It happens to many athletes early in their career – an impressive first season, followed by a disappointing one. The “sophomore slump,” as many have labeled it, puts extreme amount of stress on the athlete. They may begin to question their potential, management may question their worth, and the media goes after them as if they had no talent to begin with. The Philadelphia Eagles enter their sophomore season under head coach Chip Kelly with tools to help overcome this obstacle. Many observers put the Birds as a 10 win team for this coming season, so it’s up to the team to (out)perform those expectations. The physical tools are there, but the team must carefully manage the mental aspects in order to achieve success. But there are two areas critical for success in the coming season: quarterback and head coach.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles returns for his third season with the team, but only his second as a starter. During his rookie season, he saw limited action, but his true potential didn’t come out until an injury to quarterback Michael Vick opened the door last year. Foles responded with an impressive command of the offense that helps the team reach the playoffs in Kelly’s rookie year. Even with a swarming media wondering whether he fit Kelly’s offense, Foles took the reigns and never looked back. Having consistency in this critical position helps offset the other changes within the team due to the draft and attrition. It also helps that many of the key offensive players are back for Round 2.
After parting ways with head coach Andy Reid two years ago, the Eagles brought in former Oregon Ducks coach Chip Kelly. Kelly had a huge mountain ahead of time, with a rabid fan base that suffered through two agonizing seasons before Reid’s dismissal. In his first year, he weathered a quarterback shift (Vick to Foles), political issues (wide receiver Riley Cooper’s racial slur), injuries (wide receiver Jeremy Maclin’s torn ACL), all while implementing a new system from top to bottom. The results speak for themselves in a return for the Eagles to the playoffs. The real challenge is to repeat that success, and improve. Kelly’s use of sports science, conditioning, and even customized smoothies would not have worked if the team didn’t buy in. His players bought in across the board, and that approach paid off when other teams ran out of steam late in games. The Iggles showed the ability to pound opponents in a variety of ways, but most times it was either the offense or defense but not both. This team must improve and deliver knockout blows on both sides of the ball.
Kelly begins this season as the sophomore head coach, with a dependable and consistent quarterback. Questions remain on the defensive side of the ball, given the problematic secondary and new additions from the draft. This year, fans won’t accept the first few weeks of the season as a time to gel. They want results from Week 1. They want to see the team steamroll opponents, especially the NFC East rivals. With the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, and New York Giants all making changes to their teams, the competition in this division will be fierce as always. The Eagles must continue to take advantage of the Kelly system, find ways to innovate within the NFL landscape, and continue to improve the team’s offensive and defensive production.