Five questions still facing the Eagles Offense

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It’s been a frantic offseason for the Philadelphia Eagles and it’s still far from over. The coaching staff has seen a complete overhaul whilst the team have added numerous free agents to bolster their Offense. The team have drafted meticulously to give new Head Coach Doug Pederson the best chance of success..but for that to happen we still need answers to five very important questions.

 

Will the Eagles be using a Fullback in 2016?
This has been debated for months now ever since Pederson mentioned he would like to utilize a fullback just weeks after being appointed as the Head Coach of the Eagles. From the signing and eventual cutting of Ryan Mueller to the Trey Burton rumors, the Eagles have been widely speculated to implement a fullback but don’t have one on their roster as it stands.

I still personally feel that Trey Burton is better suited to a position on the outside (full article here) and if that transition takes place, M.J McFarland could take Burton’s old backup TE spot. McFarland stands at 6’5 and 230 pounds but could be effective blocking out of the backfield and it would hardly be a surprise to see the Eagles attempt such a move.

Kenjon Barner is also a man who’s primed for a bigger Offensive role in 2016. After reportedly bulking up substantially since the end of his 2015 campaign, Barner’s name may also be thrown into the mix when it comes to finding a fullback.

If it’s a committee backfield that Doug Pederson plans on implementing, he may well prefer to use a Fullback..but it’s obviously not a necessity. If it was, the Eagles would have used a late-round draft pick on adding an extra body to the backfield or at least retained the services of Ryan Mueller. Of course, the Eagles have plenty of time to sign a free-agent or an undrafted rookie, but it doesn’t appear to be high on their list of priorities.

There is a strong possibility of seeing a few different players take reps at Fullback..and there’s also a strong possibility we see no players at all.

 

Everything is al”right”, but what about the left?
The Offensive Line saw a lot of upgrades this offseason. From the addition of Brandon Brooks and Stefen Wisniewski to the third-round pick being used to drat Isaac Seumalo..but as it stands, the left hand side of the line has some rather murky clouds floating over it.

First, there’s Jason Peters. The veteran tackle is dealing with a degenerative injury and his form was somewhat underwhelming in 2015. There’s no doubting his leadership or effect on the line..but can he sustain it for 16 more games? If he can’t, the Eagles need to be comfortable with the options they have behind him.

Just across from Peters, there’s even more questions. Doug Pederson recently asserted that Allen Barbre is “his guy” at LG. Barbre started all 16 games for the Eagles last season and if they’re fully confident in his ability whilst obviously regarding Kelce as the starting Center, have the Eagles paid Wisniewski $1.5M to be a backup? According to reports, he did lineup as a backup center on the first day of OTA’s..

Barbre is certainly a capable starter, as he proved in 2015 and Peters is going to be the starting Left Tackle until such a time as he’s no longer a viable option. The right side of the line looks impressive but the further along you go, the more questions start to arise. A lot can change between now and the season opener against the Browns..and it most likely will.

 

Zach Ertz is the star of the tight end show..but what about the supporting cast?
We know by now how dominant Travis Kelce was last season..we also know how explosive Zach Ertz can be. Many are expecting Pederson use Ertz in the same way he used the NFL’s third ranked Tight End in 2015..but what about Brent Celek and potentially the backup TE?

Ertz was hampered by injury problems at the start of the year and concussions towards the end of it..but it didn’t stop him from amassing 450 yards in just four games. The Chiefs liked to do things different in 2015 and often lined up with three Tight Ends..so what does this mean for the Eagles.

Doug Pederson has a lot of weapons to play with at the TE position. As it stands, Trey Burton is still a Tight End and behind him there’s a 6’5, 230 pound tight end who models his game after Zach Ertz by the name of M.J. McFarland.

In 2015, Brent Celek saw the lowest amount of targets since 2008. Pederson likes to get creative and this should bode extremely well for the 31 year old. But with so much emphasis being placed on the emergence of Zach Ertz it will be interesting to see if Brent Celek plays a supporting cast role, aids the Offensive Line or has a big receiving season in his own right after catching 77% of his passes in 2015.

The Eagles tight ends could be primed for a huge season under Doug Pederson when you consider their talent and how Pederson developed Kelce into one of the league’s most efficient tight ends in 2015, the question is will the show be dominated by Zach Ertz or will we see some creative formations during the 2016 that allow guys like Celek and Burton to play more of a prominent role?

 

Will the Eagles have a lead running back in 2016?
Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles will likely be supported by Kenjon Barner and fifth round pick Wendell Smallwood in 2016 with the potential for Byron Marshall to work his way into the mix. That sounds exciting enough but the problem is that the Eagles currently lack a lead rusher. Ryan Mathews is brilliant. He’s explosive, picks up big yards and is consistent enough to be a starter…his durability limits that possibility.

With Darren Sproles not getting any younger and Kenjon Barner demonstrating that he should be primed for a big season in 2016 (All-22 review here), the Eagles have to decide who is going to lead the charge..if anyone.

A lot of focus has been placed on versatility this offseason and it’s a trait this backfield has an abundance of. How Pederson plans to use that and build his dynamic committee backfield is still a huge unknown. In Kansas City, there was still a clear “lead back”..the best option for the Eagles may be to evenly distribute reps or have a group of effective situational backs instead. It’s an interesting debate and one we’re going to be talking about for quite sometime..but it’s also one of the most exciting debates surrounding the Eagles Offense.

 

Will Doug Pederson tweak his Offense to suit Sam Bradford?
Pederson’s Offense is a special one. Using elements of Chip Kelly’s up-tempo Offense combined with the creative prowess of Andy Reid, Pederson’s west-coast hybrid will be a joy to watch..but a lot of its success falls on the Quarterbacks ability to make a play and use pocket awareness to get out of trouble.

It’s something that Alex Smith did exceedingly well last year and a trait he shares (like it or not) with Sam Bradford. Smith is much more mobile than Bradford, but Bradford was much more accurate under pressure than Smith..the question is how can Pederson design his Offense to get the most out of the controversial signal caller.

In terms of the bigger picture, second overall pick Carson Wentz has everything Doug Pederson could possibly want in a Quarterback. Agile, strong and most importantly accurate. Chase Daniel knows the system and has had moderate success in his minimal live-game opportunities..making him a valuable asset to the development of the young rookie. But is Sam Bradford suited to this style of Offense and will it prove detrimental to the success of the unit going forward if he isn’t?

Under Chip Kelly, Bradford became a Chess Piece. With Pederson at the helm, the former Heisman winner will have a new canvas of audibles and opportunities previously non-existent. This allows for Bradford to have much more control over the Offense which should bode well for a Quarterback as intelligent as the Eagles starter.

Under Chip Kelly, Bradford rarely used the option play..something that Nick Foles appeared confident in doing despite his limited mobility. Offenses can be tweaked in order to get the most out of their players and it will be interesting to see if Pederson almost removes or changes the “dual threat” style of play that made the Chiefs so powerful in 2015.

Sam Bradford has a lot of questions lingering over him regardless of how he succeeds in Doug’s Offense..but if he’s to enjoy a successful season and keep his career either in or away from Philly alive, suitability to the Offensive scheme will play a huge role.
Photo Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

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