Andy Reid’s Final Draft Key to Eagles success
Two years into the careers of Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Brandon Boykin and Nick Foles, the top five picks of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2012 NFL Draft, the jury was still out on where these guys would fit and what they could be for the Eagles organization.
By their second season, the team had changed head coaches, defensive coordinators and their defensive scheme. The changes in the process also changed the careers of Cox, Kendricks and Curry. Boykin has been typecast as a nickle back, while Foles was the MVP of the pro bowl and had the fan base thinking they had found their franchise quarterback this team is looking for.
Fourteen games into their third seasons, things have changed - for all of them.
Cox, the 12th pick of the draft in 2012 and the Eagles' top selection, transitioned from 4-3 defensive tackle to a 3-4 end who has become a physical run stuffer who is now showing he can disrupt a game on a weekly basis.
Against two potent running offenses with pro bowl caliber running backs, Cox has racked up 18 tackles and a sack in games against Dallas and Seattle. In 2013, Cox had 41 total tackles and has surpassed that total already here in 2014 with 52.
"He's done the same thing that he's done all year, which is play at a really, really high level," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said after the Seattle game, where Cox racked up 11 tackles. He's been our most consistent defensive lineman from Game One to Game 13. He's a very difficult guy to block. I think he's really adapted very, very well to what we are doing defensively, and playing really well right now."
Then there is Kendricks, who is also having a very solid season, playing on the inside of the Eagles 3-4 defense, after starting his career as a 4-3 outside linebacker. HE has become the athletic, versatile player the Eagles had hoped for and a much more steady linebacker - stopping the run and doing a good job in pass coverage.
"Mychal's strength is his versatility. He's very sound in coverage. He can run, he can change direction, and you can put him in different matchups, and even if he had to go with a receiver for a down you say ‘Okay, Mychal can with run with that, he has that athleticism and speed.’ That makes you happy, explained Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis. "His pass rush has really I think grown in the last year. Okay, now we're going to blitz him. Well he's a pretty good match up on a back. The total package of Mychal Kendricks is why you can use him in spies or coverage or blitz or in zone. He's a very well-rounded athlete."
Boykin and Curry have been more role players for the Eagles, Boykin has become one of the better nickel corners in the league and Curry is one of the best pass-rushing specialist coming off-the-bench. At 5-10, 185, Boykin doesn't fit the mold of the bigger, more physical type of corner Kelly seems to prefer to have on the field. His 2013 was outstanding, picking off six passes and breaking up another 17.
"Right now we're very happy with who we have out there and the situation we have, and we're very, very pleased with Boykin, what he's doing and what he brings," Davis said after the Eagles earlier win over Washington. "I can't say enough about him. It's a starting position for us. I know it isn't to you guys, but the nickel spot is a starting position that plays in every game."
Meanwhile, Curry is not a great fit in the Eagles' 3-4 scheme, but he has the ability to provide the pass rush Philadelphia has been desperate for, his nine sacks rank him second on the team behind only Connor Barwin.
"I think we have got a great role for Vinny right now and adds to his success and I also think he's getting better at the two‑gap, first and second down stuff," said Davis. "We're really happy with his progress. He's always been a dynamic pass rusher and that's a role we choose to use him in the most."
And finally there is Foles, maybe the most important of the building blocks of the offense, he most likely will not play another down this season for the Eagles. The quarterback will have to prove that he is closer to the guy we saw during his special 2013 campaign, when he threw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions. This year, in eight games, Foles struggled throwing 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
So which guy is here?
If the Eagles are to have any hopes of ever winning a Super Bowl they'll need Foles to either be closer to the 2013 guy or they just might have to move on from him. While many of Reid's defensive picks are helping the Eagles find success, the most important guy just might be Foles - the fingerprints of Reid's final draft is everywhere, but the guy they need the most is Foles - otherwise the Chip Kelly era might end just like Reid's did - with a lot of wins and success, but no Super Bowl.