Projected Lineups: Philadelphia Eagles
Heading back to the NFC East for the final time, our tour of league lineups ahead of free agency takes on the division champion Philadelphia Eagles. The first year under Chip Kelly, with a few hiccups along the way, was a successful one with an explosive offense paving the way to Philadelphia’s eighth division title since the turn of the century.
With unrestricted free agents taken out of picture for the time being, the Eagles are in strong shape already with plenty of cap room to add to a team that went from worst to first in a division that failed to live up to its title as the “NFC Beast” in 2013. The questions surrounding the current state of the roster revolve largely around a defense still coping with its switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 front. In the front seven there is tinkering to be done while in the secondary there is perhaps more need for a continued overhaul to allow this team to take further strides.
– Player markers are colored per class on a five-step ‘Poor’ to ‘High Quality’ scale based on their overall performance and the league’s elite are marked separately in blue.
– Colored outlines suggest a potential change in class.
– Underlined players will be 30+ years old for the 2014 season.
– Red player names suggest injury risks.
– Click on the image to enlarge.
– The gaudy statistics might lead you to look first at the skill positions but it all starts on the line for the Eagles. After some early wobbles as Jason Peters recovered from injury and Lane Johnson got used to life in the NFL, the Eagles’ line came together and was simply demolishing defenses. There is no better left side than Peters and Evan Mathis while on the right side Todd Herremans and Johnson could boast a similar claim if they can avoid repeating some poor early-season displays in pass protection.
– Moving past that terrific line, we take a look at the skill positions. Leading from the front is LeSean McCoy whose speed and decisiveness getting upfield blended perfectly with Chip Kelly’s open offense and the blocking he got up front. Our highest-graded running back last season, (+31.2) McCoy collected more than a third of his yards on 26 breakaway carries (15+ yards), leading the league in breakaway yards (585) by nearly 100 yards.
– Turning our attention to the defense and you see the areas that need investment or patience before we start to see the yellows and oranges turning to the two shades of green. At corner the Eagles got what they should have expected with Cary Williams a (just about) average corner who, after a strong debut, (+3.4 coverage at Washington) turned in more poor games in coverage than good.
– At linebacker the Eagles do have a defender trending upward in the shape of Mychal Kendricks. After an absolutely dire first month of the season. (-17.6 overall, eight missed tackles) Kendricks was much improved over the rest of the season with some strong games in run defense in the season’s final month. Kendricks still misses too many tackles (23 in total) and makes more plays coming forward than going backward but, deployed correctly, Kendricks is a valuable, incisive, linebacker for the Eagles.
2014 Cap Situation
The Eagles have holes to fill, positions to upgrade, and the ammunition ($20 million cap space according to overthecap.com) to make the necessary moves. The Eagles have never been ones to sit on their hands in free agency so expect targeted aggression once again as they go shopping for players to help them make the next step.
The Eagles can add further to their cap space by offloading the likes of DeMeco Ryans whose $6.9 million cap hit can be wiped off the books with no penalty and his performance (-21.4 overall, 14 missed tackles) on the field shouldn’t be too tough to replace. In the secondary, Patrick Chung only arrived last year but after a poor first season (-8.1) that showed precious little ability to progress on his time with the Patriots he could be released penalty-free to create another $3.25 million in cap space.
Opportunities from the Roster
Symptomatic of a team stacked with talent, the Eagles signed one of the more versatile free agents last year, James Casey, and made scant use of him on offense. Casey made his presence felt as one of the Eagles’ best special teamers but it will be interesting to see if Chip Kelly can give him more opportunities to make his impact on offense than the 157 snaps he got this season.
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