The Eagles ran the most plays in the league and Chip Kelly reached the playoffs in his first season. Philadelphia leaned on the best back in the game today, LeSean McCoy. He swiftly gained the most rushing yards, making something out of nothing and creating quite the highlight reel. They found a new starting quarterback in the process, as Nick Foles took over the helm when Michael Vick went down. All eyes will be on him coming into his sophomore season, as a starter that is.
The Birds locked up breakout receiver Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, recovering from injury to form an interesting group of targets along DeSean Jackson. The combination of their abilities and Coach Kelly’s schemes are intriguing, beyond what Jackson and McCoy the rest of this group is up in the air. With guys like Cooper, was he a one-hit wonder or has his time finally come? Will Maclin resemble the player he was? Not only do they like to play tight end Brent Celek, who you know is going to hustle as a blocker and catch a few passes, but Zach Ertz is expected to have a larger role in his second season. Celek is more physical and has his moments of inserting himself through the air, Ertz stretches the field with athleticism on the line or in the slot.
With that said, the formula worked to clinch the NFC East and host a playoff game. A game in which they loss and feel strongly about improving on their success. If “Shady” McCoy gets some of the gaping holes that were paved last season, or if Foles has the time to pump fake and air it out, this elite offensive line anchors this team as a hole. They have size, speed, talent, and I.Q. to takeover a game. The best rushing attack in football last year. They would benefit by adding depth at the line and out wide, as an insurance policy for injury or if a receiver can crack into the rotation. As far as receiver, I’m thinking a rookie takes the roster spot vacated by Jason Avant. Coach Kelly has inherited receivers but not drafted one high yet, he should be getting another weapon in the first three rounds of the draft. Something they need is a quarterback, a guy that they believe in to start if called upon. Foles could very well be the guy, but you still have to have a plan B whether it’s for injury or to replace him if it even gets to that.
Most of the upgrades will be coming on the defensive side of the ball. To give them credit, they did have an 11/13-game streak of holding offenses under 22 points.
They didn’t get that much pressure off the edge, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham got better towards the end of the season. The front-7 has key players: veteran inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans, as well as second year standouts Mychal Kendricks and Fletcher Cox. Outside linebacker Connor Barwin, he played at a high level against the run and covering tight ends. We saw him tally double-digit sacks a few years ago but apparently he has stronger suits. The secondary, well last offseason they plugged in some big corners that play physical. Better in man defense, this team got a boost all season long from slot corner Brandon Boykin. The best in the slot and it’s not even close, Boykin excelled in his role and played admirably against Victor Cruz and Wes Welker. On special teams he is a gunner on punts and worked hand-in-hand with punter Donnie Jones to pin opponents deep.
Big needs are at nose tackle and safety, defenses with safeties have the ability to play more aggressive because the big play threat is few and far between. Then you bump receivers at the line and send the blitz, or at the very least stick the other safety in the box. The offensive lines in the NFC East aren’t that great, aside from their own O-line they face in practice. They might be able to get by as is along the D-line, but playoff teams will run up the middle on them and contest them deep early and often. The route for a safety appears to be moving on from last year’s starters, most likely targeting a veteran to pair up with a first or second round draft pick. The nose tackle just might have to be the other pick, being first or second.