We have returned with another FY 2016 NFL team preview! Don’t care for the city of brotherly love? Jump to Arizona; Atlanta; Baltimore; Buffalo; Carolina; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Green Bay; Houston; Indianapolis; Jacksonville; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Miami; Minnesota; New England; New Orleans; New York Giants; New York Jets; Oakland Raiders.
Where They’re Coming From
Sucking worse over the last four games of 2015 than sucky Washington.
Despite looking worse than their laughable 5-7 record, the Eagles shared the NFC East division-lead heading into Week 14 last year. Washington would win their final four games and capture the division crown, while Philadelphia continued sucking.
In spite of a poor season from DeMarco Murray, the Eagle offense still ranked in the top-half of the league in both yards and points. But like all Chip Kelly-coached teams, Philly couldn’t play any defense, giving up the fifth-most points per game.
Where They’re Going
A Chip-less season.
After losing a Boxing Day game to Washington with their playoff hopes on the line, the Eagles decided to fire Chip Kelly before he could complete his third season as head coach.
Say what you will about his wacky ways, but Chip’s offense was (mostly) working in Philadelphia. The Eagles ranked fourth, third, and 13th in points scored during Chip’s tenure. However, he could never put together even a mediocre defense and made personnel moves that pissed off more than just the fan-base. (Maybe LeSean McCoy will come back one day, Philly.)
Key Offseason Moves
Additions: LB Nigel Bradham, G Brandon Brooks, FS Rodney McLeod, WR Dorial Green-Beckham
Losses: CB Byron Maxwell, S Walter Thurmond (retired), RB DeMarco Murray, DE Cedric Thornton
What to Watch For
The defense under new coordinator Jim Schwartz.
As mentioned, the Eagles defense has been awful over the last three seasons, but the organization has not only moved on from Chip Kelly, they also canned the defensive coordinator that served during Chip’s three years: Billy Davis.
Philadelphia has chosen to hand the defensive duties over to former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. Schwartz coached the Buffalo defense to a top-five performance in 2014. The unit regressed significantly when Rex Ryan took over.
However, Schwartz’s resume isn’t exactly gilded. In his five years as head coach of the Lions, only once was his defense ranked in the top-half of the league.
Schwartz will have a couple skilled pass-rushers to work with in Connor Barwin and Fletcher Cox, but the secondary will be a bit of a project. Newcomers Rodney McLeod and Leodis McKelvin will try to shore up a unit that gave up the second-most passing touchdowns in 2015. Malcolm Jenkins will have to be even better than he was last season if the Eagles defense is going to return to respectability.
Who to Watch For
Ryan Mathews, RB
The Eagles traded away DeMarco Murray in the offseason, leaving Mathews as the lead-back heading. Surprisingly, Mathews actually averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2015, but saw almost 90 fewer carries than Murray.
Mathews will have the luxury of running behind an offensive line that ranked third in run-blocking last season (according to Pro Football Focus), but that was Chip’s offense, not the more traditional one they will be running under new head coach Doug Pederson. Two of the best tackles in the game – Jason Peters and Lane Johnson – should give Philly a nice boost up front, but Johnson may be facing a ten game suspension for the use of a banned substance.
The addition of guard Brandon Brooks shores-up the offensive line, and Mathews should have some decent sized holes to work with.
The big concern is whether Mathews can stay healthy, only managing one full season in his six years in the league. If he can, he’ll alleviate some pressure off of Sam Bradford and the sub-par receiving corps the Eagles are sporting.
What Could Go Wrong
“What will go wrong” might be a more accurate title for this his section. Bradford’s never thrown for more than 3,800 yards in a season, nor has he eclipsed 21 passing touchdowns. How does this guy keep getting these mammoth contracts? Not only was Bradford given the most lucrative ($76 million) rookie contract of all-time (which won’t be touched with the new CBA), but now he has been gifted $35 million over the next two years.
Like Mathews, the only thing you can count on from Bradford is injuries. If he doesn’t stay healthy and improve his play, the Eagles offense will be a mess.
Where They’ll End Up
With a fighting chance, strictly due to their division.
Before Tony Romo’s injury, the Cowboys were poised to take the division back, but they’re now being led by a fourth-round rookie quarterback.
The Giants have a potentially great passing attack, but are held back by their lack of a running game; they also brought in a lot of talented defenders in free agency, but the preseason has shown they haven’t changed much.
The division champs, Washington, are hoping Josh Norman can solve their issues defending the pass, but they’re far from runaway favorites.
The Eagles have a chance due to the ineptitude of their division foes, not because of a talented roster. Don’t get used to the 4-0 record from the preseason, though, Eagles fans. It’s going to be a long season, and finishing 7-9 again would mark a successful one.