Setting Expectations for Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles Offense in 2014

Bryn SwartzSenior Writer IIIJanuary 21, 2014

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass to wide receiver Riley Cooper during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

It's going to be pretty hard for the Philadelphia Eagles to top what they did offensively during the 2013 season. Despite some midseason struggles and a quarterback change, the Eagles broke their franchise single-season record for points scored with 442 points, the fourth-best total in the National Football League. 

Nick Foles took over as starter in Week 5 when Michael Vick suffered a hamstring injury and finished the season with a ridiculous 27 touchdowns against just two interceptions. His 119.2 passer rating is the third-highest single-season total in NFL history. 

LeSean McCoy broke the franchise single-season record with 1,607 rushing yards, while scoring 11 touchdowns and adding 52 catches for 539 yards.

At receiver, DeSean Jackson turned in a career year, catching 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. On the opposite side of the field, Riley Cooper turned in a surprising year filling in for an injured Jeremy Maclin. Cooper's 835 receiving yards and eight touchdowns are more than his previous three-year totals combined. 

Tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz emerged as a top-10 one-two combo in the NFL, and the entire offensive line, from Jason Peters to Evan Mathis to Jason Kelce to Todd Herremans to Lane Johnson, played extremely well.

Peters and Mathis earned Pro Bowl selections, with Mathis earning Pro Football Focus' first-ever Bruce Matthews Award as the best offensive lineman in the NFL. Kelce rated as the top center in the NFL, and Johnson showed significant improvement over the second half of the season.

So what happens now? What can the Eagles do for an encore in 2014? Is it even realistic to expect the offense to continue to improve?

Yes. It definitely is. Absolutely.

Consider the current state of the offense. Foles showed tremendous improvement from year one into year two. Is he going to post a 119.2 passer rating in his third season? Probably not. Is he going to show improvement regarding some of his weaknesses as a quarterback (holding on to the football too long, taking too many sacks)? I would expect yes. 

LeSean McCoy is just 25 years old and coming off a career year. It's probably not practical to expect quite as dominant of a statistical season in 2014. After all, McCoy carried over 300 times and caught more than 50 passes. Kelly would be wise to feature more of a two-back system in 2014, with either Bryce Brown, Chris Polk or a rookie taking some carries from McCoy. 

The Eagles should be fine at wide receiver. Re-signing Jeremy Maclin should be a necessity. Even though the former first-round draft pick missed all of 2013 with a torn ACL and has never had a 1,000-yard season, he's a vital part of the Eagles offense. Riley Cooper, also a free agent who should be re-signed because of his impressive connection with Foles, would be much better suited as a No. 3 receiver behind Jackson and Maclin. 

The big question is who the Eagles use as their slot receiver.

Maclin makes perfect sense. Jackson and Cooper are both clearly outside receivers. The Foles-to-Cooper connection was just incredible this season, boasting an otherworldly 137.0 passer rating (40-of-63 for 741 yards, 8 TDs, 1 INT). The Eagles need to keep Cooper on the field as much as possible. Maclin is the guy who could likely succeed in the slot. He's much faster than Jason Avant. He's also a threat after the catch. 

Ertz is the player who should have a breakout season in 2014. The rookie caught 36 passes for 469 yards and four touchdowns this year. He also really came on late in the season, specifically against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13, where his two touchdown receptions earned him Offensive Rookie of the Week honors. Expect him to enter the season as the starter.

Veteran Brent Celek will likely experience declining production from 2013, but he should still catch 30 passes and a couple of touchdowns. 

On the offensive line, the big concern is the three players over the age of 30: Jason Peters, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans. Of the three, only Herremans has shown signs of slowing down. Early in the 2013 season, it looked like he might lose his starting job but he rebounded with a solid second half of the year. 

Peters is 31 and still one of the top tackles in the NFL, despite twice tearing his Achilles tendon last offseason. Expect him to turn in another Pro Bowl bid. Mathis is 32, but he doesn't have a lot of mileage, not earning a consistent full-time starting job until he joined the Eagles in 2011. He's been absolutely dominant over the last three seasons. He's as consistent and reliable as any offensive lineman in the game. 

Kelce is a player to watch. He played very well this year despite tearing his ACL the previous season. He's a borderline Pro Bowl player who might emerge as the most important player on the offensive line in 2014. 

Lane Johnson is another player who could be special. Kelly's first-ever draft pick struggled during the first half of the season but played very well in the final eight games. He's a future left tackle who has a chance to earn a Pro Bowl bid as early as 2015. 

Judging by position, there's no glaring weakness on the 2014 Eagles. There's really not. Wide receiver and the offensive line could probably use a little bit more depth, but that's what the draft and free agency are for. 

The big question for the Eagles is how injuries will impact the team. The Eagles couldn't have gotten luckier in 2013. Only Maclin missed any time. Vick's injury was a blessing in disguise. 

That's not going to happen in 2014. It probably won't be as bad as 2012, when Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans all missed significant time with injuries. 

Injuries will affect the Eagles, and when they do, it'll be interesting to see how well Kelly succeeds with depth players. 

Regardless, the Eagles should be one of the top offensive teams in the NFL as long as they have major impact players like Foles, McCoy, Jackson and, of course, Chip Kelly.