Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer posted a two-part column pertaining to some of the sourced information he's heard during his time at the 2014 NFL Combine last week. Read the first piece here. I gave my analysis of what McLane discussed in his post at BGN. Now it's time to take a look at his second column. Here's my take on what he had to offer this time:
1) Nick Foles will start for the Eagles in 2014, but the team isn't ready to fully commit to him in the long-term.
When you think about it, it doesn't really matter what the Eagles say about committing to Nick Foles right now. They obviously like him a lot. He's going to be the starter next year. Everyone knows how good of a season he had from a statistical perspective. But now 2013 is over and looking back won't mean much if Foles falls flat on his face in 2014. While I don't expect that to happen, it's fair to wonder how much natural regression will impact Foles' performance. The Eagles don't have to "commit" to Foles until time for a new contract comes, which can't happen until after this season. Foles can end any reservations the team might have by going out and having another great year. But what happens if Foles falls somewhere short of great and closer to merely just good enough?
Here, the cause for healthy concern when it comes to Foles is highlighted in this line from McLane:
The worst that could happen to the Eagles would be for Foles to perform somewhere in that nether region that often forces teams to move forward with a quarterback they’re less than convinced can win them a Super Bowl.
This is exactly what the biggest fear is with Foles. He's proven that he won't likely ever be flat out terrible, aside from a fluke game (first Cowboys meeting last year). But Foles needs to prove he's better than simply "good enough" for the team to feel great about committing to him in the long-term. It's up to Foles to prove the doubters wrong by showing he can improve and lead the team to even more success than just a playoff berth.
2) Earl Wolff may have been pushed to return from his knee injury before he was ready.
Wolff's return to the field did seem to come a little sooner than expected based on his comments regarding his injury at the time. Wolff didn't give a great sense that he was completely healthy. This factoid is more of an indictment of how poor the Eagles safety depth was last year. The Eagles preferred an injured Wolff to a healthy Patrick Chung, Kurt Coleman, or Colt Anderson. It's not a given any of those players return. The Eagles will be sure to add new faces to the safety position both through free agency and the draft.
3) Trent Cole's future is uncertain.
I've maintained that I don't see Trent Cole going anywhere yet. He had a really slow start to the season but he finished strong, which is usually the opposite of how Cole's season goes. He wasn't a liability as a starter in the 3-4 but he wasn't a dynamic play-maker either. The way I see it, Cole gets one more year with the Eagles. Chip Kelly really values his leadership. The scenario I envision is Cole starting but getting less repetitions with the Eagles rotating his snaps with a pass rusher they add through the draft.
4) Brandon Graham does have trade value.
Some were surprised to see Brandon Graham not traded at some point last year. It's hard to blame the Eagles for wanting to see what Graham could do in the 3-4. Graham only played around 20% to 30% of the team's snaps on a game by game basis. He added pass rush off the bench, but he hardly remains the ideal fit as 3-4 outside linebacker. Graham's best fit still seems to be as a 4-3 defensive end, and other teams apparently see this as well. Graham will turn 26 in April and he has two cheap years left on his deal, so perhaps the Eagles could find something of moderate value to receive in return for the former first round pick.
5) Vinny Curry may not be a perfect fit for the system but he is worth keeping. Cedric Thornton will be tendered.
McLane ties these two together because they complement each others' weaknesses. Thornton is a great run defender but doesn't offer much pass rush. Curry is quick off the ball and can rush the passer, but he's not meant to be a full-time starter in the system.
Thornton will be tendered to the minimum due to his status as an exclusive-rights restricted free agent. Thornton's only options for this year are to play for the Eagles or sit out of football entirely. He can't negotiate with another team.
6) Everyone will play in the slot with Jason Avant expected to be gone. Jeremy Maclin could do so more than anyone. Zach Ertz is the X factor.
BGN already discussed this topic in a post early on Saturday morning.
7) LeSean McCoy is taking little time off. Todd Herremans saved his job with a strong second half of 2013. What will the Eagles do with James Casey?
Shady McCoy had a career year. He led the league in rushing and won numerous awards and honors for his brilliant performance. So what's he doing now? Working to get even better. You have to love the reasoning given: ""I know Adrian Peterson isn’t resting."
Herremans is seen as the weakness of the offensive line, and some think he could be replaced as early as this year. But it's worth mentioning, as McLane does, how the Herr-dawg was coming off surgery and making a transition to a new position. The Eagles will need to find a long-term option to take over for Herremans one day but he can still be an effective starter in the short-term.
The more I think about it, the more I think James Casey isn't an obvious cut. Despite his lack of playing time on offense, he was one of the team's best special teams players. He also started to be utilized more at the end of the year as a run blocker, which he excelled at. Casey is also a good locker room presence. McLane notes the Eagles might ask him to take a pay cut, since he's due nearly $4 million in salary this season. I don't think a mutual agreement would be out of the realm of possibility.
[Don't forget to read McLane's entire column here.]