2014 Record: 10-6 (2nd in the NFC East)
Chip Kelly and the up-tempo Eagles are one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the NFL, and one of the most difficult teams to defend against. After a 6-2 start, it looked as though the Eagles were coasting to the playoffs. Even though Nick Foles was injured in a week 9 victory against the Houston Texans, it seemed as though the Eagles would progress to the play-offs with Mark Sanchez performing adequately in the QB friendly system, following a week 13 victory against the rival Cowboys, it seemed almost certain that we'd be seeing the Eagles in post-season action. Unfortunately for them, this is where they crumbled, losing 3 straight games to the Seahawks, Redskins and Cowboys at which point not even a victory against division rivals the New York Giants in week 16 could save their post-season place. There was a lot of disappointment around the Eagles, based on how they finished, a year after they exited at the divisional round of the play-offs, they were watching from home.
396.8 yards per game: 5/32
29.6 points per game: 3/32
272.2 passing yards per game: 6/32
124.5 rushing yards per game: 9/32
4.2 average per carry: 14/32
16 rushing touchdowns: 5/32
27 passing touchdowns: 12/32
Everyone and their mother knows about Chip Kelly and his high tempo offense, no huddle, everyone to the line, we're going to run more plays than you run. However what some people don't realise is the trouble they had actually getting it into the end zone. The points per game looks great, however they scored a lot on defense and on special teams. In fact they ranked close to the top in both average defensive points and average special teams points per game. That's not too say the Chip Kelly model isn't effective because it is. He spreads teams out with his multiple sets and he effectively runs the zone option rushing attack. He develops and maintains a balanced offense that keeps defenses on their toes. The best thing about Chip Kelly's offense? It's incredibly simple. The majority of the plays are ones we've seen a million times on Sunday's, Saturday's, and even Friday night's. However the difference is the window dressing, the pre-snap movement and the formation alignment, the Eagles could be running the exact same play but look completely different before the ball is snapped, which makes it hard to defend against.
You look at the production they got from Sproles early in the season and McCoy throughout and then you focus in on a handful of their receivers, guys like Jeremy Maclin who had 85 catches for 1318 yards and 10 touchdowns, or rookie Jordan Matthews who burst onto the scene becoming one of Mark Sanchez's most reliable receivers with 67 receptions for 872 yards and 8 touchdowns. The Eagles have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball and Chip Kelly is one of the finest offensive minds in the game, he just needs to find a true QB to run it as neither Nick Foles or Mark Sanchez were those guys.
Chip Trades What Chip Wants To Trade
Personally I would like to thank the Eagles for making this off-season so entertaining. They were involved in two major trades that only a select few saw coming. Chip has a lot of control over every single move in that franchise, and if Chip wants to make a move, well he'll make that move.
First of all he traded LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for Kiko Alonso. Many people found this a strange move, after all McCoy was coming off a 1319 yard season in this system. However Kiko is an Oregon boy and McCoy was slated to make over $10 million this year, quite the cap hit for someone who I'm sure Chip believes he can replace, after all if there is a coach in this league that believes more in his "system" than Chip, I'd like to meet him. The Eagles get a promising linebacker coming off ACL surgery and the Bills get a 26 year old coming off a 1,000 yard season.
He then decided to get a shiny new QB, well a run-down 2nd hand QB. He traded his 2014 starter Nick Foles to the St Louis Rams for former 1st round selection and oft-injured signal caller, Sam Bradford. As far of the deal, the Rams would also get the Eagles 2015 4th round pick and the 2016 2nd round pick with the Rams 2015 5th round pick going the other way. Bradford has had problems with his ACL for years now and he'll be trying to come back from another lost season. I can see why St Louis wanted to move on, Bradford has been a huge disappointment since being drafted and his salary number of $13 million in 2015 was just not digestible. However Foles leaves the Chip Kelly system with a 14-4 record and when he was put behind a true NFL starting calibre line in 2013, he threw 27 touchdown passes to 2 interceptions. It'll be interesting to see how this one plays out.
Have They Got The Defense
25 points per game. 22/32
375.6 yards allowed per game: 28/32
30 passing touchdowns allowed: 28/32
12 interceptions: 21/32
264.9 passing yards allowed per game: 31/32
49 sacks: 2/32
110.7 rushing yards allowed per game: 15/32
14 rushing touchdowns allowed: 21/32
Thoughts: It's obvious where the Eagles struggled last year, their pass defense was terrible and the secondary was a mess. They have a terrific amount of talent on that defensive line which led to so many sacks, but at the end of the day, if you can't defend the pass, teams will throw on you all day. When you have the likes of Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Trent Cole (recently released) on your team, you're always going to get to the Quarterback, if they can only slightly improve their secondary, then they are on for a good season defensively.
