PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Is Chip Kelly for real? Can Nick Foles repeat his 2013-14 success? How will the Eagles replace DeSean Jackson? The NFL analysts and critics around the country are loud and we can hear them quite well in Philadelphia.
Despite their 10-6 record and mere two-point home playoff loss to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, Pro Football Talk ranked the Eagles as the 13th best team in their NFL power rankings. NFL.com ranked Chip Kelly as the 18th best NFL head coach, and an ESPN list had Foles as the 15th best QB in the league, and Bovada LV lists the Eagles at 25/1 to win the Super Bowl.
The lazy, cop-out slight of Kelly, Foles, and the Eagles is simply, “Prove it.”
In Philadelphia, we see it much clearer and vastly different. We’ve gotten to know and learn about our football-crazed, unique, sarcastic, discipline, and efficient head coach. We see how he has brought this team together in only one year with his synchronized practices, lightning quick offense, and specific health guidelines. We hear the players genuinely describe their love and passion for Coach Kelly—a guy some players, like Brent Celek, has attributed his 2013 season too.
“He’s done everything that he can possibly do to help us take care of our bodies more, and then he takes care of us with the way that we practice, all that stuff,” Celek said of Kelly last December. “When guys see that, guys appreciate that and they play harder.”
New Eagles safety, Malcolm Jenkins—a much needed upgrade at that position, oh by the way—said in June the Eagles “worked harder than any team in the NFL.” Mind you, Jenkins won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints in 2009.
Now, the Eagles head into the 2014-15 season with a year under their belts in Kelly’s system. Kelly said the offense, which ranked second in all of football last season, is “light years” ahead of where they were last year. The man who is at the helm of the offense threw for 27 touchdowns, two interceptions, while leading the entire NFL in passer rating in 2013-14. That man, Foles, enters this season—his third career season—as the starting quarterback for the first time in his career. In only 20 career NFL games, the 25-year-old quarterback from Austin, Texas has thrown for 4,590 yards, 33 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions.
In his first and only playoff appearance, Foles completed 23 of 33 passes, while throwing two touchdowns and committing zero turnovers. The Eagles lost on a last-second field goal.
They question his arm strength, his mental toughness, his personality, and most appropriately his track-record, but really, all this self-effacing kid does is succeed. Foles is a conscientious person who is completely dedicated to his craft, similarly to Kelly. From a far, maybe it’s hard to see.
As for the controversial decision to release DeSean Jackson, well doesn’t it make perfect sense now? Kelly is building with a unique collection of people—not necessarily players. Personnel wise, the Eagles added former Saints dynamic weapon Darren Sproles and rookie receiver Jordan Matthews to the offseason—plus they get sure-handed receiver Jeremy Maclin back from injury. To get a feel of the kind of work horse Matthews is, he has been working out with Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, and A.J. Green. Matthews and Jackson are polar opposites.
And don’t forget about LeSean McCoy, the reigning NFL rushing champ who is just 26-years-old, to go along with the improving second-year tight end Zach Ertz, as well as veterans Brent Celek and Riley Cooper. Up front, the Eagles return their entire line, sporting two All-Pro lineman in Jason Peters and Evan Mathis.
The offense will be fine. Trust me.
The defense, the biggest question mark for the Birds, notably adds the aforementioned Jenkins at safety and first-round draft pick Marcus Smith at outside linebacker. Last season, while the Eagles defense got off to a slow start in Billy Davis’ new 3-4 scheme, they improved quickly. If you conveniently look at the total numbers from last season, you’ll season the Eagles allowed the fourth most yards and 17th most points in the NFL.
However, let’s dig deeper. The Eagles held their opponents under 21-points 12 times last season, including 10 out of the final 12 games, with the only two malfunctions being an outlier blow out loss to Minnesota and a 24-22 week 17 win over Dallas. The Eagles also held their opponents to under 100-yards rushing in 10 of their final 12 games and while they only had 37 sacks, they compiled 13 in December. The Birds defense contains a slew of young players (five of their six defensive lineman were 25 or younger last season) that will improve in their second season in the 3-4 scheme—like 24-year-old Brandon Boykin for example, who finished 2013-14 tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions.
Some say the Eagles schedule is tough, or tougher, this season which is completely nonsensical. Year-to-year analysis of teams is almost completely irrelevant in the NFL. Just look at the very team we’ve been discussing, the Eagles, who went from 4-12 in 2012 to 10-6 in 2013. Or the Atlanta Falcons, who went from 13-3 in 2012 to 4-12 in 2013. Or the Carolina Panthers who went from 7-9 in 2012 to 12-4 in 2013. And so on and so forth.
The Eagles play in a weak NFC East division, and while they do have the almighty NFC West on their schedule in 2014, the Birds also face the “predictably beatable” Jaguars, Rams, Texans, and Titans.
With the last-placed Phillies in disarray, the Sixers in an intricate rebuild, and the Flyers floating in mediocrity, Philadelphia hasn’t been this excited for football since the 2004 infamous Terrell Owens Super Bowl season. Here’s to not letting national media and slothful rankings curb our enthusiasm. We have a darn good football team in Philadelphia. Let’s go win a Super Bowl.
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