2014 Philadelphia Eagles Season Preview: Fantasy Sleepers, and Predictions: Was Last Season's Playoff Run a Fluke?
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With the NFL season fast approaching, Latino Post looks at the offseason moves that will make or break each team.
Last Season: 10-6 (1st in NFC East, lost in wild card)
Key Additions: RB Darren Sproles, S Malcolm Jenkins, QB Mark Sanchez, CB Nolan Carroll II, S Chris Maragos, OLB Marcus Smith II (1st round), WR Jordan Matthews (2nd round), WR Josh Huff (3rd round), CB Jaylen Watkins (4th round), DE Taylor Hart (5th round)
Key Losses: DT Clifton Geathers, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Jason Avant, S Patrick Chung
Games to Watch: Sept. 28 at San Francisco, Nov. 27 at Dallas, Dec. 7 vs. Seattle, Dec. 20 at Washington
Three Questions Heading into the 2014-15 Season:
1. Can Nick Foles repeat his stellar 2013 campaign?
Philadelphia's quarterback competition last summer wasn't much of a competition. First-year head coach Chip Kelly tagged oft-injured veteran Michael Vick to be his starter mainly because of experience.
As sure as Vick can't go anywhere without hearing about his dogfighting ring, he was couldn't make it a full season without limping off the field. A strained hamstring during the Eagles' Week 5 matchup with the Giants kept him out this time around. Vick inadvertently opened the door for Nick Foles and Philadelphia's startling playoff run.
Foles completed 16 of 25 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns against New York in his first of nine victories behind center. He went 8-2 as a starter, maintained a stellar 9.1 YPA, and composed a spectacular 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Proving that he could scramble out of the pocket, the second-year quarterback ran for 225 yards while scoring three touchdowns.
The question now becomes whether Foles can keep it up.
Philadelphia's schedule is troublesome. They went 10-6 feasting on mediocre NFC East teams- none of which finished above .500- and went 1-4 against playoff teams, including a wild card loss to New Orleans.
It doesn't get easier this season. The Eagles visit Indianapolis, Green Bay, and San Francisco, and host defending Super Bowl champion Seattle. Not to mention back-to-back meetings with superb defensive units in Carolina and Arizona.
Foles thrived in Kelly's quarterback-friendly pass system; a system heavily dependent on deep shots and big plays. He can lead Philadelphia to a second-straight postseason berth if and only if his support cast is up to the challenge.
2. Who replaces DeSean Jackson?
Speaking of a supporting cast, two mainstays flew the coop during the offseason.
Longtime wideouts DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant left to Washington and Carolina, respectively. The duo combined for 40 percent of the team's receiving yards and 39 percent of receptions.
Some questioned Jackson's health, others his off-the-field endeavors. One point critics can't doubt is his ability to draw double-coverage. Jackson opened routes for other receivers, most notably Riley Cooper. Aside from LeSean McCoy, who could notch 1,000 rushing yards behind a practice squad, the Eagles' success coincided with Jackson's.
Foles led the NFL with 17.4 percent of passes traveling 20 yards or more. Now who becomes his primary target?
Cooper isn't suited for the role. He slowed near season's end, eclipsing 70 yards in just one of the final six games. Jeremy Maclin returns after a torn ACL cost him the entire 2013 campaign; his durability following such a fragile injury undoubtedly becomes a concern.
Philadelphia's receiving corps is thin. They drafter Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff to compete for the No. 3 receiving role. At this point, tight end Brent Celek becomes the team's omnipresent pass-catcher.
3. What improvements were made on defense?
To put the Eagles defense last season in perspective, they surrendered 48 point to the Adrian Peterson-less Minnesota Vikings. Yes, those Vikings. The same team that lost seven of their first eight games.
Philadelphia ranked 29th in total yards allowed and interceptions, 31st in receptions, and dead last in receiving yards given up. Needless to say, upgrading the secondary became a priority.
They released Patrick Chung before signing Pro Bowl-caliber safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Nolan Carroll II. Anyone would have been an upgrade over Chung. He started 10 games but failed to get anything more than fumble recovery.
Outside linebacker and first-round draft pick Marcus Smith upgrades a pedestrian pass rush, but he won't be a legitimate starter until 2015. Connor Smith and Trent Cole continue to head Kelly's 3-4 defense for the foreseeable future, or until Smith is ready to take over.
Darren Sproles- RB
He's listed as a running back, but Darren Sproles can do anything short of lining up on defense. The Eagles usually run single-running back formations but that may change with Sproles' ability to spread the field.
Keep in mind McCoy recently missed a few practices with a thumb injury. If he goes down, Kelly won't have any other choice than to let the speedy Sproles loose. He's well-worth a RB2 position at minimum for his pass-catching ability.
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