NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
Eyes on the Competition moves out of conference today, checking out the completely remodeled Philadelphia Eagles, a 2015 opponent of the Patriots. Name me another team that have made more moves (both of quantity and quality) than the Eagles. You can’t.
The Eagles are highlighted in the NFC because yes – you better believe they can potentially be Super Bowl contenders. Personally however, I’m on the fence. I haven’t yet decided if this new make-over (three years in the making) will either blow up in their face or land them a Super Bowl appearance.
In the flurry of moves that have been made, I’ll make a great effort to organize the madness Chip Kelly has caused this off season.
It seems forever ago so you may have forgotten, but the Eagles kicked this off season off by trading arguably their most recognizable player, LeSean McCoy. In return the Eagles received one of the best young players in football (albeit coming off a serious injury) Kiko Alonso. If Alonso can return to his rookie form, I think this was a win for the Eagles BEFORE the Free Agency acquisitions due to the shedding of Shady’s immense contract demands (five years – $40M).
In a more shocking blockbuster, Philadelphia decided to swap QB Nick Foles with the Rams for QB Sam Bradford. Philadelphia also sent a 2015 fourth round pick this season and second round pick next season (2016) in exchange for the Rams 2015 fifth round pick and a potential conditional pick in 2016 depending on the amount of snaps Bradford plays (>50% =4th round pk, 0 snaps=3rd round pk).
The team released longtime defensive star Trent Cole, as well as OG Todd Herremans, and CB Cary Williams.
The Eagles top Free Agent, Jeremy Maclin, bolted to play for his former coach Andy Reid in Kansas City after agreeing to a substantial contract worth $55M over five years leaving a temporary hole at the receiver position.
The Eagles also lost CB Bradley Fletcher this off season who agreed to terms with the New England Patriots. I have some extended thoughts on this for my Patriots readers.
1) He may end up being a starter for the Patriots while also wearing #24, but he isn’t a replacement for Darrelle Revis.
This may be obvious to some, but I’m sure people will have unrealistic expectations. Darrelle Revis’ replacement is OLB Jabaal Sheard, DT Malcom Brown, DE Trey Flowers and the rest of the revamped front 7 all in one. Pro Football Focus ranked Fletcher as the worst cornerback in football last year – so having Revis-like expectations is just silly. However while diving into the tape, stats, ect – Fletcher wasn’t as terrible as his numbers suggest, so be patient.
2) Fletcher may have been in the worst situation possible for him last season.
He isn’t Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman, and thus shouldn’t be left on an island stranded for long stretches of time. The Eagles had one of the worst safety pairings in the league last season, which left Fletcher in vulnerable positions consistently. In New England he will likely move around, and will have an All-Pro caliber safety in Devin McCourty behind him, limiting the big plays.
3) His schedule did him no favors.
This is something players have no control over, but should be pointed out nonetheless. Fletcher is probably more of a CB2 in this league, so when asked to step up and be a CB1 with little help up top it is conceivable he would struggle. Last year Fletcher was asked to shadow the likes of Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson, Odell Beckham Jr. in division and had the unfortunate pleasure of dealing with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson and Michael Floyd as well. No excuses here, but just pointing out facts. It is more than likely won’t be asked to do this in New England.
4) Fletcher may not even make the team.
Truly, anything is possible. Although it seems Fletcher would be a roster lock, the Patriots have been wildly unpredictable with their cornerback situation this year. Fletcher signed a one year-$1.5M deal which has a dead cap hit of $550,000. If he comes into camp and gets torched, or gets significantly passed by the younger guys (Butler, Ryan, Roberts, Swanson) the Patriots aren’t married to the former Iowa Hawkeye by any stretch.
Other losses for the Eagles include S Nate Allen, TE James Casey, LB Casey Mathews and RB Chris Polk.
The Eagles made massive headlines when in a 24 hour period agreed to terms with both RB DeMarco Murray (five years – $40M) and RB Ryan Mathews (three years – $11M). I think Murray in particular will fit Chip Kelly’s system better than McCoy due to his attacking nature to the hole rather than consistently look for cut backs, reversals, ect. The biggest misconception with Chip Kelly at Oregon was although they were the fast and the furious, the simple dive was the bread and butter of the offense. I will take a backfield of DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews over LeSean McCoy, but that may just be me (and Chip).
Another big money acquisition was former Seahawks’ CB Byron Maxwell. Maxwell signed a six year – $63M deal in an effort to improve what was a dreadful secondary last year. If you want top Free Agent cornerback talent, you have to buck up and pay the bill. I do think the Eagles overpaid for Maxwell, but time will tell.
Other acquisitions were WR Seyi Ajirotutu, WR Miles Austin, LB Brad Jones, CB Walter Thurmond III and yes – Tim Tebow.
Overall, I’m a big fan of the Eagles’ draft. For starters, they picked two of my favorite players in the entire 2015 draft class with their first two picks in USC WR Nelson Agholor and Utah CB Eric Rowe.
Agholor is as polished as they come entering his rookie season in the league. Asked to run a full route tree in a pro-style offense at USC with exceptional route running, hands and fluidity, I expect Agholor to be a contributor right away.
Similar to Agholor, Rowe should see meaningful snaps early on. Rowe has safety experience, but should contend for the second starting cornerback position alongside Byron Maxwell.
Past the second round, the Eagles just had one pick until the sixth round (Jordan Hicks, ILB, Texas). They rounded out the draft taking two cornerbacks in JaCorey Shepherd from Kansas, and Randall Evans from Kansas State as well as Boston College DE Brian Mihalik.
I would expect Hicks to at least have an opportunity to play at least later in the year, and Shepherd and Evans to contribute on special teams if they make the 53 man roster.
Overall, I have the Eagles pegged as a playoff team in 2015 along with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. The major question mark I have with this team is the quarterback position.
Listen, you don’t make the Bradford-Foles trade as a coach or GM unless you truly believe it is in your organization’s best interest, but the risk factor with Bradford’s injury history is alarming to say the least. If Bradford stays strong, Chip’s bunch has a shot. If he goes down again (back to back seasons with ACL tear), I’m not a believer by any means.
The Eagles travel to Foxboro in Week 13 for a 4:25 pm game with the Patriots this season.
Next time on Eyes on the Competition we stay in the NFC, checking out a team the Patriots have been on a Super Bowl collision course with for at least a few years now, the Green Bay Packers.