10 Questions Surrounding Next Year's Philadelphia Eagles
Head coach Andy Reid’s job is likely all but done in Philly, but quarterback Nick Foles and running back Bryce Brown are each out to prove they deserve significant playing time next season.
The Eagles will have a top-five draft pick as well as a new head coach, staff and an entirely new outlook on defense.
While it’s still early to project anything that will happen in 2013, it’s obvious what the ’13 team will be decided upon.
Who Will Be Head Coach?
It’s almost a certainty that Andy Reid won’t return in 2013. Reid’s tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles was all but finished when the team lost eight in a row from the end of September to early December.
The Eagles have been linked to numerous head coaching candidates for the soon-to-be open position. It could be a former Super Bowl champion like Jon Gruden or Brian Billick. Then again, it could be an intriguing assistant like Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. And it could be a college head coach like Chip Kelly from Oregon.
There could be as many as eight to 10 new teams in the market for a head coach next year. That means the bidding could be high for the more attractive names in the business. Kelly appears to be the favorite to head to Philly, but it’s still way early.
Is Nick Foles the Quarterback of the Future?
This one is still up in the air, and the answer may not even be revealed at the conclusion of 2013.
Nick Foles has done well in limited starts, throwing four touchdowns to just one interception in his last four outings. Foles has terrific pocket presence, confidence and poise, and a strong arm that can throw the deep ball.
The Eagles have already announced that Foles will start the final two games of this season, and there’s almost no way Michael Vick returns in 2013. The only way Foles doesn’t start next year would be a surprise trade that brings another quarterback to Philly or sends Foles elsewhere.
Will Bryce Brown’s Fumbling Problems Keep Him on the Bench?
The fact that he rushed for 347 yards and four touchdowns in his first two NFL starts shows Bryce Brown has all the potential in the world.
But the fact that he has already fumbled four times (and lost them all) is a serious cause for concern. Brown holds the ball away from his body and he tries to run to the outside too much.
He has a lot of work to do as a running back, but the ideal situation has Brown and LeSean McCoy combining for anywhere from 450-500 carries next season, especially with a young quarterback like Nick Foles.
Is Jeremy Maclin Playing His Final Year in Philadelphia?
Despite being a first-round selection in a passing offense, Jeremy Maclin has never caught 1,000 yards in a single season. He’s struggled with injuries and he’s been vastly inconsistent for long stretches.
Maclin’s contract expires after 2013 and the Philadelphia Eagles may look for a bigger receiver to better complement DeSean Jackson. The five-year deal the team gave Jackson shows he’s not going anywhere, but he needs a Plaxico Burress-type receiver opposite him.
Maclin probably isn’t the answer.
Will the Offensive Line Be Improved?
Even without drafting a player, this unit should be much better in 2013. The offensive line has always been a strength of Andy Reid’s teams. He’s had tremendous blockers like Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, Shawn Andrews, John Welbourn, Jermaine Mayberry and Hank Fraley.
In 2012, the line cost the team a handful of games. Jason Peters, Todd Herremans and Jason Kelce all sustained season-ending injuries. Meanwhile, right guard Danny Watkins is looking like a colossal bust.
The line will have a healthy Peters back though for 2013, and if he can play like an All-Pro again, that will make life much easier for the quarterback. Evan Mathis has quietly blossomed into a stud at left guard. Kelce and Herremans will be back, and the team will just need to address the right guard position for ’13.
There’s a chance the Eagles could go with the veteran Jake Scott, as he’s played well since signing with the team. Either way, the offensive line should be among the NFL’s finest.
Can Brandon Graham Continue His Success for a Full Season?
Through two NFL seasons, many Philadelphia Eagles fans were convinced Brandon Graham was a bust.
The Eagles had traded up to select the University of Michigan star with the 13th overall selection in 2010. Graham racked up three sacks in limited action as a rookie and then none in his second season.
This year though, Graham has blossomed. He’s rated as the second-best overall 4-3 defensive end, per Pro Football Focus. Graham was at his best against the Cincinnati Bengals, registering 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Should the Eagles Bring Back DRC or Nnamdi Asomugha?
