Here’s this week’s roundup of national media coverage.
Bill Barnwell of Grantland.com slots Nick Foles as the 50th-best trade asset in the NFL:
Here’s what I know: Foles isn’t going to throw interceptions on 0.6 percent of his passes again. He’s going to miss DeSean Jackson, because for whatever benefit Jeremy Maclin and Zach Ertz offer, they’re not the same sort of receiver Jackson was, and there’s not an obvious deep threat on the roster. For whatever revisionist history is going around about how the Eagles knew Foles was special, Kelly chose Michael Vick to start ahead of Foles in training camp last season, and it didn’t seem to be a particularly difficult decision for him to make. Foles is a dab hand who does a good job of avoiding dangerous throws, and he’s good enough for the Eagles to win, but the system is the star here, not the quarterback. Foles could have a Pro Bowl–caliber season or he could be buried deep behind Mark Sanchez — or another quarterback who isn’t even on the roster — this time next year.
Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com examines the three biggest issues facing the Eagles:
Did the Eagles do enough to improve their defense? Looked at one way, the answer seems like a big “no.” The Eagles didn’t go out and sign a star defensive back or draft an elite, quarterback-eating pass-rusher. It would be easier to sell this defense if they had. What the Eagles are counting on is an across-the-board rise in experience and comfort in Bill Davis’ defense. That isn’t as glittery as marquee free agents or high draft picks, but it may prove to be more reliable than either of those. And there is some foundation for hope. The Eagles’ defense really did improve over the course of the 2013 season. It looked a lot better in December than in September, and that is why the Eagles may have more new starters on offense than on defense. The front seven looks like it will be the same as it was at the end of 2013. First-round pick Marcus Smith will play as he proves he’s ready, but there is no reason to rush him when Trent Cole is playing as well as he did last season. Malcolm Jenkins is a smart and reliable safety, and that should help the secondary immeasurably.
Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com ranks the Eagles’ best and worst contracts:
Philadelphia is one of those teams where there are always a number of good contracts. They are one of the best run front offices in the league and are often signing very team friendly contracts. There were a few places I thought of going with this including Brent Celek (who got the nod last season), Trent Cole, and even Riley Cooper, but thought that the Jason Kelce contract was just a bit better than all the others on the books.
Kelce is one of the bright young centers in the game, having started every game he was healthy enough to play in since his rookie year in 2011. Kelce was entering the final year of his contract and would have likely become a free agent in 2015 as the cost of the Franchise tag for centers is usually prohibitive for using a tag on the position. Kelce’s deal was also important for the Eagles to do sooner rather than later since they realized that the market could potentially change once Alex Mack hit free agency, not to mention expected extensions for the Pouncey brothers. While teams were awaiting final word on salary cap possibilities the Eagles entered into negotiations with their players and signed them before the new salary cap rise was made public knowledge.
Foles is one of the biggest “boom or bust” candidates in the NFL, according to Patrick Daugherty of Rotoworld.com:
It’s impossible to overstate Foles’ 2013. It was a jaw-dropping display of ruthless efficiency, one that came out of nowhere. However you want to frame it, Foles was dominant. But is this really the man Chip Kelly wants to hitch his NFL revolution to? Kelly has more at stake than the average NFL coach. Like Billy Beane in baseball, Kelly’s tenure is about more than wins and losses. It’s a grand experiment, one aimed at upending The Way Things Have Always Been Done. Is Foles, a statue-esque pocket passer with average arm strength, really the best way to go about that? Part of Kelly’s philosophy is adaptability. If he was as much of a “system” coach as his detractors suggest, he would have never put himself in a position to play Foles in the first place. But it’s inarguable that, at its heart, Kelly’s offense is one designed to be run by a mobile quarterback. It’s also inarguable that Foles’ 2013 efficiency won’t be repeated, by him or anyone else. It would be insane to suggest there’s not a real chance Foles ends up as Kelly’s guy. 27:2 doesn’t just happen. But it would be equally insane to suggest Foles has upended all Kelly knows about quarterbacking after only 317 pass attempts. Foles has given himself a huge head start on “franchise” status, but this is a tortoise who could still be caught by the hare.
