Eagles Roster Reconstruction
Perhaps no organization has been through a more drastic roster change than the Philadelphia Eagles. Chip Kelly was given full control of personal decisions and when he elected to trade the best running back in franchise history-LeSean McCoy-the only way to feel about the Eagles was that they were doomed. The optimists who supported Kelly were letting the offseason play out before criticizing the third-year coach. But even they became skeptics after Kelly followed the McCoy trade by dealing QB Nick Foles to the ST. Louis Rams for an injury-prone Sam Bradford. After Kelly refused to overpay to retain Jeremy Maclin and he left for Kansas City, Eagles fans were left wondering if their beloved Birds were simply cursed. What was most astonishing about the reconstruction of the roster was that it happened to a team that won 20 games over the past two seasons.
However, the optimists came back after seeing what Kelly’s plan truly was. There was no secret to what the demise of the Eagles has been, their defense; specifically their secondary that ranked dead last in 2014. Immediately Kelly made it a point of emphasis to improve the defense, at whatever cost. The benefits of the LeSean McCoy trade were overshadowed by the immediate shock created by the move.
Philadelphia acquired one of the best young talents in the NFL when Buffalo agreed to give ILB Kiko Alonso in exchange for McCoy. Philly’s front seven was already considered great, and now with Alonso they are destined to be an elite force to be wrecking with. Kelly also decided to resign ILB DeMeco Ryans, who tore his ACL in 2014, but prior to that, was a team leader and one of the more consistent players. And it is still unsure who the starters will be at ILB because the Birds also have another great young player in Mychal Kendricks. In Kendricks’ last 16 games he recorded 115 tackles, seven sacks, five forced fumbles, and two interceptions.
The next piece to Kelly’s confusing puzzle was allowing for three secondary starters to walk via free agency; the only predictable thing Kelly did all offseason. Eagles managed to sign the top corner on the market, Byron Maxwell, who is being underrated because of where he played. Doubters say Maxwell was a product of all the talent that surrounded him, playing with the Legion Of Boom. What they fail to realize was that Maxwell could have easily been exposed playing in that secondary. Offenses could have planned to attack his side all game, but when called upon, he held his own and proved that he was also a major asset to the best defense in football. Richard Sherman, who is widely regarded as the best corner in the game, offered high praise for Maxwell. “He’s incredibly versatile. He’s a very smart football player. He has a great and very unique technique about him that applies both inside and out and I think at the end of the day he’s just a great player.”
Eagles also signed Walter Thurmond III who has played inside corner for most of his career, but whom the Eagles intend to play safety opposite to Malcolm Jenkins. Thurmond, who was Maxwell’s former teammate at Seattle, was once regarded as one of the better inside corners in the league. He has reportedly taken on his new role with confidence and was one of the better players in OTA’S. Philly was not done there, they drafted corner back Eric Rowe from UTAH in the second round, a pick that received high praise. Defense will be much improved for the Eagles in 2015, possibly enough to put them in the top 10.
Abundance Of New Talent
At one point in the offseason the Eagles offense was not impressive. Reports from multiple sources indicated the Eagles were signing Frank Gore, who is a bit over the hill. Also before the draft the Eagles projected starting receiving duo was Jordan Matthews and Riley Cooper. That is when Kelly took his plan into full effect. He managed to steal the league’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, from Dallas. This move gave the Birds a viable replacement for McCoy and also weakened their division rival. One NFL Executive commented on the change of running backs the Eagles made. He stated “I’ll take McCoy over Murray every time,” and he is not wrong for saying so. Being as objective as possible, I would venture to say McCoy has a slight edge. However, give me Murray and Ryan Mathews, who the Eagles also signed, over McCoy any day as well. Philadelphia’s backfield consists of three pro bowlers: Murray, Mathews, and Darren Sproles.
Kelly used his first pick of the draft on WR Nelson Agholor from USC, who Walter Thurmond said would have a rookie campaign similar to that of Odell Beckham Jr. The Eagles also have an emerging star at tight end in Zach Ertz. Kelly also signed Miles Austin, a crafty veteran, who will serve as an essential mentor to the young stars the Eagles have at the receiver position. With all that said, there is no doubt the Eagles have improved defensively and have the personnel to be one of the elite offenses in 2015, but it all comes down to Bradford.
Eagles Title Hopes On QB’s Shoulders
There is no confusion as to why Kelly was heavily criticized for the Bradford move, he has not managed to stay healthy. Kelly is putting all his chips on the table, betting on his health science program that has kept the Eagles as the healthiest team in the NFL. If Kelly’s plan pans out and Bradford stays healthy, look out for the Eagles in 2015.
The most productive team in the NFL running the play action pass has been Kelly’s Eagles. Ironically enough one of the better quarterbacks running the play action has been Bradford. Bradford’s passer rating running play-action passes is an impressive 111.5%. A consistent running game is what allows the play action to flourish and the Eagles have the preseason number one ranked backfield.
Philadelphia’s defense is still being overlooked by most, but don’t be surprised if there is a top 10 defense back in the city of brotherly love. Thus far, Kelly’s health program has worked well and it is crucial that it helps Bradford stay healthy. Eagles are set to have a lethal running game with dynamic receivers and a star tight end. Kelly’s system has allowed for players like Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez to reach potential that was not expected. Who is to say it can’t do the same with the former number one pick of the 2010 draft and rookie of the year. It all comes down to health.