For Philly sports fans around the Delaware Valley this summer has been downright awful. The Phillies have been absolutely painful to watch. The 76ers went out and used the third overall pick in the NBA draft to select a player that most likely won’t even play next season. The Flyers didn’t make any major moves that would make us believe they’d be anything more than another possible 1st round playoff loss next season. So that leads us to the local football team the Philadelphia Eagles.
For the majority of my lifetime football has been the top sport in this town. Older sports fans out there would argue at one time baseball was the top sport which I’ll have to agree with. But with the rise of the NFL and the lack of winning seasons from the Phillies throughout the 80s/90s this town transitioned into a town that loves its football above all other sports.
If you turn on any sports talk radio stations in Philly all you hear being discussed is the Eagles. I’d have to say it’s been like that for many years with the exception of 2007-2011 when the Phillies went on a remarkable run of playoff appearances. But for most of us Philly sports fans 2008 was a long time ago and most of us are ready to move on. As great as the World Series Championship was for this town it’ll pale in comparison to the celebration that could unfold if Chip Kelly leads the Eagles to a Superbowl title sometime in the next few years.
Lets be real here, football is a way of life in America. It’s clearly supplanted baseball as the top sport in this country. It’s a once a week, real life, drama that plays out on television screens and in stadiums around the country. For us Eagle fans this year has a chance to be very special. Expectations are high coming into the 2014 campaign. No one could have predicted a division championship for the Eagles going into last season but Chip Kellys bold brand of offense has made an impact on the NFL. Now the question is can the Eagles build off of last year’s success.
The Eagles made some interesting moves during the off-season. They released pro bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was picked up by the division rival Redskins. At the time of this release I didn’t quite understand it but now it makes sense. Coach Kelly wants to build an offense revolving around a bigger sized wide receiver. When the draft came around and the Eagles selected wide receiver Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt I immediately went to read about him. For those of us out there who have been following the team during training camp Matthews has been superb. Many NFL analysts predict he can have a great year as a rookie and be an impact player from the get go.
The team also added dynamic playmaking running back Darren Sproles in a trade with New Orleans. Sproles reminds me of another version of Brian Westbrook. He’s short but built like a tank and possesses the speed and elusiveness to make defenders miss tackles all day. I’m very intrigued to see how coach Kelly uses Sproles along with LeSean McCoy this season. I’m envisioning plenty of scenarios where Sproles lines up in the backfield with McCoy and causes all sorts of matchup nightmares for defenses around the league.
There are some question marks coming into the season though. I know a lot of fans out there who are excited about Nick Foles but everyone should really relax because as good as last season was for him he’ll need to have a similar performance to earn the trust of most football experts. I think Foles has the talent to have another great season and he certainly will have the offensive weapons to help him achieve success. But I’m not completely sold yet on the guy. He has no mobility which always worries me because it means he’s a sitting duck in the pocket. If Foles can have anything close to the year he had last season I think this offense has a chance to be legendary.
The other big question on offense is the return of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Last season Maclin went down in training camp with a torn ACL so he missed the entire year and never had an opportunity to play in Chip Kelly’s offense. I think Maclin would have had a phenomenal year last season but that was with DeSean Jackson in the lineup. This year Maclin is coming back off a severe injury and now being counted on to be the number one wide receiver. If Jordan Matthews can be the player everyone is saying he can be it’ll help Maclin in a huge way. Riley Cooper also is returning and had a great season last year but again we’ll need to see what he can do without the speedy DeSean Jackson pulling defenders downfield.
On defense the entire unit is a question mark. They started off shaky at the beginning of last season but they came on strong during the second half of the year. They didn’t exactly light the NFL world on fire but they improved enough to keep the offense in the game and allow them the opportunity to put up the points needed to win. The hope is this unit can grow even more and get out of the gate strong this season. The majority of the defense is returning so a full off-season together learning the playbook could be a huge factor.
The issue I have is that the team didn’t acquire any playmaking defenders or pass rushers and that worries me. This unit had issues last year getting to the quarterback and causing turnovers. When you look at some of the top defenses in the league such as Seattle or San Fran you see guys flying all over the field making plays and defensive lineman who can get to the quarterback on a regular basis. The addition of Malcolm Jenkins to the secondary will certainly assist but I’m not sure he’s enough of a playmaker for this defense. They’ll def need more guys to step up if they want to go further this season but the potential is there for improvement especially now that they’ve had the off-season to work together.
Below is a breakdown of the Eagles 2014 schedule and the games I think they’ll win and lose.
- Jaguars at Eagles: Win
- Eagles at Colts: Loss
- Redskins at Eagles: Win
- Eagles at 49ers: Loss
- Rams at Eagles: Win
- Giants at Eagles: Win
- Eagles at Cardinals: Win
- Eagles at Texans: Win
- Panthers at Eagles: Win
- Eagles at Packers: Loss
- Titans at Eagles: Win
- Eagles at Cowboys: Loss
- Seahawks at Eagles: Loss
- Cowboys at Eagles: Win
- Eagles at Redskins: Loss
- Eagles at Giants: Win
So there you have it, a 10-6 prediction. That should be enough to win the NFC East again and lock up another home playoff game in January. I think the record has the chance to improve to 11,12 wins pending injuries to other teams the Eagles are playing but the way the rosters currently stand and with the questions I have on defense and about Nick Foles I’d have to say another 10-6 campaign is safe. For Chip Kelly and company if this team can win a playoff game in January that would be a great step in the right direction. A lot of on radio/TV personalities around the city are high on the Eagles to win 11-12 games and even going as far as a Superbowl berth. I’d have to say that’s a bold prediction that can certainly happen if all the chips fall in the right places but it’s a stretch. The realistic goal for this season should be to see this team win a playoff game and build on that going into next season.
Regardless of how things play out Football is back. Start making your tailgating plans and dusting off your Sunday jerseys for another exciting season.