Eagles Wake-Up Call: Playoffs In 2013?

When Jeffrey Lurie introduced Chip Kelly back in January, he described the new coach as a program builder.

The implication was clear. After a two-year run in which the franchise went 12-20, it was time to get back to long-term thinking and make wholesale changes at the NovaCare Complex. Coming up with a quick fix was no longer an option.

But the NFL is different than other leagues like the NBA. It’s relatively common for teams to rebound quickly after disastrous seasons.

Bill Barnwell of Grantland points out that better than one in four teams that finish 6-10 or worse come back to make the postseason the following year.

The question that’s relevant to the audience here is: Can the Eagles be one of those teams?

Barnwell looked at the 10 teams that finished 6-10 or worse in 2012 and ranked them based on likelihood of making the playoffs in 2013. He had the Eagles at No. 2, behind only the Lions:

The statistical case backing them up is built upon an impossible turnover rate. Philadelphia was the other team with a minus-24 turnover margin, and by recovering 35 percent of the fumbles in their games, they finished just ahead of Kansas City, at 29th. Of course, Kelly has already become the first coach to teach Michael Vick how to avoid fumbling, so that should solve a good chunk of the problems there.

In all seriousness, Kelly’s insistence on getting the ball out quickly should reduce the likelihood of fumbles, and some simple variance should help push the Philadelphia offense back toward the middle of the pack. The defense should also deliver more than the eight interceptions it produced last year, so it’s not difficult to imagine the Eagles actually winning the turnover battle in 2013.

Barnwell has a point on the turnovers. According to Football Outsiders, a whopping 10 percent of the Eagles’ offensive drives last year ended with a lost fumble. That was the highest percentage in the league in the last five years. It would be difficult to repeat that kind of incompetence (and bad luck).

Vegas has the Eagles’ win total at 7 or 7.5, depending on the sportsbook. If you ask me, their best chance of making a surprise postseason appearance rests with the guys up front. If the offensive line stays healthy, it can be one of the best in the league. The Eagles have an obvious question at quarterback, but there’s talent at the other skill positions.

Kelly’s best shot at instant success is to get his offense going right out of the chute, and that can only happen if the line is leading the way.

WHAT YOU MISSED

T-Mac catches up with Lane Johnson, who says he’s hoping to avoid a holdout.

Which Eagles will make the second-year leap? Here’s the breakdown.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Donovan McNabb doesn’t think Matthew Stafford earned his new deal. From MLive.com:

“When you look at just the numbers overall, you have to think about 12,000 yards and being the youngest quarterback to reach this feat and also the things he’s been able to accomplish, you know you begin to question this.” McNabb said Tuesday night on NFL Total Access. “It’s about wins and losses again. Now, as a quarterback and as Matt Stafford, hey, I would take that contract just like Tony Romo took his contract. But is he worth top 5 money? I would have to say no. And I say that because it’s about wins and losses.

“What has he really done for the Detroit Lions? Nothing.”

Andrew Kulp of The 700 Level thinks DeSean Jackson has a chance to flourish under Kelly:

Yet this is where Chip Kelly comes in and potentially rejuvenates DeSean’s career. No longer will Jackson be relegated to the role of decoy, running sprints down the field on seemingly every play. Jackson can still go deep, but in the new scheme he’ll be put into situations where he can get the ball in space. There are said to be a higher number of short and intermediate routes, and he’ll even be lining up in the backfield with some frequency apparently.

If opponents are worrying about Jackson doing more underneath, it should make him more dangerous when he does go over the top, as safeties start creeping up toward the line of scrimmage again. No matter where he is getting the ball in his hands though, expect it to come his way in higher volumes.

COMING UP

I’m back from vacation and ready for the lead-up to training camp. Thanks to T-Mac for covering last week.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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