Eagles End Of the Year Awards
It was an up-and-down year for the 2014 Eagles. From the shutout against the Giants to the Thanksgiving Day win in Dallas to the collapse down the stretch, the end result left players and fans with an empty feeling.
Having said that, now seems like a good time to wrap a bow around the year that was. Here are my 2014 end-of-year Eagles awards.
MVP Offense: Jeremy Maclin
He gambled on himself and won big. Playing on a one-year deal and coming off an ACL injury, Maclin finished with 85 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. Only four receivers had 85+ catches and averaged at least 15.0 YPR: Maclin, Jordy Nelson, Dez Bryant and Julio Jones.
Maclin showed the ability to get downfield with 21 catches of 20+ yards (sixth). And he came up with clutch play after clutch play. Maclin was terrific on throws to the sideline, consistently flashing good hands and keeping his feet in bounds. The overall numbers are even more impressive when you consider what he was accomplishing with sub-par quarterback play.
By all accounts, Maclin wants to be back, and the team wants him back. The expectation from both sides has been that a deal will get done. But if Maclin hits free agency, he’s sure to have plenty of suitors.
MVP Defense: Fletcher Cox
In his second year in the Eagles’ two-gap 3-4, Cox made the leap. He was a beast week in and week out, finishing with 70 tackles (seven for loss), four sacks and 14 hurries, according to stats kept by the coaches.
Cox was pretty much un-blockable during the second half of the season. And his consistency really stood out. I can’t remember a week where an opponent neutralized him. And Cox gave full effort on every snap. He was dominant against the run, and many of the sacks from other defensive players were the result of pressure generated by Cox.
Still on his rookie deal, Cox is signed through 2015. But the Eagles are able to renegotiate his deal this offseason. At just 24 years old, he looks like exactly the kind of homegrown player you can mold a defense around.
LVP Offense: Riley Cooper
By just about any metric, he ranked as one of the worst starting wide receivers in the NFL. Football Outsiders uses DYAR, and Cooper ranked 80th out of 87 players who were targeted at least 50 times. Pro Football Focus uses a stat called yards per route run. Cooper finished at 1.02, dead-last among the 50 wide receivers who qualified.
Overall, Cooper finished with 55 catches for 577 yards. He averaged 10.5 YPR after posting a 17.8 YPR average in 2013. Against the 49ers, he dropped a potential game-winner from Nick Foles in the end zone.
It’s fine to point out that the No. 2 wide receiver in this scheme has to do some of the dirty work like blocking in the run game. But it’s impossible to defend giving a player like that $10 million guaranteed.
LVP Defense: Bradley Fletcher
This one came down to Fletcher and Nate Allen. The Eagles led the NFL in pass plays of 20+ yards allowed, and the cornerback and safety were major reasons why.
Per PFF, Fletcher was targeted 115 times, fourth-most in the league. He allowed nine touchdowns, second-most, and opposing QBs averaged 17.6 yards per completion against him (third-worst).
We’ve gone over the failings of the coaching staff in putting Fletcher on an island against the likes of Jordy Nelson, Dez Bryant and DeSean Jackson. But the cornerback’s individual performances killed the Eagles down the stretch
Best Win: 33-10 at the Cowboys
The city was feeling great about this team after its Nov. 27 win in Dallas. The Eagles dominated the Cowboys in all three phases to improve to 9-3 on the season. It looked like they would cruise to an NFC East title and perhaps a first-round bye.
We all know what happened after that, but still, viewed in isolation, the win over Dallas was a memorable one.
Worst loss: 24-20 at Arizona
You could easily make the argument that the late-season loss to Washington is more deserving. But remember, even with a win that day, the Eagles still would have missed out on the playoffs.
The Week 8 loss to the Cardinals was more costly. With a win in that game, the Eagles would have ended up as a wild card team and traveled to Carolina in the first round.
In the fourth quarter, the offense put together a 13-play, 78-yard drive that resulted in a Cody Parkey field goal. They were up 20-17 with 1:56 left. But Allen bit on an underneath route on the ensuing drive, and Carson Palmer found John Brown for a 75-yard touchdown.
The Eagles had one final shot from the Arizona 16, but Foles couldn’t connect with Jordan Matthews in the corner of the end zone on a last-second desperation throw, and Chip Kelly’s squad lost its second game of the season.
Most Improved Player: Bennie Logan
You could certainly make the case for Cox or Mychal Kendricks here, but we’ll give the nod to Logan.
The second-year player made the leap and turned into one of the most productive nose tackles in the league. Per NFL.com, Logan’s 57 tackles led all nose tackles, and the 2013 third-round pick was a big reason why the Eagles finished sixth against the run in DVOA.
With Cox, Logan and Cedric Thornton, the Eagles have a terrific, young defensive line that should be a strength for years to come.
Rookie Of the Year: Jordan Matthews
Given the way the rest of the class performed, this one was pretty easy.
Matthews finished with 67 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns. His 16 catches of 20+ yards ranked tied for second among rookie wideouts, behind only Tampa’s Mike Evans.
Kelly made it clear from the jump that he envisioned Matthews as a slot receiver as a rookie. The question going forward is: Will Matthews be given a chance to play more snaps on the outside?
Either way, the Eagles got great production from the second-round pick.
Assistant Coach Of the Year: Dave Fipp
It came down to Fipp and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro. You could certainly make the case that special teams improvement had more to do with the way the roster was built and the additions of guys like Chris Maragos, Bryan Braman, Trey Burton, Darren Sproles and Parkey. But Fipp deserves credit for making it all work.
The Eagles had the best special teams unit in the league, and this might have been a .500 team without the work of Fipp’s unit.