Four Keys For Eagles success in 2016
With the flurry of names surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles search for their next Head Coach, there are important elements to the Eagles being successful moving forward that is important, no matter who the next Head Coach is or if Sam Bradford is still the Eagles' Quarterback. Here are my key factors Howie Roseman, Tom Donahue, and the Eagles organization need to consider moving forward:
1. Offensive Line Needs Re-Tooling
No matter who the Head Coach or Quarterback is in Philadelphia in 2016, if there is not a good front five in place in place on offense, its all negligible. Look around the NFL in 2015, the Colts got three starting Quarterbacks injured in 2015 because they couldn't execute in offensive pass protection. The Packers and Giants had poor depth on their roster in terms of their offensive lines so that hurt their offenses' production, putting Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning in precarious positions. On the flip side, teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals benefited from good offensive line production in terms of running and passing the football.
The Eagles need to first answer the proverbial "Elephant in the Room" that is Left Tackle Jason Peters: Peters still has three years left on his contract with a base salary that escalates from 7.55 million in 2016 to 9.95 million in 2017 followed up with 10 million in 2018. If the Eagles release Peters it would result in a 3 million Dead Money Salary Cap hit but would save the team 24.5 million over the next three years.
We saw this season Lane Johnson is more than capable of playing Left Tackle, the position he played in college at University of Oklahoma. We also know Center Jason Kelce is a year removed from a season as a Pro Bowl selection; Kelce is still young enough to take time this offseason to get bigger and stronger to help improve his level of play in 2016
Cutting Peters would open up some money to upgrade at both Guard positions while also sign a new Right Tackle that allows moving Johnson to Left Tackle a viable option.
2. Change Over to a 4-3 Defense
The Eagles have some talented players on their roster on defense but the last three seasons the team has gotten statistically worse each season running the Chip Kelly/Billy Davis Hybrid 3-4 defense. Players such as Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry played defensive end on 4-3 defenses in college while Byron Maxwell played in a defense that asked him to play more Zone Coverage than Man Coverage. Changing over to a 4-3 defense also would put Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan in a position to deal with less double teams over the course of a game. If you think Fletcher Cox was a force to be reckoned with 2015, imagine what he could do in a 4-3 defense?
A 4-3 defense also helps Linebackers who were asked to do too much in 2015. Connor Barwin can transition to a Strong Side Linebacker coupled with the return of Jordan Hicks from injury in 2016 could be a great dynamic in a 4-3 defense that asks their Linebackers to have different responsibilities.
Any good team uses the talents of their players and wins with that talent. Under Chip Kelly the Eagles' players were asked to perform tasks that do not fall in line with their skill sets. Running a 4-3 defense is more beneficial for the talent the Eagles have on their roster than what Chip Kelly and Billy Davis attempted to orchestrate for 3 seasons.
3. Utilize Demarco Murray, Dont let money Spent go to Waste
In 2015 Chip Kelly egregiously misused his free agent acquisition Demarco Murray. Murray is a power Running Back who led the NFL in rushing yards in 2014 by running the ball down hill and allowing his offensive lineman plow the road. On the Eagles Kelly asked Murray to execute on plays that are not suited to his skill set.
Now in the Post-Chip Kelly era the Eagles are stuck with Murray thanks to the way his contract is setup would hurt the team more to get rid of him than to keep him on the roster. So if you are stuck with him, why not use him in a way you know he is good at? The old saying is "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade" so take Demarco Murray and build the running game around featuring him in a power running game. You also have Ryan Mathews under contract, utilize him as a "Change Up" option to keep Murray's overall carries numbers at a respectable number.
4. Stop Over Analyzing the NFL Draft; pick the best available player
During the last three years the Eagles have not selected many players who have panned out for the team on the field. While Lane Johnson, Jordan Hicks, and Bennie Logan have been solid selections, there are many more examples of players who didn't work such as Marcus Smith, Taylor Hart, and Matt Barkley have not worked out.
Looking at the list of players the Eagles could have selected may make some Eagles fans nauseous:
2014: Kelvin Benjamin, Bradley Roby, Devonta Freeman
2013: Giovani Bernard, Jelani Jenkins
Not that any one of these players would have drastically changed the Eagles fortunes the last two seasons, but all of those players are better fits for what Chip Kelly and company were attempting to do on the field.
Howie Roseman and Tom Donahue have seen their own fair share of poor draft selections during their time in the NFL. The Eagles have needs on the Offensive Line, Defensive Back, and it would not hurt to draft a Quarterback that could be a project or potential future starter. Stop the overthinking and do what is best for the team not just who they like from the NFL combine or a private workout session.