Philadelphia Eagles 2013 NFL Season Preview

Introduction

The Eagles dubbed themselves the “Dream Team” after a “strong” off-season coming out of the lockout in 2011. Among the additions were Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cullen Jenkins, and Jason Babin. However, the team never lived up to expectations, going just 8-8 in 2011. Asomugha got old in a hurry, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie struggled on the slot, and while, Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin got to the quarterback a lot, their defensive line as a whole got destroyed against the run. That wasn’t helped by terrible linebacker and safety play. On top of that, they struggled mightily in close games, lost the turnover battle at an incredible rate, and were poorly coached, especially defensively where Juan Castillo was promoted to defensive coordinator from OFFENSIVE line coach.

In 2012, hopes were higher. They had a whole off-season together. They closed 2011 well. And history suggested that they wouldn’t be as bad in close games or lose the turnover battle as badly. After a week 4 win against the Giants, they stood at 3-1, giving them 7 wins in 8 games dating back to the previous season, but they would win just once more the rest of the way. Injuries on the offensive line to Jason Peters and Todd Herremans really hurt them and veterans Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie, Jenkins, Babin, and Trent Cole all struggled. Juan Castillo did not improve in his 2nd year in the job and the team tuned out to Head Coach Andy Reid’s message.

They also once again struggled mightily with turnovers, turning the ball over 37 times and forcing just 13 takeaways for a differential of -24 that was tied for the worst in the NFL. It’s tough to win any games when you do that. However, that should turn around in 2012. Not only did they do a good job of personnel and coaching staff turnover, that type of thing is inconsistent on a year-to-year basis anyway.

For example, teams with 20 or fewer turnovers on average turn the ball over 25.5 times the following season, while teams that turn the ball over 35 or more times turn the ball over 28.1 times the following season. Teams with 20 or fewer takeaways take the ball away an average of 25.3 times the following season, while teams with 35 or more takeaways take the ball away an average of 27.3 times the following season. Teams with a turnover differential of +15 or higher have a turnover differential of +3.6 the following season, while teams with a turnover differential of -15 have a turnover differential of +1.5 the following season.

Fumbles were the biggest issue for the Eagles as they lost 22 fumbles to 5 recovered defensively. They should improve on their 35.1% fumble recovery rate from 2012. That’s more luck than anything. Of course, they’ll never dominate the turnover battle or anything, as long as turnover machine Michael Vick is under center and they also have Bryce Brown, who might have the least fundamentally sound running style in the NFL. However, they’ll do much better that -24 in 2013 and that will lead to more wins. On top of that, Jason Peters and Todd Herremans returning from injury on the offensive line will really help.

Quarterback

Everyone remembers that ridiculous Madden-esque game Vick had against the Redskins in the 2010 season, but in the past 2 seasons in 2011 and 2012, he’s completed 457 of 774 (59.1%) for 5665 yards (7.2 YPA), 30 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions, while rushing for 921 yards and 2 touchdowns on 138 carries, while fumbling 21 total times. He’s also running less often than he’s ever run.

Michael Vick was never going to age well. He’s way too reliant on athleticism. While quarterbacks playing at a high level into their mid and late 30s isn’t unheard of, running backs and wide receivers doing so is pretty rare. There’s a reason for that and as Vick aged and lost some of his athleticism, it was predictable he’d struggle, especially after spending 2 years away from the game in prison. Injuries don’t help things. Vick has played all 16 games just once in his career and has missed 13 games in the last 3 years alone. Not only does that make him incredibly unreliable going forward, all those injuries have really taken a toll on him.

Andy Reid made him look better than he was, just like he did with Kevin Kolb, AJ Feeley, Donovan McNabb, etc, but even Reid couldn’t do anything with him last year as Vick had his worst quarterback rating since 2006 and the 4th fewest rushing yards of his career (behind his rookie year, when he barely played, 2003, when he missed 11 games with injury, and 2009, his first year in Philadelphia, when he barely played). There’s a reason Reid gave up on him last season, keeping him on the bench in favor of the rookie Nick Foles even when Vick was healthy and not allowing Vick to see the field until week 17, when he lost 42-7 to the Giants in the absence of an injured Foles. Going into his age 33 season, Vick is pretty washed up.

