What Every Fan Needs to Know About the 2013 Eagles
It's an exciting time with new head coach Chip Kelly in the fold, but there are a few questions and concerns that need to be addressed with the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles.
Who will start under center in Week 1 in Philadelphia?
How will Kelly's offense actually translate to the NFL?
What will the transition to a 3-4 defense entail for the Eagles defense?
With those and many more questions needing answers, let's take a look at some expectations for the 2013 Eagles moving forward.
Expect New Faces to Pay Dividends
Arrelious Benn, Patrick Chung, Earl Wolff, James Casey...
This list could continue for a long time.
These guys are similar to Eagles coach Chip Kelly: They're all new in Philadelphia, ready to prove their worth.
Players like Chung, Casey and Bradley Fletcher (just to name a few) have succeeded elsewhere around the league but come in as free agents trying to make their marks in Philadelphia.
Additionally, the Eagles have brought in plenty of rookies with quietly high ceilings like Wolff, Jordan Poyer and Bennie Logan.
Yes, the team has the faces of the franchise (LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, etc.) still captaining the ship.
But, there's so much new blood in the Eagles' locker room that the guys noted above (and a bunch more) will be hard to ignore in 2013.
History Suggests Kelly Will Run More Than Andy Reid
The Eagles won, but just barely, against the Browns in the 2012 opener.
Philadelphia overtook Cleveland, 17-16, despite four interceptions by Michael Vick.
Four interceptions is four interceptions, but when you're tossing the ball 56 times in a game, it's likely some of them will go the other way.
A viable question is: Why did Andy Reid call that many passing plays against the Browns, who had the third-worst rush defense the year before?
This, and Reid's general opposition to running the football, baffled many throughout the latter parts of his time in Philadelphia.
With a new coach comes a new philosophy, and Chip Kelly will emphasize balance on offense.
It's almost a lock that Kelly will run the ball more than Reid if his time at Oregon is any indication.
In the past two years combined, Kelly's offense in Eugene has averaged 28.2 passing attempts and 48.8 rushing attempts per game.
If this is any indication of the future in Philadelphia, it's that the Eagles will be more deliberate with the running game.
It makes sense, considering the depth at the position with superstar LeSean McCoy, playmaker Bryce Brown, Felix Jones and intriguing youngster Chris Polk.
And also, it should help matters with an offensive line that's expected to improve and gain health in comparison to last year.
Defense Could Endure Growing Pains
With Kelly's arrival, the offseason's focus has primarily been on how the Eagles offense will fare with a new perspective.
Offense is what intrigues most fans, and Kelly's system is pretty unique, so that's understandable.
But, Philadelphia's defense has undergone a major face-lift, and it could take a bit for it to gain any traction.
Under Kelly and new defensive coordinator Billy Davis, a 3-4 set has replaced the 4-3 setup of years past.
Not only has the system changed, but there's also quite a few new bodies on the defensive side of the ball.
Chung, Cary Williams, Kenny Phillips and Connor Barwin are just a few of the relatively big names who were brought into Philadelphia this offseason.
Seeing what they did for other teams across the NFL, it's clear these are players who can help fortify and stabilize a defense.
Better yet, they could transform a defense that was tied for third-most points allowed per game last year to at least a top-20 squad in that category.
But, that transformation will take time, and the jelling of new players in a new system might take a few weeks into the season.
Thus, growing pains are an expected side effect.
Highlight-Reel Offensive Plays to Become an Expectation
In general terms, Chip Kelly's offensive philosophy is known: Fit as many plays as possible in a given time frame and use quick decision-making by the quarterback to capitalize on weaknesses in the defense.
Whether it's a hint of read-option or running high-percentage routes, this Eagles offense should create a consistently imposing force.
And one thing opposing defenses hate is an offense that runs at an uptempo pace and pushes the ball up the field.
It's Kelly's intention not only to strike quickly on offense but also to wear down the players on the other side of the ball.
Tired defenses then tend to cheat a little bit, and that opens things up for big plays down the field.
Don't be surprised if the Eagles constantly pummel defenses with inside read runs and quick-hit passes in the intermediate to midlevel passing game.
But, more importantly, that sets up threats like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Damaris Johnson with opportunities to bust games open with big plays.
This could become a trend for the Eagles in time; it might take a few games to jell in a new type of system, but it could prove extremely successful.
And if Kelly is able to correctly utilize the speed of Jackson, Maclin and Johnson, that would be phenomenal for the Eagles offense throughout the season.
8-8 Is the Barometer
Despite losing Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on defense and facing challenges of embracing new systems, the Eagles should expect to finish much better than last season.
The Eagles' 4-12 record last year was simply awful, and it was unacceptable looking at the talent on the 2012 team.
Kelly's first year at the helm will obviously have its serious growing pains, but a mark as bad as 4-12 is not in Philadelphia's future.
And while their NFC slate is rough, expect the team to find a groove offensively after the first three or four games of the year.
Regardless, a realistic scenario for this team is hovering just below or at .500.
That might not be what Eagles fans want to hear, and it's possible they do better.
But, it would be quite the feat for Kelly to make the playoffs in his first year at the helm, so that's hard to really expect.
The Eagles have had seven coaches start and complete at least one year as head coach in the last four decades.
Among those seven, only one (Ray Rhodes in 1995) made the playoffs in his first year as head coach in Philadelphia.
History isn't on Kelly's side, and while his arrival is an exciting time, an above-.500 record or better isn't a sensible estimate.