Philadelphia Eagles: Progress Report Headed into Week 15
Hey, if the Philadelphia Eagles win out (just as they did in this spot last year) and the Dallas Cowboys or Washington Redskins finish 0-3, the Eagles will not finish alone in dead-last in the NFC East.
The point is that Philadelphia isn't that far removed from the rest of the division. The Eagles have played well this month and have finally earned their first victory since the end of September. Eagles fans had better hope that the mini-revival won't save any jobs that don't deserve saving, but at least they can set a somewhat positive tone entering what will be an interesting offseason.
Let's take another state of the union-style look at the Eagles by checking in on four major personnel-related questions surrounding the team late in this lost season.
Four Key Questions to Monitor
Is Nick Foles able to lead the offense?
Foles had his best game yet against the Bucs, completing a career-high 32 passes for a career-high 381 yards to go with a career-high two touchdowns and a career-high average of 7.5. Oh, and he had a career-high passer rating of 98.6 while winning for the first time as a pro.
What was most important about Foles' Week 14 performance was that he was at his best when the game was on the line, leading the Eagles on two scoring drives in a fourth-quarter comeback. He was calm and cool and poised despite a lack of support in pass protection and the receiving corps.
Yes, that all happened against the league's lowest-ranked pass defense, but it was actually the third consecutive solid performance for Foles. And when you consider that it was only his fourth start, I'm becoming convinced that the kid is probably the best option to enter the offseason as the presumed starter for 2013.
Current answer: Yes.
Can Brandon Graham be relied upon to replace Jason Babin and emerge as the team's next great pass-rusher?
Graham had a team-high four hurries in Tampa despite playing fewer snaps than fellow defensive linemen Trent Cole, Fletcher Cox and Cullen Jenkins, according to Pro Football Focus. I'm a tad concerned that he still has only three sacks, but he's been getting pressure consistently and continues to do a decent job against the run.
He might never get the sacks Babin did, but there's at least a chance at that since he's so much younger. Plus, he's a much better all-around player.
Current answer: Yes.
What do they have in Curtis Marsh and Brandon Boykin?
Marsh is actually starting to get some playing time in what is his final audition. He had 13 snaps in coverage against the Bucs, giving up two catches on three targets (per PFF). One of them was for only four yards, but Vincent Jackson beat him on a 25-yard reception. Overall, it was a so-so performance, but I'd like to see more from the former third-round pick over the final three weeks.
The rookie Boykin was unsurprisingly a little more solid, surrendering just a 17-yard catch to Tiquan Underwood. He's been up and down this year, but has definitely earned a chance to make a run at a starting job in 2013.
Current answer: Marsh is still buried, but Boykin is probably the 2013 nickel guy.
Can Dennis Kelly start at offensive tackle?
Kelly struggled against the Bucs, giving up seven pressures and a sack. The entire offensive line was a mess when it came to protecting Foles, but that's no excuse. It was by far his worst game of the year and an indication that the rookie might need some time to prove that he's worthy of a starting role.
Ideally, the Eagles won't have to start him anyway with Jason Peters and Todd Herremans coming back for 2013. But if the team doesn't believe in Danny Watkins and wants to consider moving Herremans back inside, it'll need to know that Kelly can handle the job on the right side.
Right now, the jury's still out.
Current answer: He's still not consistent enough.
Has Nick Foles earned the 2013 starting job?
Week 14 Stock Report
Stock Rising (offense): Nick Foles
We covered his performance above. The one negative takeaway from another turnover-free effort from Foles was that he was sacked six times, but it's hard to pin any of those six on him. The guy's making something out of nothing right now. He appears to have all the tools.
Stock Rising (defense): Mychal Kendricks
It appears the Eagles waited a little too long to switch the rookie linebacker from the strong side to the weak side. He had the best game of his career against Tampa Bay, putting up six tackles and three stops while not making any glaring mistakes. The second-round pick was also very good in coverage.
Stock Dropping (offense): Bryce Brown
After putting up 347 yards and an 8.1 average in his first two starts in relief of the concussed LeSean McCoy, Brown had a grand total of six yards on 12 carries in Tampa. That's one hell of a drop-off.
Stock Dropping (defense): Nnamdi Asomugha
I know he's been here a lot this season, but the highly-paid veteran deserves at least one more mention after being beaten five times for over 100 yards on seven targets against the Bucs. PFF now ranks him 94th out of 110 qualifying cornerbacks.
View last week's report here
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