The Eagles brought back him for another season for two reasons. One, this was a historically bad quarterback draft and, aside from trading for Alex Smith, which they didn’t have interest in, there wasn’t another option to find a starting quarterback this off-season. Vick isn’t very good, but he’s still one of the top-32 quarterbacks in the NFL and deserves a starting job for that reason. Two, he is an incredibly intriguing fit in Chip Kelly’s offense and if anyone can salvage his career, it’s Kelly.

Vick won’t be handed the starting job though. He will have to compete with Nick Foles and Matt Barkley and the Eagles are doing a very good job of hiding their intentions in all phases of the game this off-season. Foles was a 3rd round pick in 2012 and, as a rookie, he completed 60.8% of his passes for an average of 6.4 YPA, 6 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. However, he was a much better fit for Andy Reid’s offense than for Chip Kelly’s. While Kelly has expressed admiration for the quarterback he used to face in the Pac-12, he has no other ties to him and, with his lead feet, lack of pocket presence, and long release, he’s doesn’t do the things that are the fundamentals of any Chip Kelly offense.

Matt Barkley is a 4th round rookie and he could be an intriguing choice. Barkley doesn’t have the mobility that Kelly likes, but that’s not a necessity. He’s an accurate, smart quarterback with a quick release and quick decision making ability. Kelly wants to run 75-80 plays per game and a quarterback who can move the chains, make quick audibles, and run quick plays will really help you do that. He’s the only quarterback on this roster drafted by Kelly and, while he has his flaws, he’s certainly got strengths that Kelly can build around. And on top of that, remember that their offensive coordinator is Pat Shurmur, whose system Barkley would fit perfectly. Kelly is going to have a lot more influence on the offense than Shurmur, but his presence is worth noting.

Vick is the favorite for the job, but not guaranteed to win it. If he doesn’t win the job, he might not even make the final roster. In that case, the Eagles may see the 3.5 million they gave him as a signing bonus as a sunk cost and cut him to save the 4 million he’ll be guaranteed if he’s on the week 1 roster. That wouldn’t be worth it for the Eagles if he’s not going to start and if they don’t need a backup.

Even if Vick does win the starting job, I expect this to be his final season with the Eagles (maybe in the NFL) and we’ll probably still see Foles and/or Barkley either way because of Vick’s injury history. As I mentioned, Vick has played all 16 games just once in his career and has missed 13 games in the last 3 years alone. As he ages, he’ll only be more susceptible to injuries, especially if he runs more in Chip Kelly’s offense. There’s a lot of certainty at this position and it’s really going to hold them back this season.

Grade: C+

Offensive Line

I mentioned in the opening that the Eagles lost their two starting offensive tackles last season. Jason Peters was the bigger loss. Easily ProFootballFocus’ top ranked offensive tackle in 2011, Peters didn’t play a snap in 2012 after tearing his Achilles twice in the pre-season. Demetress Bell laughably attempted to replace him, but he graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 3rd worst offensive tackle in 2012 despite only making 7 starts. King Dunlap took over after that and was better, but only by default. Peters will be an obvious upgrade even in his age 31 season as long as he can stay healthy and if he can reach even close to his 2011 form, he’ll be a huge asset for this team. His athleticism makes him an especially good fit for Chip Kelly’s offense.

Herremans played 7 ½ games for the Eagles last season before he went down for the season and he played really well at right tackle, grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 29th ranked offensive tackle despite the limited playing time. In his absence, Dennis Kelly filled in and was also laughable in this attempt, grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 70th ranked offensive tackle out of 80 eligible despite his limited playing time.

He returns this season and will move back to his natural position at right guard, which will help him as he goes into his age 31 season. He’ll be a huge upgrade there over the Danny Watkins/Jake Scott combination that played there last season. Watkins was a huge bust as a 1st round pick in 2011, struggling mightily in about a year and a half as a starter before being benched for Jake Scott, who was signed off the street mid-season. He wasn’t much better.

Meanwhile, in Herremans’ old right tackle spot, rookie 4th overall pick Lane Johnson will start. He’s obviously got a ton of upside and, like Peters, he’s going to be a great fit in Chip Kelly’s offense because of his absurd athleticism, but he’s really raw so there will be growing pains in his first season. He’ll be an upgrade over Dennis Kelly though. The Eagles are essentially adding three big time “additions” to the offensive line this off-season and all 3 will be major upgrades.

Complimenting that trio will be Evan Mathis at left guard, who played all of last season and was the lone bright spot on the offensive line. He’s arguably the best guard in the NFL, grading out as ProFootballFocus’ #1 ranked guard in each of the last 2 seasons by a considerable margin, allowing just 1 sack total and plowing open big holes on the ground with regularity.