The Eagles used the no-huddle significantly more than anyone else last season, Mike Tanier of SportsOnEarth.com discovers:
The NFL no-huddle statistics are dominated by two teams, the Eagles and Broncos, which use the tactic so regularly that they distort the overall percentages. The Eagles used the no-huddle on 68 percent of their plays; take them out of the league totals, and the tactic is only used 10.4 percent of the time, not 12.2 percent.
Chet Gresham of Rotoworld.com looks into Pat Shurmur‘s history to see how that impacts different Eagles in fantasy:
The question with the addition of Darren Sproles in the offseason is how he will be used in Kelly’s offense. The loss of DeSean Jackson had many believing Sproles would help out in the passing game more, but Kelly says he will mainly be a running back. Nothing will be set in stone, but at the moment it looks like Sproles will be the primary backup running back and get 6-8 touches per game, which is tough to rely on in fantasy.
Last season Jackson was the main fantasy threat until Riley Cooper emerged with the help of Nick Foles. It will be interesting to see where this passing offense will be with a full season under Foles and Jeremy Maclin replacing Jackson in the rotation. Foles and company were quite efficient with 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions on 317 attempts. Foles’ 9.12 yards per attempt were better than both Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning. So when we look at targets and receptions in this offense, we can be okay with smaller numbers due to the ability to gain big yardage and/or score on any given pass attempt.
Kevin Lincoln of Grantland.com rounds up news on all of the league’s quarterbacks:
Nick Foles has been spending the offseason doing cardio kickboxing at a Philly gym (“Just crazy stuff. It’s funny, it’s a lot of women in the class, but it’s honestly very very hard.”) and says his mom “can still kick [his] butt in anything,” which probably means that the Eagles should sign Foles’s mom.
Jordan Matthews could be this year’s Keenan Allen, Mike Clay of Rotoworld.com writes:
At first glance, the 2014 Eagles wide receiver corps doesn’t seem quite as deep as San Diego’s was in 2013, but there are a lot of players expected to be rotated into this passing game. Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper are penciled in as the No. 1 and 2 wide receivers. LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Brent Celek, and Zach Ertz will also be in the mix. 6’3/212 Matthews is the favorite for No. 3 duties, which doesn’t figure to mean more than a handful of targets each game out of the gate. He’s the team’s best talent at the position, though. Maclin and Cooper have an experience edge, but Matthews is the superior player. Very close to an every-down role in a high-scoring offense, Matthews is well-worth a flier in the later rounds of your draft. You just may need to wait a few weeks for the payoff.
Michael Fabiano of NFL.com on Foles’ fantasy value:
Foles has started 17 games (including the playoffs) for the Philadelphia Eagles. In those contests, he’s averaged 254 passing yards and two total touchdowns with a mere six interceptions … that equates to right around 20 fantasy points per game when you add in his rushing numbers. Even if we knock his average down to 19 points, he’s still a top-five quarterback based on last season’s totals. Foles could turn into a serious steal.
LeSean McCoy is a top-five “home-run hitter” in the NFL, writes FOXSports.com:
The best display of McCoy’s home-run ability was last season’s showdown against Detroit in a Philadelphia blizzard. That day, he had 219 yards rushing and scored a pair of touchdowns. But his ability to strike quickly helped turn a 14-0 second-half deficit into a 34-20 victory.
Chip Kelly‘s system played a big factor in DeSean Jackson‘s career year last season, Scott Kacsmar of FootballOutsiders.com notes:
Jackson had a career year in Chip Kelly’s offense, and the creative system certainly played a big role in producing those numbers (82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns). He even had some plays where he lined up at running back and became an easy outlet option for the quarterback. Talk about getting your No. 1 receiver away from tough cornerback coverage — unless you’re playing Oakland, which found coverage optional in 2013. Jackson had 18 screens/smokes, and made nearly as many catches on drag routes when the Eagles just ran everyone deep and cleared the middle for him. You can call Jackson the “Drag King.”
Jameis Winston is an Eagles fan, he revealed at ACC Media Days:
Q. Few college athletes in history have had the kind of freshman season that you had and your team had. How hard is it not to be satisfied, and as follow‑up, has Kelvin Benjamin officially made you a Panthers fan?
JAMEIS WINSTON: Well, in your question you said it all: All team. We had a very successful season because of our team. I was blessed to have an opportunity to play with Kelvin, and no, I’m still not a Panthers fan, but I am a Cam Newton and KB fan. I am an Eagles fan, to answer that.