Sun. Jan 16th, 2022

With the NFL season officially behind us, and the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl champions, it’s time to reflect on the good and bad that came from the season, specifically with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Chip Kelly, replacing long time head coach Andy Reid this past season, deserves a ton of credit for turning this team around from one of the weaker teams in the NFL to eventual NFC East division champions. It’s not too often that a head coach can turn a bottom-of-the-barrel team into a playoff contender in one whole season, but Kelly managed to do it in his first.

Of course, Kelly could not have possibly made that happen without the play of the Eagles’ new franchise quarterback: Nick Foles. Stepping into the starting spot in week five after oft-injured quarterback Michael Vick hurt his hamstring, Foles grabbed the starting spot and never let go. Foles broke multiple Eagles and NFL records and went on to not only be selected in the Pro Bowl, but be named its MVP as well. This is quite an accomplishment for a guy no one even considered at the beginning of the season.

Elsewhere on offense, running back LeSean McCoy had one of the best seasons of his career under the tutelage of Kelly. Rushing for 1,607 yards and scoring nine rushing touchdowns, McCoy led the league in running this year after coming off a somewhat disappointing season prior. The scariest part? McCoy is only 25 years old. If he continues at this pace, the star running back will likely go down as one of the best to ever play the position.

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson also enjoyed the best season of his career, as well. The brash wide receiver closed out the season with 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns, setting new highs in all categories on his career. Jackson also was selected to the Pro Bowl, making some spectacular catches in the All-Star event. Foles’ and Jackson’s rapport has earned them a number of accolades, and they will look to expand on that in 2014.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles had a few players rise to the occasion and truly make a name for themselves. One notable player was cornerback Brandon Boykin, who finished the season with six interceptions, one of which was brought back for a touchdown. Even after the Eagles signed two cornerbacks in the offseason to compete for the starting jobs, it was Boykin who ultimately played the best for the defensive backfield. He will be a building block for this young Eagles team for years to come.

The linebacker duo of DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks was another stellar part of this talented defense. Ryans and Kendricks finished with 127 and 106 tackles respectively, as well as both finishing with four sacks on the season. Ryans’ mentoring of Kendricks over the past two seasons has proven exceptional, and the tandem’s play on the field speaks for itself.

So, where do the Eagles go from here?

One of the first positions the Eagles will have to address in the offseason is wide receiver. Yes, Jackson had a career year, but this wide receiver cannot possibly do it all by himself. Riley Cooper stepped up in the absence of an injured Jeremy Maclin, and had a superb season himself following a preseason of controversy. However, Cooper, as well as Maclin, is a free agent, and might look to land more money than he can make with the Eagles. If one or both receivers leave for new teams, the Eagles will have a gaping hole across from Jackson.

Luckily for the Eagles, the annual NFL Draft will provide the team with multiple chances at selecting a new starting wide reciever for the team. This year’s draft class is also completely full of wide receivers, including Marquise Lee (USC), Sammy Watkins (Clemson), and Mike Evans (Texas A&M). If the Eagles decide to choose a wide receiver in the first round, they will likely target one of these prospects, and chances are they will be happy they made their decision. All three of these athletes have star-making potential in the NFL.

Safety is one of the bigger positions the Eagles will have to cover too. In last year’s offseason, the Eagles signed Patrick Chung to try and help improve the position, but Chung’s signing was a colossal bust, as he failed to live up to his own prior play that fans had expected. Nate Allen returned to help the safety position, but even with a high number of tackles (82) and a pick, Allen could not be counted on to help shore up the safety position. By the end of the season, it was arguably the Eagles’ weakest position.

The NFL Draft has plenty of options for the Eagles to choose from. One notable player is HaHa Clinton-Dix from Alabama. The man might have an obscure name, but after seeing him play, his tackling is anything but a laughing matter. Clinton-Dix hits like a ram, and his coverage skills are spectacular, which is what the Eagles will really be looking for. If he is available in the first round when it’s time for the Eagles to select, the pick is a no-brainer.

Another interesting route the Eagles can take is going to free agency this offseason to get a new safety. Though the Chung signing did not work out like the Eagles wanted it to, there are a couple of safeties on the market this offseason who will almost certainly work out fine: Jairus Byrd and TJ Ward. Both players are some of the top safeties in the league, with many analysts and fans agreeing that Byrd may be the best in the NFL right now. Signing either one of them to Philadelphia would certainly improve a defense that has been lacking a star safety since the days of Brian Dawkins.

If the Eagles don’t go with a wide reciever or safety in the early part of the draft, expect them to still address their defense. Cornerback is still a rather large need for this team, as Boykin is the only corner to have played exceptional this season. If not a cornerback, the team could always look to improve their pass-rush by drafting a new outside linebacker. Trent Cole led the team with eight sacks, but is also getting up their in age. A new, young linebacker to groom under Cole could help this team’s future immensely.

The Eagles have the 22nd selection in this year’s NFL Draft. Expect the rapidly-improving team to make some quality choices under Kelly and cement themselves as the top team in the NFC East. If the Eagles continue making the same strides they’ve been making in the past year, soon enough, we may be looking at the next team to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Oliver Suskin-Santarelli is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at OS753461@wcupa.edu.

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