2014 NFL Preview: Philadelphia Eagles

2014 NFL Preview: Philadelphia Eagles

Chip Kelly’s arrival to the NFL in 2013 was greeted with a lot of excitement and even more opinions. Anyone with a platform was eager to speculate whether or not the up-temp offensive juggernaut that turned Oregon into a national power would translate to the pro level. Some opined Kelly would flop, while others were confident his style of play was an ideal fit for today’s NFL. After one season, his backers were proven right. The ’13 Eagles led the league in rushing, and finished 2nd in total yards and 4th in scoring, respectively. LeSean McCoy won a rushing title, Nick Foles led the league in passer rating and TD/INT ratio, and Riley Cooper looked like an actual wide receiver. With the 2014 season on the horizon, Kelly and his charges face more questions. Can they repeat as division champs? Will they overcome a high-profile departure on offense? Is the defense going to be better? Here’s a preview of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Outlook: Defensive coordinators have had a long offseason to analyze the Eagles’ prolific attack. But Chip Kelly is always tinkering with his offense and will likely be prepared for whatever is thrown his way. Lane Johnson’s four-game suspension for taking a banned substance is a setback, although getting extra reps for his backups could be advantageous in the long run. Billy Davis’s defense returns pretty much the same group, so familiarity will have to breed success. The Birds are still the most talented team in the NFC East, but a few key injuries will make them vulnerable.

New arrivals: Safety Malcolm Jenkins isn’t elite, but he’s smart and versatile, which are traits the Eagles have lacked at the position since Brian Dawkins left. Darren Sproles is a bit slower at 31, but the multi-purpose back should be an excellent complement to McCoy. Ex-Dolphin cornerback Nolan Carroll was the star of OTAs and could push for a starting spot. First-round pick Marcus Smith will need time to adjust to being a full-time 3-4 OLB, but he has the size and athleticism to excel. Rookie receiver Jordan Matthews will be given every opportunity to make noise from the start. Fellow noob receiver Josh Huff played under Kelly at Oregon, so his learning curve should be truncated. Mark Sanchez is the favorite to backup Foles.

Wave goodbye: Michael Vick couldn’t stay healthy during his five years in Philly, but he was on his best behavior and his presence in the locker room will be missed. The real reason for DeSean Jackson’s shocking release may never be known. Was he a problem child who refused to buy in? Maybe, maybe not. One thing is clear: replacing his deep speed will be impossible. Jason Avant’s hands and attitude are second to none, but his inability to separate and gain yards after catch are why he’s a Carolina Panther.

Over/Under wins – 9: It’s logical to assume the Eagles will take a step back in 2014. The schedule is rough, the defense is still a work in progress, Nick Foles could be a one-year wonder, and the receiving corps sans Jackson is questionable. That said, Kelly has faced similar obstacles in the past and succeeded. Ten wins is within reach.

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