The 2013 regular season for the Eagles has been nothing short of eye-opening. The Eagles are the NFC East champions and finished with a record of 10-6, just one season after letting go of Andy Reid and posting a miserable 4-12 finish. Philadelphia has turned the "hopes" up and the "skepticism" down with the performances of Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, the offensive line, Riley Cooper and the defense along with the play-calling of Chip Kelly and Billy Davis.
With the regular season being finished, Bleeding Green Nation is bringing out its annual awards to celebrate the what was in 2013:
Most Valuable Player
Brandon Gowton: Nick Foles. 27 TD and only 2 INT speaks for itself.
Mike Kaye: Nick Foles. You can talk about play-calling or luck, but the success Foles has had does not come from magic or a piece of paper. He was 8-2 as a starter and won the Giants game in Week 4 after replacing an injured Michael Vick. He was the catalyst for this team's 7-1 turnaround in the second half of the season and the main reason the Eagles are a playoff team and division champion. #WonderFoles
Mark Saltveit: Nick Foles. Shady was still Shady with Mike Vick at the helm, but those Eagles weren't these Eagles. I like Vick a lot but them's the facts.
James Keane: Nick Foles. Undoubtedly the Eagles' most valuable player is Foles, but players can be valuable in different ways. Foles and LeSean McCoy have certainly been valuable (INvaluable, even). Desean Jackson has been valuable, and so has Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, Donnie Jones, and Fletcher Cox. But to some degree, I think much of this team's success can be attributed to Michael Vick. Many of the Eagles look up to and revere him. If Vick had handled his return from injury any differently than he has, if he had not embraced his role as backup and mentor and leader, then I don't know if Foles would be as successful as he has been. This, combined with the fact that Vick is arguably the most dangerous backup quarterback in the NFL, makes him (if not the most valuable) an extremely valuable player and resource for the Eagles.
Brent Cohen: LeSean McCoy. Is Chip Kelly eligible? No? Then I'll go with Shady. Best RB in the league this year, and a big reason why Foles has been able to play as well as he has. Without McCoy's rushing threat, this offense doesn't work nearly as well. Also one of the more entertaining players in the entire league.
Josh Collacchi: Nick Foles. 27 TD, 2 INT. Good decision maker, good leader, perfect for this team and this system. Without him, the Eagles are not in the playoffs.
Matt Harkenreader: Nick Foles. While McCoy is the centerpiece of the offense, Foles created something that Michael Vick could not. As impressive as his stat line is, the intangibles (especially the ability to "throw receivers open") are almost even more impressive. And beating out Peyton Manning in passer rating in a year where he broke seemingly every record isn't too bad, either.
Offensive Player of the Year
Brandon Gowton: LeSean McCoy. Just when you thought McCoy couldn't get any better, Chip Kelly came along and found a way to maximize his potential even more. Shady was hands down the best running back in the NFL this year.
Mike Kaye: LeSean McCoy. He owns the 2013 NFL rushing, yards from scrimmage and all-purpose yards titles along with the Eagles records for rushing yards in a game and rushing yards and yards from scrimmage in a season. That all happened this season under Chip Kelly.
Mark Saltveit: LeSean McCoy. Duh.
James Keane: LeSean McCoy. If by "offensive player" we mean the Eagles' best offensive weapon, then it's McCoy. If we mean the player who most offends every fiber of my being, then Patrick Chung.
Brent Cohen: Nick Foles. It's not even close. Led the league in Passer Rating, set the all-time record for TD/INT ratio. More importantly, at least for me, he's providing valuable data that illustrates just how valuable "turnover-avoidance" can be as a discrete skill. Yes, he takes a lot of sacks, but he's avoiding interceptions without sacrificing the downfield game, and doing to an extent that's never been seen before.
Josh Collacchi: LeSean McCoy. He broke Montgomery's record, self explanatory here.
Matt Harkenreader: LeSean McCoy. He took the franchise records for rushing yards and yards from scrimmage in what has been arguably his best season as a pro. It'll be fun to see what he can do when Chip Kelly brings in more players that suit his offense.
