By Ryan Wenzell on May 18, 2014
Training camp, the preseason and the much anticipated regular season are right around the corner for the reigning NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles. They have upgraded and filled needs nicely both in free agency and in the draft. The depth and talent is richer than it was a year ago.
For a 10-6 team that's saying something. Let's take a look at the projected starting lineup for Week 1.
Nick Foles had a breakout campaign in 2013. His astonishing 27 touchdowns to two interceptions in limited regular season action no less was certainly something to behold. He also capped off his season with Pro Bowl MVP honors. Foles goes into 2014 as the unquestioned man at the quarterback position.
LeSean McCoy is one of the game's elite backs. He makes people miss, he can take it to the house and he can excel in the passing game. He and Darren Sproles will be a lethal combination on passing downs, but on first and second down when Kelly wants to run the rock, McCoy is his man.
The wide receiver position has a new look and feel after DeSean Jackson's exit from the club. Coming off a devastating knee injury, Jeremy Maclin will be relied on to be the man on the outside along with partner in crime Riley Cooper. These two have a lot to prove, but I have a feeling Maclin, Coop and the rookies will step up and get the job done in Chip Kelly's offense.
The tight end position has always been one of Chip Kelly's favorite offensive weapons to deploy. He relies heavily on two tight end sets as we saw last season. Lucky for him he has two good ones. Brent Celek is a solid, dependable veteran who will block, make tough catches and move the chains.
Zach Ertz is turning into a dynamic talent. His speed, route running and ability to make contested catches could see him break out.
Jason Peters is the game's best left tackle. The left side of the line is a wide open lane to run through for LeSean McCoy with he and Evan Mathis. Lane Johnson as a rookie proved to be solid on the right side. This tackle tandem is etched in stone for years to come.
Evan Mathis is perhaps the game's premier left guard. Once he gets his hands on a defensive tackle, using that elite grip it is over. He and Jason Peters form the most dominant left side in all of football. Todd Herremans kicked back to his natural position of guard and performed admirably in year one. Herremans is a solid player in his own right and still can improve. The Eagles may boast the best offensive line in all of football.
Jason Kelce proved to be the perfect center in Chip Kelly's system last year. He is athletic enough to pull, block downfield and handle the rigors of this up-tempo offense. The sky is the limit for Kelce as the anchor of this offensive line.
The Philadelphia Eagles' defensive line may have been one of the biggest surprises of 2013 for the club. Fletcher Cox started to really come into his own in the 3-4, but the real breakout star was Cedric Thornton. He did everything: Stop the run, rack up tackles for loss and get to the QB. These two should be a dynamic duo along the defensive line for years to come.
Bennie Logan proved to be a perfect fit in Billy Davis' 3-4 scheme at the nose tackle position. He may not quite have the ideal size for the position, but Logan is quick, fires off the snap and provides rare athleticism at the nose. He has also bulked up this offseason. The addition of Beau Allen gives the Eagles solid depth and talent at the nose tackle spot.
The Philadelphia Eagles found a diamond in the rough when they plucked Connor Barwin in free agency. He is truly a Jack of all trades. He did it all in this defense: Rush the passer, cover in space and set the edge. Trent Cole had a tough transition to the 3-4, but the light bulb went on at the end of the season as his production went up. Expect new rookie Marcus Smith to push for playing time and unseat Cole in the not too distant future.
Mychal Kendricks and the veteran DeMeco Ryans form a solid duo in the inside of the Eagles' 3-4 scheme. Ryans, the man they call "Cap", is the leader of the defense, and he is still playing at a high level at age 29. Kendricks broke out last year; he really impressed in coverage and the run game especially in the NFC East clinching victory against the Cowboys. Kendricks is a star on the rise.
The Philadelphia Eagles struggled in the back end last season. Veterans Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams were certainly adequate starters, but neither made enough plays to make this defense an elite or even above average unit. These two need to step up, and if they don't, expect newcomers Nolan Carroll and Jaylen Watkins to push for spots on the outside as soon as this upcoming campaign.
Malcolm Jenkins is a much welcomed addition to the Philadelphia Eagles' secondary. The Eagles relied on fringe starters like Patrick Chung and Nate Allen to get the job done at safety, and it was simply a failed experiment. Jenkins brings experience and stability to the free safety position. He can be the QB of the defense, get everyone lined up and also make plays on the ball. I expect Jenkins to help solidify a leaky secondary.
Before Earl Wolff went down with an unfortunate injury he was showing real signs of growth at the safety position. The second-year man is now comfortable with the defensive scheme so he can let his athletic ability take over. I expect Wolff to beat out Nate Allen for the strong safety position and form a solid, dependable tandem with newcomer Malcolm Jenkins.
The Philadelphia Eagles' special teams unit certainly was not a position of strength last year. Alex Henery proved shaky at kicks ranging more than 45 yards and the Eagles didn't get much out of the return game.
One shining light was Donnie Jones. The punter did his job in flipping the field time and time again. Henery needs to be better, though. The addition of Darren Sproles should also give an added jolt to the return game.
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