Early Stat Projections for Philadelphia Eagles' Top Impact Players
Following the NFL draft in one week, Philadelphia Eagles fans will get a much clearer version of the 2014 team. Chip Kelly made one of the more shocking moves this offseason, releasing three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, DeSean Jackson, no less after a career season.
With just Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper on the roster, the Eagles will assuredly use one of their early draft picks on this position. General manager Howie Roseman should also be looking to target the best defensive players available, seeing as the team really could use an upgrade at almost every spot on that side of the ball.
While it's too early to get an accurate read as to what the Eagles will do in Year 2 under Kelly, the addition of Darren Sproles suggests more underneath routes to supplant the loss of Jackson. The emergence of second-year tight end Zach Ertz and the return of a top-caliber offensive line suggests another high-scoring campaign for the Birds.
Because the defense could still seemingly undergo some serious changes, here are some predictions for the top players on offense.
It's safe to say no Philadelphia Eagles fan thought Nick Foles was capable of the historic season he put up in 2013. Despite not starting regularly until Week 9, Foles cemented his place in NFL lore.
He threw 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He finished with the third-best single-season passer rating (119.2) in league history. He led the league in yards per attempt (9.1). And he set the all-time record for adjusted net yards per attempt (10.54).
Foles will have to duplicate his success to show he’s the long-term answer, especially considering he came out of nowhere to put up the production he did. But several factors suggest he should be a top-notch quarterback again.
Chip Kelly has had success with every quarterback he’s ever touched. Foles has an elite offensive line, an All-Pro running back and two good receivers, one who has an uncanny chemistry with him. Foles won’t be able to throw such a low number of interceptions, considering what he did is nearly statistically impossible.
Expect Foles to follow up his 2013 campaign with another great season, though, one that should earn him a multi-year extension.
Projected 2014 Stats: 343 completions in 542 attempts (63.2 percent), 4,263 yards (7.5 YPA), 29 TDs, 12 INTs, 94.7 passer rating
Running backs in this league have a short shelf life, and he’s entering his sixth NFL season. Still, McCoy is just 25 years old, and he’s in the ideal system for his abilities.
Last year, McCoy put up career-best numbers: 1,607 rushing yards and 2,146 yards from scrimmage. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry, started all 16 games and earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. It’s notoriously difficult to follow up such a season, but McCoy is that talented that he should come close.
As a receiver out of the backfield, McCoy caught 52 passes for 539 yards and two touchdowns. He won’t see quite the same impact as a receiver because of Darren Sproles, although the loss of DeSean Jackson may even that out.
Projected 2014 Stats: 294 carries, 1,442 yards, 4.9 YPC, 10 rushing TDs, 48 receptions, 425 yards, 2 passing TDs; 342 touches, 1,867 total yards, 12 total TDs
As a runner, Darren Sproles shouldn't see too big of a role. He carried the ball just 53 times in 2013, and that number will assuredly be less this coming season given the abilities of LeSean McCoy as a ball-carrier.
What Sproles will be used for is a receiver out of the backfield and even a player who lines up exclusively in the slot. Sproles caught four passes in the NFC Wild Card win over the Philadelphia Eagles; all four came from the slot. Last year, he caught 71 passes for 604 yards and two touchdowns, and he’s caught at least 70 passes in three straight seasons.
Whether Sproles is used as a return man remains to be seen. The Eagles don’t have a dynamic returner with DeSean Jackson now gone, and drafting a player like De’Anthony Thomas would be idealistic given Sproles’ decline in this category last season.
Projected 2014 Stats: 44 carries, 178 yards, 4.0 YPC, 1 TD, 56 receptions, 603 yards, 4 TDs; 100 touches, 781 yards, 5 TDs
Chip Kelly must have a lot of confidence in Jeremy Maclin, because he’s now being forced into the No. 1 receiver role given the release of DeSean Jackson.
Since being drafted in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft, Maclin has perennially underachieved, but he’s still managed to be productive. Maclin has averaged 55 catches for 850 yards and six touchdowns in the seasons in which he’s played.
Kelly’s offense brought out career seasons in Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, Jackson and Riley Cooper. There’s no reason to think he can’t do that with Maclin, even with Maclin rehabbing from last season’s torn ACL injury.
Projected 2014 Stats: 72 receptions, 1,112 yards, 15.4 YPC, 7 TDs
Following an interesting 2013 season that saw Riley Cooper go from public enemy No. 1 to a $25 million receiver, he will need to match his production to his contract in ’14.
Cooper doesn’t have Jackson opposite him to attract defensive backs, so he will need to rely more on his physicality to overwhelm cornerbacks and come down with contested catches. Cooper’s numbers from 2013 are actually fairly repeatable, especially factoring in that Foles didn’t take over as the full-time starter until midseason.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Foles has a 141.7 passer rating when throwing passes to Cooper. He finished with eight touchdowns, although five of those did come in a two-game span in Weeks 9 and 10.
If Cooper can repeat his numbers and block well for the running backs, Philadelphia Eagles fans should be happy.
Projected 2014 Stats: 47 receptions, 623 yards, 13.3 YPC, 5 TDs
Zach Ertz/Brent Celek
Look for Zach Ertz’s production to improve in 2014; he played much better in the second half of his rookie season, and he will get more looks with Jackson in Washington.
Ertz totaled 36 receptions for 469 yards and four touchdowns as a first-year player, which ranked him 22nd among tight ends. By next season, he should be pushing top-12 numbers, which would put him in the class of Jared Cook (671 yards) or Scott Chandler (655 yards).
Brent Celek will continue to see his role as a receiving tight end diminish; he went from 57 receptions in 2012 to just 32 last year, although his touchdown total inexplicably rose from one to six. Celek is a valuable veteran presence who still blocks well and gains yards after the catch, and he will be a productive second tight end in the offense.
Projected 2014 Stats (Ertz): 55 receptions, 637 yards, 11.6 YPC 6 TDs
Projected 2014 Stats (Celek): 35 receptions, 397 yards, 11.3 YPC 2 TDs
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