The Most Indispensable Eagle
ESPN.com bloggers are currently taking a look at which players teams can least afford to lose to injury.
For the Eagles, Dan Graziano goes with LeSean McCoy:
When McCoy went down with an injury in the second half of last season, backup Bryce Brown showed plenty of explosiveness and big-play ability. Unfortunately, he also showed a disturbing tendency to fumble the ball at the worst possible times. Even if Brown were more reliable, McCoy would be a difficult player to replace. His running style is unique among the star running backs in the league today — no one makes quicker cuts or finds holes more efficiently. And considering how questionable the Eagles’ quarterback situation is and the extent to which Chip Kelly’s offense is expected to lean on the run game and the short-passing game, there’s no player on the Eagles’ offense more important to their point-scoring prospects this season than their star running back.
This is a pretty difficult question to answer for the 2013 Birds. The case for McCoy is certainly a strong one. He’s been the Eagles’ most productive and most talented player. Then again, Bryce Brown ran for 387 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry in four starts last year replacing McCoy. If he shows even a slight improvement in his second season, the drop-off might not be crushing.
The other offensive player who warrants a mention is Jason Peters. We saw last year how his Achilles’ injury hurt the Eagles. The circumstances were exaggerated since Demetress Bell proved to be such a disaster, but a Peters injury in 2013 would shake up the entire offensive line. Lane Johnson or Todd Herremans would likely take his place, which would produce a domino effect. If Johnson went to left tackle, the Eagles could slide Herremans over to right tackle. But that would mean Danny Watkins or another backup at right guard.
The other option would be to go with second-year player Dennis Kelly at right tackle and keep Herremans at guard. Either way, the line would go from a potential strength to a question mark.
Jason Kelce is an under-the-radar option. The Eagles still have to get their backup center situation sorted out, but Kelce is expected to make protection calls, meaning his absence would be felt by the entire unit, which is learning a new offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, Fletcher Cox is the first name that comes to mind. He’s coming off a strong rookie season and is far and away the Eagles’ best defensive lineman. An injury to Cox would make the Eagles even thinner than they already are up front.
DeMeco Ryans is in the conversation too. The veteran makes the calls on defense and was very productive in 2012. Behind him are guys like Jason Phillips and Jamar Chaney.
The under-the-radar choice would be Connor Barwin, not because he’s the most talented player on defense, but because the Eagles don’t have another outside linebacker on the roster with 3-4 NFL experience. Losing Barwin could mean quite a few scheme tweaks for defensive coordinator Billy Davis.