2015 NFL Preview: Philadelphia Eagles

2015 NFL Preview: Philadelphia Eagles

No NFL team had an offseason as polarizing or fascinating as the Philadelphia Eagles. Head coach Chip Kelly won a front office power struggle days after the 2014 season ended that awarded him full control over shaping the team in his vision. Once anointed, Kelly proceeded to carve a swath through the roster unlike any other witnessed in recent memory. He cut starters, engineered a pair of epic trades, allowed key veterans to exit, and signed high-profile free agents on both sides of the ball. When the smoke finally cleared, the Eagles looked drastically different than the team that ended 2014 as playoff spectators. For better or worse, Kelly dumped salaries and jettisoned players he believed weren’t good fits for his system and culture. Here’s a preview of the 2015 Philadelphia Eagles.

Outlook: It’s not every year that a team changes its starting quarterback, running back, and leading wide receiver and is still viewed as a contender. The offensive line is a major work in progress, the backfield is bigger and deeper, and the wide receiving corps is very green. On defense, a secondary that was beyond putrid in 2013 and 2014 kicked three starters and added six new players via the draft and free agency, which in theory should make them better. But all eyes will be under center as Sam Bradford attempts to survive training camp then the season without tearing or breaking one of his body parts. This team could either be really good or really dysfunctional. Time will tell.

Later, dude: LeSean McCoy is the leading rusher in Philadelphia Eagles franchise history. He’s also a member of the Buffalo Bills after being swapped straight up for linebacker Kiko Alonso. Despite huge numbers, McCoy’s running style and attitude never seemed to jell with Kelly. Jeremy Maclin gambled by playing on a one-year deal after shredding his ACL in the summer of 2013; his gamble paid off following an 85 catch, 1318 yard, and 10 touchdown 2014, so he parlayed it into a massive 5-year, $55 million contract with the Chiefs. The Nick Foles era was fun while it lasted; he is now a Ram after being shipped along with two draft picks to St. Louis in exchange for Bradford and a pick. Trent Cole is one of the best pass rushers to ever wear midnight green, but his age and salary made him expendable. Cole is now a Colt. The terrible trio of Nate Allen, Cary Williams, and Bradley Fletcher won’t be missed.

Welcome aboard: Bradford has two solid seasons and three injury-riddled seasons on his résumé. If he can stay out of the trainer’s room, he will post the best stats of his career. DeMarco Murray won the 2014 rushing title and was named Offensive Player of the Year with the Cowboys. His one-cut move-the-pile style should be a better fit for Kelly’s zone scheme. Ryan Mathews has had his share of injuries, but splitting carries with Murray will keep him fresher and possibly healthier. Kiko Alonso was a stud in 2013 then tore his ACL prior to 2014. If he returns to form, he brings elite talent to a defense lacking in the department. Kelly overpaid for ex-Seattle cornerback Byron Maxwell, but “fixing” the secondary was the top priority. Walter Thurmond has never completed a full season, but he’s the leading candidate to start at safety. Rookies Nelson Agholor and Eric Rowe are both penciled in to start; at the very least, they will get plenty of snaps. And Miles Austin was signed… for some strange reason.

Over/Under wins – 9.5: Even if Bradford flops, Mark Sanchez is capable of winning games. Of course it will help if the defense stops getting torched over the top, and the backfield dominates behind a thin offensive line. Regardless of the record, these Eagles will be fun to watch.

Bet the Over