Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly may have only been hired last year, but the Eagles already have a realistic shot at this years Super Bowl. There may have not been many starting spots available before the draft on offense or defense, but the Eagles still need their 2014 draft class to contribute immediately and not just in the future.
Outside Linebacker Marcus Smith:
I expect Smith to feature a lot next year in place of Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Trent Cole despite how well he played last year. Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis‘s scheme is limited by Cole because of his limitations in coverage. Smith needs to learn how to set the edge better as a run defender but his abilities in coverage combined with his pass rushing skills and athleticism will make it hard for Davis to leave him on the sideline. Cole will still rotate in primarily as a rusher but I expect Smith to be on the field for over 50% of next years snaps. Smith has the potential to have a double digit sack total next year as well as improving the Eagles general pass rush simply by allowing Davis to get more creative when deciding who to blitz and who to keep in coverage.
Wide Receiver Jordan Matthews:
Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews has the ability to lead the Eagles in receiving yards next season. Although he will probably start as the 3rd receiver and play in the slot, the Eagles were in 1-1 personnel with 3 receivers for over 70% of their offensive snaps last season. Therefore, Matthews should see the field a lot despite being behind Eagles receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin. Matthew is not your prototypical slot receiver, standing at 6ft 3 inches and 212 pounds, he should be able to physically dominate most teams standard nickel corners who are normally smaller. His ability to catch in traffic and pick up yards after the catch should make him a favorite target for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles who preferred throwing to big bodied receivers last year. Matthews should provide the Eagles with an upgrade over former Eagles wide receiver Jason Avant and help the offense perform even better than last year.
Wide Receiver Josh Huff
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Josh Huff should be the Eagles 4th receiver by the beginning of the season and will probably play the majority of his snaps in the slot. However he may only see limited playing time because of newly acquired running back Darren Sproles and tight end Zach Ertz ability to play in the slot. Huff may be used outside occasionally to spread the defense out as he runs very impressive vertical routes. I am sure Chip Kelly will find a way to get Huff onto the field as he has great hands and is very good after the catch. He will also compete in training camp with Sproles and others for kick and punt return duties.
Cornerback Jaylen Watkins
Unless injuries occur in the secondary, Watkins will likely be limited to helping out on special teams next season and only playing a few snaps each game. However his versatility may help him see the field if injuries do occur. He will most likely start in the teams nickel package if Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin becomes injured and may start in the teams dime package as he is experienced playing both outside and in the slot. He could also find himself playing safety if new signing Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins gets hurt. Watkins’ versatility will be very helpful if the Eagles suffer injuries next year.
Defensive End Taylor Hart
Eagles defensive end Hart will probably be used sparingly next season while he works on refining his technique and becoming physically stronger. He will only see the field to provide a rest for Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackles Fletcher Cox or Cedric Thornton every so often but may start if injuries occur.
Safety Ed Reynolds
The Birds’ safety Ed Reynolds will have to compete with safety Keelan Johnson for a spot on the 53 man roster but he should comfortably make it as he is a talented player. It is unlikely Reynolds will see the field next season as he has a lot of issues to work on. His aggression on the field causes him to take a lot of bad angles and therefore miss a lot of tackles as well as struggle in coverage. However his aggression should help him become a solid special team player next season.
Defensive Tackle Beau Allen
For a 7th round pick, Beau Allen has a chance to see the field quite a lot next season. Last years 3rd round pick Bennie Logan will start ahead of Allen at nose tackle but Allen weighs nearly 30 pounds more than Logan and therefore may replace him on short yardage situations. Last years playoff game against the Saints proved that the Eagles needed a bigger guy in the middle of the defense as the Saints ran all over the Eagles at the end of the game. Allen could provide the Eagles with that big nose tackle they may need in close games.