The Eagles came somewhat close to having the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year last season. After missing the entire 2013 season due to an ACL injury, former Philadelphia wide receiver Jeremy Maclin posted career numbers in 2014. Despite his efforts, however, Maclin merely finished tied for second in the final voting. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski finished 20 votes ahead in first place.
Looking ahead to the 2015 season, the Eagles already have several prime Comeback Player of the Year candidates. From a team perspective, the actual award isn't all that meaningful. Who cares about a trophy? But the Eagles would sure love to have these players performing well enough to be favored for the honor because they're key figures to the team's success.
SB Nation recently identified these two candidates. First up is the obvious one: Sam Bradford.
"The Eagles traded for Alonso as mentioned above, but they also made other moves, like acquiring Bradford from the St. Louis Rams. The Eagles will roll with Bradford as their Day 1 starter next season ... so what's that going to be like?
Bradford has earned the first-round bust label despite flashes of solid play over the years. He's got a strong arm and generally makes good decisions with the football, but he's missed a staggering 25 of his last 32 games. He played in just seven games in 2013, and dealt with injury issues in 2011 as well. Last season, he didn't play a single game due to a torn ACL. But Bradford will be the centerpiece of Kelly's new offense, and he'll have DeMarco Murray at his side. Bradford could finally realize his potential."
Bradford is bound to be a favorite for the award because he's a big name quarterback and those players always get extra attention. The Eagles are taking a big risk by not only counting on Bradford's health, but also counting on him to be better than he ever was with a lackluster supporting cast in St. Louis.
The second candidate is another player the Eagles acquired this offseason: inside linebacker Kiko Alonso.
"Alonso was the Pro Football Writers' Association Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013. He led the Buffalo Bills with 159 total tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and four interceptions. He was absolutely one of the best linebackers in the NFL. Unfortunately, Alonso tore his ACL while working out in Oregon and missed the entire 2014 season.
On March 10 of this year, the Bills traded Alonso to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for LeSean McCoy. It was probably a good trade for both teams, though the Eagles definitely assumed plenty of risk getting a player recovering from such a debilitating injury. But Chip Kelly knows what he wants, and if Alonso isn't hampered by the injuries, he'll be a dominant force patrolling the middle of Philadelphia's defense."
There's no question Alonso makes plays. It'll be interesting to see how he performs after looking like such a stud for the Bills in 2013. There are questions about his playing time, however. Alonso is obviously a starting talent, but the Eagles have a logjam at inside linebacker with Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans also expected to play. Still, it's hard to see Alonso not being used often. If he can pick up where he left off as a rookie, the Eagles defense will receive a big boost.