The Eagles, with new head coach Chip Kelly, are embarking on a new season once again as football starts back up again. They begin the season September 9th on Monday Night Football at rival Washington at 7 pm EST. Following that game, they embark on a two game home stand- vs. two AFC West teams in San Diego and Andy Reid's Kansas City Chiefs. The full schedule- including home/away, time and channel are as followed:
9/9- @ Washington- 6:55 PM- ESPN
9/15- vs. San Diego- 1:00 PM- CBS
9/19 (Thurs)- vs. KC- 8:25 PM- NFL Network
9/29- @ Denver- 4:25 PM- FOX
10/6- @ New York (Giants)- 1:00 PM- FOX
10/13- @ Tampa Bay- 1:00 PM- FOX
10/20- vs. Dallas- 1:00 PM- FOX
10/27- vs. New York (Giants)- 1:00 PM- FOX
11/3- @ Oakland- 4:05 PM- FOX
11/10- @ Green Bay- 1:00 PM- FOX
11/17- vs. Washington- 1:00 PM- FOX
12/1- vs. Arizona- 1:00 PM- FOX
12/8- vs. Detroit- 1:00 PM- FOX
12/15- @ Minnesota- 1:00 PM- FOX
12/22- vs. Chicago- 1:00 PM- FOX
12/29- @ Dallas- 1:00 PM- FOX
So, as you can see by the schedule above, we play a hefty amount of games this year at 1:00 on FOX, 12 to be exact (seven of which are home games).
Three out of their first four games are against AFC teams: Peyton Manning and the Broncos, Andy Reid's Chiefs and Philip Rivers and the Chargers. It's important, for any NFL team, to get a good start to a season, especially when you play in a tough, tight-knit division as the NFC East. Andy Reid teams under the Eagles never performed well in the early stages of the season, so there's hope that Chip Kelly can drastically change that, and start on a good note.
Here's the breakdown of the roster position by position, on all three sides of the ball. We'll start with offense, the backups below each starter(s) are in parenthesis.
(Nick Foles, Matt Barkley)
(Bryce Brown, Chris Polk)
(Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson)
Left Offensive Tackle
Left Offensive Guard
Right Offensive Guard
Right Offensive Tackle
Left Defensive End
Right Defensive End
Left Outside Linebacker
Left Inside Linebacker
Right Inside Linebacker
Right Outside Linebacker
I don't see any of the four teams running away with the division this year; the competition's just too tight. While Washington has a gifted quarterback, a great running back, an experienced coach and a solid defense, they're inexperienced. I still believe they'll win the division though, even though I wouldn't be surprised if the Giants won it as well. The Giants have just as many holes as Washington does, if not more, but they have experience and Eli Manning is unable to beat in clutch scenarios. Dallas may be better than the Eagles. Hell, they may be better at times on paper than any of the four teams this year but they're always a toss-up. In recent years they've had great years and couldn't do anything with it. I don't see them having a good or bad year.
Same goes for the Eagles, who have a new but incredibly talented head coach. Many people don't believe in Kelly since he's an unproven NFL coach, on top of not believing that his college schemes will work in the NFL effectively. The Eagles are strong offensively, with McCoy, Jackson, Celek, Peters and even Vick when he's on his game, but they're inexperienced as a whole, inconsistent and under a new head coach.
Week 1- @ Washington- Loss
Week 2- vs. San Diego- Win
Week 3- vs. KC- Win
Week 4- @ Denver- Loss
Week 5- @ New York (Giants)- Win
Week 6 @ Tampa Bay- Loss
Week 7- vs. Dallas- Loss
Week 8- vs. New York (Giants)- Loss
Week 9- @ Oakland- Win
Week 10- @ Green Bay- Loss
Week 11- vs. Washington- Win
Week 12- Bye week
Week 13- vs. Arizona- Win
Week 14- vs. Detroit- Win
Week 15- @ Minnesota- Loss
Week 16- vs. Chicago- Loss
Week 17- @ Dallas- Win
Breaking down the wins and losses, I split all three inner-division series' meetings due to all four teams, as mentioned, being so close. I don't see the Eagles having any chance of beating Peyton Manning and Denver at Denver, especially considering how dangerous the opposition is (they just put up 49 points vs. the defending champs three days ago) and the chances that Denver could come out as the AFC Champion this year. I don't think they'll be able to beat a powerhouse team like the Packers, and considering our run defense, stopping Adrian Peterson won't be an easy task come December when we meet Minnesota at the Hubert Humphrey dome. It should be an interesting year for the Eagles, wins and losses aside.
