In just a couple weeks, the Philadelphia Eagles will return to work in south Philly as training camp will be getting underway. Rookies will report on July 24 and veterans July 27. The entire scope of the team – the offense, defense and special teams – will alter from what we’ve known over the past three years while Chip Kelly was at the helm. Hello, head coach Doug Pederson. We’re awaiting your mark on the Eagles franchise.
The only coaches retained from Kelly’s tenure are: Duce Staley, running backs; Cory Undlin, defensive backs; Jeff Stoutland, offensive line; and Justin Peelle, tight ends. Offensive quality control assistant Press Taylor and special teams assistant Matthew Harper also return. Everyone else is new to coaching in Philly.
The unknowns seem to far outweigh the knowns. But do they? Let’s put on our objective goggles and take a look at what we know and what we don’t know.
The Defensive Line:
What we know: These players are good, fast and hungry. Greg Rosenthal believes the Eagles have the 6th best defensive line in the NFL, sandwiched between the Vikings and Panthers. Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox, and Bennie Logan have proven their worth and value on this team.
What we don’t know: Will Jim Schwartz’s scheme translate into consistent, effective pass rushes and run stoppages? Sometimes teams need more than talent. They need vision and cohesion. He has seen success in Buffalo and Tennessee as a defensive coordinator and used to do research for Bill Belichick back in the mid-90’s. Will his years of defensive experience create a monstrous defensive front?
The Offensive Line:
What we know: These guys had one heck of a rough season in 2015. Right out of the gate, they were a group who looked lost on a consistent basis. Only one of the positions, as of now, is slated to see a personnel change – the right guard position. During the offseason, the Eagles signed the 5-year veteran guard Brandon Brooks. Other than Brooks, Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, and Lane Johnson will be the starters once again. When we take a look back at the tape and last year, it wasn’t just the right guard position that was the problem.
What we don’t know: Can this o-line turn it around? Jason Peters is 34 years old and has spent 13 years getting hit in this league. Jason Kelce is coming off his worst season plagued by penalties and blocking inconsistencies. Lane Johnson’s head just wasn’t where it needed to be last year. Over the past three years, the Eagles o-line was penalized at least 30 times per year for at least a total of 220 yards. Both those numbers are well above the league average. Also last season, 14 of the 25 penalties on Johnson, Kelce, and Peters were pre-snap infractions. As noted above, Stoutland is still the o-line coach. Can he, Reich and Pederson get this crew back to being consistent?
The Quarterback Position:
What we know: Barring any unforeseen injury, Sam Bradford will be the starting quarterback come week one versus the Cleveland Browns. However, there doesn’t seem to be expectations that he’ll rise to the occasion and become one of the top QB’s within the division. Fans, and a rabid football sports media, are clamoring to see what the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, Carson Wentz, can do. However, Chase Daniel is going to be the guy who Pederson once was to Donovan McNabb. Daniel will mentor Wentz and show him the ropes as he gets acclimated to NFL life. We’ll need to be patient when it comes to Wentz.
What we don’t know: I’m going to go out on a limb here. How good can Sam Bradford truly be? Last year he completed 65% of his passes. He also was close to a 100.0 passer rating over the course of his last seven games. But he was also seen as a failed piece of Kelly’s puzzle. We don’t know if Bradford still has something left in the can. There’s a 99.9% certainty he’s gone after this season based on his contract. Will he show the NFL world that he’s not done yet and outperform expectations? There’s a good possibility.