Following a second-half surge that saw the Philadelphia Eagles capture seven wins in their final eight contests, it's logical to wonder whether this franchise is poised to become a perennial contender in its division.
All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy wasn't shy in his opinion. Via CNBC (h/t CSNPhilly.com), McCoy said he expects the Eagles to win "a couple of Super Bowls" in the next five years. Most Eagles fans would take that in the blink of an eye, considering this franchise hasn't taken home an NFL title since 1960.
So is McCoy overhyping this team? Are the Eagles primed to be perennial contenders? Will they dominate their division much like the Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid Birds, only this time with a couple of rings to their name?
Obviously, only time will tell if McCoy's prognostication is accurate. But this current roster will return nearly intact in 2014, and Chip Kelly has the Eagles in line to be a perennial playoff team.
What Kelly did in his first season probably hasn't quite gotten the recognition it deserves. Kelly took a depleted 4-12 roster, brought aboard an entirely new coaching staff, implemented a 3-4 defense and added a fitness regimen that gained national attention.
The Eagles started with a resounding 33-27 win over the defending division champion Washington Redskins on prime-time football. After that, Philly lost five of its next seven, including an embarrassing home losing streak that just wouldn't go away.
Then Kelly made the coaching move of his NFL career so far. He benched veteran quarterback Michael Vick and handed the reins to second-year backup Nick Foles, a player who didn't seem to fit the mold of a traditional Kelly offense. All Foles did was etch his name into the NFL record book against Oakland and run Kelly's offense so efficiently that he now owns the single-season record for touchdown-to-interception ratio (27-2).
The offensive line put forth the same five starters for every contest in 2013, and all are under contract for next season. The defense could use a playmaking safety or stud edge-rusher, but this is a unit that exceeded expectations week in and week out under Davis. The reality was a long winning streak in November and December that culminated with a division-clinching win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17.
Kelly and Co. hosted a playoff game against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, failing by the slimmest of margins. A legitimate argument could be made that Kelly was outcoached in this one, although a rookie coach losing a postseason game to a Hall of Fame-bound QB is no crime.
The best news for Eagles fans, though, is that the division doesn't look to be strong in 2014.
The Cowboys—the NFL's new national symbol for mediocrity—thrilled Eagles fans everywhere by retaining head coach Jason Garrett. The New York Giants have an aging QB/coach combo, an offensive line that could use a handful of first-round upgrades and a defense that finished tied for 25th in sacks a year ago.
And the Washington Redskins may or may not have themselves a franchise QB in Robert Griffin III, but what became glaringly obvious a year ago was that this defense is absolutely in shambles.
That's not to say the Eagles don't even have to show up to win the division in '14. This is the NFL, and anything could happen, as fans of the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons know. But Philly should be easy favorites to win the division come next season.
It's virtually impossible to expect Foles to duplicate his magical '13 campaign. Then again, nearly every quarterback Kelly coaches turns to gold. A top-tier offensive line returns, as does a slew of weapons that will cause opposing defensive coordinators nightmares.
Predicting a Super Bowl title—or two—as McCoy did is never the wisest decision. It puts a target on the backs of the whole team. We all remember the "Dream Team" debacle of 2011.
But really, who else in the division would the target be on? The Eagles should be heavy favorites to repeat as division champions.
They won't likely go out and sign a whole bunch of big-name free agents. General manager Howie Roseman doesn't do that. This roster was built through the tweaking and fine-tuning of a bunch of Reid's players and thrifty offseason acquisitions.
Kelly will definitely have to worry about teams catching up to his offense. Then again, how do you just catch up to a team that led the NFL in rushing and rarely turned the ball over at all?
The biggest test in 2014 will be what the Eagles do in the postseason. A 12-4 record and first-round loss won't do much for Kelly's reputation as an offensive innovator. He's going to have to follow up '13 with another strong coaching performance and a deep playoff run
That's a big challenge. But Kelly lives and breathes football. Few coaches will work harder. The pressure of the NFL didn't seem to bother Kelly last year, and he has a team good enough to be even better next season.
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