The only hole on the offensive line is center, where Jason Kelce also returns from injury. Kelce was ProFootballFocus’ 33rd ranked center out of 35 eligible in 2011 as a 6th round rookie and while he looked good to start the 2012 season, he played just 138 snaps before going on injured reserve with a knee injury. The undersized 282 pound Kelce is a good fit for Chip Kelly’s offense because of his athleticism, so we’ll see how he plays this season, and he probably will be an upgrade over Dallas Reynolds, who was ProFootballFocus’ 34th ranked center out of 36 eligible in 2012. If he’s your worst offensive lineman, you’re in pretty good shape.

This should be a much improved offensive line. In 2012, they ranked 6th in run blocking grade, 26th in pass blocking grade, and 24th in pass block efficiency. In 2011, they ranked 4th, 14th, and 15th respectively in those 4 measures. In 2013, they should be much closer to where they were in 2011 than where they were in 2012 and they could even be improved on 2011. One thing that’s very good to see: they have one of the most, if not the most, athletic offensive lines in the NFL. That’s what they need to run this offense.

Grade: A-

Running Backs

I mentioned Bryce Brown’s propensity to fumbling in the opening. Brown fumbled 4 times on 128 touches last season and his atrocious running style is to blame. It was almost as if he had never watched another running back play because I’ve never seen anyone run with the football in the careless way he did. It’s very possible that Brown suffered from a severe lack of coaching as he spent one season at Tennessee in 2009, one at Kansas State ineligible after transferring in 2010, and then left the Kansas State program early in the 2011 season before declaring early for the draft in 2012. To his credit, he did seem to correct the problem shown the stretch, not fumbling in his final 4 games.

Brown was the #1 rated high school running back prospect, but he had just 104 collegiate carries because the aforementioned story. The Eagles took a risk on his natural talent in the 7th round of the 2012 NFL Draft and it was a smart decision. A 7th rounder is barely anything to lose and with the exception of the fumbling issue, Brown looked incredibly explosive as a rookie, taking over down the stretch for an injured LeSean McCoy. He rushed for 564 yards and 4 touchdowns on 115 carries and caught 13 passes for 56 yards. He had 2 very impressive starts against Carolina and Dallas, rushing for 347 yards and 4 touchdowns on 43 attempts, but fumbled 3 times in those 2 games. He didn’t fumble the rest of the way, but rushed for just 76 yards on 40 carries in those final 4 games.

Andy Reid and his pass heavy offense are gone and Chip Kelly figures to have his offense run the ball a lot. Also, Kelly favors a two back approach much more than Reid, who preferred to have one back do everything. Brown will get plenty of action as the #2 back behind LeSean McCoy. He’ll spell him often and occasionally he might line up on the field at the same time as McCoy.

McCoy, however, will remain the starter. McCoy had a very solid stretch from 2010-2011, missing just 2 games and rushing for 2389 yard and 24 touchdowns on 480 carries, with 126 catches for 907 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. He looked like one of the best and most complete backs in the NFL. However, in 2012, he struggled along with the rest of the Eagles’ offense, rushing for just 840 yards on 200 carries, catching 54 passes for 373 yards and scoring just 5 total times, only twice on the ground. He also missed 4 games with injury. He should bounce back this year. He will see at least double Brown’s carries and both backs are good fits for Chip Kelly’s speed based offense.

Grade: A-

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Wide Receivers/Tight End

In addition to McCoy and Brown getting a bunch of carries, wide receiver DeSean Jackson could also see carries. Jackson has rushed just 54 times in his career in 5 seasons, going for 371 yards and 3 touchdowns, but he could see that number increase this season as he’s expected to be used somewhat in that DeAnthony Thomas role. He won’t get a ton of carries, but the Eagles will do a lot of things to get the ball in his hands because of his speed. He’ll probably also see more short throws and screens than he normally does, as they attempt to get him the ball in space, and could easily surpass his career high 62 receptions, though he probably won’t reach his career 17.5 yards per reception average.

He’s got great long speed and great short area agility, but he’s not a great route runner and he doesn’t go over the middle well. In 71 career games, he’s caught 274 passes for 4785 yards and 23 touchdowns, but he’s only once played all 16 games in 5 seasons, missing 9 games total, including the final 5 games of last season. Because of the missed time with injury, he caught just 45 passes for 700 yards and 2 touchdowns last season.

