It's almost hard to believe the Philadelphia Eagles haven't really been relevant in about two months. Philadelphia entered 2012 with enormous expectations, but fell on its face early for the second consecutive season.
And with that being the case, we've spent most of the second half of the year looking at the Eagles with a broad, long-term lens. By now, they should have a pretty good indication of where the majority of the players on their roster stand headed into the offseason. So while we'll wrap up the year from new perspectives next week, let's try to answer some of the key questions we've been tracking for weeks in our final progress report.
Four Key Questions We Monitored
Is Nick Foles able to lead the offense?
While Foles had as many downs as ups during his seven-game, six-start run as the starting quarterback, the rookie third-round pick has earned the right to—at the very least—compete for the starting job this offseason.
He'll sit out the finale against the Giants due to a broken hand, but Foles has already done enough to convince me that he can be a very effective starter in this league for years to come. In addition to displaying good poise and coolness despite the fact the castle was crumbling all around him, the Arizona product put up some sneaky-good numbers while leading the offense.
These come courtesy of CSNPhilly.com's Reuben Frank:
- He's only the third rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 1,600 yards with five or fewer interceptions.
- Only four rookie quarterbacks in NFL history (min. 200 passes) have recorded a higher completion percentage than his (60.8).
- He's thrown only one interception per 53 pass attempts, which ranks second among rookie quarterbacks in NFL history.
Can Brandon Graham be relied upon to replace Jason Babin and emerge as the team's next great pass-rusher?
Graham didn't bring a ton of heat against the Redskins last week, but he's still been the Eagles' best defensive player this year and still made an impact by leading the team in tackles and recording a nice shovel pass breakup.
He hasn't started all year, but he's still been one of the best all-around defensive ends in football when he's been on the field, finally flourishing in a flourish-or-bust third NFL season. I'd like to see Graham increase his sack rate, but that should come as he enters 2013 as a full-time starter for the first time in his career.
What do they have in Brandon Boykin?
Boykin wasn't really tested by the Redskins, which once again is a good thing. It ain't easy being a rookie cornerback, so you're in good shape so long as you aren't being picked on.
The better news is that he's getting some snaps on the outside here and there. The rookie fourth-round pick is almost certain to enter 2013 as the nickel corner, but he'll at least have a chance this offseason to earn an even larger role in the defense—especially if the Eagles part ways with Nnamdi Asomugha and/or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Answer: A starting nickel cornerback for years to come.
Can Dennis Kelly start at offensive tackle?
Kelly was abused by Ryan Kerrigan and the Redskins' pass rush last week and has now given up 20 total pressures and three sacks in his last three games at right tackle, according to Pro Football Focus.
He started strong but has since faded quite a bit, giving up the majority of the pressure this offensive line has surrendered in the last few weeks.
The rookie fifth-round pick out of Purdue just isn't ready. He'll be a swing tackle next season, best-case scenario.
Answer: No, not in 2013.
Week 16 Stock Report
Stock Rising (offense): King Dunlap
I don't want to overreact here, but Dunlap has become—dare I say it?—steady on the left side of the line the last few weeks. While Kelly has struggled quite a bit, Dunlap has surrendered only three total pressures since Week 13 while protecting Nick Foles' blind side (according to PFF).
Stock Rising (defense): Mychal Kendricks
The rookie has saved his reputation with a few decent performances during the final quarter of what's been a rough season overall. He led the team with four defensive stops against the Redskins, per PFF.
Stock Dropping (offense): Dennis Kelly
I relayed some of the not-so-pretty numbers earlier. Kelly has been shaky at best the majority of the time he's been starting at right tackle. And things could get even worse Sunday because he'll be charged with having to protect Michael Vick's blind side.
Stock Dropping (defense): DeMeco Ryans
He was manhandled on a few blocks and missed a pair of early tackles against the Redskins. Overall, Ryans has had an inconsistent first season in Philly. I think a lot of fans expected more from the veteran middle linebacker.
View last week's report here