Eagles Open Camp with High Expectations
The Chip Kelly era in Philadelphia began with the Eagles exceeding the speed limit on the learning curve. Kelly took the birds from last place in 2012 to a division title in 2013. The Eagles also learned enough about Quarterback Nick Foles to put the full faith of the franchise behind him to lead the offense to even greater places in 2014.
2013 is most definitely history, but the building blocks were laid to attempt a deeper run in the playoffs in 2014. Every player on the roster attended every single offseason workout.
Expectations should be higher for the offense, even with the departure of top receiver DeSean Jackson. Kelly’s history shows that the second year in his offense produces even greater statistics. At Oregon, Kelly took an offense that ranked No. 8 in the nation in scoring and sixth in rushing during his first season to higher levels the following year. The Ducks led the nation in scoring with 47 points per game, led the country in total offense with 530 yards per game and improved to fourth nationally in rushing racking up 286 yards per game.
Jackson is the only key offensive subtraction from 2013. Jeremy Maclin is expected to take over his spot at the top of the depth chart at that position. Maclin missed the entire 2013 season due to injury but still learned the offense and should produce in 2014. The Eagles added depth at running back with former New Orleans Saints standout Darren Sproles. Sproles gives the birds another back like LeSean McCoy who is a dangerous threat as a runner and a receiver. Sproles has racked up more than 600 receiving yards in each of the past three years.
Defensively the Eagles appeared to address some of their needs in the offseason. The passing defense needed some help both up front and in coverage. The birds quickly acted on that on day one of free agency by signing Saints Safety Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins has 38 interceptions in his five-year career. The Eagles also used their first round draft pick on Linebacker Marcus Smith.
Like the offense, the birds are entering their second year in a 3-4 defense under Defensive Coordinator Bill Davis. Smith should fit well in the system as an outside linebacker that can rush the quarterback or drop in coverage.
As with virtually every NFL team, the Eagles have question marks entering the season. Those questions will begin to be answered later this week with the start of training camp. Players report to the NovaCare complex for meetings on Friday. The first practice is set for Saturday. The first of three open practices for the public will be on Monday at Lincoln Financial Field.
(Story by Eagles insider Scott Grayson, follow him @SGrayson973 on twitter)