After looking in the trenches for the first installment of unsung players that will determine the fate for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, it is now time to examine offensive and defensive passing game. Though the Eagles enjoyed one of the highest scoring and efficient offenses in the league last season, there is a lot of turnover in the receiving core. While defensively, the team drastically needs to improve upon a league-worst 290 passing yards per game. Here is a look into little thought of players that could have major impact on the team’s record in the upcoming season.
Josh Huff (Wide Receiver)
The major headline in Philadelphia this off season was the sudden release of wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Though he led the team in receiving yards and touchdowns, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly thought his antics were not worth the trouble. The organization believes it will be able to replace his production with some of their additions the past several months. Trading for running back Darren Sproles along with the return of Jeremy Maclin and selecting Jordan Matthews in the second round of the draft, should to be enough to exceed the combined 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns Jackson provided in 2013.
But the team also let long-time veteran wide receiver Jason Avant walk during free agency as well. That is where Huff should come into play; as a player that is set to fill his role in the slot. Avant added 447 yards and key catches on third down in the middle of the field. Though he is not as big, Huff is a strong player, who began his football career as a running back and plays a similar style to the now Carolina Panthers wide out.
If he can match Avant’s 2013 performance this upcoming season, the offense will not have a drop off with continuing drives. As an added bonus, Huff provides the Philadelphia Eagles with another legit return threat, evidenced with his 102 yard kick return touchdown in the first preseason game. The fanbase was concerned by replacing Jackson, but also need to hope that Huff can replace Jason Avant’s role in the passing game.
Ed Reynolds (Safety)
As mentioned the Philadelphia Eagles had the worst pass defense in the league last season. Some of that can be an a testament to the change in scheme and lack of pass rush by the front seven. But the cornerbacks and safeties also struggled to get the defense off the field by creating turnovers. Teams found the middle of the field a welcome option for passes to extend drives.
There have been several additions to the defensive backfield, including free agents cornerback Nolan Carroll and safety Malcolm Jenkins, while also drafting cornerback Jaylen Watkins. Each is strong in coverage but lack the physical nature to intimidate pass catchers. When taking Stanford saftey Ed Reynolds in the fifth round, the Philadelphia Eagles hoped to find an enforcer to make the big tackles to stop drives.
Reynolds had a knack for being around the ball in college and should be a sub-package strong safety to patrol the middle of the field. He totaled six interceptions in his junior campaign, while second on the All-Time interception return list with a combined 301 yards. If he can provide depth at safety and make big impact plays, he will find playing time in a crowded defensive backfield. Reynolds could be a player teams avoid in the passing game, which can drastically improve upon the defenses’ porous 2013.