Pro Bowl Selections Predictions
-Lesean McCoy- RB (would be his 2nd Pro Bowl)
-Desean Jackson- WR (would be his 3rd)
-Jason Peters- LT (6th)
-Fletcher Cox- DE (1st)
-Alex Henery- K (1st)
5 Question Marks (in no order) to start the season:
01. Will Chip Kelly's college schemes translate well into the NFL?
Yes, to a degree, I think. Many offensive-minded NFL coaches implement some parts of the same schemes as Kelly does. I do think, like any new coach, opposing coaches will watch film and make adjustments but I see, especially considering our weapons on offense, a level of success with it.
02. Will Michael Vick stay healthy the entire year, or for most of the year at least?
This mostly depends on the offensive line and how much Vick has to run when the pocket breaks down or when nobody's open. The offensive line was completely depleted last year, three of the starters last year sustained injuries, including Pro Bowl caliber (and arguably the best tackle in the league, or one of them) tackle Jason Peters early on. It's not a given in the NFL that all five offensive lineman will remain completely healthy throughout a full season but if they can remain as healthy as possible, it can only help Vick's chances of staying healthy this year.
Additionally, when healthy, this line is one of the best in the league. Herremans and Peters are strong, veteran leaders and 2013 1st-round draft pick Lane Johnson could prove to be solid in his rookie year. Second year center Jason Kelce is vital for Vick's success. Head coach Chip Kelly rearranged the locker room assignments so that Kelce and Vick's are next to each other, to build chemistry.
03. Can the defense do anything under the 3-4?
(Charles LeClaire/US Presswire)
The team is making adjustments defensively this year as they switch from a 4-3 defensive scheme to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Billy Davis. Davis has showed the team past tape of the Steelers to help with adjusting to the new scheme. Davis was a defensive quality assistant in Pittsburgh in 1992 under head coach Bill Cowher and defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
Capers was able to transform a Green Bay defense in 2009, in his first year, under a 3-4 from 21st in the league in defensive ranking to second. Capers' defense that year finished the season ranked second in scoring defense, fifth in total defense, second in interceptions, second in sacks, and first in opposing quarterbacks' passer ratings.
Whether or not Davis will be able to achieve the same success as Capers did (for multiple teams) depends on the players themselves just as much as the schemes.
The Eagles, on paper, are perceived as a poor defensive team coming into this year. There are many unknowns and "what ifs" surrounding the unit. Whether or not corner Cary Williams can carry his aggressiveness and passion onto the gridiron, whether or not the rookies and young players can perform at a high level (I foresee, as shown above, Fletcher Cox having a breakout year). This includes Fletcher Cox (2nd year), Brandon Graham (25 years old), Cedric Thornton (in only his second full year), Vinny Curry (2nd year), Mychal Kendricks (2nd year), and rookie safety Earl Wolff, among others. Which brings me to my next point.....
04. Can the inexperienced defense get it done?
There are four defensive starters that are 25 or younger (five if you include Earl Wolff, who's competing with safety Nate Allen for the starter's job this season). That's a huge concern for any team in the NFL when teams rely, besides xs and oxs, on leadership and the presences of players such as Brian Dawkins to motivate the team in tough times. When the Eagles fall into a rut this year, and they will, leadership and motivation, and the lack thereof, may be one of the deficits that fails to pull the team from out of that rut or those ruts. After losing defensive veterans within the past few years (Note: I don't consider all of these players mentioned as motivational players/leaders, but rather as veterans with the most experience) such as Brian Dawkins, Cullen Jenkins, Nnamdi Asomugha, Mike Patterson, and Jason Babin, among others, it'll be tough to recover this year. Veterans such as Trent Cole, Isaac Sopoaga and DeMeco Ryans will thus have to pick up the slack there.
