The Philadelphia Eagles suddenly feel drafty.
From the opening bell of free agency, the initial moves by the Philadelphia Eagles were not earthshaking, but they allowed the team to look into the 2014 with the expectation that whomever fell to them, they would be able to take. The team looked ready to go, despite the nagging rumors of the imminent departure of their star wide receiver DeSean Jackson. But a great deal has happened since that early euphoria: the Birds traded their second fifth round (via New England for NT Isaac Sapoaga and the Eagles sixth pick) for New Orleans running back Darren Sproles, then the Eagles have authorized the agent of Evan Mathis to seek a trading partner in hopes of more money than the $5.15 million he’s currently slated to make this year for the Eagles, and finally the icy cold reality that DeSean Jackson had been cut from the Eagles. So much has happened that the warm fuzzy feeling has given way to that cold tingle of an open window – this Eagles team suddenly feels very drafty.
And so the team is in situation very familiar to them: they need to do very well in another NFL draft. That means the brain trust of Vice President of Player Personnel Tom Gamble, General Manager Howie Roseman, and Head Coach Chip Kelly have to pull six more rabbits out of the hats of the 2014 draft class.
Let’s consider where the Eagles are strictly on paper. On offense, they have reclaimed the services of wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn, and lost the services of DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant. Considering the 53 man roster of 2013, the team is a push on offense. The team has also added the services of offensive weapon Darren Sproles. From the 10,000 foot level, the Eagles offense is not decimated. In a Chip Kelly authored offense, Avant and Jackson combined for nearly 1800 yards and eleven touchdowns. In comparison, in offenses NOT run by Chip Kelly, Maclin Benn and Sproles combined for nearly 2000 yards and 13 touchdowns on average. Whether they can maintain that average under Chip Kelly is a matter of faith, but the 2013 version of the Birds was spectacular. This year, the players should be much more comfortable in the system.
On defense, the team lost safety Patrick Chung, and signed safety Malcolm Jenkins. They continued to shore up the defensive backfield by adding Miami cornerback Nolan Caroll. They also added safety/special teams player Chris Maragos (a Seattle safety who played behind Earl Thomsas) and outside linebacker/special teams player Bryan Braman.
Both Maragos and Braman bring excellence in special teams play, but both are expected to push for playing time at their respective positions as well. Special teams play could certainly benefit from the infusion of new talent.
In the NFL where the ‘what have you done for me lately’ focus drives fans hopes and fears, the situation simply does not feel like a train wreck. In a “next man up” world, the Eagles are simply not any worse than the 2013 NFC East Division champions at this point. Six draft picks should not be viewed as “fixes” so much as the opportunity to add depth, and perhaps skillsets. Lets discuss some areas that could benefit from the 2014 draft.