2014 NFL Offseason: Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles (Last Year: 10-6)

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2014 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Mark Sanchez, RB Darren Sproles, DE/DT Clifton Geathers, DE/OLB Bryan Braman, CB Nolan Carroll, S Malcolm Jenkins, S Chris Maragos.
Early Draft Picks:
DE/OLB Marcus Smith, WR Jordan Matthews, WR Josh Huff, CB Jaylen Watkins, DE/DT Taylor Hart, S Ed Reynolds. Eagles Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB QB Eagles No. 7, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Jason Avant, S Patrick Chung.

2014 Philadelphia Eagles Offense:
Chip Kelly’s offense was a complete mystery heading into the 2013 season. In fact, that’s what was written here last summer. As it turns out, Kelly did not utilize an all-out spread-option attack, as many anticipated – even when he had his scrambling quarterback available.

Philadelphia’s former signal-caller proved to be as overrated and unreliable as ever at the beginning of the season. Once he suffered his annual injury, Nick Foles stepped into the lineup and never really looked back. Foles was fantastic; he completed 64 percent of his passes, maintained a terrific 9.1 YPA and composed a ridiculous 27-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also displayed better-than-expected mobility, rushing for 225 yards and three additional scores on the ground.

Can Foles keep this up? It’s easy to be skeptical. Foles was just a second-day prospect coming out of Arizona, and he looked so incredibly mediocre in his rookie campaign. Plus, he battled just one top-15 pass defense in the regular season (Arizona). The Eagles’ schedule is tougher this year, given that they have to battle all of the NFC West teams. Plus, teams will have a whole season’s worth of tape on Foles and Kelly’s offense, so adjustments will have to be made. With that said, however, Foles is much more promising and trustworthy than the quarterback he replaced.

One concern with Foles is that he’ll have to repeat his 2013 performance without DeSean Jackson. The quick receiver was exiled from Philadelphia this offseason because of locker room issues and conflicts with the coaching staff. Jackson has always been one of the most overrated players in the NFL – he’s an injury-prone, one-trick pony who had never caught more than 62 balls in a season prior to 2013 – but opposing defenses were scared to death of his speed. They paid lots of attention to him, opening things up for Riley Cooper this past year. Cooper is now a known commodity, and he was already slowing down at the end of last season, failing to eclipse 53 receiving yards in all but one of his final six games. Having Jeremy Maclin back will help, but Maclin is even more brittle than Jackson, so the Eagles can’t depend on him staying healthy.

Fortunately for Foles, he’ll have some other weapons to work with. Second-year tight end Zach Ertz should be a bigger factor this year. Ertz showed flashes of what he could do at the end of the season, posting lines of 5-68-2 against the Cardinals and 6-57-1 at Minnesota. Kelly has already said that he’ll be a bigger part of the offense. The Eagles also acquired Darren Sproles from the Saints. Sproles has shown signs of decline – New Orleans was more than willing to get rid of him – but he’ll be a decent, pass-catching weapon out of the backfield this season.

Last but not least, LeSean McCoy figures to have another big year. McCoy, who rushed for 1,607 yards and caught 52 balls in 2013, saw his yards-per-carry average dip a bit when Foles entered the lineup. However, once teams began respecting Foles’ ability to air it out, McCoy took off again. He gained 130-plus yards on the ground in three of his final four regular-season contests, including a 217-yard showing against the Lions in that crazy snow game.

The offensive line will continue to block well for both McCoy and Foles, given that all five starters are back. The best part of the unit is on the left side. Blind-side protector Jason Peters shocked everyone by dominating following an Achilles injury, surrendering just four sacks this past season. Left guard Evan Mathis, meanwhile, is one of the top players at his position in the entire league.

Second-year right tackle Lane Johnson will improve once he returns from his four-game suspension for violating the substance-abuse policy. The Oklahoma product struggled in the first half of the season as a rookie, surrendering seven sacks prior to Week 9. He was much better after that though, giving up just three sacks to close out the year. He’ll play next to the weakest link up front, Todd Herremans, who will turn 32 in October. Center Jason Kelce, meanwhile, is one of the best in the business.

2014 Philadelphia Eagles Defense:
Chip Kelly was able to improve the offense enough to transform it into one of the league’s best scoring units. The defense, however, is a different story. It struggled mightily at times in 2013, even surrendering a whopping 48 points to the Adrian Peterson-less Vikings in a mid-December meeting.

The Eagles had to bolster their pass rush and secondary. They spent some resources on trying to fix both areas, particularly the latter. They signed Nolan Carroll and Malcolm Jenkins in free agency. Carroll will likely start at some point this season, though it’s not like he’ll have much of a challenge pushing into the lineup. Cary Williams is maddeningly inconsistent, while Bradley Fletcher is injury-prone. If Carroll ends up starting, he’ll be joined by Brandon Boykin, who performed well as the team’s nickel in 2013. Fourth-round rookie Jaylen Watkins will also fight for playing time.

