Kelly arrives in Philadelphia with great expectations
HC C.Kelly, LB C.Barwin,
DT I.Sopoaga, S P.Chung,
RB F.Jones, CB C.Williams,
FB J.Casey, S K.Phillips
DT C.Jenkins, CB N.Asomugha,
DT M.Patterson, LB A.Jordan,
It was suggested the mood and atmosphere were becoming stagnant for the Philadelphia Eagles with Andy Reid as head coach.
It was even more evident after a 4-12 finish last season and a second straight year not making the playoffs.
Enter the touted college mind of Chip Kelly.
Kelly and his innovative, fast-thinking offense touched down in the City of Brotherly Love this offseason and many believe his presence will resuscitate the languishing effect left by Reid. Kelly is the first head coach of the Eagles since 1998 not named Reid and it's a mystery whether his up-tempo philosophy will work at the NFL level.
There are several college coaches who fizzled out in the league, but there are others who have thrived. The Eagles are hoping Kelly fits the latter category when the regular season commences next month. Kelly's first few months have been interesting with the Riley Cooper racial slur debacle and players still wondering who will be the starting quarterback.
Kelly is not in a hurry to appease his critics and it appears a starting quarterback won't be named until Week 1 nears. It has been a two-horse race between veteran Michael Vick and second-year QB Nick Foles. Kelly even made a trade on draft day to acquire former USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who could be the face of the franchise some day.
Pat Shurmer's head coaching stint didn't last long and now he's back with the Eagles as their offensive coordinator. Shurmer is very familiar with the franchise, having coached the tight ends from 1999-01 and quarterbacks from 2002-08. Shurmer has a lot of toys to work with in running back LeSean McCoy, wide receiver Desean Jackson and tight end Brent Celek. He lost a weapon in wideout Jeremy Maclin, who is done for the season with a torn ACL suffered during the first weekend of training camp.
Philadelphia's offensive line, arguably the strongest unit on the team, is back at full strength. Like all offenses, a strong offensive line can lead to greener pastures and the Eagles are hoping in time it will occur for them.
The Eagles' biggest area of concern is the defense. The unit is expected to switch to a 3-4 scheme under new coordinator Bill Davis, whose track record isn't that pristine.
Davis has some older players working in new positions, most notably former Pro Bowl defensive end Trent Cole moving to outside linebacker. Does Cole have the coverage skills and speed to cover on a regular basis? Will this lead to Cole's demise? All that will come to light in 2013. (-The Sports Network)
Can changes bring improvement to Eagles' defence?
No area of concern is larger than the Eagles' defense. One of the worst last season while using Jim Washburn's tortured wide-nine scheme on the defensive line, it's no wonder the Eagles lost 12 games a year ago and needed to make some changes.
Under Davis, Philadelphia is expected to unveil its variation of a 3-4 defense and has a young crop running the end spots in Cedric Thornton and Fletcher Cox (39 tackles, 5 1/2 sacks). Those spots could change of course with Vinny Curry pushing for playing time and Clifton Geathers battling for a roster spot. Cox has the most upside with his size and athleticism, while the rookie Logan showed he can penetrate up front.
The Eagles wanted to alter their defensive philosophy, so they released veterans Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson and added Isaac Sopoaga, who is well versed at the nose tackle position. Antonio Dixon is another space eater.
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Cole has to make the biggest transition from the 4-3 scheme to a 3-4, and is used to playing with one or both hands in the dirt. Known for his high motor, Cole is coming off a horrendous year in which he registered just three sacks. Cole had 10 or more in each of the previous three years and is entering his eighth season with the Eagles. Will age catch up to Cole in his new spot at right outside linebacker? It could, but the Eagles have others who can step up. Barwin (44 tackles, 3 sacks) will most likely be the top pass rusher from his LOLB position and brings a hard-nosed approach to the game.
Brandon Graham has plenty to prove and may even crack the starting lineup. If not, Graham (38 tackles, 5 1/2 sacks) will be a valuable sub behind Cole or Barwin.
Second-year linebacker Mychal Kendricks (75 tackles, sack) impressed during his rookie campaign and showed his speed and coverage skills. He got burnt a few times in 2012, but it's all a part of learning. Top inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans (113 tackles, sack) led the Eagles in tackles last year, but struggled when the Texans switched to a 3-4 a few years ago. In a 4-3 under technique, Ryans feels more comfortable and the Eagles could show that a few times.
Defending the pass was a major issue for the Eagles last season even with Nnamdi Asomugah and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie playing opposite corners. The two of them appeared to be a recipe for success but proved otherwise and are now in different cities.
The Eagles added free agent corners in Cary Williams (75 tackles, 4 INT) and Bradley Fletcher, and the former made a negative impressive by skipping voluntary workouts for a myriad of reasons, one being the inside decor of his new house. Williams is a tough player. There's no doubt about that. He will have to back up his words and actions come Week 1. Fletcher (28 tackles, sack) flew under the radar and should have a spot locked up unless Brandon Boykin (31 tackles) makes a push.
Kurt Coleman (93 tackles, 2 INT) was awful at safety and he will be replaced by another Oregon Duck, Patrick Chung. Chung (45 tackles, 2 INT) isn't as aggressive as Coleman, but covers better and has a higher football I.Q. Nate Allen (73 tackles) hasn't lived up to his strong safety tag and could lose his job to newcomer Kenny Phillips. Phillips played just four games in 2012. Rookie Earl Wolff may even push some of the veterans for starting time, too.
Expectations are not very high for the Eagles considering the changes they have made since the debacle of 2012. Pegged to win maybe four or five games, the Eagles will not return to prominence any time soon and it could take Kelly three years to get fully settled in the NFL.
Reid needed his third season to get Philadelphia back on the map and overcome the types of bumps and bruises Kelly will surely experience. The defense will go through its share growing pains, too, and that's expected under a new regime. (-The Sports Network)
Special Teams: K A. Henery, P D. Jones, KR D. Johnson, PR D. Jackson
Special Teams: K A. Henery, P D. Jones, KR D. Johnson, PR D. Jackson
Fantasy - By The Numbers
There is plenty of optimism about the Eagles' offence, with new head coach Chip Kelly expected to upgrade the attack after lighting up college football with the Oregon Ducks, yet there are more than a few questions, not the least of which is who will be starting at quarterback.
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Michael Vick and Nick Foles are battling for the job, but Vick is inconistent and prone to injury while Foles had modest numbers (1,699 yards, 6 TD, 5 INT) in seven games as a rookie.
The passing game also took a hit right off the bat in camp, with WR Jeremy Maclin suffering a torn ACL, leaving DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper at the top of the wide receiver depth chart. Jackson's dangerous, but had a career-low 700 receiving yards while playing only 11 games last season. TE Brent Celek is good enough to hold a fantasy roster spot, but he's lumped in with maybe six or eight others that are fringe starters.
If there is going to be a real top-tier performer in the Eagles' offence, it could be RB LeSean McCoy, who led football with 20 rushing and receiving touchdowns in 2011, before managing just five in a dozen games last season. McCoy has run for 3,229 yards in the last three seasons, yet also ranks third among running backs with 180 receptions over that span.
The Eagles' switch to a 3-4 defence changes the dynamic, quite possible destroying the value of Trent Cole, who was among the best at defensive end, but may not be enough of a tackler to remain a high-end option at linebacker. Second-year DE Fletcher Cox was productive in nine starts as a rookie, so he could have value while, in the secondary, CB Cary Williams and SS Patrick Chung are depth options. (-Scott Cullen)