In Chip Kelly’s second season as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, his team disappointed dropping three straight pivotal games in December after a 9-3 start to finish 10-6 without a playoff berth. Following the end of the season, Chip Kelly was given complete power to control his roster, and he would certainly use that power. The “Chip Kelly Show” in the off-season was filled with bold moves that left people scratching their heads. As the off-season developed, Chip Kelly looked like a mad scientist locked in his laboratory concocting an experiment for the ages. He released Trent Cole, Todd Herremans, and Evan Mathis, traded LeSean McCoy to Buffalo for Kiko Alonso, failed to re-sign Jeremy Maclin, signed Byron Maxwell, DeMarco Murray, Walter Thurmond, and Ryan Mathews, traded Nick Foles for Sam Bradford, brought in Tim Tebow, and then the day before training camp started, he traded Brandon Boykin to the Steelers. If there was a textbook definition for high-risk high-reward, the 2015 Philadelphia Eagles would be it.
How will the Eagles fare offensively?
The Eagles will go as far as Sam Bradford takes them. It’s Chip Kelly’s offense, so regardless of the quarterback, big numbers will be put up, but that isn’t good enough to make the playoffs and a deep playoff run. Out of all the moves Kelly made in the off-season, Bradford is his biggest and most important gamble. Bradford needs to stay healthy for a full sixteen games this season, or else the Eagles will be in trouble.
At the running back position, the Eagles have a trio in DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, and Darren Sproles that will play a huge part in the team’s success. Chip Kelly is looking to have an offensive attack dictated by the running game. By splitting the load between three backs who are explosive in different ways, there will always be fresh legs in the backfield for Bradford to hand off to. The offensive line may have a slight drop off without Evan Mathis this year, but that shouldn’t impede the success of the running game.
The Eagles have a youthful receiving core with Jordan Matthews and first-round pick Nelson Agholor as the top two wide-outs. Losing Jeremy Maclin hurts, but now Matthews and Agholor are being given the keys to develop in the top receivers they have the potential to be. This is also an important season for third-year tight end Zach Ertz, as he needs to show that he can hold his ground catching passes and blocking. Blocking kept Ertz off of the field in his first two years more than he would’ve liked to been, as the primary blocking duties went to veteran Brent Celek. Ertz has been working on his blocking all off-season and if his ability to help the Eagles in the running game improves, he’ll begin to take the shape of a top tight end in the league.
Will the defense hold up?
Last season the Eagles front seven was legit, and cause serious havoc for their opposition. With the addition of Kiko Alonso, the Eagles front seven can compete with any other front seven. But that’s not where the question lies with this Eagles defense. Like last year, the secondary is a major concern. The only trap Chip Kelly fell into this off-season was overpaying in free agency, because he overpaid big time on Byron Maxwell. In Seattle, Maxwell was never asked to do much, and he was often bailed out by guys like Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. That was in a weak wide receiver division in the NFC West. Now, he’s going to be asked to cover Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson, and Odell Beckham Jr. for six NFC East divisional games, along with Julio Jones in week one. The flaws in Maxwell’s game will show in those seven games.
Secondary concerns go beyond the hopeful number one corner in Maxwell. Nolan Carroll has been the number two corner on the outside all preseason, which is not an upgrade over what the Eagles had last season. Carroll is suppose to be a number two corner, yet last season, he couldn’t beat out Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, or Brandon Boykin for playing time, and all three of those guys are no longer on the Eagles roster. Rookie Eric Rowe will likely be the slot corner, and after Rowe, that’s it for the Eagles secondary outside of safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond. There is no depth, which is a concern. Rookie JaCorey Shepherd is out for the season with a torn ACL, leaving the Eagles with no leeway should another member of the secondary go down. Injury risk aside, the Eagles secondary is still very weak, and could potentially be even worse than last year’s secondary; but time will tell.
Week 1 – @ Atlanta Falcons: L
Week 2 – vs. Dallas Cowboys: W
Week 3 – @ New York Jets: W
Week 4 – @ Washington Redskins: W
Week 5 – vs. New Orleans Saints: W
Week 6 – vs. New York Giants: L
Week 7 – @ Carolina Panthers: W
Week 8 – BYE
Week 9 – @ Dallas Cowboys: L
Week 10 – vs. Miami Dolphins: W
Week 11 – vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: W
Week 12 – @ Detroit Lions: W
Week 13 – @ New England Patriots: L
Week 14 – vs. Buffalo Bills: L
Week 15 – vs. Arizona Cardinals: W
Week 16 – vs. Washington Redskins: L
Week 17 – @ New York Giants: W
Projected Record: 10-6
Chip Kelly is going all in on his system and philosophy with the team he’s going to put on the field for the 2015 season. In 2014, the Eagles got bailed out after a few lackluster performances offensively because of the stellar play of Dave Fipp’s special teams, which will be solid again this season. However, the Eagles can’t afford to not be clicking on all cylinders at any point this year, or else they will be exposed. With the question mark at quarterback surrounding Bradford and his health and performance, along with the glaring weakness at secondary, the Eagles will once again finish 10-6. Will that be good enough to win the NFC East or snag a Wild Card spot? Time will tell.
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