Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Biggest Surprises of 2013 Season
It’s bye week in Philadelphia, which means it’s as good of a time as ever to discuss what has gone right and what has gone wrong in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Eagles have been on a hot streak, winning their past three to catapult the team to a 6-5 record. Philly is getting elite play from quarterback Nick Foles, but he’s not the only one who has elevated to a top level in 2013.
The Chip Kelly signing is looking better than it did a month ago. Philadelphia is a serious contender for the NFC East. And the defense is playing significantly better, meaning the playoffs are looking like a real possibility. If the Eagles do sneak into the postseason, credit the following five players/coaches for their surprising contributions.
Even the biggest Foles supporters couldn’t possibly have imagined he would put together this kind of a campaign.
Foles has been remarkable. He’s sitting at 18 touchdowns, zero interceptions and he’s 5-1 in games in which he’s seen significant action. He leads the NFL in many major statistics, including yards per attempt (9.59) and passer rating (128.0), the latter of which would be a single-season league record.
Foles is even running the Kelly offense like a pro. He’s quietly been a threat to run with the football, as evidenced by his 123 rushing yards and two scores. Most impressively, it’s looking as if Foles may be the answer for the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback situation in 2014.
Kelly is doing what Andy Reid was never able to do: get the absolute maximum production out of DeSean Jackson.
Jackson has always been a playmaker. He’s been to two Pro Bowls and scored 17 touchdowns in his career of at least 50 yards. But this year, he is showing what Jackson can really do when he’s featured in an offense.
Jackson is on pace for an 84/1,433/10 stat line, all of which would be career highs. Jackson is still the deep threat he was in his prime in 2009 and 2010, and he’s catching more balls than ever before, even with Jeremy Maclin injured.
Not even Coach Kelly could have possibly envisioned what Riley Cooper is doing. After the preseason hoopla and the eight catches Cooper had in his first five games, a case could have been made for Cooper as the worst starting receiver in the NFL.
Since then, Cooper has blossomed. His rapport with Foles is clearly evident, as the pair is among the most efficient QB-WR duos in the league.
Cooper is second in the NFL at 19.1 yards per reception. He’s already at nearly 600 yards and seven touchdowns, with a good chance to finish with 1,000 yards and double-digit scores.
Considering both Cooper and Maclin are free agents this offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles will have a major decision to make as to whether they re-sign both, one or none. With the way Cooper is playing, it will be difficult for the Eagles to let him walk, especially if Foles is the QB next season.
Cedric Thornton is quietly emerging as one of the finer 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL. He’s thriving as a 5-technique end, where he’s played well both against the run and the pass.
Thornton actually rates as the third-best 3-4 end against the run, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). The only two players with a higher rating are J.J. Watt and Sheldon Richardson. Thornton, Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan give the Philadelphia Eagles the makings of what could be a top-notch defensive line in the future
There wasn’t much on Billy Davis’ resume to suggest that he would perform well as the defensive coordinator in 2013.
But he’s really thrived after a rough start. The Philadelphia Eagles have allowed 21 or fewer points for each of the past seven weeks.
Cox and Thornton are playing terrific football as 3-4 ends. DeMeco Ryans is having a Pro Bowl season as the quarterback of the defense. And the secondary is playing significantly better than expected, given the upgrades needed at both the corner and safety positions.
If the Eagles make the playoffs, Foles will get much of the glory, and deservedly so, but Davis will have done a superb job.