Defensive Player of the Year
Brandon Gowton: Trent Cole. A lot of people doubted Cole's "fit" into the Eagles' new 3-4 defensive scheme. Others thought Cole may have lost a step by now. Cole has been a great run defender all year and has really come on late in the season as a productive pass rusher. Cole may be aging but he can still play.
Mike Kaye: Cedric Thornton. The Eagles have historically been awful against the run for years and have significantly turned that around this season. It has all started up front with Thornton, who is the "defensive find" of the Howie Roseman Era. He may not get fancy stats but he is a top 10 3-4 defensive end in the league, solely based on his run-stopping. The lack of running success has made opposing teams very one dimensional against the Eagles.
Mark Saltveit: Brandon Boykin. So many to choose from but he has been very consistent AND very clutch.
James Keane: Brandon Boykin. I really want to say Fletcher Cox here, but I can't ignore the best closer this city has seen since 2008's Brad Lidge, Brandon Boykin. But, if by "defensive" player you mean the player who gets the most defensive when called out, then Desean Jackson (see WR coach Bob Bicknell).
Brent Cohen: Connor Barwin. Not the flashiest player or the one with the best numbers, but simply put: this defense doesn't work without him. He was the one "true" 3-4 LB on the team before the season started, and he's been a HUGE part of making the transition relatively smooth. Not a great player, but his importance to the team gives him the edge here
Josh Collacchi: Brandon Boykin. Boykin had six interceptions in 635 snaps. Richard Sherman led the NFL with eight, but with around 400 more snaps. Boykin is a star.
Matt Harkenreader: Brandon Boykin. The second-year pro finished second in the league with six interceptions, and he wasn't even on the field for every snap. He routinely made plays when they had to be me made and came up big when the division title was on the line.
Most Improved Player
Brandon Gowton: Riley Cooper. He took a ridiculous step forward this year, especially with Nick Foles at QB. It's amazing to think Cooper is ninth in the league in yards per reception. Entering this year, Cooper was a special teams player and 4th receiver at best. He's showed he can be more than that this season.
Mike Kaye: Riley Cooper. The guy has gone from fringe player to a solid number two option over the last 10 weeks. He has one of the leagues highest yards per catch averages and produced more yardage and touchdowns in this season than he had in his first three years. He is getting money this summer and has become a guy that a good majority of fans want re-signed.
Mark Saltveit: Nate Allen. This one's easy. No one could believe he made the team at first, now he's a crucial cog.
James Keane: Mychal Kendricks. Last year Kendricks had one interception, zero forced fumbles and zero fumble recoveries. This year, playing in a new scheme, Kendricks has 31 more tackles, three interceptions, four sacks, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Productive as hell.
Brent Cohen: Cedric Thornton. My first reaction was Riley Cooper, but I'm not actually convinced he's improved. I just think the offense is now much better suited to his skills. Instead, I'm going with Thornton. An afterthought for most fans entering the season, Thornton has been one of the best defensive players, period. Not nearly as flashy as someone like Boykin, and he does most of his damage against the run. If you're looking for biggest one-year improvement, though, he's the guy (Foles deserves a mention as well, but he could really win every award).
Josh Collacchi: Riley Cooper. It is amazing what a guy can do with a quarterback with a bit of accuracy. He previously caught passes from Michael Vick and Tim Tebow.
Matt Harkenreader: Mychal Kendricks. He had an uneven rookie year and seemed to take some time to adjust to the new scheme, but he really came on late in the year and turned in a huge game versus Dallas. He's far from a finished product but is starting to show signs that he will become a critical part of the defense in future seasons.
The Evan Mathis Award
(Best Free Agent Signing)
Brandon Gowton: Donnie "Football" Jones. Broke Eagles franchise records in Net Punting Average (40.5) and Punts Downed Inside the 20 (33). Has helped the Eagles defense by giving them longer fields to work with.
Mike Kaye: Connor Barwin. It is not even close. Barwin has done it all for the Eagles and really has been the lynch pin for the 3-4 transition.
Mark Saltveit: Connor Barwin. He's the glue that made the transition to a 3-4 work. Also clutch.
James Keane: Connor Barwin's arms.
Brent Cohen: Connor Barwin. He is for reasons I mentioned above. However, we can't forget Donnie Jones, who's had a really strong year. In the process, he's reminded Eagles fans of just how valuable a punter can be.
