Kelly’s Roster Overhaul
In Chip Kelly’s first offseason with full control of personnel decisions, he completed an overhaul of an Eagles roster that won 20 games over the past two seasons. NFL fans were left dumbfounded, contemplating exactly why Kelly would give up on a roster that seemed so close, yet in Kelly’s eyes was so far. Eagles were viewed as a threat in the NFC after their dismantle of their division foes on Thanksgiving. Philly embarrassed Dallas 33-10 and were 9-3; the rest of the season was a disaster. Mark Sanchez and company lost three straight games and missed the playoffs with a record of 10-6. Although many viewed the season as a success, because they were forced to play with a backup quarterback, it was obvious Kelly had seen enough. Kelly stated “I didn’t feel we were close at the end of the year. Ten and Six, not going to the playoffs, is just like being 4-12.” Philadelphia fans know all too well about a 4-12 team, because that is exactly who Chip Kelly was hired to take over. And although fans appreciate these past two seasons more than Reid’s final season, it is understandable that Kelly believes he needed several new pieces.
Best Linebacking Corps
The overall objective of the roster reconstruction was to improve defensively and we’re going to show you why the Eagles defense is being underrated just 50 days away from their season opener. Bleacher Report ranked every team’s linebacker depth chart and intelligently rated the Eagles number one. Philly resigned ILB, Demeco Ryans who has been a consistent player on the field and is irreplaceable as a leader of the defense. The man who Chip Kelly calls the team’s “Mufasa” is coming off a torn ACL, but with more talent around him will be asked to do less Physically. He is returning along with “The Angry Bird”- Mychal Kendricks- who has pro bowl talent. In kendricks’ last 16 games he has been a force. Last 16 Games: 115 tackles, seven sacks, five forced fumbles, and two interceptions. Chip Kelly traded the best running back in franchise history -LeSean McCoy- for the most talented of the Eagles’ tremendous linebacking corps, Kiko Alonso. It is not known who the starters will be, but it seems as if the Eagles will run a rotation with all their studs.
Philadelphia allowed the second best pass rusher in franchise history, Trent Cole, to walk this offseason. In 2014 Cole recorded 6.5 sacks and stated how he wanted to return as an Eagle at all costs. However, Kelly felt confident enough to allow Cole to leave and elected to resign Brandon Graham, who will now assume Cole’s former role. Graham recorded one less sack than Cole, 5.5, despite being used only on pass rushing situations. He will be lined up opposite OLB Connor Barwin, who was elected to the Pro Bowl after posting career sack numbers ( 14.5) . To go along with the three studs the Birds have at the ILB position, they had a combined 20 sacks, in 2014, from their returning OLB’s.
Elite Defensive Line
Philadelphia’s revamped linebacking corps is set to play with a ferocious defensive line that features one of the best players, and arguably the most underrated, in Fletcher Cox. Cox is the anchor of the entire defense, causing uncontainable force to disrupt the run game. Cox was snubbed of a pro bowl selection last season, but it would be incomprehensible for that to occur again. Aside from the quarterback and cornerback’s, due to the depth, he may be the most irreplaceable player on the roster. Alongside Cox is Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry. Thornton excels defending the run and playing with Cox gives the Eagles penetration that allows for their run defense to be solid. Last year DeMarco Murray failed to eclipse 100 yards in only four games, two of those games came against the Eagles. Vinny Curry offers the defensive line extreme versatility. Despite being relegated to playing on pass rushing situations, Curry accumulated 9 total sacks in 2014, second best on the team. Trent Cole referred to Curry as one of the best pass rushers in the league via a birthday message on twitter. Curry’s pass rushing compliments Cox, and Thornton’s, ability to stagger the run game. Cox made a very bold statement this offseason. “Being honest, I think we should be No. 1 in the league,” Cox said referring to the defensive line. “I say that for (several) reasons. We have a bunch of great guys, and they are going to put everything they got on the field. They are going to leave it on the field. They are a bunch of selfless guys that are going to play for another and to let each other know they are there to win the games.”
The biggest reason the Eagles have yet to win a playoff game under Kelly has been, in large part, due to the secondary. In 2014 the Eagles ranked 31st as a secondary, and Kelly reacted accordingly; allowing for three of the four starters to walk. Safety Malcolm Jenkins, who the Birds signed last offseason, proved to be a great signing and has already established himself as a team leader. Chip signed the top corner on the market, Byron Maxwell, and also added Walter Thurmond III who is expected to start at safety. Critics are saying that Kelly has not done enough to improve the secondary, but there is no denying it is vastly improved. Also the three players mentioned, Jenkins, Maxwell, and Thurmond, all have championship pedigree. Chip used his second round pick to select CB Eric Rowe from UTAH who several analysts believe will be a very good pro. Not to mention the secondary will look even better than they are due to the Eagles intimidating front seven.