Philadelphia Eagles: Progress Report Headed into Week 16

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 19, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 13:  Brandon Graham #54 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates a tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals during their game at Lincoln Financial Field on December 13, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Philadelphia Eagles fans are probably already beginning to look ahead to a head-coaching search, free agency and the 2013 NFL draft. Anything to take their minds off of what the pathetic Eagles are putting them through as the disappointing 2012 season comes to a painful conclusion.

Here at the B/R NFC East Blog, we've been looking ahead to the Eagles' offseason for weeks, keeping track of the most pertinent questions the team faces from a personnel standpoint as it tries to decide who'll be part of a planned resurrection in the years to come.

Here's our latest state of the union-style look at the Eagles.

Four Key Questions to Monitor

Is Nick Foles able to lead the offense?

Foles took a step backward on Thursday against Cincinnati, but the Bengals have a very good, very aggressive defense, and it's unfair to expect the rookie third-round pick to be consistent considering the lack of skill surrounding him on offense right now. 

Foles completed only 16 of 33 passes and posted his worst passer rating since his first start back on Nov. 28, but this was a growing pain. Simple as that. 

Right now, Foles is still the best option this team has for 2013. Better than, say, Alex Smith, if the 49ers make Smith available, and better than anyone in the weak 2013 draft class of quarterbacks. I'm still impressed by his poise and bravery in a frequently collapsing pocket, and it's clear he has the arm to succeed as a starter in this league. 

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 his best game yet Thursday against Cincinnati, and should now be considered the best defensive player on this team. He has four sacks in three games since taking over as a starter for the departed Babin and is ranked as the second-best 4-3 defensive end in football by Pro Football Focus.

We all wondered if the former first-round pick would officially become a bust this year, but instead he's flourished, and suddenly the Eagles aren't being ridiculed for passing on Jason Pierre-Paul in order to select Graham with the 13th choice of the 2010 draft.

Not only will he enter 2013 as a top-tier candidate to lead the league in sacks and become an elite pass rusher, but you could make an argument that Graham deserves Pro Bowl consideration in 2012. The 24-year-old is one of the only reasons Eagles fans can smile right now.

Current answer: Yes.

What do they have in Curtis Marsh and Brandon Boykin?

Both young cornerbacks made some progress in Week 14, but Marsh was relegated to special-teams duties while only getting three snaps in coverage against the Bengals. The 24-year-old former third-round pick wasn't tested, but that's a bad sign. 

Boykin was solid again, allowing zero catches on three targets while playing 41 defensive snaps. The rookie fourth-round pick has been beaten only once on six targets the last two weeks and has become a reliable option in the slot.

He should definitely enter 2012 as the team's nickel cornerback, and he might even have the ability to hold his ground on the outside. He shut down A.J. Green on two Andy Dalton pass attempts for Green Thursday, and numbers from PFF indicate he's been much more effective covering outside of the slot than inside. 

Current answer: Marsh is still buried, but Boykin can basically be penciled in as a starter for 2013.

Can Dennis Kelly start at offensive tackle?

The Eagles gave up only 11 pressures against the Bengals, which ain't bad considering that Cincinnati entered that game leading the league in sacks. The problem is that Kelly was personally responsible for more than 50 percent of that pressure from the right tackle spot, according to Pro Football Focus.

Since performing very well against Dallas in Week 13, the rookie fifth-round pick has given up 13 pressures and two sacks in two weeks. But the Bucs and Bengals have good defensive fronts, so I'm not going to judge Kelly too hard. He wasn't supposed to start this quickly, and he probably isn't ready.

That said, he's proven in short bursts this year that he can be a valuable member of this offense in the years to come.

Current answer: No.

Week 15 Stock Report

Stock Rising (offense): Jason Avant

He gets in here by default because nobody took any steps forward on offense against the Bengals. At least Avant caught all three of the passes he was targeted on in a losing effort. He and Riley Cooper have put forth some mildly encouraging performances with Foles under center.

Stock Rising (defense): Brandon Graham

Like I said, he's performing at a Pro Bowl level, and has been for some time now. Among defensive players with at least 150 pass-rushing snaps, PFF rates Graham as the most productive pass rusher in the NFL. 

Stock Dropping (offense): Bryce Brown

The running back's stock drops for the second week in a row as defenses begin to figure out how to stop him. The rookie had 347 yards and four touchdowns in his first two starts and has just 40 yards and zero touchdowns the two weeks since. 

Stock Dropping (defense): Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

The super-inconsistent DRC was owned by Green on Thursday. He's just not trustworthy enough in coverage to start for this team long term. They'd be smart to let him walk as a free agent this offseason.

View last week's report here


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