Josh Collacchi: Connor Barwin. The versatility he has brought to this defense is a stabilizing force. While he does not have the pass rushing numbers some of us may have expected, he is doing everything that Billy Davis asks.
Matt Harkenreader: Connor Barwin. He quickly adapted to Billy Davis' scheme and has become indispensable. His knack for tipped passes has provided something the Eagles sorely needed and that sack on RGIII will probably be one of the fondest memories of the regular season.
The Ike Reese Badge of Courage Award
(Depth/Bench Player of the Year)
Brandon Gowton: Vinny Curry. He has been a monster off the bench as a pass rusher with 5 sacks and 22 hurries in just 228 snaps played.
Mike Kaye: Earl Wolff. Patrick Chung was out due to injuries and being awful, so Wolff came in to replace him and played relatively well. He is likely a starter next season. Najee Goode and Allen Barbre were other players I considered.
Mark Saltveit: Najee Goode for stepping up big when his number got called. Eagles didn't miss a beat. I think Chris Polk could have been but didn't get enough reps.
James Keane: Chris Polk. Happily, this is a difficult award to give out. The Eagles have a relatively deep team with solid contributors all over. But after some deliberation I will settle on Polk. Remarkably, Polk has only touched the ball 15 times all season, but those touches have resulted in three touchdowns and six first downs. You can't beat that kind of efficiency from your team's third running back.
Brent Cohen: Brent Celek. Boykin should be the winner here (he only played about 50% of the total snaps), but I don't think anyone considers him a "depth" player. How about Celek? Many thought his role would be minimized by the Casey signing and the drafting of Ertz, and while Celek's receiving stats have declined, he's still managed to be a big contributor on offense. His blocking has been strong, and a big part of the run game. He's still a starter, so maybe not a true "depth" guy either, but whatever, he deserves some recognition for what has been a very strong, but below-the-radar year.
Josh Collachi: Chris Polk. When called upon, Polk has been outstanding this year. He has 15 touches for 159 yards and is averaging just under nine yards a carry on 11 carries. Every time he touches the ball, he has made an impact.
Matt Harkenreader: Roc Carmichael. He stepped in on occasion and performed admirably while Bradley Fletcher was dealing with injuries (especially versus the Packers). Even though his physical style of play did earn him a few pass interference calls, I'd rather see some grit than a backup who rolls over and plays dead while receivers streak by him.
Rookie of the Year
Brandon Gowton: Zach Ertz. The rookie finished the year with 36 catches for 469 yards and 4 TD. His 13.03 yards per reception are the best since 2000 by a rookie TE with at least 30 catches, beating out Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski. (H/t @Noah_Becker)
Mike Kaye: Lane Johnson. This is likely the toughest award, outside of MVP, to pick. Bennie Logan, Zach Ertz and Earl Wolff deserve props, but Johnson started all 16 games this season and has really come on after being considered somewhat of a project during the draft process. He has a very bright future.
Mark Saltveit: Bennie Logan. Again, so many choices but an undersized third round pick taking over at nose tackle after a few games and playing so well, that's amazing. Have you ever heard him criticized? Once?
James Keane: Bennie Logan. Also a difficult one. Lane Johnson and Zach Ertz have been really good, but neither has made the impact that Logan has on defense.
Brent Cohen: Bennie Logan. Very tough call. Johnson and Ertz haven't lit up the league, but they've both played about as well as we should have expected (though I wanted a bit more from Johnson.) Meanwhile, though he's hurt now, Earl Wolff has been one of the biggest surprises on the team. However, for best rookie overall, I'm taking Logan. NT was a big weakness coming into the year, and while I'm not ready to anoint Logan as the long-term starter, he's provided solid play at a very important position. Combined with his 3rd round status, I think he's the rookie the team is most happy with.
Josh Collacchi: Bennie Logan. With Isaac Sopoaga, the Eagles run defense was getting gashed, and he was being moved all over the place. Since Logan has taken over, we have not heard his name much, which is a sign of good play from a nose tackle. The defensive line will be good for years to come with Logan in the middle.