As for Jenkins, he figures to be an upgrade at safety, but only by default. Patrick Chung was so brutal there last year that anyone could be considered an improvement. Jenkins is a very pedestrian player who has never lived up to his first-round billing. He’ll start next to Nate Allen, another disappointment. Allen, a former second-round choice, has struggled throughout his career. He was a bit better this past season though, so perhaps that’ll be a sign of things to come.

As mentioned, the Eagles tried to improve their pass rush. They selected Marcus Smith in the first round in May. Smith was widely considered a reach, but the Seahawks, a team that drafts exceptionally well, were interested in him at No. 32 overall. Smith is raw, but has great upside. He probably won’t contribute much until 2015, so Trent Cole and Connor Barwin will start at outside linebacker again this year. Barwin was a mild disappointment this past season, but Cole stepped up after a down year, registering eight sacks after notching only three in 2012. Brandon Graham is also listed on the depth chart, but he’s a very poor fit for the 3-4.

Philadelphia’s best defensive unit this past season was the defensive line. The front office squandered some money by signing Isaac Sopoaga, but made amends by dealing him to New England in the middle of the year. This opened the door for third-round rookie Bennie Logan to start at nose tackle, and he was so much more effective there. Of course, it helped that he was surrounded by two exceptional players in Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton. The latter doesn’t offer much pass-rushing ability, but he has proven to be an elite run-stuffer. Cox, meanwhile, is the best player on this defense. He has no weaknesses in his game.

The Eagles’ front offers plenty of protection for the inside linebackers, though that group didn’t perform up to par in 2013. DeMeco Ryans has never been an ideal fit for the 3-4, and he predictably struggled in Philadelphia’s new scheme. Mychal Kendricks, meanwhile, was an abomination in coverage. He was able to blitz well and stop the run efficiently, but he was a major liability when it came to covering.

2014 Philadelphia Eagles Schedule and Intangibles:
Philadelphia has an awful homefield advantage. The team hasn’t put together a winning record at the Linc in the past four seasons, owning a 13-21 record in that span. Oddly enough, the Eagles are 19-13 as visitors in that time frame.

The Eagles had horrific special teams last year. They were outgained on both punts and kickoffs, and they surrendered three scores to the opposition.

Alex Henery’s percentage has dropped in each of his three seasons, going from 88.9 in 2011 to 87.1 in 2012 to 82.1 this past season. He was 23-of-28.

Donnie Jones ranked ninth in net punting and fourth in terms of kicks placed inside the 20.

The Eagles have a mixed schedule. On one hand, they’ll trample the Jaguars, Titans and all of the pathetic teams in their own division. On the other hand, they’ll have to deal with all four NFC West squads, as well as the Colts and Packers.

2014 Philadelphia Eagles Rookies:
Go here for the Eagles Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2014 Philadelphia Eagles Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2014 Philadelphia Eagles Analysis: The Eagles are the best team in the worst division in football, so they should be able to reach the playoffs once again. How far they advance once they get there depends on Nick Foles’ progression and the defense. Foles may not be as good this year, while the stop unit hasn’t been retooled enough. Thus, an early postseason exit is most likely.

Projection: 10-6 (1st in NFC East)

2014 Fantasy Football Rankings

More 2014 NFL Season Previews

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

NFL Draft Team Grade: C Grade

Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Eagles have an abysmal secondary that needs multiple upgrades. Obtaining those and a new receiver are what their front office has to focus on during the draft. Acquiring some help in the front seven is also needed, but not before fixing those two aforementioned areas.

2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I had numerous Eagle fans asking me how they could get excited for Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft after the perceived reach of Marcus Smith in the first round. Philadelphia did take Smith too early, but it at least traded down while doing so. It’s also worth noting that Smith would have been in play for the Seahawks at No. 32 had Minnesota not moved up into that slot.

Having said that, I realize why the Eagles’ draft was so frustrating. I don’t understand why they didn’t move up fo Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Brandin Cooks when both prospects were chosen right before the No. 22 spot. It wouldn’t have cost much to shift up to No. 19, where the Dolphins would have been more than happy to trade down and still obtain JaWuan James.

I only scored one of Philadelphia’s picks better than a “B,” which was the B+ I gave to Jaylen Watkins, the opening pick of the fourth round. He’s a nice fit, as is Jordan Matthews, though I didn’t like that the Eagles traded up for him with so much receiving talent still on the board in the second frame. And what was up with the Josh Huff selection? That was indefensible.

