Eagles Offseason Checklist
With only one more meaningful football game left in the 2013-14 NFL season, 30 teams are already beginning the process of shaping their team for next season. The goal is to make sure that your franchise is not in the same position 365 days from today.
To accomplish that goal, the Philadelphia Eagles will have to build upon a season that exceeded the expectations of almost every expert, and perhaps even those of members of the team. Hats off to you if you predicted a 10-6 season and a division championship under first year coach Chip Kelly. You were definitely one of very few.
Regardless of the unexpected outcome, Philadelphia fans and media will adjust accordingly. The expectations next year will undoubtedly rise and rightfully so. The Eagles did many things, especially on the offensive side, that should have fans excited about this team’s future. However, if you want to build upon the growth of this past season, you need a plan. That plan has to be aimed at filling as many holes on this team as possible.
Here is a look at the Eagles’ checklist for this offseason with a few potential suggestions of how to accomplish the goals.
1. Strengthen the Defense:
The Eagles offense was one of the most dangerous in the entire NFL, and the defense was known as one fully invested in the “bend don’t break,” mentality. That sounds fine in theory but if you bend enough, you will eventually break.
The Eagles defense did indeed get better as the season went on and they learned the Billy Davis 3-4 scheme. However, there is no denying the fact that more playmakers are needed to take this defense to an elite level.
The first priority will be to address the secondary. With free agency set to begin in March, the Eagles should open their wallets up and take a look at Buffalo Bills’ safety, Jairus Byrd.
Byrd is a proven commodity at the safety position and you would be hard pressed to get play like Byrd’s from any safeties on the current roster. Last season’s safety signing, Patrick Chung, did not live up to any sort of expectations as he battled injury for much of the year. Byrd can give the Eagles the back end playmaker that they lack.
Byrd will more than likely come with a bidding war and a hefty price tag but if the Eagles are going to transform the team, they have to be bold.
The revamping of the secondary could continue in May at the draft. NFL.com’s Matt Smith recently released an NFL Mock Draft in which he has the Eagles taking Cornerback Darqueze Dennard out of Michigan with the 22nd pick. It may seem like a slight dig at the Eagles current cornerback crop considering that both Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams are back next season and fan favorite Brandon Boykin, seems primed to move up, but that is not the case.
In case you are unfamiliar with Dennard…
With the emergence of talent at the both the wide receiver and tight end positions, the more solid corners you have, the better. Fletcher and Williams actually proved a bit more stellar than the duo from the season before, but that does not mean you should not add on. Dennard is a solid cornerback with really good size and above average closing speed. He is the top of player who is a prototypical outside corner. Boykin would go unaffected by all of this because the Eagles see him as a pure nickel corner, which is not an insult to his ability. In fact, with the emergence of spread offenses and multiple tight end sets, NFL defenses need elite nickel corners now more than ever.
In terms of the front seven, the Eagles are going to have to address their pass rushing situation. There are a few names out there, like Washington’s Brian Orakpo, who could really cause a resurgence for the Birds, but money will obviously play a factor. Expect the Eagles to invest some high draft picks in the front seven and look for a young heir apparent to plug in behind Trent Cole.
2. Assess the Offensive Arsenal
Some might wonder how you even go about bettering the Eagles’ offense. First of all, a full offseason with Kelly and without a quarterback competition should undoubtedly better the offense. A full offseason for the Eagles, also means a full offseason for opposing defenses to respond. Teams will not be caught off guard quite as easily and therefore, if you are the Birds, you have to figure out how to get ahead of the adjustments.
It may be debatable whether or not Nick Foles is a quarterback capable of leading the Eagles to a championship, but he earned the right to be the guy from day one. Kelly will give him that chance.
The running back situation is great. The tight end situation is solid and the same can almost be said for the offensive line. Expect the Eagles to look to put a solid piece behind Todd Herremans, who appeared to slow a step.
Major questions are going to come from the wide receiver position. Do you give DeSean Jackson what he wants contractually? Do you aim to resign both Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin? Do you invest in a wide receiver early in the draft?
All of these situations hinge on one another. All that is for certain is that Kelly’s offense is made for playmakers. Jackson is a playmaker. Cooper (at least with Foles) is a playmaker. Maclin (when healthy) is a playmaker. If the Eagles want to give Foles the best opportunity to succeed, they will give him as many playmakers as possible.
3. Addressing the “Not So” Special Teams
The Eagles will get better return play next season considering their decision to sign Brad Smith. The team brought him along a little late, but Kelly does not acquire weapons like that to leave them in the holster.
Alex Henery was not exactly a fan favorite, but kickers do not just get cut in today’s NFL because the grass is rarely any greener on the other side. The Eagles will bring someone into camp to put some pressure on Henery and if lucky, they will find a kicker capable of reaching the end zone consistently.
Finally, they need to address the overall coverage situation which comes down mostly to coaching before all else.
4. Define the mission
The last piece of the Eagles’ offseason puzzle is to decide what 2014 is all about. From the ownership, to the front office, to the coaches and players, the message has to be unified. Last year went from rebuilding to playing with house money. There were no expectations.
Now there is a standard set and the franchise has to decide what success will mean in 2014.
Posted on January 21, 2014, in Eagles, Ray Boyd and tagged 2014 NFL Draft, Chip Kelly, Desean Jackson, Eagles, Jairus Byrd, nfl, Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.