His complement, Jeremy Maclin, is also fast, but he’s a better route runner. The 2009 1st round pick has never had a 1000 yard season, but he’s been very close in all 4 seasons and he’s caught 258 passes for 3453 yards and 26 touchdowns in 59 career games. Like Jackson, he’s only played all 16 games once, missing 5 games total, and he should get close to 1000 yards again. One of the draws to Philadelphia for Chip Kelly had to have been how many speedy players they have on offense, at all positions.

Jason Avant isn’t that speedy, but he’s a good slot receiver, who has caught 156 passes for 1900 yards and 2 touchdowns in the last 3 seasons in that role. He’ll continue to serve in that role this season, but it’s unclear if he’ll be utilized as much as he has been in the past. He’s heading into his age 30 season and the Eagles figure to use much more two-tight end sets than they have in that past. He’s unlikely to see anywhere near the 727 snaps (482 pass snaps) he’s averaged over the past 3 seasons.

It makes sense that they’d use two-tight ends more often because they plan to run more often. Kelly has certainly signaled a move in that direction with his off-season moves these past few months, drafting Zach Ertz in the 2nd round and signing fullback/tight end James Casey to go with decent incumbent starter Brent Celek. They’ll also throw out of this set to tight ends often because all 3 of those guys can catch passes.

Ertz was known for his pass catching at Stanford, catching 69 passes for 898 yards and 6 touchdowns last season as a starter. The 6-5 249 pounder ran a 4.76 at the Combine and put up 24 reps of 225 pounds. Casey moved all around the formation in Houston last season and figures to do the same again this season in Philadelphia. Primarily a fullback, Casey played 609 snaps last season, which would have led the position had they all been as a traditional fullback. He didn’t block that well, but he led the position in pass catching grade and caught 34 passes for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns. Celek doesn’t block that well either, but he’s averaged 59 catches for 744 passes and 5 touchdowns. Whoever wins the quarterback job will have plenty of guys to throw to.

Grade: B+

Defensive Line

Defensively, the Eagles are switching up schemes in a major way too, going to a 3-4 from a wide nine 4-3, but the problem is their personnel doesn’t fit it well at all. Fletcher Cox remains on the defensive line, converting from a defensive tackle to a 5-technique defensive end. He has the size and athleticism to excel in that position and, coming out of Mississippi State, I thought that would be his best position in the pros. He’ll still play inside some at defensive tackle as the Eagles are expected to use a hybrid scheme with 4-3 under sub packages, but the scheme change will definitely do him some good. He’s also expected to play a fairly full set of snaps as he’s by far the Eagles’ best end after letting go of Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri, and Mike Patterson.

Cox finished the 2012 season as ProFootballFocus’ 18th rated defensive tackle on just 526 snaps, grading out above average as both a run stuffer and a pass rusher. With 4 sacks, 6 hits, and 14 hurries on 303 pass rush snaps, he finished 13th among eligible defensive tackles in pass rush efficiency and he was also 20th in run stop percentage. Even better news for the Eagles, he got better as the season went on, especially as a pass rusher as he had 3 sacks, 4 hits, and 10 hurries in weeks 10-16 (he didn’t play week 17 with injury). He could finish the year as a top-10 five-technique defensive end.

After him, things are pretty bleak on the defensive line. With Jenkins, Landri, and Patterson gone, Cedric Thornton is moving into the starting job opposite Cox after the 2011 undrafted free agent graded out negatively on 406 snaps last season. The Eagles drafted Bennie Logan in the 3rd round but the 6-2 309 pounder is not a natural fit for a 3-4 end position. He’ll serve primarily as a nickel rusher inside next to Cox in 4-3 sub packages, though it’s unclear how much of an impact he can have as a rookie. Thornton, meanwhile, will be a base end and I don’t expect him to play that well.

At nose tackle in base packages, the Eagles have Isaac Sopoaga, signed from the 49ers. However, Sopoaga really struggled in San Francisco on the rare occasions they actually used a nose tackle. He played just 335 snaps for them last season, grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 4th lowest ranked defensive tackle despite the limited snap count, struggling mightily against the run and rushing the passer. Heading into his age 32 season, he’s unlikely to get better.

