Second Year Improvements
It’s been widely stated that the biggest jump for an NFL player is their transition from their first year to their second. The Philadelphia Eagles had an excellent 2013 rookie class that has already paid immediate dividends. Getting an entire offseason to study game film, work with position coaches, and perfect their craft in the weight room will only enhance this 2013 class as they enter their sophomore seasons and begin organized team activities (OTA’s). Offensive tackle Lane Johnson already outperformed his other two predecessors in the draft in Kansas City’s Eric Fisher and Jacksonville’s Luke Joeckel where both were held back by injuries. Johnson showed he has both the mental and physical fortitude to thrive in this league. Second round pick Zach Ertz had a phenomenal second half of the season which should indicate greater things to come as he further adjusts to life in the NFL. It wouldn’t be surprising for him to supplant incumbent tight end Brent Celek as the starter at some point this season. Ertz has shown a great rapport with quarterback Nick Foles after Foles took over as the starter midway through last season.
Nose tackle Bennie Logan’s quick progression led to the trade of free agent addition Isaac Sopoaga to New England. Logan took his lumps as an undersized nose tackle but has bulked up this offseason and added weight after he was pushed around in last year’s playoff game by New Orleans. Speaking of lumps, quarterback Matt Barkley was served his on a hot plate after being thrown into the fire in 2013. He finished the year with a total quarterback rating (QBR) of 19.5. To put that into context, QBR for an average quarterback would be 50.0. Nick Foles ranked 5th last year with 69.0. Barkley needs to spend time with new quarterback coach Bill Musgrave in a piece I wrote earlier and absorb as much information as he can.
Fifth round pick safety Earl Wolff performed admirably replacing safety Patrick Chung early last season. Later round picks are typically a gamble, and this one has paid off to date. Wolff has shown an ability to perform adequately at one safety spot, something that has been far from a given in recent years in Philadelphia. The Eagles’ luck in the seventh round took a turn for the worse as they selected a trio of players that haven’t panned out as planned. Defensive end Joe Kruger spent the entire season on injured reserve while cornerback Jordan Poyer and defensive end David King were both released following training camp. Kruger has been trying to bulk up this offseason and play the five-technique, but will have to battle incumbent Cedric Thornton and rookie Taylor Hart to crack the starting lineup. This group of second year players has the make up to be an integral building block for head coach Chip Kelly’s team for many years to come. Improvement from this group is imperative for the Eagles if they hope to advance past the first round of the playoffs this year.