05. Can they compete with the other teams in the NFC East?
The NFC East, on all three sides, is loaded with talent- on all four teams within the division. While the Eagles have a skilled offense and a good special teams unit, the Giants have an experienced, successful team -- more so on offense now -- with Eli Manning winning two Super Bowls in the past six seasons, and a consistent defense. Dallas, as always, has talent across the board. Tony Romo, as inconsistent and poor as he can be at times, still puts up solid numbers with weapons to throw to such as Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Lastly, the Redskins, who are suddenly a threat again within the East, are perhaps the most talented and consistent team across the board (maybe along with the Giants).
Robert Griffin III made the Pro Bowl for the NFC last season, as Washington won the division at 10-6 for the first time in 13 seasons. Griffin threw for 3,200 yards yards last year, with 20 touchdown passes to only 5 interceptions. He lead all NFL rookies in passer rating, and finished third in the league in the same category behind only Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, with a 102.4 rating. He also lead the league in yards per pass attempt with 8.14. Griffin is one of a few young NFL quarterbacks who have the exceptional ability to not only pass successfully but run as well, along with Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. Griffin also lead all QBs in rushing yards (20th overall) and yards/attempt with 815 and 6.8, respectively.
Washington not only boasts a great, athletic quarterback but the second leading rusher from last year in running-back Alfred Morris, who rushed for 1,613 yards last year- second to only Adrian Peterson's 2,097. Morris is a great downfield runner, and he combines finesse yet power when rushing. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry last year in his rookie year with 13 touchdowns. The fact that he was able to accomplish, individually, so much in his rookie year makes people wonder what he can do with more experience under his belt.
On the other side of the ball, Washington possesses a smart, talented, veteran defensive core, which includes the likes of Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher and DeAngelo Hall. Orakpo is returning fully from a year in which he missed the entire season due to tearing his pectoral muscle (which required season-ending surgery after Week 2). He'll be looking to make an immediate impact in his return defensively for Washington.
Head coach Mike Shanahan's experience and presence furthers Washington's chances of repeating as NFC East Champs this year, if they stay healthy. The Eagles will have to stay healthy on offense, show progress on defense and win the close games if they want to have any chances of staying in the hunt.
Breakout Offensive Player of the Year
Riley Cooper- WR
Since most of the Eagles' offensive starters are either stars or proven, it's best to go with Cooper as the pick here, considering Chip Kelly's Read Option offensive scheme, which relies on the quarterback to audible a pass or a run if the situation calls for it. Antics and drama aside, Cooper could be an asset to the Eagles this year on offense, considering Desean Jackson will most likely be double teamed and Jeremy Maclin is out for the year, due to an ACL tear sustained in training camp. Cooper could realistically finish as the runner-up for the Eagles in receptions behind Jackson (Brent Celek would be a valuable offensive asset, except he's usually back as a blacker for Mike Vick).
Breakout Defensive Player of the Year
Fletcher Cox- DE
Since I picked Cox to make the Pro Bowl, it would be pretty wise to pick him as my breakout defensive player of the year, right? Cox was drafted by Philadelphia a year ago as the 9th overall pick, out of Mississippi State. In college, as a junior for Mississippi, he was a first-team All-American.
Last year, he put up respectable numbers for a rookie, with 39 tackles, 5.5 sacks (third all-time for an Eagles' rookie), 4 pass deflections and a forced fumble. In three preseason starts/games this year, he compiled just three tackles. He weighs in at 300 pounds, slightly smaller than the average weight of the Eagles' defensive line unit.
(Al Bello/Getty Images)
Cox's tenacity and explosion off of the line could lead to big numbers for the defensive end this year. I don't foresee him going through a sophomore slump this year, given he remains healthy.
...And just for fun, off-topic aside, I'll throw in my Super Bowl prediction here (and winner) for this year.
Denver over San Francisco, 23-17
(Peyton Manning- SB MVP)