Philadelphia Eagles: Where These 5 Eagles Stars Must Improve in 2013
Despite not having a single player make the Pro Bowl or the All-Pro team in 2012, the Philadelphia Eagles still have a good amount of talent. They have many skill players who helped make them one of the league's most explosive offenses in previous seasons, as well as a big-play defense.
With the right coaching staff, the Eagles could still be very good. These players have a ton of talent, but have merely been effectively game-planned against by opponents. If these players can improve in crucial areas, they can once again lead the Eagles back to the top of the NFC East.
1. LeSean McCoy: Running Between the Tackles
LeSean McCoy is one of the most elusive running backs in the NFL, and few players are as deadly as he is in open space. But similar to Westbrook, McCoy's weakness remains running up the middle. Part of this could be the way his plays have been drawn up, but McCoy too often looks to run to the outside and dances around when he should hit the hole hard.
McCoy's average of 4.2 yards per carry in 2012 isn't exactly a bad performance, but it's a huge drop-off from his 4.8 yards per carry in 2011. And McCoy only managed two rushing touchdowns in 2012 versus 17 in 2011.
Again, McCoy has been hurt partially by poor play-calling, but he must improve in running up the middle if he wants to reassert himself as one of the league's elite backs.
2. DeSean Jackson: Intermediate Routes
DeSean Jackson was on pace for one of his best seasons before his injury, looking to set career highs in receptions and yardage. However, his touchdowns were way down, as he managed to find the end zone only two times this past season.
Defenses have caught onto his biggest strength, being the deep ball, and Jackson does not get open as much as he used to. But while Jackson is one of the deadliest deep threats in the NFL, a one-trick pony can only do so much for an offense.
If Jackson wants to take the next step from being a role player to becoming an elite wide receiver, he must improve on his intermediate routes. Jackson is not large enough to play physically, but if he can use his speed and agility to take an intermediate route to the house, he could be one of the most feared players in the NFL.
3. Riley Cooper: Physicality
Despite being one of the largest receivers on the team, Riley Cooper makes most of his plays with speed rather than physicality. He does not often out-muscle defenders for the football. A good example of this was the game-ending interception in the 2010 playoffs where he allowed Tramon Williams to box him out.
Cooper must work with coaches to find a way to play more physically and to box out defenders. The Eagles are good in the red zone and short-yardage situations. They have a 6'3", 222-pound player in Cooper, and they must use him to his fullest potential.
4. Mychal Kendricks: Shedding Blocks and Pass Coverage
Mychal Kendricks played at a Pro Bowl level his first two games of the 2012 season, but his play has slowly declined over the course of the season. He showed less effectiveness in defending the run and was a bit of a liability in covering tight ends and running backs.
Part of the solution may be to move Kendricks back to his more natural weak-side spot, but Kendricks also needs to improve at shedding blocks. And if he can improve in pass coverage, Kendricks' speed could make him a potential franchise player in Philly.
5. Nick Foles/Michael Vick: Deep-Ball Accuracy
Whoever the Eagles decide to anoint the starting quarterback next season, one thing is clear: Both quarterbacks must improve their deep-ball accuracy.
Both Nick Foles and Michael Vick are supposed to be known for their cannon arms. But Vick has failed to both find and hit DeSean Jackson on fly patterns whenever he has been open. And Foles seems to show a reluctance to throw deep, and when he does throw a long bomb, he shows questionable accuracy.
The two quarterbacks will never be known for their short- and medium-range accuracy, but they need to maximize their strengths. Otherwise, they will always be below-average signal-callers.