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Five Reasons the Eagles Might Be Successful in 2013

May 14, 2013, 10:29 AM EDT


For the first time since Chip Kelly came to Philadelphia, we were provided an actual glimpse into what the Eagles will be like under a new head coach on Monday. It will be a few months yet before we can get a read on what direction the team is heading – and as long as we’re being honest, probably longer – but excitement seems to be on the rise.

Expectations on the other hand, well… not quite so much.

We’re only a handful of practices deep, not to mention a few short months removed from a 4-12 campaign, so I suppose it’s only natural. That said, a lot of people might be underselling the Birds already at this juncture. I don’t mean to suggest they are a legitimate contender or anything like that at the moment, but somewhere in the broad spectrum of 6 to 10 wins is a possibility in the season ahead.

10 wins? Yes, I have been told that sounds steep. Frankly it’s not a prediction, which I would not even attempt to make before knowing who the starting quarterback is going to be at the very least.

There are several reasons to believe the Eagles might be heading for a nice rebound season of sorts under Kelly – despite the uncertainty under center. With the squad in the news a bunch over the past 24 hours, here are my strongest five.

1. Improved offensive line

Some might say the Eagles’ season was over before it ever began in 2012. When left tackle Jason Peters went down with a ruptured Achilles that March, the club lost arguably the most dominant offensive lineman in the NFL. Center Jason Kelce followed suit with a torn ACL in Week 2, and right tackle Todd Herremans completed the trifecta with a broken foot around the midway point.

Good news: two of the three were full participants at OTAs on Monday. Peters is back where he belongs, anchoring the left side of the line. Herremans was in his new home at right guard – no worries, he played well there (albeit on the left side) for the better part of six seasons.

Kelce was only a limited participant, although he is expected to be a full go for training camp. Evan Mathis recently underwent a cleanup procedure on his knee and was absent, but should also be ready by July.

Just having those four players healthy alone would have been an upgrade over last season, and that doesn’t even include rookie Lane Johnson. The fourth-overall pick was getting his feet wet with the second stringers at practice, however he figures as the opening day starter at right tackle come September.

Regardless of which quarterback is at the helm, that person stands a far better chance behind this group than they did the likes of Demetress Bell, King Dunlap, Dallas Reynolds, Danny Watkins, etc.

2. Unpredictable schemes

We think we have some inkling as to what the Eagles might look like under Chip. By now we’re all familiar on some level with the spread offense/read option his offenses ran at Oregon. We know defensive coordinator Billy Davis has experience with hybrid defenses that utilize aspects of both the 4-3 and 3-4 alignments.

What we don’t know – and more importantly, what the rest of the league does not know yet – is precisely how all of these different philosophies will be incorporated into the Eagles.

For at least the first few weeks of the season, perhaps longer, Chip Kelly will hold the element of surprise against his opponents. Heck, it’s entirely possible we may not even have an official announcement about who the quarterback is until the weeks leading up to the first game of the season.

Do opposing defenses prepare for the read option similar to what Kelly used at Oregon, or should they ready themselves for elements of the west coast attack that offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is versed in? And how are Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Robert Griffin going to react to the varying fronts Davis will throw at them when those passers have had a general idea as to where exactly the Birds’ pass rush was coming from over the past two seasons?

Add the anticipated no-huddle offense into the equation, and Kelly should have the opposing sidelines on their toes. The advantages might be slight – might not – and the coaching staff won’t necessarily reinvent the game, but after 14 years of Andy Reid, any deviation from the norm should have an impact.

3. Culture change

Speaking of Andy, as good of a run he had, there is no denying how completely the wheels fell of over the last two seasons. It began at the very top with an alleged power struggle. How much of that was with former club president Joe Banner is unclear, but Reid and general manager Howie Roseman almost certainly did not see eye to eye on some players.

That dysfunction trickled down to the coaching staff, particularly on the defense end beginning when Reid promoted offensive line coach Juan Castillo to coordinator. The hire was intently scrutinized, and Castillo was undermined at every turn – directly by Jim Washburn, indirectly through the presence of Todd Bowles, and a bit of both by some players – until he was fired six weeks into his second season on the job.

