Wake-Up Call: The Most Indispensable Eagle
On most playoff-contending teams, a serious injury to the starting quarterback in August would be devastating.
In Philadelphia though, that might not necessarily be the case. It’s impossible to say with certainty that a healthy Sam Bradford would provide a massive upgrade over Mark Sanchez, especially considering that Bradford won’t be able to practice fully until training camp. Bradford has more upside and a greater skill set, but that doesn’t always translate to better on-field performance.
In Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England and Denver (among others), the QB is without question the most indispensable player. But who holds that title in Philadelphia?
This is a classic mid-July question that we kick around every year as we count down to training camp. So here’s my list of the top five.
5. Jason Peters
The Eagles found out what life without Peters was like in 2012, and they’d like to avoid that situation again. Since returning from his Achilles’ injury, Peters hasn’t missed a game the past two seasons. Even though he’s admitted that he had some lapses down the stretch last season, Peters is arguably the Eagles’ best player. If he were to go down, Lane Johnson would most likely switch sides, and Andrew Gardner would play right tackle.
Given the Eagles’ question marks at guard, an injury to Peters would undoubtedly hurt. But depending on how Johnson develops in Year 3, it might not be devastating.
4. Jason Kelce
Kelce missed four games last year, and the Eagles had a tough time replacing him. When healthy, Kelce is one of the top centers in the game. He sets the protection in the passing game and makes the calls in the run game. From a physical standpoint, backups David Molk and Julian Vandervelde simply cannot match Kelce’s athleticism.
If he were to go down this season, Molk would likely replace Kelce. The experience from last year is nice, but it’d still be a significant dropoff.
3. Fletcher Cox
This is an under the radar one. You could really make the case that Cox belongs in the top spot. He is fantastic against the run and a force as an interior pass rusher.
If Cox were to go down, either Brandon Bair or Taylor Hart would be forced into the starting lineup. Maybe one of them could be OK on early downs, but there would be a massive dropoff from Cox, and the Eagles don’t have anyone on the roster that can do what he does from a pass-rush perspective.
Losing Cox would significantly impact every player in the front seven.
2. Byron Maxwell
As last season unfolded, the Eagles realized they had to reshape their secondary. So when free agency began, they went out and spent $22 million guaranteed on Maxwell. He’s being paid like a top-five corner. Does he have that resume? Not yet. But Maxwell has the physical tools to be a highly productive player in the Eagles’ scheme.
If he were to go down, they would be in a similar place to last year. The starters would likely be Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe. Carroll couldn’t beat out Bradley Fletcher last year, and while I like Rowe, rookie corners can be expected to experience growing pains. Losing Maxwell would be a devastating blow to the retooled secondary.
1. Malcolm Jenkins
This one might surprise some people, but now’s a good time to remind you that this is a list of the most indispensable players, not just the best ones.
Safety is the thinnest spot on the roster. The Eagles are having enough trouble finding someone to pair with Jenkins, who was a pleasant surprise and a consistently productive player in 2014. If he were to go down, they’d be left with Walter Thurmond and either Earl Wolff, Jerome Couplin, Ed Reynolds, E.J. Biggers, Chris Prosinksi, Jaylen Watkins or Chris Maragos.
Thurmond, Couplin, Reynolds and Watkins have played a combined zero snaps at safety in the NFL.
Jenkins is not only a productive player, but he directs the back end of the defense. Losing him for a significant period of time would be a dagger to the defense.
WHAT YOU MISSED
An All-22 look at how the Eagles use Mychal Kendricks and why he’s one of the most valuable assets on their defense.
On Chip Kelly’s need for two quarterbacks and Mark Sanchez’s chance of starting.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Kansas City Chiefs web site caught up with Jeremy Maclin:
Therefore, he wasn’t surprised when the young receivers on the Chiefs roster immediately took to him as a mentor of sorts, someone who could help them improve their game.
“It’s kind of like you almost automatically gravitate towards that,” Maclin explained, “but in order for you to sustain that respect, you have to be real with them. I didn’t come in here saying, ‘I’m the big dog and anything I say goes.’ It’s not like that. I’m just coming in here and trying to help these guys be successful. We’re trying to be successful as a unit and that’s what it’s all about.
“I think they can see how genuine I am and how much it’s not about me. It’s about the Kansas City Chiefs, winning football games and ultimately holding that trophy at the end of the year.”
I don’t think Chip Kelly had it trademarked, but…
Our team motto for the year: CULTURE BEATS SCHEME Each day is a chance to build our culture on & off the field. pic.twitter.com/uYkZPcoFhV
— Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) July 13, 2015
We’ll take a closer look at some of the changes on defense.