It’s hard to like the Eagles’ draft because they reached on multiple occasions, failed to take advantage of an opportunity and squandered some resources. I don’t hate their haul, but they could have done much better.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

26. Marcus Smith, DE/OLB, Louisville: C Grade
This is a reach, as Marcus Smith was a second-round prospect. However, there are two things that save the Eagles from receiving a dreaded Millen grade: First, Smith is a very good fit for Chip Kelly’s defense and happens to fill a big need as a pass-rushing linebacker. Second, Philadelphia obtained a third-round selection while moving down for Smith, so they at least understood that they were overdrafting him.

42. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt: B- Grade
This pick is interesting in that it’s the complete opposite of what the Eagles did in the first round. With Marcus Smith, they made a reach, but traded down while doing so. Here, they moved up and took a player who could have gone a bit earlier. I like Jordan Matthews – he has the size that Chip Kelly wants – but with all of the receiving talent available in the second round, why even move up? Philadelphia could have just sat there and still obtained a solid wideout.

86. Josh Huff, WR, Oregon: D Grade
Josh Huff isn’t even the best Huff in the draft. I had the Oregon wideout going to Dallas in the seventh round, and I haven’t heard any buzz about him at all. I get that Chip Kelly knows him well, but there’s no reason for him to reach so egregiously like this. Philadelphia probably could have obtained Huff in Rounds 5 or 6.

101. Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida: B+ Grade
I know some Florida fans are confused that Jaylen Watkins was chosen before Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy because he was behind both on the depth chart. But this makes a lot of sense. Jaylen Watkins has the speed and athleticism that Chip Kelly likes. He’ll be a solid nickel and special-teams contributor.

141. Taylor Hart, DE/DT, Oregon: B Grade
I figured the Eagles would pick Taylor Hart, but in the sixth round. I wouldn’t call it a reach though because Hart fell because of injury concerns. He could develop into a starter for Philadelphia, a team that had to find another defensive lineman.

162. Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford: B Grade
I cannot believe that Chip Kelly is taking a Pac-12 player. Wow. Projections were all over the place for Ed Reynolds, with one team telling us that they had him in the sixth round. This range makes sense, and Reynolds could fill a need if he pans out.

224. Beau Allen, NT, Wisconsin: B Grade
I heard some buzz about Beau Allen being drafted late, so this is a solid choice. Allen could develop into a quality backup nose tackle.

Season Summary:
No one knew what to expect from Chip Kelly’s offense in 2013, but not many predicted Nick Foles leading the team to an NFC East victory. The future seems bright in Philadelphia, as Foles and Kelly will both have more experience in 2014 and beyond.

Offseason Moves:
  • Vikings sign S Kurt Coleman
  • Panthers sign WR Jason Avant
  • Patriots sign S Patrick Chung
  • Redskins sign WR DeSean Jackson
  • Eagles cut WR DeSean Jackson
  • Eagles sign QB Mark Sanchez
  • Jets sign QB QBDK
  • Eagles re-sign S Nate Allen
  • Eagles sign CB Nolan Carroll
  • Eagles acquire RB Darren Sproles from Saints for 5th-round pick
  • Redskins sign DE/DT Clifton Geathers
  • Texans sign DE/OLB Bryan Braman
  • Eagles sign S Chris Maragos
  • Eagles sign S Malcolm Jenkins
  • Eagles re-sign P Donnie Jones
  • Eagles cut S Patrick Chung
  • Eagles cut WR Jason Avant
  • Eagles re-sign WR Jeremy Maclin
  • Eagles re-sign WR Riley Cooper

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Safeties: Nate Allen struggled earlier in his career, but he actually played better in 2013. He’s a free agent, however. As for Patrick Chung, most fans will be thrilled if they never see him again. The Eagles will likely use one of their top two draft choices on a safety. Signed Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Maragos; re-signed Nate Allen

    2. Cornerback: Cary Williams isn’t very good, while Bradley Fletcher cannot be counted on to start 16 games. Philadelphia may use its first-round pick on a new No. 1 corner. Signed Nolan Carroll

    3. Outside Linebacker: The only linebacker who consistently put pressure on the quarterback was Trent Cole, and he won’t last beyond next year because he’s due $10 million in 2015. Another pass-rusher is currently needed anyway. An early draft choice could be used to remedy this need. Signed Bryan Braman

    4. Two Wide Receivers: Two of the Eagles’ top three receivers (Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper) will be free agents this March. At least one will have to be retained. If the other walks, a wideout will have to be acquired. DeSean Jackson has been released. Re-signed Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin

    5. Inside Linebacker: As predicted, DeMeco Ryans struggled in the 3-4 defense, just as he did in Houston when the Texans made the scheme switch. Ryans will probably be back next year, but the Eagles need to ready a replacement for the near future.

