What we Learned as the Eagles Set to Begin Season
The Eagles will host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday Sept. 7 at Lincoln Financial Field (Listen on 97.3 ESPN). They will be defending their NFC east crown and trying to do something no other football team in the city of Philadelphia has been able to do - win a Super Bowl.
If that will happen, here are a free reasons why, and why it might not happen.
Three things we learned:
1. The Eagles' starting offense is all set.
Quarterback Nick Foles threw for 304 yards and two scores on 48 attempts in his three preseason games. He also threw three interceptions, more than he threw in all of 2013. Philadelphia scored an average of 32.8 points, most in the league this preseason, but the Eagles' offense could be even more potent this year. That improvement, however, won't be measured in yards, but rather in points. The offensive line looked better in the game against the Steelers and the second unit looked capable. One area of concern is depth - what happens if Jeremy Maclin goes down? How about keeping LeSean McCoy fresh and healthy?
Those are two big concerns.
2. There are limits to Philadelphia's offensive line depth.
The Eagles offensive line should continue to be a strength of this team. Jason Peters, Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce are some of the best at their positions in the NFL.
With four-of-five starters returning to start the season week one, the Eagles have one of the best lines in the NFL. The question will be on the right side where Allen Barbre will replace Lane Johnson for the first four games at the very least. Johnson was suspended four games for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs. Johnson had an outstanding rookie year as a run blocker, but coughed up ten sacks in pass protection. Barbre is not as athletic as Johnson, but he still possesses the plus quickness and athleticism coach Chip Kelly requires from his offensive linemen.
The main question is who would step in if there was an injury?
While the second unit played well, none of the reserves have much NFL playing experience. Matt Tobin seems to be the guy the team likes most, Dennis Kelly started 10 games in 2012 as a rookie but missed most of last season due to injury. Dave Molk takes over as the backup center and Andrew Gardner is a unknown backup tackle.
3. Alex Henery was too inconsistent to make this team.
Henery, a fourth round pick in 2011, has been a major disappointment. He has weak leg and was just 1-of-3 on field goals this preseason, while producing just eight touchbacks on 17 kickoffs. His accuracy was becoming an issue and put him on thin ice, Henery missed a 48-yard attempt and his kickoffs consistently sailed too low -- leading to a 39-yard return that set up the Saints' game-winning field goal as time expired in the wild card game last season. He connected on just 82.1 percent of his field goals last season, tied for 22nd in the league. The Eagles signed Vanderbilt's Carey Spear, to provide some competition, but he wasn't nearly good enough, so the team went out and traded for Cody Parkey and Henery was cut today.
Three things we're still trying to figure out:
1. Will Cody Parkey make the cut?
Parkey was acquired from the Colts on August 20, and went 3-for-3 with two 50-plus yard field goals in the Eagles' final preseason game Thursday night. The problem: he hasn't had a real chance to show if he can be consistent. He hasn't practiced with the team very long, and now the Eagles have a heck of a choice – go with a virtual unknown rookie kicker or look for a veteran kick to provide competition in practice this week. Jay Feely, Shayne Graham, Rob Bironis and Garrett Hartley are all veterans that could provide some competition this week.
2. What will happen with Chris Polk?
Polk was barely able to participate in camp due to a hamstring tear and didn't appear in any of the preseason games, yet the Eagles still released Henery Josey, Kenjon Barner and Matthew Tucker. Indications are that Polk is expected to be ready for week one against Jacksonville, indicating he'll remain on the 53-man roster. Polk, who is back practicing despite a nasty hamstring pull, projects as the primary runner should anything happen to McCoy this season, but his injury history could keep the Eagles thin at running back.
3. Is Nolan Carroll going to be starting Week 1?
When the Eagles acquired Carroll this offseason, he said he was told he would be competing for a starting job. Carroll's size and press coverage and closing skills fit well in Philadelphia, and he has the talent to beat out the underwhelming Bradley Fletcher. However, he missed some time with an injury and it could keep him out of the starting line-up for week one, but he might just force his way onto the field before to long.