Then there were those very players, guys Reid himself brought in. Whether it was Nnamdi Asomugha, Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie, or Jason Babin, several of the franchise’s biggest additions over the last two seasons came from losing organizations and brought attitudes with them to boot.

Turning over a new leaf was just what this franchise needed. A fresh start with a different coaching staff can only be a positive for the remaining players. Bringing in free agents such as Connor Barwin, Cary Williams, Patrick Chung, Kenny Phillips, and Isaac Sopoaga from winning programs should affect change on the mindset in the locker room. Add a smart, impressionable draft class into the mix, and this is suddenly a very different organization.

4. Usual playoff turnover

12 clubs earn a berth into the NFL playoffs. History portends that roughly half of the past season’s entrants will not return next January.

Since 1996 between five and seven new qualifiers have emerged in all but three postseasons. One year – 2008 – there was actually eight. So in 15 of the last 17 seasons there have been at least five substitutes in the tournament, and on average it’s roughly half the field.

Those factoids are far from some kind of assurance the Eagles will land a spot after the dust settles in ‘13, but they certainly don’t hurt Philly’s chances, either. The NFL is unpredictable, so although inter-conference opponents such as the 49ers, Falcons, and Packers appear to be locks in May, a lot can change between now and December.

And even though the Eagles finished 4-12 last season, having one of the worst records in the league doesn’t necessarily preclude them from making the jump. The Colts, Vikings, and Redskins all finished with five wins or less in ‘11, and each followed up with widely unexpected runs in ‘12.

Playoff turnover is the norm in pro football. There will very likely be a minimum of two, and possibly as many as three or four new challengers in the NFC next season. With everything going on at the NovaCare Complex these days, why can’t one of them be the Birds?

5. The talent is there

Nobody is suggesting this team as currently constructed is Super Bowl bound. This may have been mentioned once or twice before, but we can’t even be sure who the quarterback is.

The Eagles have three talented quarterbacks though. They have an All-Pro running back, a Pro-Bowl wide receiver (maybe two), along with a healthy group of prospects and veterans on offense. The defense is more a work in progress, but there is some flexibility in terms of scheme, plus a fair mix of young players from recent drafts and quality free agent competition from this offseason.

While they only won four games last season, does that tell the whole story of the current Eagles? How many games were lost before the opening kickoff without a competitive O-line, or because some folks in the organization just weren’t buying in? How hard is it to believe with a little shake-up some of these players can produce more, or what they were before everything apart?

The Birds could win six games this upcoming season, they could win 10 – let’s be real, that’s just about every team in the NFL. But if all went well, they could win 10.

Just a little something to tide you over until training camp.

  1. caliphornian - May 14, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    First – I completely agree, and I would say 10 is the upper end of that limit. 8-10 is likely.

    I thought it was a cupcake schedule, but with the conference games of NFC North opponents, that’s probably not the case. AFC West this year looks easy on paper, but it’s traveling and all that. (Think of last year when the Ravens barely hung on in a sloppy game in San Diego).

    • Anonymous - May 14, 2013 at 9:44 PM

      its hard to go 8 -10 with 16 games, unless you know something I dont know about the approved 18 game schedule; however, 8-8 is very likely

      • Anonymous - May 14, 2013 at 10:48 PM

        I think he meant 8-10 wins not 8 wins 10 loses. ;)

      • Anonymous - May 14, 2013 at 10:53 PM

        I did mean 8-10 wins. All I care about is winning. I also assume that we are all smart around here. We’re the kinds of fans who applaud the punter for keeping the other team hemmed inside their own 20 yard line. (Not that the Eagles had that kind of consistency since… Landeta? Mike Horan?)

    • Anonymous - May 15, 2013 at 8:59 AM

      The defense is so bad, it will affect the offense. Can’t be creative when everybody knows what you’re going to do…playing catch up.

      I would start Poyer and Wolff to see what we got. This is an evaluation year. I like Phillip Hunt getting time as OLB… if they’re actually going 3-4 this year. Who knows?

      • Anonymous - May 15, 2013 at 11:30 AM

        Last year’s banged-up, wide 9, Castillo/Washburn clusterfuck was so bad, anything will be an improvement… unless there are injuries. There might be a lot of 45-42 games this year. Who knows what they’re going to do with Trent Cole. It’s a three year process with three rookie DEs. Cautious pessimism looks like a good bet.