The Philadelphia Eagles are in a tough situation with cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha.
Asomugha hasn’t lived up to his potential since he signed a five-year, $60 million contract in the 2011 offseason. And DRC is set to become a free agent after the season ends.
Asomugha counts as $15 million against the cap in 2013, and the Eagles will be penalized $4 million by cutting him outright. If he agrees to take a pay reduction, that could work very well for the Eagles, although that may be unrealistic.
DRC is still just 26 years old, he has a Pro Bowl on his resume, and he has the physical tools to stick with the game’s best receivers. His problem is that he tends to lose focus and he struggles in tackling.
Locking him up could mean a commitment similar to the one the Dallas Cowboys made with Brandon Carr last offseason (five years, $50 million). That’s a lot of money for a corner (DRC) that has stretches of poor play as often as he has his stretches of Pro Bowl play.
Rookie corner Brandon Boykin doesn't look like he's ready to start regularly in 2013. That means the Eagles will probably have to spend a high draft pick on a big impact corner.
How Can the Team Upgrade Their Safety Corps?
The Philadelphia Eagles have never recovered from the loss of playmaking safety Brian Dawkins. Management also didn’t help matters by allowing All-Pro safety Quintin Mikell to walk in free agency.
The Eagles have swung and missed numerous times as of late. They missed with young players Jaiquawn Jarrett, Macho Harris, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman. They also missed with veterans Marlin Jackson and O.J. Atogwe. The bulk of the 2012 team’s defensive problems came from the safety positions, as opposing quarterbacks have been able to pass the ball at will against this secondary.
This year’s draft class doesn’t feature a Mark Barron or Eric Berry worth picking in the top 10 overall. The Eagles may have to try their hand in free agency as a result. Intriguing options include Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd, Atlanta’s William Moore, San Francisco’s Dashon Goldson, New England’s Patrick Chung and the New York Jets’ LaRon Landry.
Which Position Should the Eagles Target with Their Top-Five Draft Pick?
The Philadelphia Eagles will likely pick in the top five of the 2013 NFL draft. As of now, the only teams ahead of the Eagles are the Kansas City Chiefs, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Oakland Raiders.
The Eagles haven’t picked that high since ’99 when they grabbed their franchise quarterback in Donovan McNabb with the second overall selection.
There’s no bona fide quarterback worth taking at that spot in this year’s draft. Quarterbacks Geno Smith and Matt Barkley are seen as high-risk, high-reward players that could develop into perennial Pro Bowlers. Then again, they could flame out a la Brady Quinn or Matt Leinart.
The Eagles also have a quarterback in Nick Foles that management will probably want to start regularly in 2013. This likely rules out the possibility of the team selecting a quarterback with their first-round selection.
There has also been some talk about the Eagles selecting an offensive tackle like Luke Joeckel. This would enable the Eagles to move Todd Herremans back inside, which is his natural position. Herremans played left guard for many years, but he should be able to excel as a right guard, a position in which Danny Watkins has tried and failed.
Can the Eagles Expect to Contend for the Postseason?
It’s very early to speculate as to whether teams have the necessary ingredients to qualify for next year’s postseason. The Philadelphia Eagles, for example, have numerous holes to fill on their roster, and they will need to address them in the draft and free agency.
The Eagles will almost certainly go with rookie quarterback Nick Foles to see if he can be their franchise QB. This means the Eagles may inevitably struggle at times. The other NFC East quarterbacks are all Pro Bowl players in Eli Manning, Robert Griffin III and Tony Romo. This definitely puts the Eagles a class behind with Foles.
Much of the Eagles’ success in 2013 will depend on the offense and the running game. The new head coach would be wise to lean heavily on a run-oriented offense with backs LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown. Giving the ball to those two will make life easier for Foles, and the defense will need to show steady improvement as well.
An early look would suggest the Eagles will probably be one of the league’s more mediocre teams in 2013, with an expectation of seven to eight wins. What it really could come down to is the play of Foles and how quickly he transitions to the head signal-caller of the offense.