Projected Record: 1st
NFC East Rank: 10-6
Chip Kelly has transformed this offense into a contender over the course of a season. The Eagles produced a 4-12 record and the 29th ranked scoring offense the season before he was hired. In his first season, he owned a 10-6 record with the fourth ranked scoring offense. Kelly is the best thing that happened to Philly since the cheesesteak. In all seriousness, he revitalized a team that truly needed a new head coach. The Eagles had to step away from the monotony of Andy Reid and his over-extended tenure. Chip Kelly provides an unorthodox insight into the offensive game plan. The common belief was that his approach to offense at Oregon was not a feasible option in the NFL landscape. He proved his doubters including myself wrong. He made his playbook viable. His up-tempo style may not have completely transferred over to the NFL, but a version of it certainly has. His NFL rendition took time to develop in his first season, but let’s see if he can build upon it in year two.
Last season, Philadelphia eclipsed their franchise records for total yards, points, and touchdowns on offense. This was attributed to Chip Kelly, but the entire dynamic of his offense was altered with the insertion of Nick Foles at starting quarterback six games into the season. Foles played like a top-5 quarterback last year with a 119.2 rating with 27 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. Kelly wasn’t afraid to give Foles a chance when Michael Vick was playing poorly to start the season. However, this wasn’t a possibility during the Reid regime, as Andy Reid had invested too much of his offense and time with Vick. Kelly’s risk clearly paid off. If Foles can duplicate this past season, then the Eagles can easily surpass the marks they set last year. It’s a tall task for any quarterback to put up even bigger numbers, but with an aggressive play caller in Kelly, Foles has the resources and abilities to do so.
The receiving corps wasn’t the best last year. Obviously, Foles worked with what he had, but it was not as good as previous years. It will take an even bigger dip this year. Star wide receiver DeSean Jackson left Philadelphia for the division rival Redskins. He caught 82 balls for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns a season ago. Those aren’t numbers that can be easily replaced. Jeremy Maclin will look to be his replacement for now. Maclin, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, had 69 receptions for 857 yards and seven touchdowns for the Eagles in 2012. It’ll be difficult for Maclin to be thrust into the role of first or second wideout a season after suffering from a serious injury. And Maclin will most likely not match Jackson’s numbers in the upcoming season.
Nick Foles will have to look for Riley Cooper more and he’ll presumably become his top target. Cooper has steadily increased his numbers each of his four years in the league topping out at 47 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns last season, all career highs. His average of 17.8 yards per reception was second in the league (Josh Gordon – 18.9) for receivers with at least 35 receptions. Cooper can undoubtedly become a potent deep threat with Foles under center. The Foles-Cooper tandem has the potential to become one of the league’s best if both can adjust quickly. After Cooper and Maclin, there appears to be a big drop off in talent at the position, so these two need to make their mark in the first few games.
All five starting offensive lineman from last year are returning. This makes LeSean McCoy’s job a bit easier. The halfback was superb on the ground last year; averaging an NFL-best 160.4 yards per game. Shady McCoy had a whopping 1,607 rushing yards last year. Kelly had the ability to shake things up in his up-tempo style a year ago. And alternating between passing and running will be incredibly seamless in Philly next season as well. With nothing drastically changing in the offense, McCoy has the ability to post similar or even better numbers next season barring any major injuries. The acquisition of Darren Sproles this offseason will surely add another option to the already stacked position. Sproles is especially talented in catching short passes in the backfield on third downs, so Foles effectively has another reliable option in him.
The defense had to answer the majority of the questions this offseason. They ranked 29th in the NFL in points allowed. The secondary was absolutely atrocious all of last season. They were last in the league in pass defense allowing 289.8 yard per game. They acquired former Saint Malcolm Jenkins to fill in at starting safety. Jenkins alongside free safety Nate Allen will make for a decent safety duo. The cornerbacks struggled mightily last year with Patrick Chung turning into a bust a year after signing with Philly. Cary Williams also fit terribly within his role in the secondary. The only bright spot on this cornerback roster seemed to be Brandon Boykin. Boykin intercepted a career-high six balls. The majority of the issues on pass defense appeared to be fixed this offseason. Plus, there wasn’t a need for any drastic change with the linebacker corps or front line. Philadelphia ranked 10th in rush defense last year, so it’ll be hard to see them rank as badly as they did in points allowed during the upcoming season.
The Eagles will finish with a very similar record to last year’s and it wouldn’t be hard to see them win the mediocre NFC East again too. They have one of the most multi-dimensional offenses in the NFL today. More importantly, this offseason was critical to their advancement to contender status in the league. The different elements on defense will take several games to coalesce, but the offense is already set in place to succeed for the near future. It’s up to Chip Kelly and the Eagles to adjust early on. If the coaching staff successfully combines all of the team’s resources under the one-team mantra, then I would not be surprised to watch them play into mid-January.
Pics and Stats from ESPN.com