    6. Defensive Line Depth: A pass-rushing defensive end and a backup nose tackle should be added.

    7. Offensive Line Depth: Philadelphia should spend a mid- or late-round pick on some offensive line depth. Backups are needed at tackle and guard. Todd Herremans may not be around beyond 2014, so that’s something to keep in mind.

    8. Backup Quarterback: QBDK is a free agent, so Philadelphia will need to have someone reliable behind Nick Foles. Matt Barkley doesn’t count. Signed Mark Sanchez

    9. Punter: Donnie Jones happens to be a free agent. Re-signed Donnie Jones

    10. Offensive Weapon: This is not a need, but rather something Chip Kelly would like to have (i.e. a De’Anthony Thomas-type role). Dri Archer is a possibility in Rounds 3-4. Traded for Darren Sproles

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2014 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Nolan Carroll, CB, Dolphins. Age: 27.
      Signed with Eagles

      Nolan Carroll sustained a number of injuries (knee, concussion, rib) throughout his 2013 campaign. Despite this, he didn’t miss a single game.

    2. Malcolm Jenkins, S, Saints. Age: 26.
      Signed with Eagles (3 years, $16.25 million)

      Malcolm Jenkins has never lived up to expectations as a former first-round pick, but he has shown flashes at times. He just turned 26, so there’s still plenty of time.

    3. Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets. Age: 27.
      Signed with Eagles

      Mark Sanchez is a 1.5-star player, but I’m giving him a write-up because he’s a big name. Sanchez, of course, is a former top-five pick in the NFL Draft, but he’s not a starting-caliber quarterback; nor is he a capable backup. Sanchez, who happens to be coming off shoulder surgery, is a turnover machine. He’s also never maintained a completion percentage higher than 56.7 or a YPA greater than 6.7. Some will incorrectly praise him for leading the Jets to a pair of AFC Championships in his first two seasons, but it was his defense that carried him there. Sanchez has since lost his confidence and endured a shoulder injury, so he’s not even the mediocre quarterback that we saw back in 2009 and 2010.

    4. Bryan Braman (RFA), DE/OLB, Texans. Age: 27. — Signed with Eagles
    5. Chris Maragos, S, Seahawks. Age: 27. — Signed with Eagles

    Philadelphia Eagles Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles. Age: 27.
      Signed with Redskins

      DeSean Jackson has always been a member of my Top 10 Most Overrated Players list, which I compile every summer. He’s a one-trick pony who happens to be very brittle. And now, it turns out that he’s affiliated with some Los Angeles gang that has been connected with a couple of murders. Joining that exclusive club must have seemed like a great career move at the time for Jackson, but the Eagles apparently didn’t agree. They simply cut him without getting anything in return, which is crazy. Jackson still has enough talent to be a three-star player atop this underwhelming list of free agent receivers, but if Philadelphia was this concerned about his off-the-field issues, other teams should be as well.

    2. Riley Cooper, WR, Eagles. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Eagles (5 years, $25 million; $10 million guaranteed)

      Riley Cooper has trouble separating at times, but he’s a big target, and Nick Foles loves lobbing it up to him. Cooper’s off-the-field racist incident seems to be behind him.

    3. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Eagles (1 year, $5.5 million)

      Jeremy Maclin is more talented than an ordinary 2.5-star free agent, but he’s always nursing some sort of injury. He happens to be coming off a torn ACL this time. He’s also never recorded more than 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

    4. Donnie Jones, P, Eagles. Age: 34.
      Re-signed with Colts (3 years)

      Donnie Jones has ranked ninth and 13th in net punting the past two years.

    5. Nate Allen, S, Eagles. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Eagles (1 year, $2 million)

      Nate Allen has gotten a ton of flak from Philadelphia fans for underachieving as a former second-round pick, but he hasn’t been that terrible. He improved a bit in 2013.

    6. QB Eagles No. 7, QB, Eagles. Age: 34.
      Signed with Jets (1 year, $5 million)

      QBDK is a turnover machine incapable of reading defenses or recognizing blitzes. He still has some athletic ability, but that’s diminishing every single season.

    7. Clifton Geathers, DE/DT, Eagles. Age: 26. — Signed with Redskins
    8. Jason Avant, WR, Eagles. Age: 31. — Signed with Panthers (1 year)
    9. Patrick Chung, S, Eagles. Age: 27. — Signed with Patriots
    10. Kurt Coleman, S, Eagles. Age: 26. — Signed with Vikings
    11. Phillip Hunt (RFA), DE/OLB, Eagles. Age: 28.
    12. Colt Anderson, S, Eagles. Age: 28.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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