Eagles Roster Analysis: Offense
With Sunday’s game against the Giants meaningless in terms of the 2015 NFL season, we figured it was time to turn our attention to the Eagles’ roster heading into the new year and the offseason, as the team begins looking for its next head coach.
A team’s stable of talent plays quite the role when people like Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman are trying to sell their franchise to prospective head coaches. Let’s talk about how the roster looks on the offensive side of the ball.
(All contract information is via Spotrac, including the 2016 dead cap numbers.)
|Mark Sanchez||15%||1||$2 million|
Sam Bradford started his first season with the Eagles — and his first since suffering an ACL tear in August of 2014 — tentatively. He didn’t throw with his trademark accuracy, he threw red zone interceptions, and he was fallible.
Then came the Eagles’ bye week, and all of a sudden, Bradford looked like the quarterback Chip Kelly had hoped for. Since the bye week, Bradford has completed 66.3 percent of his passes, thrown eight touchdowns to three interceptions, and averaged 7.45 yards per pass attempt. Those are all good for a quarterback rating of 94.9, and Bradford played good football in the second half of the season.
Bradford said Wednesday, the day after Kelly was fired, that he would like to return to Philadelphia next year, but will wait to see who the newly-restructured front office selects as its next head coach. Mark Sanchez is a capable backup, but nothing more, and Thad Lewis is a free agent after the season ends, so it will be extremely interesting to see how the Eagles approach Bradford’s free agency, and who they select as head coach.
Adam Gase, Chicago’s offensive coordinator, is known to be especially adept at maximizing quarterbacks. If Bradford elects to sign elsewhere, the quarterback position will loom large as the offseason progresses.
|DeMarco Murray||42%||4||$13 million|
|Darren Sproles||35%||1||$1 million|
|Ryan Mathews||22%||2||$3 million|
Running back is a big question mark, and DeMarco Murray is probably the biggest returning question mark on the team. He had an underwhelming first season with the Eagles; how much of that is because of the system he was placed in is yet to be seen.
Murray turns 28 in February, and is still contractually committed to the Eagles for four more years. Cutting ties with him before the 2016 season begins is likely unrealistic; a dead cap hit of $13 million would be hard to swallow. So, would an incoming head coach be optimistic that a change of scheme and system could help Murray find his 2014 form?
It’s a big risk, especially when Ryan Mathews looked to be the better of the two backs this season. The problem with trying to push Mathews into a No. 1 role is that he’s been frequently injured over the course of his career. And Darren Sproles, while always capable of seeing more touches, is not a No. 1-caliber running back. So whether the Eagles actually have a No. 1 running back returning next season is yet to be determined.
|Nelson Agholor||57%||3||$6.815 million|
|Riley Cooper||49%||3||$2.4 million|
After departing with their two best receivers in back-to-back off seasons, the Eagles have an anemic wide receiver corps heading into the 2016 season. Who knew?
Jordan Matthews showed this season that he is able to overcome dry spells, and absorb the coverage that comes with being a No. 1 wideout, and still produce. The jury is still out on whether Matthews is WR1 material, but his numbers this season certainly portend a bright future.
The rest of the crew, then, is where the concern lies. Riley Cooper and his exorbitant contract have the second-most yards by a wide receiver; if he can’t pick up 73 yards against the Giants, and Josh Huff fails to pick up 88 yards, this will mark the first season since 1991 that the Eagles have just one wide receiver with 400 receiving yards.
Huff and Nelson Agholor are obviously still very young, and theoretically have plenty of growing to do. But having just one starting-quality wide receiver and a handful of question marks isn’t a great situation to inherit.
The changing of the guard at tight end seems complete as Zach Ertz’s third season draws to a close. He has put up back-to-back seasons with at least 700 yards receiving, and improved his blocking ability. Lsat season he was limited to just 50 percent of the team’s snaps, compared to Brent Celek’s 69, because of his subpar blocking ability. This year, Ertz has seen 68 percent of the team’s snaps, compared to Celek’s 52 percent.
Celek had a surprisingly productive middle of the season, but Ertz, the younger and more athletic of the two, has asserted himself as the team’s primary tight end option, and a target of Sam Bradford to boot.
Trey Burton showed with his 43-yard catch against the Lions that he likely has ability to catch a pass or two each game, but will be stuck at third on the depth chart until Celek moves on.
|Jason Kelce||100%||5||$3.6 million|
|Lane Johnson||100%||1||$3.016 million|
|Jason Peters||64%||3||$3 million|
The Eagles’ offensive line, just two years ago the team’s unifying strength, has turned into an aging, under-performing unit.
Jason Kelce, still a talented and athletic center, turned in one of his least impressive seasons in recent memory. Jason Peters struggled to stay healthy, missing a pair of games. Allen Barbre was just average even in his best games in his first year as a starter. Matt Tobin, who was forced into action with Andrew Gardner injured, is not a starter in the NFL.
All told, the Eagles need serious improvement on the offensive line. It matters not whether that’s one of their young players — maybe Josh Andrews? — stepping up this offseason and impressing next year, or making a splash in free agency, or finally, mercifully drafting an offensive lineman.
It’s an area that desperately needs improvement to keep whomever plays quarterback next season healthy, and to provide big holes and running lanes that were too often absent in the run game this season.
*Practice squad player
^Injured reserve player