First of all we need to thank Jeffrey Lurie for finally putting an end to the Andy Reid era, and everything that entailed (not going to rehash the past here, that's for sure). Then as luck would have it (or our Destiny in this case), Mr Lurie trumped that move by a move that will go down as the biggest move in Philly Sports history, the hiring of one Mr Charles "Chip" Kelly. And as they say, the rest is history. We were one defensive stop away from going to play Carolina this weekend so we can come back for a possible NFC Championship game at home. One defensive stop away, that's it !
Year 1 - exponential growth, leaps and bounds, the end. Do I need to elaborate any further, or do you pretty much remember everything that happened from April 1st onwards ?
So with that in mind, is it wrong to have even higher expectations for Year 2 ? How high is too high ? Is Super Bowl out of the question after dreaming about a potential Home NFC Championship game this year ? You don't expect the Eagles to remain status quo and just inch along slowly in their progression after what they did this year, do you ? If Year 1 brought us that, I can only imagine what Year 2 will be like. Super Bowl's in Arizona, btw, should be great weather !
But before we book our tickets, let's look into what Year 2 might hold for us. First thing, roster upgrade. There are some positions that need competition, some need upgrade and some need depth. We have 7 picks in the draft, and let's say we sign 5 quality FA's excluding our own, these are the positions that we need to address and the level of change needed:
- QB (competition) - I mean, we all love the long-winded and drawn out responses you get in a Nick Foles press conference, so I definitely want to hear more of that, but before Chip Kelly goes into the 2nd year of his 5 year contract with Nick Foles as the main guy, I would think they will invest in bringing in competition to either push or supplant Nick Foles (and we're not talking about Kinne or Barkley, as they're already on the roster). I just don't see Big Balls Chip putting all his eggs in the Nick Foles basket in Year 2 of the 5 year clock that he is on ("You can never have enough Quarterbacks" - Chip Kelly in his end of the year press conference). He has to have a plan B, which does not include Matt Barkley or Kinne (for that matter). I would be curious to see what type of competition he brings through either the college ranks or free agency. If there are no major Qb additions, then let's hope that Matt Barkley is ready to step-in, in an emergency situation and can keep the season afloat as needed. There are things to love about Foles' game like his accuracy and his ability to thread the needle with his throws. This is the first time in a long time that I've seen an Eagles Qb hit receivers in stride on a consistent basis. I would love to see the upside of Nick Foles, but let's be serious, we can't go into Year 2 without a legit alternative, just in case. So let's definitely add some competition to the QB spot ! (For a different perspective on the Qb's, see Lawlor's article.)
- WR (depth) - If we re-sign bff's Mac and Coop and appease the need for guaranteed $$$ for Mr Jackpott, and Arrellious Maximus comes back healthy, then all we need to do is bring in some depth to compete for the 5th and 6th spots. Chip Kelly did applaud what Avant brought to the table in his final press conference, but we don't know what their plan is in regards to the veteran wideout. Brad Smith, Damaris and Maehl might be back on the 90 man roster, but they will and should have competition for the 5th and 6th spot on this team. So, if we sign our two big FA's, then all we need is better depth, if we don't sign them, then that will be a different story. There will definitely be wide receiver depth available that fits this offense both thru FA or the draft, and we shouldn't have a big problem with this spot if everything goes as hoped for.
- RB (luxury) - Just bring in De'Anthony Thomas, those d-coordinators will have nightmares trying to stop this offensive juggernaut next year. A team needs 4 good running backs in this day and age !
- Guard (competition) - There should definitely be a challenge out there for Herremans next year. Mathis is an All-pro, so we're fine there, but I wouldn't mind challenging Herremans. Barbre is a good back-up at multiple spots, but not sure if he'll challenge the Toddfather for a starting job.
- Center (depth) - Are you comfortable with Vanderwelde as the center in case (god forbids), something happens to our starting center ? Well, neither am I, that's why better depth is needed at that position. If someone as valuable as Kelce were to go down for any extended period of time, then that might cause havoc for the Qb and the offense. So definitely some depth is needed at this position.
- NT (upgrade) - This is by far the biggest need in my eyes, someone like Louis Nix could clog up the middle very well. Love what Bennie Logan brought to the table in his rookie year, and am looking forward to seeing him play at more than one d-line position next year, I think he'll have an even better year. But we definitely need a Louis Nix type to clog up the middle. Let's hope he drops, or if they have a FA in mind, that's fine too, but we definitely need to upgrade this spot.
- D-end (upgrade) - Second biggest need on this team. If they fix the line, then the defense will be something to be dealt with next year. Just one upgrade to this position would suffice. I don't feel comfortable returning with both Thornton and Cox as our starters, they need to be challenged and pushed for a starting spot. I don't think either played particularly bad this year, but there needs to be better talent on this team for the 3-4 d-end position. Looking at some of these 3-4 d-ends around the league and how some of them stand out, it just leaves you wanting more production out of those spots. Does Vinny Curry stick around for another year of development or does he have any trade value at all for a 4-3 team ? (For a more informed read on the future of the 3-4 d-ends on our team, read Mr Lawlor's most recent article.)
- OLB (upgrade) - Cole and Graham gave it their all this year, and that's commendable, but trying them in those spots was a stretch to begin with although luckily it didn't turn into a disaster. And now with reports that Cole might not be returning next year and that Graham wants to start, this position is also in dire need of an upgrade. Barwin seems okay on the other side for now.
- ILB (competition) - Let's bring in some competition for DeMeco as he gets up there in age. This should be through the draft so that a player can sit behind DeMeco for a year, if need be, and be ready to take over by the following year.
- Safety (upgrade) - When you don't feel safe with your safeties, then what do you have ? Instead of going through the draft and having a rookie challenging for a spot next to Wolff, it might be preferable to bring in a free agent to take over this job from Day 1.
- Corner (competition) - Loved what Cary and Fletcher brought to the table both in regards to their coverage and especially their tackling. I like the idea of big, physical corners after what I saw from these two over the course of the season. Maybe draft a corner in their mold and let him develop and compete for a starting job, and be ready to take over after one year at the latest.
- Kicker (competition) - Special teams is just as important as offense and defense to Chip Kelly, so this position can't be overlooked. There will definitely be competition for Henery in this department over the summer.
I'm getting greedy here with this wish list of changes, but it's not out of the question that the Eagles will address some if not most of these positions in this off-season. For a more detailed response by Chip Kelly on the QB situation, here's the link to his last press conference (20:15 to 22:02 mark).
Year 2, this is the Year that the Eagles start to really take off and soar, if Year 1 is a preview of what's to come. As bad as it was a year ago, there's not a better time to be an Eagles fan then right now. And if you're not sure if your Coach is shooting for the Super Bowl next year, listen to Chip Kelly's interview from 1/6 (10:23 mark, at the end of the interview) !!!
You might want to get a jump start in booking your tickets, we'll crash at Donovan's place !