Know Your Enemy: Philadelphia Eagles

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Know Your Enemy continues with the E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles. Philadelphia was not so brotherly after the Eagles went 7-9 in 2015 and Chip Kelly was fired. Kelly made some bold moves after two successful seasons in 2013 and 2014 but it backfired for the Eagles in 2015. Howie Roseman was given GM control again and Doug Pederson (Kansas City OC and former NFL QB) was hired to be the Eagles new head coach. Another former backup QB, Frank Reich is the offensive coordinator. Finally, our old pal Jim Schwartz is the Eagles new defensive coordinator. Schwartz will surely look to be carried off the field at Ford Field in 2016 like in 2014.

Quarterback City
The Eagles were 13th scoring 23.6 PPG in Chip Kelly’s hurry up offense. This was a decent showing with Sam Bradford playing most of 14 games and 2 games plus of Mark Sanchez. Bradford is back in the fold after getting a decent sized two year deal to re-sign with the Eagles. However, the Eagles also added Chase Daniel to big money for a backup and drafted Carson Wentz with the fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft. Pederson has hinted Wentz could be inactive all year and Bradford will be the starter again for the Eagles. Wentz has big time arm talent but isn’t ready for the NFL after playing for North Dakota State in college. The Eagles gave up ton of picks to the Browns to move up for Wentz. And now Wentz might not play much.

Bradford completed 65% of his throws (532 attempts) and had an 86.4 QB rating with 19 TDs and 14 interceptions. Bradford notched 3,725 yards and 7.0 yards per attempt under Kelly. Bradford must improve but time is running out for him to be a starter. This should be his last chance despite the other QBs on the Eagles roster. Bradford is very injury prone and Daniels or Wentz could get a chance to play in 2016.

Running Back

DeMarco Murray failed for Chip Kelly and the Eagles after a huge contract in the 2015 offseason. Murray had 3.6 YPC on 193 carries with 6 TDs. This was far below his 2014 production with the Cowboys and the Eagles traded Murray to the Titans this offseason. Ryan Matthews was signed last year by Chip Kelly and Matthews had some injuries but also some success in 2015 (5.1 YPC on 106 carries with 6 TDs).

Darren Sproles is still a weapon but more so as a returner and receiver. Sproles had 3.8 YPC on 83 carries for the Eagles. Kenjon Barner had 4.4 YPC on 28 carries and may play more with Murray gone. Wendall Smallwood was drafted in Round 5 for RB depth by the Eagles.
First round pick in 2015, Nelson Algohor had a poor rookie year (283 yards and 1 TD on 44 targets). Algohor was cleared of sexual assault this offseason but must prove he was worthy of a 1st round choice in his second year of his career. The Eagles need a deep threat and Algohor must prove he can be one.

Jordan Matthews is the Eagles number 1 WR after receiving 127 targets and notching 997 yards and 8 TDs in 2015. Reuben Randle was added in free agency from the Giants. Randle tallied 797 yards and 8 TDs on 90 targets for New York in 2015. Randle should be a good number 2 to the Eagles behind Matthews. Matthews and Randle is a decent combo.

Zach Ertz had 853 yards and 2 TDs and Brent Celek added 398 yards and 3 TDs at tight end. The Eagles have two solid tight ends to help Bradford. Sproles and Matthews can be weapons in the passing game as well.

Offensive Line
The Eagles have two good starting tackles. Jason Peters has been a top left tackle for years in the league. Jason Peters only problem is being injury prone recently as a player. Lane Johnson is a good right tackle who is good in run and pass blocking. Jason Kelce is a solid center and the Eagles added Stephen Wisnieski for depth at center. Kelce can run block well but struggled in protection in 2015.

The Eagles were terrible at guard in 2015. Matt Tobin and Allen Barbe struggled. The Eagles drafted Isaac Seamalu in Round 3 of the drafted and signed Brandon Brooks (Texans) to be the new right guard. Brooks played well for the Texans in both pass and run blocking. The Eagles upgrade their guards and still have Barbe and Tobin if the new players fail.

Jim Schwartz has been a successful defensive coordinator. He is a brash head coach but he can coach defense. The Eagles were 28th in the league allowing 26.9 PPG which was their big downfall in 2015. The Eagles switch to a 4-3 defense under Schwartz. Philadelphia allowed 4.5 YPC rushing and a 92.8 QB rating (18th). Schwartz has some work to do but does have talent to work with in Philadelphia.