Grade: C+

Linebackers

The one player who will most negatively be affected by a switch to a 3-4 defense is Brandon Graham. Graham, a 2010 1st round pick, finally was last season and came into his own in a big way. Despite making just 6 starts, he had 7 sacks, 7 hits, and 31 hurries, doing so on 220 pass rush snaps, a pass rush rate of 20.5%. His pass rush efficiency (sacks + .75 hits + .75 hurries per snap * 100) was 17.3 which led his position. For comparison, the next highest player at any position was Cameron Wake at 12.9. He also played the run well and overall graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 2nd ranked 4-3 defensive end despite his limited playing time, only behind Wake.

Graham played so well that the Eagles benched and cut Jason Babin, who had 18 sacks the season before and who was having a decent season. Once Graham took over as a starter for the final 6 games of the season, his play really flourished as he had 5 sacks, 3 hits, and 17 hurries on 131 pass rush snaps, a 19.1% pass rush rate. Graham, however, is a poor fit for a 3-4 defense and because of the scheme change, one of the league’s most promising pass rushers won’t even start this season. The Eagles signed Connor Barwin to a 6-year, 36 million dollar deal to start over him this off-season. Graham figures to only play in sub packages on clear passing downs as a pass rush specialist in a 4-3. That’s an immense waste of his talents. If I were a 4-3 team, I’d give up a 2nd rounder for him in a heartbeat.

Barwin has experience in a 3-4, playing in that scheme in the last 2 seasons in Houston, but he’s nowhere near the pass rusher that Graham was last season, even at his best. The 2009 2nd round pick had 12 sacks in 2011 in his first season as a starter, with 18 hits and 24 hurries on 520 pass rush snaps, a solid 10.4% pass rush rate, but he struggled against the run and overall wasn’t as good as the raw numbers suggested. He graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 19th ranked 3-4 outside linebacker out of 28 eligible.

In 2012, he was even worse. He managed just 4 sacks, 12 hits, and 24 hurries on 570 pass rush snaps, a pathetic 7.0% rate for his position. He graded out 2nd worst at his position in pass rush grade and 3rd worst overall. That was not only a massive overpay, but he’ll block one of the best young pass rushers in the NFL from starting. This whole scheme change looks like a mistake.

Opposite him, Trent Cole isn’t a natural fit for the 3-4 either, though he’ll keep his starting job. Going into last season, Cole was one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. In 2008, he was ProFootballFocus’ 6th ranked 4-3 defensive end. In 2009, he ranked 3rd and in 2010 and 2011 he led the way at the position. However, he struggled by his standards in 2012, grading 22nd. He had 4 sacks, 13 hits, and 29 hurries on 432 pass rush snaps, a 10.6% pass rush rate, good, but well below his standards. Those 4 sacks paled in comparison to the 63 he had in the previous 6 seasons combined.

If the Eagles were still running a 4-3, I’d like his chances for a bounce back season, but instead he has to learn a whole new 3-4 scheme, one that he’s not a natural fit for at 6-3 270. Going into his age 31 season, I don’t see him getting much better this season. He’s reportedly looked like a “fish out of water” in this new system this off-season. He’ll probably only have a positive impact in sub packages rushing the passer from a 4 man front. With no guaranteed money on his contract after this season, this could sadly be his final season in Philadelphia.

Another player who doesn’t fit the 3-4 defense is DeMeco Ryans. In fact, the Texans traded him for a 4th round pick last off-season because he didn’t fit their 3-4. He was ProFootballFocus’ 17th ranked middle linebacker last season in Philadelphia 4-3 playing every down, but in 2011, he was just a two-down linebacker in Houston’s 3-4 and graded out just about average, 22nd at his position. He can’t be happy about this switch. While he’ll continue to play every down, it’s really only because they don’t have another option.

The only returning linebacker who is probably happy about this switch is Mychal Kendricks, a 2012 2nd round pick who played in a 3-4 in college at California. He graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 42nd ranked 4-3 outside linebacker out of 43 eligible as rookie in 2012, particularly struggling against the run. He should be better in his 2nd season in the league in a more natural position, but then again, he couldn’t exactly have been worse. I still don’t expect big things from him.

Grade: B-

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Secondary

As bad as the Eagles were defensively last season, 29th in the NFL allowing 27.8 points per game, their secondary was by far their worst defensive unit of all. Not only they did completely fail to force turnovers (as I mentioned earlier), they ranked 26th in the NFL allowing 7.6 YPA. They also struggled to tackle, missing 62 as a unit. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 98th and 101st ranked cornerbacks out of 113 eligible, while Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 84th and 85th ranked safeties out of 88 eligible.

