State of the Franchise
By the end of the 2012 season, Andy Reid's résumé read as follows: A 130-93-1 regular season record as a head coach. Nine playoff appearances in 14 years. Six division championships. Four conference championship appearances.
No matter what your standards, there's no denying that Reid accomplished great things in Philadelphia. Coaches with his level of success are supposed to retire, not get fired. But all that Reid built was undone by the fact that his Eagles made just one Super Bowl appearance in those 14 years, and that one appearance resulted in a painful loss rather than a moment of glory.
Reid's fireable offense, however, was not the Super Bowl loss, but rather the 12-20 record he accumulated with a “Dream Team” featuring high-profile acquisitions like DT Cullen Jenkins, along with cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, all of whom are now gone.
Reid's firing was made more palatable by the subsequent hiring of evil genius head coach prospect Chip Kelly, an offensive-minded super tactician who, along with San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh, is the most intriguing and intimidating coaching hire in many years. Kelly's Oregon teams were defined by a hurry up, run-heavy approach that sought to misdirect rather than overpower.
Kelly's offenses win because they provide so many possibilities each play; forcing defenses to spread thin while accounting for all the potential running and throwing angles while giving the offense the freedom to improvise, as the defense attempts to anticipate the next twist. Football is traditionally a game where the offense acts and the defense reacts, but Kelly's approach inverts that relationship, forcing defenders to make conscious calculations before reacting physically. If a defense merely reacts to the movement of a Kelly offense without accounting for the trickery involved, they'll end up chasing ghosts half the time. But that split second where the defender stands still to think is sometimes the difference between a no-gain play and a touchdown sprint.
One of the key improvisational tools in the Kelly offense is a mobile quarterback, and Michael Vick figures to thrive, health permitting, as Kelly's unpredictable calls create openings for both the pass and run. The running game drives the Kelly offense, though, and LeSean McCoy is Philadelphia's greatest asset as a result. On defense, the Eagles will turn to a 3-4 alignment in hopes of reviving what historically has been a strong pass rush.
Lane Johnson - OT, Oklahoma
(Round 1, 4th overall)
A freak athlete at tackle who will allow coach Chip Kelly to be creative.
Connor Barwin - LB, Texans
The free agent addition will be counted on as a lead pass rusher.
Felix Jones - RB, Cowboys
Provides running back depth and could help the return game as well.
Kenny Phillips - S, Giants
Can emerge as an IDP option if he overcomes his knee issues.
Zach Ertz - TE, Stanford
(Round 2, 35th overall)
Gets open against LBs and DBs while blocking better than a wideout.
Matt Barkley - QB, USC
(Round 4, 98th overall)
Once a hyped draft prospect, he fell to Philly in the fourth round.
Nnamdi Asomugha - CB, 49ers
The former elite corner was an all-out bust in Philadelphia.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - CB, Broncos
The main catch from the Kevin Kolb trade didn't pay off.
ENOUGH ROOM IN TOWN FOR THE BOTH OF 'EM
When Bryce Brown ran for 178 yards and two touchdowns against Carolina in Week 12 last season, LeSean McCoy's owners in dynasty and keeper leagues started feeling uneasy. When Brown scorched the Cowboys for 169 yards and two touchdowns the week after, McCoy's owners were feeling downright nauseous. Everyone knew McCoy was Philadelphia's franchise player, but this Brown kid was too good to keep off the field. Luckily for owners of both players, Kelly's offense should run often enough to make both backs necessary. McCoy will remain an RB1 asset, and Brown could approach flex viability in leagues with 12 or more teams. Oregon ran the ball 36 times per game last year between the quarterback and top two running backs. Roughly 12 more carries went to the backups. The NFL clock doesn't stop after first downs, so you can probably cross out those 12 carries for the backups and assume that Vick, McCoy and Brown are looking at about 36 per game. We could be looking at a 2013 season in which those three respectively average about seven, 18 and eight carries per game. Felix Jones was added to provide depth at the position, but he'll need a break or two to make an impact.
WR ROLES UP IN THE AIR
Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, injury issues aside, both have the talent to excel as fantasy wideout options in the NFL. Even if they're healthy this year, though, both players could see decreased roles as Kelly leads Philadelphia to an offense that runs significantly more than the one Reid orchestrated. Even with Reid's play-calling in their favor, Maclin and Jackson combined to average just 1,799 yards and 11 touchdowns per year in the last three seasons. Kelly's Oregon offenses generally didn't feature productive wideouts, though, with just one 1,000-yard receiver (Jeff Maehl, 2010) materializing in six years. Kelly figures to call passes more in the NFL than he did in college, but it still seems as if Maclin and Jackson will struggle to surpass the 2,000-yard mark as a tandem. The addition of second-round pick TE Zach Ertz could also eat into their target counts. One interesting wrinkle to note, though, is that Kelly often used De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff as running receivers at Oregon, and Maclin was hugely productive at Missouri as a runner. The problem for Maclin is that, even if Kelly does use his receivers as runners, Maclin's durability issues could prompt Kelly to use Arrelious Benn and Damaris Johnson in the running roles instead. Johnson in particular is an interesting option in that role, because he ran for 560 yards in his senior year at Tulsa in 2010.
Rising: Michael Vick is still fragile, but Chip Kelly could make him memorable in the games he does manage to play.
Declining: Brent Celek could see fewer targets after the second-round selection of Zach Ertz.
Sleeper: Bryce Brown could approach 10 carries per game as LeSean McCoy's backup.
Supersleeper: Damaris Johnson can play the RB/WR hybrid that De'Anthony Thomas did at Oregon.
Fletcher Cox - DE
The highly talented interior DL should be an IDP factor.
DeMeco Ryans - LB
Led the team in tackles in 2012, but Mychal Kendricks is more talented.
Patrick Chung - S
Kenny Phillips might have a higher floor, but Chung shows higher upside.
RotoWire Rank: 20