Eagles Analysis: Evaluating the New Faces in Philadelphia


Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has made a bevy of moves since being named the team’s Director of Football Operations this year, moves that had football pundits prematurely crowning the Birds as NFC East champs-to-be. But after a 1-3 start to the season, Kelly’s squad doesn’t look like the brain child of a mad scientist. It looks like a clumsy and oafish group better suited as Peter Boyle’s stand-ins in Young Frankenstein. That being said, the Eagles do have the luxury of playing in a wide open division and plenty of time to get it together. On that note, here’s how Kelly’s new toys have fared in the first quarter of the season…

Sam Bradford

At age 27, Bradford should be smack dab in the prime of his career and making the Rams regret swapping him for that putz Nick Foles. Instead, he had me pinning my hopes on Mark Sanchez after three weeks, something no football fan should ever be subjected to. Last week against the Redskins, Bradford finally showed off an arm that was previously dormant, throwing for 270 yards and three scores. While that stat line is cause for optimism, keep in mind that it came against the sieve the ‘Skins call a secondary. If he can’t consistently replicate his most recent performance, the glorified Gus Frerotte many never see a long-term contract again.

DeMarco Murray

By far the team’s biggest acquisition on the offensive side of the ball, Murray was being touted as the ideal running back for Chip Kelly’s offense before the ink on his contract was dry. Murray’s totals thus far: 47 yards on 29 carries, most of which came in the loss against the ‘Skins. Following the game, the back told the media he should have gotten more touches. Why bother? Both Ryan Mathews, who owns the squad’s only 100-yard performance, and Darren Sproles have outplayed Murray behind the same unreliable offensive line. Together, their efforts have amounted to the NFL’s 30th-ranked running game. O, LeSean, where art thou?

Nelson Agholor

Aside from an isolated display of soft hands on a one-handed 45-yard grab against the Redskins, Agholor has not looked like a first-round draft pick. In his defense, many receivers don’t hit the ground running upon entering the pros and Chip Kelly doesn’t really hold his wideouts to a hierarchy. Like Bradford, his showing in Washington was a step in the right direction, although in Agholor’s case, he won’t earn a boom or bust label until his second year. Playing on a team with no shortage of newcomers, the rookie has the luxury of developing quietly… at least by Philadelphia’s standards.

Byron Maxwell

Four weeks into his tenure as Philly’s supposed top corner, I’ve now officially anointed Maxwell with the nickname of “Toast”, which formerly (and aptly) belonged to Izel Jenkins. Yes, he’s had to cover the likes of Julio Jones, Pierre Garcon and Brandon Marshall, but he wasn’t given over 60 big ones to shadow the opposition’s second fiddle. If his play thus far is any indication, he would’ve been getting burnt even then, but that’s beside the point. When you leave a now-historically great defense for a team that hasn’t boasted a legit corner since Asante Samuel, the margin for error is naturally going to be slim. Maxwell has turned that margin into a canyon. If his woes and/or recent bout with lethargy continue, why not let rookie corner Eric Rowe continue to build on his promise?

Walter Thurmond III

Since Thurmond changed positions to play alongside Malcolm Jenkins, the safety position is now the least of the defense’s problems. With two picks through four weeks, the former slot corner has brought much-needed ball skills to the Eagles’ secondary, a natural complement to a solid tackler in Jenkins. Playing on a one-year deal, Thurmond’s fruitful returns have come at a bargain price of $3.25 million. If he can stay healthy through a full a season, he’ll be in line for some major bank whether he chooses to stay in Philly or take his talents elsewhere.

Kiko Alonso

After being traded from Buffalo and making a ludicrous one-handed interception in his Eagles debut, the Birds looked like they were sitting pretty at inside linebacker. Then Alonso repeated what we all hoped he wouldn’t: he got injured, partially tearing the same ACL that cost him a full season while on the Bills. When healthy, not only is Alonso one of the best at his position, but he can also potentially form a top inside ‘backer duo with Mychal Kendricks. Comfort can be taken in that LeSean McCoy, the man Alonso was traded for, hasn’t exactly made good on his fresh start. Still, the Eagles boast a better defense with Alonso on the field instead of “Uncle” DeMeco Ryans.

Since the aforementioned crew are products of Chip Kelly’s regime, it’s easy to speculate that his job security directly depends on their results, or lack thereof. In short, Walter Thurmond aside, the “genius'” new lab rats need to show a return on his investment. Otherwise, the Birds could be rebuilding much sooner than expected.

Next: Eagles Week 5 Preview: Shut Down Those Saints

More from Inside the Iggles