Credit them for bringing in an entirely new starting crew in the secondary. Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie are both gone, while Allen and Coleman are mere reserves at the moment and might not even make the final 53 man roster. However it’s unclear how much of an upgrade they’ll be (though they should force more takeaways, if only because of how inconsistent that is on a year-to-year basis).

At cornerback, they brought in Bradley Fletcher from St. Louis and Cary Williams from Baltimore. Williams will probably be their #1 cornerback because he’s, by the default, the better of the two. The 2008 7th round pick has graded out as a league average played in 2 seasons as a starter though so there’s not a lot to get excited about here other than the fact that he’s not Asomugha or Rodgers-Cromartie.

Fletcher, meanwhile, was a 3rd round pick in the 2009 draft. His only season as a starter was 2010 when he graded out slightly above average. In 2011, he missed pretty much the whole season with a torn ACL, playing just 4 games. When he returned in 2012, it was in a reduced role as he played just 374 snaps, including just 20 in the final 7 weeks of the season after getting benched for rookie Trumaine Johnson as the 3rd cornerback. The Eagles are taking a chance that another year removed from that torn ACL will allow him to bounce back and become a solid starter again.

Brandon Boykin will remain the nickel back. He was the only defensive back who graded out above average for them last season, grading out just above average on 526 snaps as a rookie. He only fell to the 4th round because of an injury and because he was 5-9. If he was 6-0 and healthy he would have gone in the 1st round and I thought he was the best cover cornerback in that draft class after Morris Claiborne. He carved out a niche on the slot and will only be better in his 2nd season in the league. He’s a bright spot.

At safety, the Eagles rolled the dice with two injury prone safeties, bringing in Kenny Phillips from the Giants and Patrick Chung from New England. Phillips is one of the best safeties in the NFL when healthy, grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 7th and 6th ranked safety in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Even in 2012, when he played just 304 snaps with injury, he still graded out as their 15th ranked safety despite the limited playing time. In addition to last season’s knee problems, he was also limited to 719 snaps in his first two seasons in the league in 2008 and 2009 with knee problems and he’s already had microfracture surgery. It’s a risk that could definitely pay off, but it’s a big risk nonetheless.

Chung, meanwhile, has missed 14 games in the last 4 seasons since the Patriots took him in the 2nd round out of Oregon in 2009. He’s played pretty well when healthy and the Oregon connection with Chip Kelly probably had a lot to do with why they brought him in. Kelly is going to know his former player better than maybe any other coach in the NFL. He’s still a risky addition. If either gets hurt, that would mean that Allen, Coleman, 5th round rookie Earl Wolff, or Colt Anderson, a special teamer who struggled in 4 starts last season, would see action.

Grade: C+

Head Coach

Chip Kelly is the biggest Head Coach mystery in the NFL. Not only do we not know if his offense will work in the NFL, we don’t even know what type of offense he’s going to run. He’s done a great job of keeping things secretive this off-season. He’s clearly a smart man with innovative ideas (not just offensively, but in how he has his team practice). He has a great deal of collegiate success and he’s much more versatile than he’s given credit for, but it’s very tough to give him a grade. I have no idea how the Chip Kelly era in Philadelphia will go.

Grade: B

Overall

The Eagles will once again struggle defensively largely due to an ill-advised switch to a 3-4 base defensive scheme that their personnel doesn’t fit, but they should be improved over last season as I expect them to force more takeaways. Offensively, their turnover number should go down and they’ll probably have better health with Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, DeSean Jackson, and LeSean McCoy all coming back from injuries that cost them serious time last season.

They won’t be a good team turnover wise, but even if they were to improve to -10 from -24 it would do them a world of difference. They actually outgained opponents by 174 yards last season, despite a 4-12 record, and were only -0.2 in terms of yards per play differential. They play in too tough of conference though to make the playoffs and they might still be the worst team in their division.

I have them going 2-4 in divisional action, splitting with 2 of Dallas, Philadelphia, or the Giants. Outside the division, they host San Diego, Kansas City, Arizona, Detroit, and Chicago. Detroit and Chicago should be tough ones, but San Diego and Arizona are easier so I could see them winning 2 or 3 of those games at home. They also go to Denver, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Green Bay, and Minnesota. They should win in Oakland and Minnesota and Tampa Bay will be winnable, but Denver and Green Bay won’t be. I think they’ll win 2 of those games and finish with 7 wins, an improvement, but not enough to get into the playoffs.

Projection: 7-9 4th in NFC East

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