Defensive Line
Fletcher Cox is an absolute beast in both run defense and pass rush and got a big long term deal this offseason. Cox had 9.5 sacks, 13 hits and 54 hurries and will be the Eagles 4-3 pass rushing DT or a closed end for Schwartz. Cox can be a Suh type for Schwartz.

Brandon Graham had 6.5 sacks and moves back to DE from 4-3 OLB. Connor Barwin had 7 sacks but may be out of place as a 4-3 DE. Barwin should play pass rushing 4-3 LB on the strong side. Vinny Curry had 3.5 sacks but got a decent sized deal to re-sign with the Eagles this offseason. Curry could be the right end behind Graham. Graham could play left end with Curry starting and Cox at defensive tackle as another possibility.

Bennie Logan is an excellent run defender and will be the Eagles nose tackle. Logan doesn’t offer much pass rush. Cedric Thornton was a good run defender but bolted for Dallas this offseason. The Eagles have a rookie named Aziz Shittu. Just thought I would mention that. Veteran Mike Martin will be a backup left end for the Eagles.

The Eagles allowed 4.5 YPC and only had 37 sacks. The 4-3 defense must produce more pass rush than the Eagles had in 2015.

Graham and Barwin could see some time as pass rushing 4-3 SAM LB and DE. Graham and Barwin were the Eagles pass rushers other than Cox.

Mychal Kendricks struggled a lot in coverage but is a good run defender and blitzer from the Mike spot. Jordan Hicks played 459 snaps as a rookie in 2015 at LB and adds solid coverage skills. Marcus Smith III was the Eagles first round pick in 2014 but is another LB/DE hybrid. Smith has been a bust but will get one more chance in the new scheme.

Nigel Bradham was signed from the Bills to play weak side linebacker. Bradham was solid and familiar with Schwartz from 2014 with Buffalo. The Eagles have a solid LB core with plenty of pass rush support as well. However, Kendricks must fix his coverage woes and Bradham must play well for his new team.

The Eagles were 18th in QB rating allowed and traded top corner Byron Maxwell to Miami to move from 13th to 8th overall. Maxwell got a huge contract after success with the Seahawks opposite Richard Sherman. Maxwell didn’t live up to the contract and new GM Howie Roseman hates big free agent contracts (traded Maxwell and Murray).

The Eagles now turn to 2015 second round pick Eric Rowe. Rowe had typical rookie struggles but improved as the year went along for the Eagles. Schwartz raided the Bills secondary by adding Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks to play cornerback. 2014 4th round pick Jaylen Watkins has some potential as well. Nolan Carroll III was a solid nickel CB for the Eagles. The Eagles are weak at CB but Schwartz could make it work.

The Eagles are very strong at safety. The Eagles have a top 5 safety in Malcolm Jenkins and added a very good and underrated safety in Rodney McCleod (Rams). These safeties both can cover very well and can make up for the Eagles CB issues. Jalen Mills was drafted in Round 7 for safety depth and Chris Maragos has experience and special team ability.

The Eagles secondary could be decent if they get a stronger pass rush. However, Rowe and the former Bills must step up in a big way in 2016.

Overall and Schedule
The Eagles have some talent and 7-9 was a disappointment after two double digit win seasons. Bradford must and their defense must improve. They are solid all around but don’t have many superstars. They’ll still be a tough team to face. The Eagles were 4-4 on the road and 3-5 at home. The Eagles somehow won in New England last year. Don’t sleep on this team.

Philadelphia will travel to Chicago in Week 2 for Monday Night Football and Detroit in Week 5. The Eagles host the Vikings in Week 7 and Green Bay in Week 12 on Monday Night Football. Detroit stomped the Eagles in 2015 on Thanksgiving and the Eagles will want revenge. And I’m sure Schwartz would love to beat his former team again like in 2014 with the Bills. The Eagles must shore up their run defense while facing Peterson and Aaron Rodgers would love to carve up the Eagles weak secondary.

The Eagles have a new coach and new coordinators and dumped their big contract mistakes. They should be a pretty different team in 2016. They have the talent to rise to the top of the weaker NFC East again. We’ll see if they take that next step in 2016 and if they can beat any of the North squads.