Predicting Every Starter on the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles
There are a lot of question marks surrounding the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles.
After all, just look at how the Eagles ended last season. They won three of their first four games, all of their victories coming in dramatic last-second fashion. But then they collapsed, losing 11 of their final 12 games, including an embarrassing eight-game losing streak that all but ended Andy Reid's tenure in Philadelphia.
From quarterback to offensive line to the secondary, the Eagles have a lot of work to do to become one of the elite teams in the National Football League, like they were during the majority of Reid's tenure as head coach.
It begins with quarterback, where the team currently has five on its roster: veterans Michael Vick and Trent Edwards, last year's rookie Nick Foles, former University of Oregon star Dennis Dixon and undrafted GJ Kinne. All are in the running for the 2013 starting job, as the Eagles will have open competition for the quarterback position.
With the free agency period and the upcoming NFL draft, the Eagles could enter the 2013 season with as many as five, six, seven or even eight new starters on their team.
Quarterback: Michael Vick
I thought about this one for a long time, but I kept coming back to the Eagles starting the veteran Michael Vick at quarterback.
Nick Foles would be my choice as the starter. I think he played a lot better than most fans have given him credit for last season, especially considering the fact that he played with half the team's starters on offense on the injury list.
But Vick has the speed to run Chip Kelly's offense. Do I think he's a smart-enough decision maker to get the job done in a fast-paced offense? No, I don't. Yet I think Kelly turns to Vick to start the season.
Only time will tell if Vick finishes the season. Odds are high that he either gets injured or benched. But expect Vick to be the Week 1 starter for the Eagles for the third straight season.
Running Back: LeSean McCoy
This one is a no-brainer.
LeSean McCoy is one of the top running backs in the National Football League. He had a down year in 2012, rushing for just 840 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. But he also had to play with some major injuries on offense, notably the loss of star left tackle Jason Peters, who missed all 16 games with a torn Achilles tendon.
McCoy will split carries with last year's rookie Bryce Brown, who showed flashes of potential during his two starts last season. But McCoy is the go-to guy, and everybody knows that.
Wide Receiver: DeSean Jackson
There's no possible way that DeSean Jackson isn't the team's top receiver in 2013.
Like many others, he had a disappointing season in 2012, recording 45 catches for 700 yards and two touchdowns before broken ribs ended his season after just 11 games.
But he's only 26 years old, and I expect him to have a bounce-back year in Kelly's new offense, which utilizes speed, speed and more speed.
Wide Receiver: Jeremy Maclin
Eagles fans are starting to accept that Jeremy Maclin may never develop into the star wide receiver that we all hoped he would become when he was drafted in the first round in 2009.
But he's still a solid option as a number two receiver. He'll miss one or two games each season with a minor injury, but he's a lock to finish with 60 catches, 800 yards and five scores.
Maclin, also a speed guy, seems like another player who could thrive in Kelly's new offense.
Slot Receiver: Jason Avant
For the eighth straight season, Jason Avant will be the team's slot receiver. This one is pretty obvious.
Sports Illustrated writer Peter King suggested that the Eagles would be a good suitor for free-agent wide receiver Danny Amendola, but I would be surprised if Amendola left St. Louis.
He's better than Avant, but he's not so much better that the Eagles should pursue him in free agency.
Tight End: Brent Celek
The Eagles have been linked to Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook, who did not receive the franchise tag this offseason.
Cook, who turns 26 next month, would probably thrive in Kelly's offense, but I don't think it's worth it for the Eagles to shell out the money. Brent Celek is about average for NFL starting tight ends, but it's not worth replacing him with all of the holes already on the Eagles' roster.
Expect Celek to enter the season as the starting tight end for the fifth straight season.
Left Tackle: Jason Peters
Unless Jason Peters somehow doesn't recover from his torn Achilles tendon before the start of the 2013 season, he'll be back on the starting offensive line.
His presence was greatly missed in 2012, as veterans Demetress Bell, King Dunlap and Dennis Kelly failed to even adequately fill in for Peters.
With Peters back protecting Michael Vick (or whoever the starting quarterback is), the Eagles should be able to utilize the screen pass in their offense, something that was greatly lacking during the 2012 season.
Left Guard: Evan Mathis
The Eagles caught a break during their now-infamous 2011 free-agent signing spree when they landed veteran guard Evan Mathis, who was initially signed as insurance on the offensive line.
Mathis is now one of the league's best guards, and the 31-year-old is entering the second year of a five-year contract. He and Peters will form one of the most dominant left sides of the line in the NFL.
Center: Jason Kelce
Jason Kelce was lost for the season when he suffered a torn ACL in a Week 2 victory against the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
Kelce is expected to return fully healthy for the start of the 2013 season, where he will look to take major strides from an up-and-down 2011 rookie campaign.
Right Guard: Brandon Moore
The right guard position is the big question mark on the team's offensive line.
Danny Watkins, the team's first-round pick in the 2011 draft, has been a major disappointment and likely won't enter the season as the starter.
That leaves the Eagles a number of options. They could select guard Chance Warmack with the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft. They could select tackle Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher and move veteran Todd Herremans back to right guard. Or they could sign a veteran in free agency.
That's my prediction.
New York Jets' right guard Brandon Moore, who will turn 33 this offseason, is a perfect fit. Moore has played every game for the last eight seasons, where he's quietly emerged as one of the league's best, and most underrated, guards.
