For Philadelphia Eagles fans, the 2012 season was a complete disaster.
After a promising 3-1 start, with victories over the Giants and the Super Bowl-champion Ravens, the Birds stumbled to an eight-game losing streak, dropping 11 of their final 12 games to finish with an abysmal 4-12 record.
There was a multitude of reasons for this miserable performance, much of which has been accounted for in the offseason. The head coach of 13 years was fired, along with nearly his entire staff. The defensive backfield was reconstructed, and the offensive line has been transformed from one of the league's worst units to a potentially dominant force.
Chip Kelly has infused a new energy into the fan base, bringing a refreshing change of pace to the stale Reid regime. Players have openly praised Kelly's practice style, with it's higher tempo, shorter overall duration and blaring music.
Kelly's charismatic personality with the media couldn't be further from Reid's drab, emotionless press conferences.
More importantly, Kelly led the Oregon Ducks to a 46-7 record and repeatedly had one of the top offenses in the nation. His innovative football mind intrigued the NFL's most successful coach, Bill Belichick, to visit Oregon and pick his brain. The Patriots incorporated aspects of Kelly's offense into their own style.
One of the biggest problems for the Eagles last season was their horrendous pass coverage. Over their final 10 games, the Birds allowed 26 passing touchdowns and had just ONE interception.
Let that statistic sink in for a second.
The secondary has been given a sorely-needed facelift for 2013. Starting corners Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie are gone, and safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman will likely be supplanted by free agent acquisitions Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips. Former Ravens CB Cary Williams was added to replace Asomugha, along with former Ram Bradley Fletcher, who will compete for a starting job.
Perhaps most importantly, the Eagles will have a revamped offensive line. In 2012, Jason Peters, widely regarded as the best left tackle in the NFL, missed the entire season. His replacement, Demetress Bell, was atrocious. He was benched multiple times throughout the season for poor play, and the team could simply not find an answer at the crucial left tackle position.
To make matters about 10 times worse, starters Jason Kelce (center) and Todd Herremans (right tackle) were also lost for the season due to injuries.
Not only will Philadelphia return one of the games top centers in Kelce, a very serviceable Herremans and perhaps the best offensive lineman in the league in Peters, but they also used the 4th overall pick in the draft on offensive tackle Lane Johnson.
This will allow the Birds to move Herremans back to his natural guard position, transitioning away from first round bust Danny Watkins. With Peters and Johnson on the bookends, along with stellar guard Evan Mathis, Kelce, and Herremans, the Eagles could conceivably go from the worst offensive line in the league to the most dominant unit in the NFL.
Anyone with a strong knowledge of the game of football knows the importance of the offensive line. The five men protecting the quarterback and opening passageways for the running back are clearly one of the most critical elements of a successful team. If the Eagles do indeed transform one of the league's worst to one of it's best, they will compete for the NFC East crown.
Ultimately, the quarterback position will determine how far the Eagles can go. If Michael Vick can come anywhere close to the form he played at when he arrived with the team in 2010, with a QB rating of over 100 and a 21-6 TD/INT ratio, with nine rushing touchdowns and only three fumbles lost, the Eagles will win the NFC East.