Byron Maxwell, CB - 39 tackles, 2 INT, 1 FF (6 year/$63 million deal)
Walter Thurmond III - 4 tackles (1 year/$3.25 million deal)
DeMarco Murray - 392 carries, 1845 yards, 13 TD's. (5 years/$42 million deal)
Ryan Matthews - 74 carries, 330 yards, 3 TD's (3 years/$11.5 million deal)
Miles Austin - 47 receptions, 568 yards, 2 TD's (1 year/$2.5 million deal)
Brad Jones - 18 tackles, 1 pass defense (2 year/$2.85 million deal)
Nate Allen, S - 62 tackles, 4 interceptions, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble (4 year/$23 million deal - OAK)
Jeremy Maclin, WR - 85 tackles, 1318 yards, 10 TD's (5 year/$55 million deal - Chiefs)
Bradley Fletcher, CB - 61 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble (1 yea/$2.5 million deal - Patriots)
Trent Cole, DL - 52 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles (Released - Signed with Colts)
Thoughts - The Eagles lost two big contributors in Nate Allen and Jeremy Maclin, however they brought in a lot more than they lost in my opinion. A lot has been made about the effects of 392 carries on Murray's 2015 performance and that will be an interesting one to track. Byron Maxwell is a good signing but can he be as good a #1 as he was a #2 or #3, there is a lot more pressure on Maxwell in Philadelphia than there was in Seattle. Walter Thurmond has talent but he's not a difference maker.
Having Malcolm Jenkins and Byron Maxwell in the secondary should improve their pass defense and they managed to re-sign Brandon Graham as well which was a shrewd move. Have they got significantly better on the defensive side of the ball? Personally I don't think they did enough, but we'll soon see. If Maxwell is a true #1 corner, that will go a long way to fortifying their main weakness, but that's also a big if.
Miles Austin is a very nice signing for this offense and I think in the quick up tempo Chip Kelly system, he'll improve on his numbers from last year. They obviously still have Jordan Matthews and a host of other people and if they can get Murray going, they will continue to have one of the most dangerous and balanced offenses in the league.
The Draft Class
Round 1, #20 overall - Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
Round 2, #47 overall - Eric Rowe, S/CB, Utah
Round 3, #84 overall - Jordan Hicks, ILB, Texas
Round 6, #191 overall - JaCorey Shepherd, CB, Kansas
Round 6, #196 overall - Randall Evans, CB, Kansas State
Round 7, #237 overall - Brian Mihalik, DE, Boston College
Based purely on my own opinion, I thought the Eagles had a very solid draft. They brought in Agholor who will presumably replace Maclin in the line-up and then they made the best pick of their draft. You know I was high on Eric Rowe and I personally think this was an absolute steal, he has first round potential at both corner and safety and he could play either for the Eagles. Putting him next to Jenkins may be a very good idea. Hicks was a bit of a reach in my opinion but they needed some help inside and they added some good depth there with the Texas product. Shepherd is steady and could show quite early on special teams and in sub-packages. The Eagles went into the draft needing help in the secondary and at inside linebackers, they came out with both and Nelson who's a very good polished prospect.
I think Agholor will do what Matthews did last year and if Rowe isn't starting by mid-season, I'll be very surprised, in fact I'd be willing to bet he starts right out of the gate.
Here we are going to look at 5 players on the Eagles Roster who have some serious talent.
Jason Peters - Offensive Tackle
I consider Jason Peters to be the best left tackle in football. He has agility and quickness and remember he came into the league as an undrafted TE, and he'll exit the league as a hall of famer.
Connor Barwin - Outside Linebacker
Barwin has always been a very good players and very good pass rusher, last year he took it to another level recording 14.5 sacks on the season, a career high. He's still young and don't expect him to slow down.
Vinny Curry - Defensive End
Curry has really come on the last two years and he was a dominant force last year on a very strong athletic line for the Eagles, he tallied 9 sacks and 4 forced fumbles he'll see more time this year and his stats will probably rise.
DeMarco Murray - Running Back
Although he hasn't played a down for the Eagles yet, it's hard to ignore a player like Murray. He was running behind the NFL's best offensive line in Dallas, can he repeat his 1800 yard season in Philly?
Evan Mathis - Offensive Guard
The Eagles are lucky that they have two lineman who are ranked among the elite. Mathis has a vice grip and a whole load of power, consistently ranked as one of the top guards in the league, he shows no signs of slowing down.
The Eagles are a fun team to watch and as long as Chip Kelly is calling the players, they will be ranked among the leagues best in every offensive category. Do they have the defense to compete for a Lombardi trophy? Personally I still think they are weak in the secondary and a lot of their potential will rest on just how good Maxwell is and just how quickly Rowe develops. It's going to be interesting to see Sam Bradford and how he does in this system, if he stays healthy he could have an all pro type season as he has the potential.
They picked up some good parts in free agency and their draft was very solid. Did they get better or worse on offense with the subtractions of McCoy and Maclin and additions of Austin and Murray? That's a big question for anyone looking at the team. Their defensive line will be a strength and so will the offensive one, but I still think they'll struggle to stop people throwing on them.
The Eagles are a very good football team and it will be a very difficult game when they come to New York.
Game: Week 3, Sunday September 27th, Metlife Stadium, 1:00pm EST