Matt Harkenreader: Zach Ertz. Bennie Logan is probably the more popular pick here, but Ertz really stepped up in the second half of the season. He made some dazzling catches which is even more impressive considering the drop problem he had coming out of college. He has become a great bailout target for Foles once he's flushed from the pocket, a sign that he's willing to come back to the ball and help out his quarterback. Ertz will be a staple in this offense for years to come.
Game of the Year
Brandon Gowton: The Snow Game stands out, and the Nick Foles 7 TD game is a reasonable choice as well, but that Bears game is the pick for me. The Eagles were coming off a demoralizing loss to Minnesota and they responded in the best way possible: a blowout victory. With the way the crowd was behaving, you would have thought it was a playoff game. Chants of "We Want Dallas!" and "Dallas Sucks!" filled the air. Chip Kelly's quote of the year came out of that game: "We're from Philadelphia and we fight."
Mike Kaye: Week 16 vs. the Bears. This is the game that showed off the Eagles talent in every aspect of the team. It was a game that meant less to them than the opposing team and they smoked them. Foles and McCoy showed why they are the best quarterback-running back combination in the league and the defense showed up in all areas. The Snow Bowl was fun and the Foles touchdowns game was historic, but Chicago was a glimpse at how scary this team is going to be over the next few seasons.
Mark Saltveit: Snow Bowl. Has to be. Exotic, dramatic, fun, important game.
James Keane: The most lasting images of the season will always be from the Snow Bowl. It's also the game that instilled a sense of confidence and a healthy dose of cockiness in the players, later tempered by the loss to Minnesota. But the impact of the Snow Bowl lingers.
Brent Cohen: Game 1. The Washington opener, though not as meaningful in hindsight, was still my favorite game of the year. It was more entertaining than the Raiders game (Foles 7 TDs), and it heralded the arrival of the Chip Kelly era. A lot of people were nervous heading into the game, and there were a LOT of Chip Kelly haters before then. In 30 minutes, most of that was destroyed, and more importantly, the game gave Eagles fans hope that the team will once again dominate the NFC East and contend for the Super Bowl.
Josh Collacchi: Nick Foles' seven touchdowns against the Raiders in three quarters. We all wanted to see how Foles would bounce back after a poor performance. He rebounds with a record-breaking performance.
Matt Harkenreader: I was tempted to go with the Snow Bowl, but I couldn't get past the NFC East Championship Game against the Cowboys. It was the biggest game of the season in a hostile environment and a rather young team was able to walk out with a much-deserved win. Their resilience in the face of adversity was not only a testament to their character but to the effectiveness of Chip Kelly as a leader and motivator.
The 'Cut Him Now' Award
(Player that is deemed not worth his salary and/or playing time)
Brandon Gowton: Patrick Chung. It's been a rough year for him.
Mike Kaye: Patrick Chung. When a fanbase is clamoring for an up-and-down rookie to return to replace him, there is a clear issue with his play. I was not a fan of the signing and outside of a preseason game or two, he has shown absolutely nothing.
Mark Saltveit: Patrick Chung. But wait till we replace him, please.
James Keane: Pat Chung. See Offensive Player of the Year. Also Damaris Johnson. Granted he really hasn't had much opportunity on offense, but he's been terrible returning the ball; too much Chad Hall in him. I'm glad he hasn't done it much in recent weeks. Let him go.
Brent Cohen: Damaris Johnson. Well they already got rid of him, but the easy answer is Sopoaga. It's easy to pick on the secondary, and guys like Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman have struggled. However, we need to remember that those guys real roles is as depth players, and I'd be happy with Nate Allen as a back-up safety. Instead, I'll target Johnson. I still can't believe Chip hasn't used him as a slot receiver, but there must be a reason, and it's probably because Johnson's just not as good as everyone thought. They're not using him anyway, and he doesn't contribute on STs, so looks like a waste of a roster spot to me.
Josh Collacchi: Kurt Coleman. Why is he on the roster? Why?
Matt Harkenreader: Damaris Johnson. He insisted on bringing out kickoffs from WAYYY deep in the end zone and hasn't really made much of his opportunities on offense. A lot of people liked him here at BGN, but I think his number is up.
Well, there you have it. Feel free to give us your opinions of the awards and who you think should get them.
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