The biggest parts of the offseason are over and the roster is fairly set. There could be an addition or two in the next few months, but the odds are that those would be role players and backup types instead of key starters.
Are the Eagles better than they were prior to March?
To me this was a no-brainer, but Brent over at Eagles Rewind doesn’t feel the same way.
– The Eagles, on paper, appear to be a worse team than they were last season. I know this is a long term build, but it still hurts to see the team take a step backwards. On offense, the team lost D-Jax and added two rookie WRs (not likely to contribute) and Darren Sproles (old and getting older). On defense, the team added Malcolm Jenkins and Smith, who seems unlikely to start. I know people expect guys like Ertz, Kendricks, Logan, etc…to get better, and that will probably happen (for at least 1 or 2 of them). Still, I just don’t see any reasonably objective way to say this teams roster is better now than it was last season.
Again, I’d rather look long-term than short, but just start preparing yourselves for a potential step-backwards season.
All I can say is…wow.
I respect Brent and appreciate that he’s looking at things differently, but I don’t get this opinion at all.
First, I don’t get why Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff can’t be expected to contribute. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin both contributed as rookies, and that was in a more complex passing offense. Speaking of Maclin, why isn’t he mentioned at all? I know he’s coming off an ACL injury, but that happened last summer and these days players are coming back from standard ACL tears at a pretty high rate.
If the Eagles tried to replace Jackson with just a rookie or just Maclin, I could see some extreme skepticism. Instead, the Eagles brought back Maclin spent 2 early picks on WRs and added Sproles to help the passing game.
The defense added a veteran Safety in Malcolm Jenkins. That means that Nate Allen and Earl Wolff will battle for the other starting spot. Nolan Carroll and Jaylen Watkins add depth at CB. If you don’t think that is important, just go re-watch the loss to San Diego. Bradley Fletcher missed that game and Philip Rivers threw for 419 yards and looked like Peyton friggin’ Manning.
Marcus Smith adds depth up front and gives the coaching staff an athletic option to mix into different packages if they want. He can play on the right or left side. The backup LOLB last year was Casey Matthews. That meant the coaches stuck with Connor Barwin as much as humanly possible.
Ideally Chip Kelly would rotate his players on defense to limit some of their wear and tear. The Eagles played more snaps on defense than any other team last year. They didn’t have the depth to rotate as much as they wanted. Players like Smith and Watkins and Taylor Hart and Beau Allen can help that situation. They don’t have to start or make lots of plays in order to help the defense.
I get that the Eagles lost a star player in DeSean Jackson and didn’t replace him with an obvious star. That fact is going to skew the perception of some folks when it comes to the offseason discussion. I don’t know if Brent is in that camp and I don’t want to try and speak for him.
I’m not sure enough people appreciate the Foles angle in regard to DeSean Jackson. Foles doesn’t have a great arm and he’s not a consistently good vertical passer. Jackson had 3 catches that covered 50 or more yards from Foles. One was a short pass from Foles in the MIN game that Jackson turned into a big play with a long run after the catch. There was the 55-yard TD vs the Packers on a ball that was underthrown. Foles did make a pretty good throw for a 59-yard gain in the Oakland game.
Jackson is a dynamic deep receiver. Foles is not a dynamic deep passer. Jackson was still a good receiver for Foles and the Eagles last year, but his value becomes diminished because of the fit. You’re limiting what makes him special.
There is no denying that losing Jackson will affect the offense, but I think it won’t be nearly the same as if Vick or even McNabb was the QB. They were much better vertical passers. Foles excels on short and intermediate throws. This is where having a WR corps of Cooper, Maclin, Matthews and Huff should be fine. You lose some verticality, but gain some physicality.
It would have been great to see the Eagles land some major impact players this offseason, but the team didn’t miss out on anyone that I coveted. There was no Kearse or TO to go get. Brian Orakpo would have made the most sense, but he got tagged. I admit to being curious about DeMarcus Ware, but age and injuries have started to affect him. Darelle Revis would have been interesting, but I’m guessing Kelly didn’t want a “mercenary”. Revis wanted a 1-year deal so he could turn around and go for another mega-deal in 2015.
There were no slam dunk, can’t miss, gotta have him guys for the Eagles.
Another question some may have is at QB. If Foles gets hurt, can Mark Sanchez or Matt Barkley win games? That is a mystery. But it also would have been with Vick. He was an erratic player for the Eagles and lost his starting job last year. He didn’t want to return as a backup. I’m not worried about Sanchez or Barkley for a game or two. You can argue that having Vick would have helped if Foles went down long term, but then you have to acknowledge Vick’s biggest problem…getting hurt himself. He never stayed healthy for the Eagles and when he got dinged, his performance level dropped quite a bit.
I think Sanchez is a better acquisition than people realize. He failed in New York because the Jets saw him as a franchise QB, which I don’t, and because they failed to keep the right pieces around him. Sanchez has made some big plays in some big games. He’s just not a guy you build a team around. I think he can be a solid backup.
While the team may not have gotten the dramatic help many wanted, I do think it got better. I see the loss of Jackson and Jason Avant as a wash when you look at Maclin, Matthews, Huff and Sproles coming in. I realize I’m projecting with the rookies, but they have the size, skills and athleticism to help right away. They also have experience in a similar offense that makes the adjustment easier.
The defense didn’t lose any key players, but added a good FS, some CBs and an athletic OLB. How is that not an improvement?
If you’re stuck on Jackson, that’s fine. I disagree, but I get that.
I just think the team brought in too many talented players to think that it took a step back. That isn’t to say the Eagles might not go 9-7 this year or something like that. There are no guarantees when it comes to results. We saw that when the 2011 offseason happened and the Eagles added all the big names, but the team got worse.
If you’re asking me whether I like the 2013 roster better than the 2014 roster, no way. I’ll take the current group in a heartbeat. Kelly has brought in another set of players who fit his system and fit his football culture. They also happen to be pretty talented as well.
I respect Brent and am glad he sees things differently. The world is more fun when we don’t agree. Dissent can be a very good thing.