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Today: The Philadelphia Eagles
Last Year: 10-6 (1st Place In NFC East, Lost In Wild Card Round)
Remember when everyone said that Chip Kelly’s offense couldn’t translate from the college game to the NFL? It doesn’t appear that way anymore. A year removed from their “Dream team” nightmare season, the Eagles of 2013 were good enough to win the NFC East, earning a playoff berth before losing to the Saints in the Wild Card Round of the postseason. So, how did they get there? The answer is simple: Chip Kelly.
The Eagles’ new-look offense debuted on Monday Night Football against the Washington Redskins. It was a blur. Chip Kelly’s offense ran 53 plays in the first half and lit up the scoreboard for 26 points in 30 minutes. But, after the win over Washington, Philadelphia would go on to lose the next three games. The Chip Kelly experiment was off to a rough start.
But then, Kelly handed the keys of the offense over to Nick Foles, who would go on to lead the league with his 119.2 quarterback rating. The Eagles would end the season winning seven of eight games before falling in the postseason. The defense for Philadelphia was an issue though, as the team featured the worst passing defense in the league, though they were ranked 10th against the run.
The story here is Chip Kelly though. The Eagles led the league in rushing yards, finished ninth in passing yards, and were fourth in points scored. Combining an unbelievably fast tempo with some crazy-unique formations, the offense befuddled and wore down defenses all season long. It also didn’t hurt to be putting the ball in the hands of players like DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy. Take a look:
Check out the holes that are available for McCoy in the play above.
Yes, that is a real formation and no, it is not photoshopped.
Last Year’s Stud: LeSean McCoy
Just the perfect fit for Kelly’s offense. Defenses get tired going against the rapid-fire approach, misdirection is key, and McCoy is utilized in more ways than just a straight-forward handoff. The result? 2146 yards from scrimmage.
Runner-up: DeSean Jackson
Last Year’s Surprise: Nick Foles
Did anyone expect Nick Foles to do what he did in 2013: lead the league in passer rating, throw only two interceptions compared to 27 touchdowns?
Runner-up: Riley Cooper
Last Year’s Disappointment: Passing defense
As a team, the defense finished dead-last against the pass, surrendering an average of 289.8 yards per game.
However, the numbers are, without a doubt, skewed against the defense. Because of how quickly the offense typically scored and gave the ball back to opposing teams, the defense was forced to face an unusually high number of plays per game — they faced the most passing plays in the league last season. The Eagles defense was also frequently on the field in short-rest situations. The average time of possession for the Eagles on drives that resulted in a touchdown lasted just north of two minutes, which was the fastest time in the league.
Still, improvements are needed. The Eagles signed Patrick Chung last season to try and bolster their secondary, but Chung was pretty much nonexistent all season long. Chung, a former Patriot, accumulated a -7.0 score from Pro Football Focus. This season, the Eagles went out and signed safety Malcolm Jenkins, hoping he provides some much needed support in the secondary.
Runner-up: Patrick Chung
The Eagles made headlines this offseason when they decided to part ways with DeSean Jackson. Last season, Jackson led the team in catches with 82, receiving yards with more than 1,600, and receiving touchdowns with nine. The team is going to be hard-pressed to find a replacement for Jackson, though it appears Kelly thinks he can do that with with a committee of receivers. The Eagles have Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin returning, but also added two young guns via the draft. With the team’s second-round selection, it took Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt and, with its third-round pick, it selected Josh Huff from Oregon.
At Vandy, Matthews improved steadily every season. After posting just 15 catches in 2010 and 41 in 2011, Matthew’s exploded in his final two seasons. In 2012, Matthews caught 94 balls for 1,323 yards and, in his final season, Matthews raised those totals to 112 receptions and 1,477 yards. Standing at 6-foot-3, Matthews offers tremendous size. It’ll be interesting to see how Kelly deploys him.
Huff, on the other hand, didn’t have as explosive of a carreer as Matthews, but still put up numbers in his senior season at Oregon — 62 catches, 1,140 yards, and 12 touchdowns. If there’s one thing Kelly knows how to do, it’s how to utilize a multitude of weapons in his offense. Huff should be one of those weapons in 2014.
Other notable pick: Marcus Smith
This Year’s Stud: LeSean McCoy
DeSean Jackson is gone, and the offense should continue to go through McCoy.
Runner-up: Trent Cole
This Year’s Surprise: Marcus Smith
It seems like every analyst is a bit skeptical of Smith’s first-round status. While it’s understandable why many think the Eagles reached with this pick — he relies entirely on his speed to get free of blockers, doesn’t possess as much strength, and he struggles in pass coverage — I think Smith’s pass-rushing ability really helps bolster the passing defense. Smith is incredibly versatile and can line up in multiple areas around the line of scrimmage. He’ll most likely be eased into the defensive rotation, but should be used creatively in blitzing situations.
Runner-up: Arrelious Benn
This Year’s Disappointment: Riley Cooper
Much of Cooper’s production relied reaching the end zone. Of his 47 catches, eight went for touchdowns. With DeSean Jackson gone and no longer keeping the attention of defenders, I don’t think Cooper is in store for nearly as many touchdowns.
Runner-up: Nick Foles
Draft early: LeSean McCoy
Good value in the middle rounds: Nick Foles
Don’t Draft: Defense
What Vegas is saying (LVH sports book): 9 wins
What We’re Saying: 9-7 (1st Place in NFC East)
This is still the best team in the East, but the loss of DeSean Jackson might prove to be costly. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not the offense regresses now that the rest of the league has substantial film on Chip Kelly’s offense. While I don’t think Kelly’s offense will be an issue in 2014, I don’t see Foles duplicating his remarkable season. DeSean is gone and the fact that they have to play against all four teams in the NFC West doesn’t bode well for the team. The defense is also a liability.
Looking at the schedule, I see six or seven potential losses. Still, l think the Eagles win the NFC East and return to the postseason.