The countdown to when the Philadelphia Eagles report for 2014 Training Camp stands at only three more days. While Bleeding Green Nation is already breaking down the Philadelphia Eagles roster in a position preview series, we're also going to be running a countdown series that's more geared towards unique thematic angles. Today we'll look at what's changed for the Eagles since last year at this time. [The veterans] [The newcomers]
BGN already took a look at this. The Eagles welcomed 32 new faces onto their roster.
The following players are no longer on the Eagles roster.
QB Michael Vick - Signed with the New York Jets in free agency.
S Kurt Coleman - Signed with the Minnesota Vikings in free agency.
S Colt Anderson - Signed with the Indianapolis Colts (funny, right) in free agency.
DE Clifton Geathers - Signed with the Washington Redskins in free agency.
OLB Phillip Hunt - Wasn't offered a tender by the Eagles and is now a free agent.
RB Bryce Brown - Traded to the Buffalo Bills for a conditional 3rd/4th round draft pick.
WR DeSean Jackson - Released, signed with the Washington Redskins.
S Patrick Chung - Released, signed with the New England Patriots.
WR Jason Avant - Released, signed with the Carolina Panthers.
Of these players, the biggest loss was obviously DeSean Jackson. The Eagles obviously felt confident enough that they would be OK without him but that remains to be seen on the field. Michael Vick lost his starting quarterback job to current starter Nick Foles so it's no surprise he left in free agency. Still, players looked up to Vick in the locker room. Jason Avant was another loss in the locker room but his lack of production on the field actually makes his "loss" a gain for the Eagles from a statistical perspective.
Many fans were happy to see the much-maligned Patrick Chung released by the team. His 2013 performance was just brutal. Bryce Brown's departure wasn't too opposed either considering the compensation the Eagles received from the Buffalo Bills.
The Eagles have a number of young players poised to take a step forward. Some players from the 2013 NFL Draft class come to mind: Lane Johnson (post-suspension), Zach Ertz, Bennie Logan, and Earl Wolff come to mind. Fletcher Cox is entering his third season but he's still only 23 and could emerge as a star. Matt Tobin, Travis Long, Joe Kruger, and Chris Polk are backups/depth players with potential.
The most notable departure is that of former Eagles quarterback coach Bill Lazor. Lazor is now the offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins. There seems to be a decent amount of hype surrounding the Dolphins offense but I'm reluctant to believe it will be anything close to a replication of Chip Kelly's offense until I see it. There also seemed to be indication that Lazor and Foles didn't always see eye to eye.
Replacing Lazor is veteran coach Bill Musgrave, who was most recently the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings before being dismissed at the end of the 2013 season. Musgrave seems like a good fit in Philadelphia based on his past experience with fast-paced offenses. "One thing I believe in is minimal verbiage," said Musgrave in a 2011 interview with the StarTribune, "and we’ll make it very streamlined, we’ll make the formations easy to learn for the guys, because I believe in players playing fast."
Some lesser coaching changes include: assistant defensive line coach Erik Chinander returning to Oregon, defensive quality control coach Mike Dawson being promoted to assistant DL coach, 22-year old Michael Clay being hired as the defensive quality control coach.
I don't anticipate any major scheme changes for this year. The Eagles will largely run their same fast-paced spread offense that heavily relies on running the ball and utilizing the read-option. ****ing points will be scored.
At the same time, some tweaks can be expected. DeSean Jackson, clearly the Eagles best vertical threat, is gone. Darren Sproles gives the Eagles a new weapon in short to intermediate passing game, including screens. Jordan Matthews has the potential to be way more of a dynamic slot receiver than a declining veteran such as Jason Avant. Then there's the tight ends. Zach Ertz, now in his second year, could be stepping up into a bigger role. Could the Eagles use more two tight end sets? How about two running backs with LeSean McCoy and Sproles in the mix? Like I said, I don't see a major scheme change here, but there should be some new wrinkles.
The Eagles defense also remains the same: a 3-4 two-gap defense. The Eagles defense was below average at best last season, so where will the improvements come if nothing has changed? Bill Davis and a number of Eagles players have claimed that continuity with the scheme will lead to more success this season. Players and coaches have a more defined vision of the defense. It's not like last year when the Eagles were transitioning all the way over from a 4-3 wide nine defense. While that all sounds well and good, Philadelphia will have to prove that the continuity leads to better results.