2015 Season Preview: Philadelphia Eagles

In Chip Kelly’s third year as Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, it his truly “his” team. He has gotten rid of the players he felt weren’t fits or weren’t buying into his philosophy. The success or failure of this team will be on Kelly, and Kelly alone, as he oversees all personnel moves. Quarterback Kelly traded Nick Foles, who had gotten to a Pro Bowl under him, to the St. Louis Rams for oft injured but talented Sam Bradford. It’s plain and simple, Bradford has to work out. He obviously has the talent and has shown flashes of his enormous talent while in St. Louis, but he hasn’t done it with any consistency over his career. Behind Bradford is journeyman Mark Sanchez, who in his six previous seasons has also flashed. If Bradford falters even a little, look for Sanchez to take over. The third quarterback will be Matt Barkley who Kelly had former GM Howie Roseman trade up for in the 2013 Draft. Running Back Kelly Traded LeSean McCoy, one of the most productive and durable backs in the league, to the Buffalo Bills. He then and went out and signed former Dallas star DeMarco Murray. Murray is also highly productive and has a running style entirely different than McCoy’s. Murray is a much more physical runner, and Kelly feels that style is a better fit for his offense. The Eagles also signed former Charger Ryan Mathews, who is extremely talented but has problems staying healthy. If Mathews can revert back to his form of a couple years ago, the Eagles may have the best running back duo in the league. Darren Sproles has the role of being the specialty back and is very dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield. Wide Receiver and Tight End When Kelly took over in 2013, he had a fairly good crop of wide receivers. He just didn’t feel they were the proper fit for his offense. He now has exactly what he wants at the position. The Eagles have four receivers capable of starting just about anywhere in the league. Last year's second round pick Jordan Matthews had an outstanding rookie year and will keep getting better. Veteran Riley Cooper has played well in this offense, and between those two, the Eagles have both size and speed at the position This year’s first round pick Nelson Agholor is an excellent route runner with deep speed. He also is outstanding after the catch. Second-year man Josh Huff showed flashes as a rookie, and coming from Oregon, he knows the offense. I expect Huff to really come on this year. For added depth, the Eagles signed veteran Miles Austin, who they hope still has a solid year or two left. At tight end, the Eagles have two very solid performers. Brent Celek is the “Y” and is very underrated, while third year man Zach Ertz is the”move” tight end and gets better every year. The overall strength at the receiver position is excellent. Offensive Line The Eagles are strong at center and at both tackle spots. In my opinion, guard is a question mark and hopefully will get resolved during training camp. At left tackle, the Eagles have Jason Peters who is one of the more talented left tackles in the league. The right tackle is Lane Johnson, a first round selection in 2013. Johnson is one of the more athletic linemen in the NFL. The center is veteran Jason Kelce, who may be a bit undersized but he is strong, explosive and smart. The right guard should be journeyman Allen Barbre, who has been around a long time but rarely has been a fulltime starter. Who lines up at left guard will be decided at camp. My guess is that it will be a battle between Dennis Kelly and Matt Tobin. Kelly has the size, strength and experience but is just an average athlete. Tobin is athletic and technique but very undersized. Andree Gardener started eight games last year and will be in the mix for the starting left guard spot. Defensive Line Like the San Francisco 49ers, the Eagles have an undersized but very athletic group of lineman for a 3-4 front. The starting ends are Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton. Cox is just begging to come into his own, and I expect big things from him in 2015. Thornton is underrated and can be excellent versus the run. The nose tackle is Bennie Logan, who at 6’2 - 315 is undersized for a 3-4 nose. Logan has very good quickness as well as strength, though. Behind Logan is second year man Beau Allen, who played very well as a rookie. The backup ends should be Vinny Curry (more of a sub package pass rusher), Brandon Blair, and Taylor Hart. Blair and Hart are both former Oregon players and were coached at Oregon by the defensive line coach, Jerry Azzinaro. Linebacker With the release of Trent Cole, the outside linebacker group will look a little different than it did a year ago. The starters will be Connor Barwin who had 14.5 sacks a year ago. Opposite Barwin will be former first rounder Brandon Graham. Graham doesn’t have the pass rush skills of Cole, but he has a better all around game. The primary backup should be last year's top draft choice Marcus Smith. Smith was a huge disappointment as a rookie and it is hoped that he takes a step forward in 2015. Inside, there will be three players used in a rotation. The leader of the group is DeMeco Ryans coming off an Achilles injury. If Ryans isn’t ready to go, that spot will be taken by Kiko Alonso, acquired in the McCoy trade. Alonso was the Bills leading tackler in 2013 as a rookie but missed 2014 with a knee injury. He has the talent to be a star in this defense. The other inside ‘backer will be Mychal Kendricks, who is undersized for a 3-4 linebacker, but he has rare instincts and is consistently around the ball. The fourth man in the group will be rookie Jordan Hicks. Secondary The play of the secondary was a weakness for the Eagles defense and will have an entirely different look in 2015. At one corner will be be free agent signee Byron Maxwell, a starter for Seattle last year. He gives the Eagles size and length to matchup against taller receivers in the league. On paper, the other starter is former Oregon corner Walter Thurmond III. Thurmond is very talented but has a hard time staying healthy. My guess is, come opening day, the starter here will be rookie Eric Rowe, the Eagles second round pick. Brandon Boykin and rookie JaCorey Shepherd will provide the depth. At safety, the returning starter will be Malcolm Jenkins, a free agent signee a year ago. He will be paired with either Earl Wolfe or Jaylen Watkins. Wolfe has been slow coming back from a knee injury sustained last year. Outlook The NFC East will be a battle between the Eagles and the Cowboys. I just don’t see the Giants or the Redskins competing for a playoff spot in 2015. On paper, the Eagles are strong, but like with just about every team in the NFL, it will get down to quarterback play. The Eagles have to hope that Sam Bradford can stay healthy and play up to his potential, as Mark Sanchez just isn’t good enough to get the job done. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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