        With Billy Davis, we know it’s going to be all about linebackers, and when I think of recent playoff teams (49ers, Ravens, Packers, Pats, Steelers), they all have above-average LB corps.

  2. nyphilsphan - May 14, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    I think it is pretty reasonable to expect this to be a Wild Card team. Everyone is harping on the D, especially the secondary, but does anyone honestly think we didn’t upgrade at corner this season? We had two guys quit on us last year. The new scheme might take just long enough for the league to figure out that we’ll get by on offense alone for a while, and by that time hopefully the defensive rotation will be set. Barring any major injuries, I think the D has enough talent to sit just below the middle of the pack by year’s end.

    Now if the O sits near the top, that’s a recipe for a playoff team. Not necessarily a deep run, but a one-and-done under a new coach in a new system with about 20 new players on the roster isn’t anything to be ashamed of.

    And the worst case? We stink, find out what we have in Barkley and then draft a QB high and pick up some pieces at LB and Safety.

    • nyphilsphan - May 14, 2013 at 12:14 PM

      and I’d like to add I haven’t been this excited for TRAINING CAMP to start, let alone the season, in about 5-6 years. It’s an exciting time to be an Eagles fan. I think people would do well to spit the sour aftertaste of the nadir of the Reid-era out of their mouths and cleanse the palate for the future. We’re closer to a Superbowl now than we were last year- or, really- since 2003.

      • laxman1944 - May 14, 2013 at 10:39 PM

        Steady improvement from week to week would be nice. Finish strong and have a good draft and ABOVE ALL….Smash somebody in the mouth.

      • Anonymous - May 14, 2013 at 10:53 PM

        It just refreshing for this new beginning for the EAGLES. Its only year one and many are not expecting the birds to make the playoffs but 8-8 would be fine and anything higher than that would be icing on the cake and I mean anything including making NFL history anything and I will leave it at that. ^^

  3. ochospantalones - May 14, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    The defense still sucks. The talent is NOT there on D. In the entire unit there are zero players who are both healthy and proven to be above average starters in their current role. I am a big Fletcher Cox fan, and I think he’ll be fine moving to DE in three man fronts, but after him how many of these guys would you really want if you were building a team from scratch? Kenny Phillips is a good player, but he was forced to sign a non-guaranteed contract for a reason. We know Allen and Coleman can’t play, Chung was benched last year, and Wolff is a total unknown. Cary Williams is an adequate #2 corner, forced to play #1. Bradley Fletcher is a backup. We have a one-down player in Sopoaga at NT (he played less than a third of the Niners’ defensive snaps last year), and a whole bunch of question marks at the other DE spot and backup DT. Connor Barwin is adequate on the outside, but we don’t know if either Cole or Graham can play the other side. Neither starting inside linebacker has a strong track record in a 3-4 (or 4-3 under). If we had some genius defensive mastermind, maybe I would have faith, but what has Billy Davis ever done? This defense is still two good off-seasons away from having the talent to contend. I predict 6 wins, which I will not hold against Chip Kelly at all. The previous regime left a very deep hole to climb out of on defense.

    • nyphilsphan - May 14, 2013 at 7:56 PM

      It can’t get any worse. We were predictable, soft, tiny, and couldn’t touch the QB. If anyone honestly believes that the D is in WORSE shape now than last year, they’re just obsessing over the names on the back of the jersey and not the bigger picture.

      1) No more Wide(open)9 BS and that gimmicky piece of trash Washburn is gone.
      2) No overpaid quitters used to losing (Babin should go be a politician with sleeves of mind-numbingly dumb tats and Namndi should just keep acting)
      3) New scheme means other teams need to adjust

      Is it a championship defense? No. But it’s already better than last year before they even step onto the field.

      • Anonymous - May 15, 2013 at 10:30 AM

        I agree the defense will be better. But that’s because it was TERRIBLE last year. Better than terrible can still suck. And this defense sucks. They’ve gone from a zero out of ten to maybe a two or a three. That’s not good enough to win ten games. Especially with a fast-paced offense putting the D back on the field every 2 minutes, there’s just no way a unit this thin on talent will hold up over 16 games. Everyone needs to relax and accept Reid destroyed the defense, and it’s not going to be any good until at least the 3rd year of the Chip Kelly era. Hopefully Kelly won’t be coaching at USC by then.

