NFL Season Preview: The Philadelphia Eagles Olympic Track Team
The Philadelphia Eagles are two seasons removed from their self-proclaimed “Dream Team” season, and have undergone a massive overhaul of their personnel, from expelling head coach Andy Reid following a 4-12 season, to dumping nearly every one of the defensive players that the team acquired heading into the 2011 season. With new head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles are moving towards an Olympic track team that plays an up-tempo style of football on both sides of the ball, just as Kelly’s team did at Oregon.
The Eagles employed a variant of the West Coast Offense under Reid, but that is no more. The offensive pieces are largely the same, with QB Michael Vick (most likely) beating out Nick Foles as starting QB, while LeSean McCoy is the unquestioned starter at RB. The WR corps will continue to feature Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper and Desean Jackson. The Eagles’ issue offensively was their swinging-gate of an offensive line. Protection was only marginally better for Foles after Vick went down with an assortment of injuries, but if Kelly’s offense is going to work, they will need to be healthy along the offensive line, which was not the case for every member of the line (including losing two of the five starters for the season, and two others for extended periods of time).
The biggest changes came for the Eagles’ defense. The entire secondary was shipped out (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Patrick Chung was brought in to take the starting safety job from Nate Allen, while two rookies are going to push undersized Kurt Coleman at the other safety.) The LB corps got much younger last year, with Mychal Kendricks and Jamar Chaney starting more and more games alongside DeMeco Ryans. Casey Matthews will also be retained and have a role under Kelly’s system. Additionally, Connor Barwin was acquired via free agency from the Houston Texans. There are serious questions about the Eagles’ defensive line. One of the members of the then-acquired “Dream Team”, Cullen Jenkins, is now a New York Giant. Only Trent Cole and Fletcher Cox remain from the defensive line rotation that saw extensive playing time for the Eagles in 2012. Of note, the acquisition of Isaac Sopoaga from the San Francisco 49ers may help shore up the middle of the defensive line at tackle.
While there are few to no questions about the Eagles’ offense, their defense is going to be the focal point entering 2013. There is not a lot of cohesion and continuity, so it may take a while for this unit to gel.
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