12 months ago, the Philadelphia Eagles were one of the most exciting teams in the NFL. Some predicted Chip Kelly to bring the birds a second NFC East crown in just three years while others had even higher expectations for Kelly and his newly assembled roster. Fast forward to today however and the situation could not be any more different. A new Head Coach, a franchise quarterback in the making and some huge signings see the Eagles heading down a completely different path.
Howie Roseman has done everything in his power to erase the turmoil the birds endured in 2015..but do the Eagles look more, or less competitive than they did at this point last season?
The biggest change here is obviously the addition of Carson Wentz. The drafting of the former NDSU quarterback caused quite the controversy at the quarterback position..but one that the team were able to walk through unharmed and now enter 2016 with Sam Bradford on a do-or-die deal, a reliable backup who knows Doug Pederson’s system and a rookie with a ceiling that’s sky-high.
Bradford will lead the Eagles just as he did a year ago, but with no rehabbing to worry about and a system in which he inherits much more control. Bradford could be poised for an impressive year but beyond that his future is murky. For the Eagles however..it’s crystal clear. Wentz is marinating in a very QB friendly coaching tree and learning from two very experienced NFL quarterbacks..a Head Coach’s dream.
DeMarco Murray may have arrived in Philadelphia with a hefty salary cap hit, but it’s fair to say if he was utilized correctly instead of being forced into a style of running that doesn’t suit him at all, then 2015 could have been very..very different. The birds were stacked at running back last year..it just never came together under a Head Coach who saw himself as the star instead of his players.
As things stand, the Eagles have an injury prone Ryan Mathews and a veteran in Darren Sproles ahead of Barner and newly drafted Wendell Smallwood. On paper, it’s a perfect “budget” committee for Pederson to experiment with in his first season as a Head Coach and regardless of injury concerns or worries about age, the birds have more than enough depth at the position to make an impact in 2016.
It’s tough to look both backfield’s without imagining how stunning DeMarco Murray would be in Doug Pederson’s system when you consider how much success Jamaal Charles has enjoyed. Sure, Murray came with a huge cap hit..but now Fletcher Cox does too. In the right system that has a solid Offensive line ahead of him, Murray is going to do damage..and it would be hard to choose a backfield in which he’s effectively been replaced by a committee on a budget.
There’s no real change here..other than both Brent Celek and Zach Ertz signed contract extensions. 2016 obviously has the better outlook due to having the futures of both the experienced Brent Celek and the explosive Zach Ertz secured.
The WR corps is anywhere from finalized, but as it stands..here’s a rough idea of how the birds could line up in 2016. ( The final spot is listed as competition due to how open the WR battle is) year ago, big things were predicted for Matthews, Huff and Agholor. The receivers may have struggled, but there were flashes of potential in all three before a surge from Jordan Matthews in the closing half of the season.
Two receivers who weren’t predicted to shine however..were Riley Cooper and Miles Austin. The two are no longer with the team after disappointing 2015 campaigns and the Eagles now place their receiving hopes on the shoulders of Reuben Randle, deep-threat Chris Givens. Meanwhile, a rookie will most likely fill the spot of Seyi Ajirotutu if the team decide to carry six receivers.
Both Huff and Agholor had a lot of potential coming into their rookie season’s, but both fell short of expectations. Huff improved slightly in 2015, but was plagued by the same problems that haunted him in his rookie season. Randle is a low-risk, high-reward receiver and while the unit may not be glamorous and have plenty of question marks looming over it, the new system could well see the birds wideouts thrive in 2016..or at least give them a platform of freedom previously unexperienced under Chip Kelly. The chains have been lifted..but can the unit produce?
There are plenty of battles currently unravelling on the Offensive line so again, this one is perhaps too early to judge. A basic shape has emerged however, and it’s very promising. The Eagles leaked far too much pressure in 2015 and an injury plagued season for Jason Peters partnered with an inconsistent display from Jason Kelce, only made things worse.
The right hand side has been considerably strengthened however, with the addition of former Texan’s guard Brandon Brooks. With rookies Isaac Seumalo and “Big V” aiming to compete for roster spots deep into training camp and the regular season, the Line suddenly has a lot of promise. Wisniewski is currently playing second fiddle to Allen Barbre at the LG spot but again, that could all change as training camp unfolds.
There was plenty of uncertainty facing the line heading into 2015 and while some of those concerns have been lifted, others remain. The good news is however, that the Eagles have added a ton of both depth and talent on the line to ensure that a situation like they encountered in 2015 doesn’t repeat itself.
Almost every position on the Eagles Offense has been upgraded or addressed during the offseason. The backfield may be the only position where in a perfect world, you would want to see DeMarco Murray run wild downhill under Doug Pederson, but the NFL is anything but a perfect world. It’s a business. In that aspect, it could even be argued that even the backfield looks better than it did a year ago because of the huge weight of Murray’s contract that has been lifted from the team’s shoulders.
The Eagles Offense may not be perfect, but when comparing it to how the roster looked just 12 months ago, it’s clear that the team are not only heading in an entirely different direction..but a very promising one.
Photo credit: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports
Liam is a 25-year old sports journalist from the UK and founder of the Philly Sports Network. In just five years he turned a hobby into one of the fastest-growing Philadelphia sports sites in the world, amassing 7,000,000 views and writing over 3,000 articles. Drawing attention from the likes of CSN, NJ.Com and Bleacher Report in the process, Liam is set on changing the way Philadelphia sports teams are reported on forever.
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