5 Philadelphia Eagles Who Could Be Primed to Break out in 2013
Excluding rookies and those who have already made a Pro Bowl or put together anything close to what some might consider to be an "elite" season, here's a look at the five members of the Philadelphia Eagles who could be on the verge of breaking out in a big way in 2013:
1. Center Jason Kelce
Experience: 2 seasons
The 2011 sixth-round pick showed glimpses as a rookie but gave up too much pressure as a pass-blocker. In his sophomore season, Kelce really seemed to be putting it all together early before tearing up his knee and going down for the year in Week 2.
Kelce surrendered just one pressure on 138 snaps in his extremely abbreviated 2012 campaign, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). One year prior, he gave up a pressure every 33rd snap.
Jason Kelce will be making #Eagles protection calls, which helps out Vick a little in this competition. He was never really the best at it.— Fly Eagles (@FlyEaglesNation) June 25, 2013
He's still rehabbing but expects to be ready for training camp, according to CSNPhilly.com, which is important because the Eagles will be counting on the Cincinnati product to start from the get-go and play a large role in his third season.
2. Tight end James Casey
Experience: 4 seasons
Which Eagle will take the biggest step forward in 2013?
Casey isn't particularly young in NFL terms, but he was never given much of an opportunity to spread his wings in Houston. Now that the Eagles have targeted him and signed him to a relatively lucrative contract, expect that to change as the "Swiss Army knife" offensive weapon takes on a major role in Chip Kelly's offense.
Casey possesses the versatility to play fullback, tight end and slot receiver, and maybe more.
"His versatility is really one of the keys to us acquiring him," Kelly said at a press conference in March, via a transcription released by the team. "He was a guy we targeted right away when free agency started, a guy that can really come into our program and have a big effect on what we're going to do."
The guy touched the ball only 1.2 times per game during his four years with the Texans. For nearly $5 million per year, that will change in Philly.
3. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox
Experience: 1 season
We're Captain Obvious here, but Cox has a good chance to become Philadelphia's best defensive player in his second season. The No. 12 overall pick had more ups than downs as a rookie, finishing with 5.5 sacks and a positive PFF grade despite being part of a defense in tumult.
If indeed this D has improved, Cox should really begin to take off in 2013. He's an ideal fit as a three-technique defensive end in the Eagles' new 3-4 hybrid defense, and he definitely has superstar potential.
4. Outside linebacker Brandon Graham
Experience: 3 seasons
You could argue that Graham already broke out by leading the Eagles with 5.5 sacks and earning the second-best PFF grade among 4-3 defensive linemen league-wide in 2012, but he started only six games last season and wasn't much of a factor until Jason Babin got the boot.
Assuming the 2010 No. 13 overall pick doesn't get tripped up by an expected transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker role in this new defense, he should continue to improve at the trajectory he set last season. A bigger concern could be playing time, with Trent Cole and Connor Barwin also in the mix for reps.
5. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher
Experience: 4 seasons
Fletcher could be a sneaky-good free-agent pickup. Since 2010, only about 20 corners per year have given up fewer than one yard per cover snap, per PFF, and Fletcher's been under that mark in all three seasons. In fact, in 2012, the 0.52 yards he gave up per cover snap was the lowest average in the NFL.
He's tough, strong and fast but was a victim of difficult circumstances in St. Louis. If he can stay healthy in Philly, this could be the year in which Fletcher becomes a household name and a legitimate No. 1 cornerback.
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