After an offseason full of spending, Vince Young proclaimed the 2011 Eagles the “Dream Team.” However, thanks to turnovers, struggles in close games, and general lack of continuity caused by the lockout, that “Dream Team” went just 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Heading into 2012, expectations were still high. After all, they had plenty of talent. Their continuity issues would likely be solved by a full offseason together and their record in close games and poor turnover differential were both things that are generally inconsistent on a year to year basis. Their final 4 games of the 2011 season, in which they outscored opponents 125-46, gave them plenty of hope. Many people expected them to be even as much as a Super Bowl sleeper and quarterback Michael Vick even went as far as to say that they were looking to become a “dynasty.”
The Eagles gave new meaning to the word dynasty in 2012, going 4-12. It was an everything that could go wrong did go wrong year for the Eagles. Several veterans declined faster than expected, while several others quit on Head Coach Andy Reid, and some may have even done both. Either way, they did not live up to their expected levels of talent. One such player was Michael Vick, who had his worst season as a pro in 2012, before getting injured and benched for 3rd round rookie Nick Foles. Foles showed flashes, but didn’t have much of a chance to prove himself behind an offseason line that lost three 2011 starters to injury and had other one benched for ineffectiveness. Andy Reid has been fired after 14 seasons at the helm and whoever takes over for him will take over a roster with proven veterans and some intriguing young talent, but also major questions, major decisions, and, as always, major expectations.
Michael Vick will almost definitely not be back at his scheduled salary of 15.5 million in 2013. Early in the season, there was a lot of speculation that Vick would be cut after the Super Bowl unless the Eagles made the playoffs. They were far from them and Vick was even benched down the stretch for Nick Foles. Meanwhile, Andy Reid, the man who brought Vick to town, has been fired and, so Vick has lost his biggest supporter. The only way he’s back is if the Eagles hire Chip Kelly, who may want Vick to run his option style offense and even only then if Vick agrees to a significant pay cut. He still seems to think of himself as a franchise quarterback so that’s unlikely.
Nick Foles will be back, but it’s unclear in what form. The early guesses seem to be that he’ll be back as the starter, after completing 60.8% of his passes for an average of 6.4 YPA and 6 touchdowns to 5 interceptions in relief of Vick. This isn’t a strong quarterback market both in the draft and in free agency and trades, so the Eagles may want to just see what they have with him. At the same time, the man who drafted him is gone and he was just a mere 3rd round pick. With a few notable exceptions, non-1st round pick quarterbacks rarely pan out in this league. There’s almost always a good reason they fall. A quarterback will be an option for the Eagles at #4 overall, but there’s a lot to be determined between now and then, including who the coach will be.
A quarterback will be an option for the Eagles at #4, but offensive tackle Luke Joeckel is the overwhelming favorite early. Left tackle Jason Peters’ season was done before it even started, after he tore his Achilles in March, and right tackle Todd Herremans joined him on IR about halfway into the season. Demetress Bell, who was signed to replace Peters, was horrific this year and was benched for King Dunlap, who wasn’t any better. Meanwhile, Dennis Kelly took over for Herremans at right tackle and also struggled. That trio was a big part of the reason why the Eagles ranked 24th in the league in pass block efficiency.
When healthy, the Eagles were better in this area in 2011, ranking 15th in pass block efficiency, but at the very least, they need better insurance for their two tackles coming off major injuries. It might sound weird to use the 4th overall pick on just some insurance, but even if Peters and Herremans can both return as starters next season, they can still use Joeckel at tackle and move Herremans into his natural position at guard, which is also a need of theirs.
The Eagles used 2nd round picks on safeties in back-to-back years in 2010 and 2011, but that didn’t work out. Jaiquawn Jarrett, drafted in 2011, only lasted a season and was cut before this season, a ridiculously short timeframe for a 2nd round pick to be with the team that drafted him. Nate Allen was better, but only because he’s still on the roster. However, he was benched down the stretch for the undersized Colt Anderson, who really struggled in run support in limited action. Meanwhile, Kurt Coleman, who replaced Jarrett next to Allen, had an even worse year this year than Allen. They ranked 84th and 85th out of 88 eligible safeties on ProFootballFocus. They need at least one new starter at the position, maybe two.
Remember how the Eagles’ had that great trio of cornerbacks on their “Dream Team?” Yeah, that didn’t work out. Asante Samuel was traded to the Falcons for a 7th round pick this offseason because of his age, salary, and his poor fit on the slot and in the Eagles’ new coverage scheme (he ironically had a very good year for the Falcons this year). Meanwhile, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent this offseason, while Nnamdi Asomugha aged very fast. Owed 15 million dollars in 2013, his age 32 season, only 4 million of which is guaranteed, Asomugha could easily be cut this offseason. If both Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha return as starters for the Eagles in 2013, they could be in some trouble as the Eagles ranked 26th in the NFL against the pass this season, though their safeties deserve a lot of the blame.
Earlier I mentioned that guard was also a need for the Eagles. Danny Watkins was Andy Reid’ 2nd to last 1st round draft pick and he was probably his worst. 26 years old on draft day, the Eagles drafted him in the 1st round, well ahead of where he was projected, with the expectation that he would be one of the better players in the NFL at his position from the word go. Instead, he was one of the worst, even getting benched this season for journeyman Jake Scott, who was signed midseason. With Reid gone, this organization has no loyalty to him so he might not be back at all, let alone as a starter. If the Eagles draft Joeckel, Herremans can play guard if he and Jason Peters are both healthy, but that’s a big if.
Maybe Danny Watkins can play center. Like Jason Peters and Todd Herremans, center Jason Kelce went down for the season with an injury this year, but unlike Peters and Herremans, he wasn’t even good when healthy. In fact, only 2 centers graded out worse than him in 2011. Kelce was a mere 6th round pick of the old regime who has never been a good starting center in the NFL so the new regime may opt to replace him.
There was one good thing about this season for the Eagles: big trade acquisition DeMeco Ryans lived up to his billing and solidified the middle linebacker position. However, rookie Mychal Kendricks did not do the same outside, as only one 4-3 outside linebacker graded out worse than him on ProFootballFocus. He was a mere rookie and where he was drafted should get him another shot, but they need competition. Meanwhile, Akeem Jordan and Jamar Chaney split snaps at the 3rd linebacker position, but neither played very well, so they could use a better 3rd linebacker.
The Eagles ranked 28th in the NFL in kickoff return average.