris Johnson, a guy who could be a productive space player in this offense in multiple positions. Further, Ifeanyi Momah is a raw,  6'7” 240-pound speedster who needs to show that the unlucky injuries in his past haven't sapped his effectiveness on the field.

 

Tight End:

The Eagles tight end spot should one of the most productive groups in the NFL. Returning is experienced veteran Brent Celek, a tough, high-volume target with some seam stretching ability and great size at 6'4” 255. Incoming rookie Zach Ertz is the guy to watch, however. Ertz is a fast and explosive weapon with great hands and could eventually be a part of the elite crop of tight ends in the league. Behind them are fourth-year athletes James Casey and Clay Harbor. Neither are inline guys or elite talents but both have the athleticism to present mismatch problems for defenses.

 

Offensive Line:

Through all the uncertainty that exists on the Eagles roster, fans can find elation in what should be the best offensive line in the league. Jason Peters returns after an Achilles' injury that put a pause in the career of what was the league's best left tackle. At the other tackle will be impressive top five pick Lane Johnson, a long and physical athletically gifted lineman. Inside, 6'5” Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans return. Mathis, in particular had a great year in 2012. Assuming healthy, the Eagles lack any significant weakness across their line and should be significantly improved in pass protection with the insertion of Peters and Johnson as bookends.

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Best Offensive Rookie – OT Lane Johnson

Best Offensive Second-Year Player – QB Nick Foles

2014 Draft Offensive Position of Need – Wide Receiver

2014 Draft Offensive Suggestion – WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

 

DEFENSE

 

Defensive Line:

Philadelphia is moving to a 3-4 look on defense and they have the pieces to succeed on the defensive line. The issue will be defending the interior run game. At end, athletic Cedric Thornton and Fletcher Cox lead the charge as disruptive starters, even if they aren't best versus the power run game.  Similar players, both guys are plus athletes who excel at penetrating and making plays in the backfield. Thornton, in particular, has flashed as a natural fit, though Cox had 5.5 sacks in 2012. Coming in at nose tackle is veteran clogger Isaac Sopoaga. Sopoaga isn't Haloti Ngata but should temporarily fill in as an interior anchor for the run defense. Behind him, Antonio Dixon has flashed the ability be a handful as an interior playmaker, but msut be more consistent.

 

Outside Linebacker:

The Eagles also have the talent at outside linebacker to get pressure from both sides. After five seasons of nine sacks or more, Trent Cole only notched three sacks in a disappointing 2012 season. Cole still has the athleticism and ability to be a premier rusher but he's an x-factor in the resurgence of the Eagles defense. Opposite him will be new addition Connor Barwin, a very athletic and productive rushing linebacker. The guy to watch is fourth-year Brandon Graham, a LaMarr Woodley clone from Michigan who tallied 5.5 sacks in his return from a severe knee injury. 

 

Linebacker:

Inside lies the lone dependable group on the defensive unit. DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks are one of the best interior duos in the league. With good size, range and tackling ability, both should be on the field at all times. The veteran Ryans led the team in tackles and made plays with 14 tackles for loss. Kendricks has terrific speed and size for the position and flashed his physicality. Their effectiveness will rely in large part on the defensive line in front of them. Behind them, Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews return having gotten starting experience.

 

Cornerback:

The biggest weakness on the defense is the cornerback position where Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were allowed to leave. The team brought in Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, two big corners who should be liabilities on the outside, especially in space. The high upside guy is second-year Brandon Boykin. Boykin is an excellent athlete who has been the most impressive of the group. Early on, he may start in the nickel, but he has the upside to usurp one of the outside guys and upgrade the unit.

 

Safety:

The Eagles targeted safety as a need position and added some talented players. Returning are the physical and productive Kurt Coleman as well as Nate Allen. Coleman was the second leading tackler and flashed his playmaking ability with two interceptions. Allen wasn't as good returning from his own season-ending injury, failing to record an interception and being a victim of confusion in the back end too many times. In comes Pat Chung and Kenny Phillips. Both have struggled with some injuries, but when they've been healthy, they have shown the versatility and talent to be two of the best starting safeties in the league. The guy to watch, if he gets an opportunity, is late round rookie Earl Wolff. Wolff is an underrated playmaker with speed and good hitting ability.

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Best Defensive Rookie – S Earl Wolff

Best Defensive Second-Year Player – DE Fletcher Cox

2014 Draft Defensive Position of Need – Cornerback

2014 Draft Defensive Suggestion – CB Louchiez Purifoy, Florida