2_Philadelphia Eagles1

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NFC-EAST PHILADELPHIA 2014 STRENGTHS: • Strong running attack, efficient quarterbacking Eagles Offense HUNTER MARTIN/GETTY IMAGES SPORT When Chip Kelly came to Philadelphia, he was hailed as an offensive savant, and his first year with the Eagles demonstrated that the man can sure coach that side of the ball. At times last year, opponents were overwhelmed, and those expecting an aerial circus found that this offense is about the run, too. LeSean McCoy rushed for 1,607 yards, and the Birds ran it only eight fewer times than they threw it. McCoy is one of the league’s best, and he should be good for another 1,500 yards, at least. The arrival of Darren Sproles should give the Eagles another weapon in both the run and passing games. But every NFL offense begins with the quarterback, and Nick Foles’ 27 TDs and only two interceptions represented a fabulous campaign for the unheralded 2012 third-round pick. Foles didn’t turn it over, but he did have trouble deciding when to throw it away and he took some needless sacks. In their last two games—against Dallas and New Orleans—the Eagles weren’t as overpowering with the ball as they had been earlier. A big factor this year is the departure of wideout DeSean Jackson, who had a huge year in 2013 (82 catches, 16.2 yards/ catch, 9 TDs). His ability to stretch defenses and attract extra attention made things easier for everyone else. Without him, the Eagles don’t have a front-line receiver, and it’s up to Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin—who missed 2013 with a torn ACL—and rookie Jordan Matthews to make sizeable steps forward. It helps 2014 WEAKNESSES: • Shaky secondary, pass protection EAGLES that tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz are quite good and able to get downfield. Last year, Philadelphia started the same five offensive linemen every game, something that helped with continuity. That won’t happen in 2014, since second-year right tackle Lane Johnson tested positive for a banned substance and will miss the first four games, but the team has faith in backup Allen Barbre. Meanwhile, left tackle Jason Peters is one of the game’s best, and center Jason Kelce and guard Evan Mathis are stalwarts. Expect the Eagles to be highly productive on offense again this year, even without Jackson. Their growing familiarity with Kelly’s offense should allow for an even faster tempo and another avalanche of points. Offensive Player to Watch If the Eagles are to make any postseason noise this year, it will come thanks to Foles’ maturation as a passer. There are still those who believe he isn’t a franchise quarterback, despite last year’s gaudy debut. But Foles did look extremely comfortable in Kelly’s system last year. He even ran it well in zone read situations. He isn’t the most nimble quarterback and doesn’t have a cannon arm, but he makes good decisions and is capable of operating Kelly’s scheme quite well. Foles is accurate and can deliver the ball quickly, which is a huge part of the Eagles offense. He will be more comfortable this year running the team, since he didn’t start last year until the seventh game, and has the potential to be something special. Eagles Defense In the run-up to last season, it was clear the Eagles’ goal was to get the offense settled and to leave coordinator Bill Davis to find a way to make the defensive unit productive with few stars and a collection of youngsters and castoffs. End Trent Cole was being asked to change positions, and linebacker DeMeco Ryans had to head back inside in a 3-4 configuration, after proving he wasn’t too comfortable there while in Houston. There were more than a few people who thought the Eagles were interested LeSean McCoy


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