    • laxman1944 - May 14, 2013 at 10:49 PM

      AMEN Brother……. You hear the new positivity and this and that ……but in the end this squad is a total work in progress……PATIENCE people 2 years sounds just about rite as long as the powers have a good draft and make the rite decisions……patience sucks

  4. phillyroni - May 14, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    This was SUPPOSED to be an 11 win team 2 years ago,, and after winning the last 4 games of the that season considered a possible Division winner last year. The talent at least in most places was there,, the organization and coaching left a lot to be desired. With a fresh approach and better schemes and direct coaching this should be a 10 win team easy.

  5. Anonymous - May 14, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    you people are smoking some good thc if you think 10 wins haaaa. No depth No secondary. Eagles will be lucky to win 5 games next yr !

  6. phillyroni - May 14, 2013 at 7:40 PM

    They were 3-1 last year with a win over the eventual champs before the wheels fell off. If the O-line stays somewhat intact and the QB stays upright the sky is the limit. Mark my word !!!!! See ya in December to continue this discussion.

  7. Anonymous - May 14, 2013 at 9:53 PM

    This is the time for feeling good about your teams chances; haven’t played a game and everybody’s 0-0! What’s the harm in being optimistic!!

  8. BenE. - May 14, 2013 at 11:28 PM

    What’s with all the positive Eagles comments? Is this still The 700 Level?

  9. Anonymous - May 15, 2013 at 2:01 AM

    Five reasons why I think the Eagles can win at least 10 games this year……Andy Reid is no longer the head coach{he gave us many good years,but it was time for a change}…….The wide fing 9 is a distant nightmare………Vince Young is no longer here making stupid statements…….Mr softies Asomugha and Cromartie are no longer here……Opposing defenses no longer have our offenses play book.

  10. Anonymous - May 15, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    The offense might be interesting, but the defensive front is a weak link, as is the secondary.

  11. Anonymous - May 15, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    Until Mathis and Kelce have fully recovered and are back to full strength, plus practicing with the 1st team before opening season, will I have any confidence with this Offensive line. I haven’t seen this Offensive Line fully healthy on opening day of season in the past two years. There is someone always banged up or will be out of the line up for a few weeks due to some type of injury. If Mathis and Kelce aren’t running the plays now prior to opening day, do you thing they’ll be in sync with the rest of the starting O-line or be EXECUTING as one with the rest of the O-line. We’ve seen this in the past, and heard all types of excuses when the penalties and miscues start occurring.

  12. Anonymous - May 15, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    There is some good talent trying out on the defense that came in as free agent, bringing a lot of experience from the the South SEC. D Square has a lot of experience and was under the best at Alabama. Hide and watch. It is a wait and see, after camps.

  13. SuperMutt - May 16, 2013 at 7:59 AM

    I will print this page out, so that you can eat it at the end of the season. My predictions, another 4 and 12 season. My problem is, I don’t know of 4 teams they will be able to beat.

  14. Randy Eid - May 16, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    I had a nightmare last night that the Chiefs were crushing the Eagles by like 40 points with a lot of time left.

    I fully expect that to become a reality, as I anticipate Reid spending 90% of his time game planning on that game.

  15. john procopi - May 16, 2013 at 11:16 PM

    rookie head coach -rookie gm (remember Jeff said all howdy was doing in those bad drafts was getting andy cheesesteaks) and u expect a winning season??? Look these dopes haven’t won in 52 years for a reason.They are clueless braindead and stupid. The owner thinks we are all morons (“gold Standard”” Used to winning and winning big”) and sells us a bill of goods every year. Jeff Lurie has owned this team for 19 years now and won squat.Meanwhile the Eagles monetary value has risen 10 times in that period.Jeff believes in the “sucker is born every minute” adage and here in philly he has found plenty of them

  16. Ryan Lynn - Sep 13, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    Man i know we were going to beat the redskins everyone in school said we were going to be killed but i know that was not going to hapen! EAGLES IN THE SUPERBOUL THIS YEAR I CAN JUST FEEL IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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