10 Early Winners and Losers of Philadelphia Eagles Offseason
Years and years of watching the NFL should teach a fan never to put too much stock in the offseason. Anyone can play well in organized team activities or training camp or even preseason games, and a player’s early success very rarely has an impact on what he does in the regular season.
But the Philadelphia Eagles are coming off a dreadful 4-12 season, and Eagles fans will take any positive signs they can see. The signing of head coach Chip Kelly will bring a different brand of football after 14 years under Andy Reid.
The best bet for a player in the offseason is simply to avoid the news and stay in shape. Players that see injuries to those ahead of them know their own odds to start increase dramatically. Likewise, those penciled in to start aren’t helping themselves with off-the-field drama or debilitating injuries.
It’s tough to get a good read on the Eagles players in limited practices and a shortened offseason thus far, but the following 10 stand out.
Winner: Nick Foles
The fact that Michael Vick hasn’t been officially announced as the starter yet makes Nick Foles an offseason winner. Couple that with the Philadelphia Eagles’ fourth-round draft pick of Matt Barkley, and Foles has to be feeling even better about his own abilities.
Barkley (and Vick) will undoubtedly provide Foles competition, but the selection of Barkley means Chip Kelly doesn’t need a running quarterback to succeed. That’s good news for Foles, who ran a 5.14 40-yard dash coming out of the University of Arizona, a time that was the slowest of all non-linemen.
Even if Foles does lose the camp battle to Vick, he’s very likely going to play in 2013. Vick has never proven he can stay healthy, playing in all 16 games in a season just once. When Vick gets injured, Foles is the likely candidate to replace him, considering he has starting experience.
Loser: Michael Vick
This is the first time in three years that Michael Vick has not entered training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles as the starter.
Based on his play the past two seasons, though, it’s hard to fault Chip Kelly for not announcing Vick as his quarterback.
Vick has missed a total of nine games since 2011, but he’s still managed to throw 24 interceptions and fumble the football 21 times. He’s won fewer than half his games as a starter. He’s also playing in an offense built upon split-second decisions, a characteristic that certainly doesn’t seem to be one of Vick’s strengths.
Vick has even admitted his frustration at not being named the starting quarterback yet. As of now, there’s no guarantee he is under center for the team’s first game of 2013.
Winner: Zach Ertz
If there was ever a man designed to play in Chip Kelly’s offense, it was Zach Ertz.
Ertz was selected 35th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles, and he has the athleticism to push for starting time immediately.
Ertz is 6’5” and over 250 pounds. He will be a mismatch problem for opposing defensive coordinators. Ertz has the ability to line up in the slot, on the outside and at tight end, and his versatility is undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons Kelly drafted him. After all, Kelly has never been shy about his love for tight ends.
Brent Celek has a $4.531 million cap hit this season, followed by three straight seasons averaging about $4.5 million. That and his declining skills suggest Ertz could take over as the full-time starter soon.
Loser: LeSean McCoy
In terms of pure skill and athletic ability, LeSean McCoy should thrive in Chip Kelly’s offense. But he was in the news for less-than-superb reasons this offseason.
The fact that McCoy lost (easily) in a footrace to Michael Vick isn’t a big deal. But the fact that McCoy is being sued for allegedly assaulting a woman last winter is drama the Philadelphia Eagles don’t need. It won’t likely lead to a suspension of any sort, but it’s still news that the Eagles are wishing to avoid.
Loser: Cary Williams
Perhaps no man has lost as much in recent weeks as Cary Williams.
After winning a Super Bowl and inking a new three-year contract, Williams has gone out of his way to make an enemy of the fanbase.
He missed four separate OTAs, skipping for events such as his own wedding, dental work, his daughter’s dance recital and building a house. Per Sal Paolantonio on 97.5 The Fanatic (with Mike Missanelli), Williams had never missed an OTA in three years with the Baltimore Ravens.
That should speak volumes about his commitment to his new franchise. If Williams can play, Philly fans will forget about it. But considering he gave up the fourth-most yards of any cornerback last year, Williams may be setting himself up for a rough season.
Winner: Brandon Boykin
That’s the way it works in the National Football League. If Cary Williams isn’t interested in getting on the field, it bodes well for Brandon Boykin.
Boykin spent his rookie season as the team’s nickel cornerback.
He had his moments, such as his miraculous pass knockdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the second game. If Williams falls out of favor with Chip Kelly early, Boykin is likely the new starter opposite Bradley Fletcher.
Winner: Jason Peters
Last season, the Philadelphia Eagles never recovered from the loss of All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters. Peters tore his Achilles tendon (twice) in the spring, an injury severe enough that he missed the entire 2012 season.
Peters’ play was greatly missed. The Eagles utilized a revolving door of Demetress Bell, King Dunlap and Dennis Kelly in his place. Peters is the NFL’s most athletic offensive lineman when healthy. He’s a tremendous blocker in pass protection and even better at getting to the second level in the running game.
The good news coming out of Philadelphia is that he’s been completely healthy thus far in OTAs. Per Paul Domowitch of the Daily News, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland says, "You wouldn’t even know Jason had an injury."
That’s really good news for Eagles fans, who could see their team put forth a top-10 line in 2013.
Loser: Jason Peters
Unfortunately, Jason Peters’ name also appears on the loser list.
While his play on the field has been fine this spring, Peters was arrested for the second time in a two-year span.
It’s doubtful NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will suspend Peters (it probably would have happened by now), but two arrests in such a short span is disappointing, to say the least.
Loser: Kenny Phillips
Phillips is one of the NFL’s better safeties when healthy, such as in 2011 when he intercepted four passes and led the Giants to a Super Bowl championship. His opportunity to start in Philly is wide-open, considering the Eagles set a franchise record by allowing 33 touchdown passes in ’12.
But Phillips has already seen problems with his knee arise. He’s missed multiple OTAs, which makes it all the better that his contract includes no guaranteed money. Phillips played in just two games in 2009 and seven in 2012, which means he’s been held out an average of six contests per season over the last four years.
Winner: Earl Wolff
There’s a lot to like about fifth-round rookie Earl Wolff.
First of all, he’s not Nate Allen or Kurt Coleman. Second of all, he will see a great opportunity to start immediately if Kenny Phillips continues to have problems with his knee.
Wolff was viewed by some as a potential second- or third-round prospect, but the Philadelphia Eagles were able to grab him in the lower rounds. Wolff joins a wide-open camp competition at safety, but the intrigue of Wolff may be that he hasn’t already struggled at the NFL level like Allen or Coleman.
The Eagles have never been shy about starting rookie safeties (see Allen, Macho Harris or Jaiquawn Jarrett). While the team is now under a new head coach, Wolff may still win a starting spot in training camp if he shines.