The anticipation and excitement of the Philadelphia Eagles 2014 season is nearing a boil as we enter the 4th of July weekend. Quarterback Nick Foles provided fireworks for the Eagles offense in his first season as a starter and Head Coach Chip Kelly gave Eagles fans reason for optimism in the future. Despite the losses of both wide receiver DeSean Jackson to Washington and the pending suspension of right tackle Lane Johnson, the Eagles offense has several reasons for optimism entering training camp. Running back LeSean McCoy is the defending rushing champion and has been provided with a change of pace back in Darren Sproles to replace Bryce Brown. Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews give the Eagles offense dynamic weapons at the wide receiver position and both should more than make up for the loss of a “leading receiver” that played fewer snaps than Jason Avant in the playoff loss to New Orleans. Additions on the Eagles defense will greatly improve the Eagles offense this season as well.
Nick Foles Leading Eagles Offense
Last season Nick Foles led the league in quarterback rating and yards per completion. Entering Foles’ third season, there is something dramatically different for the young signal-caller: There is no competition for the starting quarterback. Chip Kelly named Michael Vick the starting quarterback on August 20th last season, just days prior to the Eagles third preseason game. Continuity and familiarity with the starting unit is going to make Nick Foles a dangerous quarterback entering this season. For as good as Foles was last season, the inability to soak in additional practice reps in the preseason and training camp hindered the Arizona alum’s upside (if that’s even believable). Now that Foles is well versed in Chip Kelly’s playbook, expect to hear glowing reviews throughout training camp and the preseason.
Darren Sproles Adds Dynamic Element to Eagles Offense
It’s difficult to overlook the fact that running back Darren Sproles has more receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns than veterans Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin. However, that is not an indictment against the current Eagles wide receiving corps. Rather it is a sign that the Eagles want to continue to stretch opposing defenses while giving LeSean McCoy a competent and efficient change of pace backup. In the ten years between 2002 and 2013, 77 running backs received over 300 carries in their respective offense. Thirty-five of those players played in fewer games the following season. After receiving a career high, and league leading, 314 carries last season, it’s imperative that the Eagles offense limits overusing McCoy.
Schedule Buffers Against Lane Johnson’s Suspension
Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Washington, and San Francisco are the four teams that the Philadelphia Eagles offense will have to deal with while missing right tackle Lane Johnson. Indianapolis and San Francisco, playoff teams from a season ago, will both be games played on the road. However, the 49ers will be most likely be missing All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman due to his gruesome knee injury in the NFC Championship game. The Philadelphia Eagles have won their last four trips to San Francisco as well, although this season they will be traveling to Santa Clara. As for the Colts, they joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as two of only eight defenses that gave up more than 2,000 rushing yards to opponents. Suffice to say, we can expect a heavy dosage of LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, and even Chris Polk. As for the Washington Redskins, there is little reason to be worried about what first year head coach Jay Gruden’s defense will provide. Much will be made about their recent addition in defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, but knee surgeries on 31 year old defensive linemen don’t always equate to a revitalization. Additionally, a porous secondary from a season ago has not made significant strides towards improving. There’s little reason to believe that the Eagles offense cannot perform admirably without Johnson the early part of the season, particularly with journeyman Allen Barbre providing quality depth behind the suspended 2nd year lineman.
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