While the NFL offseason is typically filled with excitement and optimistic in anticipation of the upcoming season, there's always room for concern and skepticism as well. The Eagles are returning a roster filled with talent that was able to win the NFC East at 10-6 in 2013. Despite their regular season success, a first round playoff loss to the Saints confirmed that there are definitely weaknesses on the roster.
The Eagles spent time addressing some of those weaknesses during free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft. Like any team in the NFL, however, their roster is far from perfect. There will always be a weak point somewhere. Today we aim to identify which position on the Eagles roster appears to be the weakest. Here are some candidates.
The much-maligned Alex Henery was below average in 2013. Henery's 82% field goal accuracy, 4.33% below the NFL average of 86.47%, ranked 22nd in the NFL. His kickoffs weren't any better. As I pointed out recently, Henery registered a touchback on only 40% of his kickoffs, which ranked 24th out of 32 NFL teams. Only six kickers finished with a worse average kickoff distance than Henery's 64.7 yards. The average starting position from Henery's kicks for opposing teams was 24 yards. Only three kickers allowed a worse starting position.
Henery is being "pushed" this offseason by rookie kicker Carey Spear. It doesn't appear to be much of a competition at this point given Spear's struggles. Henery already appears to be the winner by default.
I don't think most people are extremely concerned about Nick Foles but there is a little "wait and see" hesitancy to be noted here. The larger concern here, however, is the backup quarterback position. Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley didn't do too much to inspire confidence during the team's spring practices. If Foles goes down, the Eagles could be in big trouble.
3) Inside Linebacker
DeMeco Ryans played a ton of snaps last year and is only another year older. Though there's no question he's the "quarterback of the defense" and provides leadership, there is question about his speed and effectiveness. Ryans' fellow inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks is far from a sure thing as well. Kendricks was erratic in his second year. He made big plays but he also made his fair share of mistakes. Behind the starters, depth is also a question mark. Najee Goode filled in for Kendricks a little last year and looked OK. But could the Eagles ILB depth hold up over the course of an extended period of time?
4) Offensive Line
The Eagles OL is very good when healthy, but the concern is that it's the second oldest offensive line in the NFL. It's even a little older with veteran OT Allen Barbre likely filling in for suspended Lane Johnson during the first four games. Philadelphia was fortunate to have all five starters start all 16 games last season. The Eagles might not have the same luxury again.
The Eagles brought in veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins to be one of their two starting safeties. Some weren't very impressed by this addition. Jenkins isn't really a star at much as he is a solid starting safety. The other starting safety spot is up for grabs between second year player Earl Wolff and veteran Nate Allen. Allen currently appears to be the favorite to win the job until Wolff does something to earn it for himself.
6) Wide receiver
The Eagles WR corps took a big hit when the team released DeSean Jackson this offseason. The talent left at the position isn't bad by any means, but the same kind of star power is far from guaranteed. Jeremy Maclin is coming off an ACL injury, Riley Cooper is coming off a one-year wonder kind of season, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff are both rookies, and the other options seem like depth players/backups at best.
7) Nose Tackle
This is one I'm not really worried about. Bennie Logan may not be the prototypical massive nose tackle in the middle but he showed potential last year playing on the inside. He spent this offseason bulking up 6 pounds from around 309 to 315. Logan caught blame for his performance in the playoff loss to the Saints but the team's terrible run defense was hardly just his fault. No one was stopping the run well. Saints runs to the LDE: 8 plays, 5.25 yard avg gain. Saints runs up the middle: 9 plays, 4.67 yard avg gain. Saints runs to the RDE: 12 plays, 4.58 yard avg gain.
The idea that Logan was manhandled, doesn't draw double teams, and can't play NT seems anecdotal. The Eagles run defense was fine last year. The Eagles gave up an average of only 3.64 yards per carry against runs up the middle, which was the 5th best in the NFL. The entire team gave up 104.3 rush yards per game (10th best, NFL average was 112.9) and 3.77 rush yards per play (4th best, NFL average was 4.17). The Eagles also only allowed one 100 yard rusher and that was Rashad Jennings in the Raiders game (garbage time). Plus, take a look at these and tell me Logan can't take on a double team. (Part one and Part two.)
Which positions concern you the most?