Are you ready for some Eagles football?


The wait for what could be the most intriguing Eagles’ season in years is almost over. A lot has changed since the last time the Birds took the field, and if nothing else, this season will be different. With the franchise turning the page, there’s plenty of reasons to be excited about. However, if the last two years were any indication, this is a very flawed football team. Here are the good and bad things I’m looking ahead to for this season.

Things I’m Excited For

• Seeing Chip in action

The Eagles just fired the most successful coach in team history. Not that he didn’t deserve it after a string of disappointing seasons and the feeling like he had lost the team. Now, the team has the biggest enigma at the reigns. If Reid was anything, he was consistent, at least in how his teams played the game. Watching the Eagles offense in 2012 was pretty much like watching the Eagles offense in 2008 or 2004, just with different players. While they had some great successes under Reid, watching them seemed to get stale.

Chip Kelly comes out of Oregon as the darling of offensive football. His teams racked up yards and points like Reid racked up ham sandwiches and throat clearing coughs during press conferences. It’s hard to imagine Kelly’s fast-paced offense not working, but the trouble is you really never know. There have been countless “can’t miss” college coaches that have made the jump to the pros only to fail (Steve Spurrier, etc.). The ones that have been successful (like Jimmie Johnson) employed pro-style offenses in the college ranks, but Kelly figures to bring in a gameplan unlike anything the NFL has ever seen. Nobody is really sure what to expect.

The thing I’m looking forward to the most is at least glimpses of this offense being successful. It may be a few years before they’re contenders, but if the Eagles at least know they have the right guy at the helm it will be a huge leg up for the future.

• Bryce Brown

Already one of the best backs in the league, LeSean McCoy is expected to do some big things this year in the Kelly offense. He could probably carry the load himself, but if the Eagles’ other talented, if not fumble-prone, runner Bryce Brown can make a significant contribution this year, the Birds might have a chance to make some big moves this year.

Brown broke on to the scene last year when he started a few games while McCoy was sidelined with a concussion. He averaged nearly 5 yards per carry last year and scored four touchdowns. He had huge games against the Panthers and the Cowboys, tallying 178 and 169 yards in those games respectively. He flashed some brilliant speed and as a much more north-south runner than McCoy, Brown is a perfect change of pace to throw at opposing defenses.

The problem is that Brown can’t hold onto the ball. In those two break-out games against Carolina and Dallas, he fumbled four times. If Brown can’t get rid of his butterfingers, it’s unlikely that he’ll be trusted with more than a handful of carries a game.

• Fletcher Cox and the defensive front 7

The Eagles’ sophomore defensive lineman was the team’s best defensive player last year and is one of the biggest building blocks for the future of the franchise. Cox, who had 5.5 sacks from the D-tackle spot last year, is shifting to the end of the line in the Eagles’ new 3-4 hybrid scheme. It might be too much to ask of Cox to expect him to reach the level of players like Texans DE/Alien J.J. Watt, but Cox has to step up in order for the defense to be passable.

One of the surprises of the preseason was Vinny Curry (drafted as a pass-rushing end out of Marshall) holding his own at the other 3-4 end spot. Bennie Logan, a rookie out of LSU, also showed flashes of being a solid player in the exhibition games. Don’t be surprised if both these guys are starting alongside Cox before long.

The linebackers might be the hardest position group to judge on the team, but there is room for optimism. Mychal Kendricks showed some potential as a starter last year, and a move to the inside should give him a chance to make a few more plays. Connor Barwin wasn’t an all-world player with the Texans, but he knows the system and has proved he can pressure the quarterback as an outside linebacker, something no other player on the team can boast.

The two other linebackers are the two biggest defensive question marks not in the secondary. DeMeco Ryans has to prove that he hasn’t lost a step and Trent Cole  has to prove he can play without his hand in the dirt. Both are pro-bowlers when they play to the best of their abilities, but Ryans and Cole both have to show that they aren’t quite over the hill.

What I’m Worried About

• Injuries/ lack of depth

Every team has to deal with injuries to some extent over the course of the year, and a team has to overcome missing key players sometimes in order to be a good team. But the Eagles have had some bum luck. Injuries decimated their offensive line with Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans all missing huge parts of the year. With all of them healthy, along with first round pick Lane Johnson and criminally underrated Evan Mathis, the Eagles claim one of the best O-lines in football. If any of those players miss any significant time, there isn’t any depth to back them up.

A position the Eagles cannot afford to lose any more players is wide receiver. They already lost Jeremy Maclin, a starter, and Arrelious Benn, a player they traded for who would have fit in perfectly. Now they have to rely on Riley Cooper, Jason Avant and Demaris Johnson to compliment DeSean Jackson. None of those guys, other than Jackson, are unlikely to strike any fear in enemy defenses. The Eagles are going to have to lean on their trio of tight ends to pick up the receptions left on the table with the losses of Maclin and Benn.

• The secondary

This could get ugly. For anyone who saw the Eagles’ pass defense over the last two years, it might be hard to believe that it could get worse, but it just might. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher replaced big-name, big-disapointment cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. It’s hard to imagine that as anything more than addition by subtraction. Williams is a better tackler than either of the departed players but was probably just the fourth best corner on the Ravens last year. Fletcher is a relative unknown.

It’s bad enough that the Eagles have never replaced Brian Dawkins as a leader, but they still haven’t come close to finding his replacement at Safety. Free agent acquisition Patrick Chung could be the lone improvement in the secondary, but he’s not a star. Nate Allen will get another chance to show he wasn’t a bust as a second round pick.

The offense better be able to put points on the board because stopping even a decent passing attack will be a tough ask of the Eagles’ defense.

• Mike Vick

The underachievement of the Eagles in the last two seasons wasn’t all Michael Vick’s fault, but it’s easy to pick on him. He turned the ball over too much and was injured too often. With a capable back-up like Nick Foles waiting in the wings, Vick will have to show that he has made the changes necessary in order to be the man on this team.

This offense should be perfect for Vick. No other quarterback on the roster has the ability take advantage of all of the little wrinkles in Chip Kelly’s offense like Vick would. If he is able to play within the scheme and limit turnovers, Vick could carry the Eagles to a few wins. If it turns out that he’s just the same old QB, it could be a long season.

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