2013 Team Needs: Philadelphia Eagles
The 2012 Philadelphia Eagles began the season with Super Bowl aspirations and, after a 3-1 start, things were looking good. Then, slowly the losses start to mount and before you knew it they had dropped eight in a row, and were in a state of total disarray. In the midst of the losing streak they fired their defensive coordinator and grumblings of an unhealthy locker room began spreading.
When all was said and done, the Eagles finished 4-12, their worst record ever during Andy Reid’s 14-year tenure. That tenure ended the Monday after the season, and with his firing so began a new era in Philadelphia Eagles football. They have already made a big splash during the offseason by luring Oregon’s Chip Kelly from his beloved Ducks to be the new head man. Kelly has his hands full though, as this team has many needs — let’s take a look at some of the biggest ones.
Last offseason the Eagles felt so strongly about their set of corners they basically gave away Asante Samuel, a Pro Bowl corner, to the Falcons. Now, after a poor 2012 season by starters Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie the Eagles need to make some changes.
Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent and will likely test the market, and if another team is willing to pay him like a top cornerback, he is likely to leave. Rodgers-Cromartie allowed a Quarterback rating of 87.7 on passes thrown his way and gave up five touchdowns. His 11.3 Coverage Snaps Per Reception was good enough for 22nd in the NFL, but it was his occasional lack of effort and desire to make a tackle that plagued him in 2012.
Asomugha was the big prize from the 2011 offseason and many thought he was the missing piece on a seemingly talented team. After leading the NFL in Coverage Snaps Per Reception in 2011, at 18.6, he took a major step back in 2012. Asomugha still looks baffled in certain zone schemes and his one-on-one coverage ability, while still good, isn’t nearly as good as it once was. In 2012, Asomugha’s coverage snaps per reception was 11.5, 19th in the NFL. The alarming stat is the 120.6 QB rating on passes thrown his way, third-highest in the league. Asomugha is still under contract, but there is a strong chance that if he isn’t willing to restructure his deal he will be let go.
The bright spot at cornerback for the Eagles was rookie Brandon Boykin, who spent the entire season as the Eagles slot cornerback. Boykin allowed only 27 receptions in 336 snaps. The question for Boykin is, will they leave him in the slot or give him a chance to win one of the starting jobs on the outside?
Free Agent Fix: Derek Cox
Asomugha’s fate will dictate exactly how much salary cap room the Eagles have to spare. If previous seasons are an indication they will be willing to spend money to rebuild this position. Cox seems to fit the type of player they would target. He is only 26, hasn’t yet played to his full potential and won’t demand an insane price tag. His four interceptions in just 399 snaps show an ability to make plays that was missing big time from Philadelphia in 2012.
As discussed in the last section, the secondary in Philadelphia was a mess in 2012. The big-name cornerbacks got a lot of the blame, but the safety play was atrocious for most of the season as well. The starters for most of the season were Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen, both of whom were picked on in the passing game and were inconsistent tacklers. The safeties for the Eagles combined to allow nine touchdowns, while intercepting just three passes.
Allen was the biggest disappointment, after being drafted high in the second round in 2010, the Eagles thought he would be a lynchpin of their defense for years to come. However, injuries and poor play led Allen to the bench at the end of 2012 and his time as an Eagle may be over.
Coleman plays the game violently and is always looking for the knockout, but is extremely inconsistent. He finished with the fifth-most missed tackles among safeties on running plays, and often gets beat in coverage. Coleman was our 25th ranked safety in terms of coverage, better than the 48th ranked Allen, but hardly a reliable player. Both are under contract for 2013, but expect the Eagles to seek an upgrade on possibly both of them.
Free Agent Fix: Louis Delmas
The good news for the Eagles is that it is a good year to need safety help. Numerous starting-caliber safeties are available in free agency. Safety isn’t a position that the eagles typically spend big on, but after suffering through horrid safety play in 2012, that might change this year. Louis Delmas isn’t the biggest name available and is coming off of an injury-filled season, but the ability is there for him to be an impact player. His 12.0 combined Tackling Efficiency would have been in the Top 10 if he qualified with enough snaps. Delmas desperately needs to stay healthy, but in the three years since his rookie year, he hasn’t allowed more than one touchdown in any season. That is the type of safety that can help the Eagles.
The struggles of Michael Vick in 2012 have been widely documented, so it is no shock that the Eagles will search for a quarterback this offseason. When Vick went down with an injury rookie Nick Foles stepped in and became the starter. Foles showed some flashes of ability that made some think that he was the long-term answer, but with a new coaching regime it is truly a mystery where he currently stands.
The lousy quarterback play could be somewhat attributed to an injury-ravaged offensive line that had both Vick and Foles running for their lives on nearly every drop-back. Add in the fact that Vick averaged 3.07 seconds to throw, second-longest in the league, and it was a recipe for disaster. Vick really struggled with pre-snap reads and diagnosing blitzes, which led to confusion and the Eagles turning the ball over at alarming rates. Even though his athleticism appears to be an ideal fit for Chip Kelly, his recognition and decision-making do not. The deep pass, something that was once a vital piece of the Philadelphia offense also disappeared in 2012. Vick completed just 13 passes that were in the air for 20 yards or more, with two interceptions. In 2010, Vick’s big year with the Eagles, he had completed 25 deep passes, including seven touchdowns.
Foles fared better than Vick, and had some really good moments, including the come-from-behind win over Tampa Bay when he led the team to a game-winning touchdown on the final play. He had a better understanding of defenses and got the ball out quicker than Vick, which helped the depleted line. The problem for Foles fitting into Chip Kelly’s scheme will be his short passing. On passes between 0 and 9 yards, Foles had a negative PFF grade and was inconsistent with his accuracy.
Free Agent Fix: Bruce Gradkowski
Here is what we know Chip Kelly wants from his quarterback: smart, gets the ball out quickly and very accurate on short passes. In a perfect world that quarterback would also be athletic and mobile. There will be Alex Smith rumors and that would make sense, but will the Eagles open the vault for him? Another name that could make sense if he gets released is Matt Hasselbeck, the veteran always gets the ball out fast and is very accurate, however he is the furthest thing from mobile.
The selection of Bruce Gradkowski is obviously to compete with Foles and maybe even a high draft pick, but he does fit the Chip Kelly criteria. In limited action Gradkowski has shown an ability to get the ball out fast, with accuracy and has also made plays with his running ability. He is also known as a great teammate and would be an asset in a backup role.
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