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Philadelphia Eagles 2013 Season Preview
Eagles 2013 Wins
How many wins will the Eagles have in 2013?
Any rational Eagles fan has to be happy that the failed Andy Reid era is finally over. Any coach would have been an improvement over Reid, but I have to admit that I have serious doubts about Chip Kelly's ability to coach in the NFL.
Kelly is the darling of the media because of his high-scoring offenses in college. Unfortunately for Kelly, Northeastsouthwest State isn't on the schedule every week. NFL defensive coordinators have had a full offseason to figure out how to neutralize the read-option that Kelly likes to run. Remember that Wildcat craze a few years ago? It didn't take long for defenses to figure out how to stop that gimmick. Hopefully Kelly adjusts his game to the NFL, but something tells me he won't like the criticism that comes with losing and coaching in Philly. It's a bad sign that Kelly isn't doing a coach's show and even Reid did one when he was here.
Kelly's biggest decision was to bring back Michael Vick to be his quarterback. There was a "competition" during the offseason and preseason, which Vick barely won, but Vick is a better fit for Kelly's offense. The only problem is that Vick is an injury-prone turnover machine. In 10 starts last season, Vick threw for only 2,362 yards, with 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He's missed eight starts due to injury the last two seasons and has committed 33 turnovers during that span. Vick is not good at making quick decisions and reading defenses and those are the two basic requirements for a quarterback in Kelly's offense. Yes, Vick's running ability will help the offense, but it's only a matter of time before Vick gets hurt.
When Vick throws the ball he won't exactly have great options out there. Jeremy Maclin's injury was a big blow to the offense. Riley Cooper simply isn't that good and his racist comments only caused undue distraction. DeSean Jackson is a one-trick pony and that one trick is running fly patterns down the sideline. Defenses will simply keep a safety over the top and force him underneath, where he's likely to get injured again. Plus, he's never even had double digit touchdowns in a season before. The tight ends are a big part of Kelly's offense, so Brent Celek, James Casey and rookie Zach Ertz will all see plenty of action. The problem is that none of them are difference-makers at this point of their careers.
Everything isn't as bleak as I've made it out to be on the Eagles' offense though. LeSean McCoy might just lead the NFL in rushing yardage in this offense, which is something that could never be said when Reid was here. Kelly loves to run the ball and in McCoy, he has one of the most explosive players in the entire NFL. McCoy was held to just 840 yards with five touchdowns last season, but that's because he played in just 12 games due to concussion issues. But in 2011, McCoy rushed for 1,309 yards and 17 TDs and added another 315 yards and 3 TDs on 48 receptions. He's going to be a beast in Kelly's run-heavy offense.
Of course the only way McCoy will have room to run and Vick will have time to pass is if the offensive line returns to their 2011 form. Jason Peters was arguably the best offensive lineman in the entire NFL before he blew out his Achilles and missed the entire 2012 season. He looks healthy now, as does center Jason Kelce and right guard Todd Herremans, who are also returning from injuries. The team added right tackle Lane Johnson with the fourth overall pick in the draft, so this offensive line should be among the league's best.
Unfortunately, that is where the good news ends for this Eagles team. Kelly brought in the underwhelming Billy Davis to run the defense and he is changing from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base defense. The main problem with that is that the personnel on this roster doesn't fit a 3-4 scheme.
The team didn't have a nose tackle, so they signed Isaac Sopoaga in free agency. He's just a big body that wasn't very effective in SF last season. Cedric Thornton mans one end spot and 2012 first-round pick, Fletcher Cox will be at the other end. Cox is a talented player, but I don't think he is a good fit as a 3-4 end. We'll see.
The linebackers are also miscast in this new defensive scheme. Trent Cole has never played outside linebacker and will be a liability every time he tries to drop into coverage. Opposing offensive coordinators will target him relentlessly. On the other side, the team signed Connor Barwin away from the Texans. Barwin is experienced in rushing the passer and in coverage, so he should be a steadying influence on the defense. Inside, Mychal Kendricks looks right at home at inside LB. He played in the 3-4 in college and he appears to be a difference-maker. DeMeco Ryans occupies the other inside LB spot, but remember that the Texans traded him to the Eagles last season because he wasn't a good fit in the 3-4.
When I look at the Eagles defensive secondary, I see the worst group in the entire NFL. Last year's cornerbacks were terrible, but did you know that Cary Williams allowed more TDs than either Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or Nnamdi Asomugha? He's also a "hothead", as Vick labeled him, who takes stupid penalties that hurt the team. On the other side is Bradley Fletcher who started all of 26 games over the last four seasons. And when he's been on the field he has been average at best. Brandon Boykin looked good as the clot cornerback last season, so he should at least be decent this season. The safeties were putrid last season, so of course, Nate Allen kept his job. He's got bad instincts and he doesn't like contact. Not exactly what you want in your strong safety, is it? At free safety, Patrick Chung takes over after he got benched in New England last season. Sadly, Chung is the best of this bunch.
To make matters even worse, I fear that Kelly's fast-paced offense is going to wear the defense out. Sure, trying to run a no-huddle offense is great when you can create mismatches by not letting the defense substitute. But if things aren't clicking, the defense isn't going to get a chance to rest on the sideline. That will only make a bad defense worse.
It appears that Kelly made a concerted effort to upgrade the special teams. Most of the backup players were chosen because they can contribute on special teams. Kicker Alex Henery has converted 87.9 percent of his field goals, Donnie Jones is a definite upgrade over Matt McBriar. And Damaris Johnson looks to be an explosive kick and punt returner. As long as he holds onto the ball that is.
The Eagles will be an exciting team, but exciting doesn't necessarily mean good. I have no idea why anyone thinks that Chip Kelly will be able to work miracles with the roster he inherited while trying to switch defenses on the fly. Vick will turn the ball over too much and the defense is going to be among the worst in the entire NFL. It also remains to be seen how well Kelly performs in his first NFL coaching job. I don't see how this team wins more than 6 games and even that might be pushing it if the offense doesn't light up the scoreboard every single week.
It's going to be a long season with more loses than wins for the Philadelphia Eagles, but after 14 years of Andy Reid, Eagles fans will take anything different.