Moore rated as the fourth-best guard in the National Football League, according to Pro Football Focus. He's a tremendous run blocker and a very good pass blocker. He'd be perfect for the 2013 Eagles, a team that plans to utilize a run-first mentality with young backs LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown.
Right Tackle: Todd Herremans
Veteran Todd Herremans could potentially move back to the guard position if the Eagles select either Joeckel or Fisher with their first-round draft pick. But for a team desperately needing help on the defensive side of the ball, it makes sense to keep Herremans at right tackle and target a guard in free agency.
Imagine an offensive line consisting of Peters, Mathis, Kelce, Moore and Herremans. That would be one of the top 10 offensive lines in the league.
Nose Tackle: Sharrif Floyd
For the record, I do think the Eagles will switch to a 3-4 defense in 2013, as indicated by the team having a nose tackle.
And I think that will be Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.
Star Lotulelei had originally been labeled as the top defensive tackle in the draft, but after news broke about his heart condition, it makes sense for the Eagles to go the safer route and select Floyd, who is just as talented and a year younger.
Defensive End: Trent Cole
Veteran Trent Cole is actually not even a lock to make the starting rotation in 2013. He's going to be 31 years old next season, and he's coming off his worst year as an NFL player.
The Eagles also have several young. talented players, plus they could make a move for a defensive end in free agency or in the draft.
But I expect Cole to have a year or two left as a starter. I don't know what to expect from him in a 3-4, but he's underrated at stopping the run, and he's effective at rushing the passer.
Defensive End: Fletcher Cox
The team's first-round draft pick in 2012, expect Fletcher Cox to switch from defensive tackle to defensive end in 2013 if the Eagles move to a 3-4 defense (as I expect them to).
Cox has the tools to play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. Imagine the combination of Cole, Floyd and Cox. That'd be one of the better defensive fronts in the National Football League.
Outside Linebacker: Brandon Graham
Reports have already surfaced that defensive end Brandon Graham plans to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
Graham, the team's first-round draft pick in 2010, was a colossal disappointment in his first two seasons in the National Football League. But he enjoyed a breakout season in 2012, collecting 31 hurries and seven sacks while participating in just 435 snaps. In fact, he rated as the best 4-3 defensive end in the entire NFC, according to Pro Football Focus.
At outside linebacker, he'll likely have responsibilities in pass coverage as well as rushing the passer and stopping the run.
Inside Linebacker: DeMeco Ryans
This one is a given.
Veteran DeMeco Ryans already has experience playing inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, which should come in handy for the 2013 Eagles.
(Just to set the record straight, he left Houston for salary cap reasons, not because he was a poor fit for the 3-4 defense.)
Inside Linebacker: Mychal Kendricks
Mychal Kendricks thrived in the first few games of his rookie season, but he struggled down the stretch, as did the entire defense.
He has experience playing in a 3-4 defense from his college days, and his speed should come in handy against some of the faster quarterbacks in the NFC, notably RGIII, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton.
Outside Linebacker: Paul Kruger
The Baltimore Ravens have already prepared for veteran linebacker Paul Kruger to leave via free agency. The 27-year-old defensive end-turned-linebacker collected nine sacks and 30 tackles for the eventual Super Bowl champions in 2012.
He would be a good fit for the 2013 Eagles. He's on the rise, and he wouldn't be too expensive, plus he has experience playing in a 3-4 defense.
Cornerback: Derek Cox
The Eagles will undoubtedly pursue one of the many starting-caliber cornerbacks in free agency (and hopefully not their own).
Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox would be a great signing. He's only the third- or fourth-best cornerback on the free agent market, but he's one of the more underrated players at the position.
In 2012, Cox intercepted four passes and allowed just a 69.0 passer rating. He's only 26 years old and would be a major improvement over veteran Nnamdi Asomugha.
Cornerback: Johnthan Banks
It's very likely that the Eagles select a cornerback with either their first- or second-round draft pick. My money is on defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd heading to the Eagles with the fourth overall pick, making Johnthan Banks the team's second-round selection.
Banks stands 6'2", weighs 185 pounds and would immediately be penciled in as a starter alongside (hopeful) free-agent signing Derek Cox.
Free Safety: Dashon Goldson
Here's the big-name signing for the Eagles in free agency.
Veteran safety Dashon Goldson already has a connection to the Eagles, as new Eagles' vice-president of player personnel, Tom Gamble, previously worked for the San Francisco 49ers.
Goldson, 27, has two Pro Bowl selections under his belt and has already stated that he would be willing to head to any team. He allowed a 44.8 passer rating last year. For an Eagles' defense that surrendered 33 touchdowns and intercepted just eight passes last season (and just four in the final 15 games), Goldson would be a major asset.
He'd cost a lot of money but it'd be worth it for a team that has the fifth-most salary cap money in the NFL.
Strong Safety: Nate Allen
Well, the Eagles likely can't replace all four members of the starting secondary in one offseason.
If the Eagles did sign Goldson in free agency, he'd likely play free safety, meaning Allen would have to play strong safety for a second straight season. He's better suited at free safety, but I'd still take Allen over Kurt Coleman at strong safety.
Maybe having a much-improved secondary in 2013 would help Allen's production.