5 Philadelphia Eagles Poised for a Breakout Campaign in 2014
The entire Philadelphia Eagles team had a breakout year in 2013. That's hardly an exaggeration.
After winning just four games in their final year under Andy Reid, Chip Kelly led the team to 10 wins and an improbable NFC East title in 2013. Nick Foles went from a mediocre rookie quarterback who couldn't win the job in training camp to one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League by the end of the season.
LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson enjoyed career years. The entire offensive line played in every game, while the defense played much better than expected.
Heading into 2014, the Eagles are expected to repeat their success from 2013. They are the clear-cut division favorites, although it won't be easy. On paper, the Giants and Redskins are significantly improved.
For the Eagles to win the division again, they're going to need some players to step up and have breakout years. The following five players are my predicted players to enjoy breakout seasons.
Zach Ertz, Tight End
it couldn't be more obvious that Zach Ertz is poised for a breakout season in 2014.
As a rookie, Ertz hauled in 36 passes for 469 yards and four scores. But he played much better in the second half of the season after a slow start. He scored all four touchdowns in the season's final eight games, including two in a win against the Arizona Cardinals.
He also scored a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in the playoff game.
Even with the Eagles featuring a run-heavy offense, Ertz should be one of the top pass-catchers on the squad. He could be as high as No. 1, but he's more likely to rank fourth or fifth behind any combination of LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews.
Expect the Eagles to boast one of the top tight end duos in the entire league in 2014, with Ertz leading the way.
Jason Kelce, Center
That doesn't mean he's immune to a breakout season. My expectations are through the roof for Kelce's career. I think he takes another big jump forward in 2014, like he did in 2013. Expect the 26-year-old to earn his first Pro Bowl selection, possibly even his first All-Pro bid.
Blocking for Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy on one of the league's most dynamic offenses should make Kelce a household name.
Bennie Logan, Nose Tackle
The first defensive player drafted in the Chip Kelly era, Bennie Logan had a solid yet unspectacular rookie season. He played well enough to convince the Eagles to trade away veteran Isaac Sopoaga to the New England Patriots in the middle of the season, which cemented the third-round pick as the starting nose tackle.
But the lasting image of Logan's rookie season may be when the undersized nose tackle was physically manhandled by the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card playoff loss.
Logan has spent the offseason working out, though, and he now weighs 315 pounds, according to the Eagles Insider Twitter account.
He's entrenched as the starting nose tackle for 2014 and beyond. Expect big things out of the second-year player this year.
Brandon Boykin, Cornerback
How can I pick Brandon Boykin to emerge as the breakout player for the 2014 Eagles when he was probably the best defensive player on the team in 2013?
Easy. He wasn't a starter in 2013, playing in just 51 percent of defensive snaps. And he still managed to rank second in the NFL in interceptions (six), including two in the final minute to clinch a victory. His final pick won the division against the Dallas Cowboys in the season finale. His tremendous work in coverage earned him the top grade in the NFL among all corners, per Pro Football Focus.
He also recorded 42 tackles in 44 attempts, good for the fourth-best rate among 110 cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
Boykin is good enough that I expect him to earn a starting job in training camp, likely over Bradley Fletcher. The Eagles need to find a way to get their top defensive back on the field for more than half of the snaps. He's way better than both Cary Williams and Fletcher, but the former is making too much money to play nickel corner.
If Boykin can collect six interceptions for the second year in a row, he's going to hear the Pro Bowl calling his name.
Malcolm Jenkins, Safety
Malcolm Jenkins surrendered a 103.3 passer rating in 2013. He also missed 16 tackles. No other safety in the National Football League missed more tackles with a worse passer rating allowed, per Pro Football Focus.
Jenkins may not have been a bust in New Orleans, but the team didn't make any attempt to sign the former first-round pick when he entered free agency following the 2013 season.
The Eagles quickly swooped him up, and they've talked him up enough during the offseason that you'd think they landed Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward. Although I was initially very doubtful of the signing, I'm starting to have some hope in Jenkins.
In fact, I think he'll be one of the breakout players on the defensive side of the ball in 2014.
Jenkins is exactly Billy Davis' type of player. A converted cornerback, he could line up anywhere in the defensive backfield. His coverage skills, although not spectacular, are solid. He's not going to become a Pro Bowl player, but he's not as bad as the numbers at Pro Football Focus would have you believe.
Jenkins' ability to play corner could be huge, too. Remember in the playoffs when Roc Carmichael, the Eagles' fourth corner, was thrust into action for one play and promptly allowed a first down on a 3rd-and-12 pass? Hopefully that wouldn't happen with a player like Jenkins, who could move to his old position if the Eagles suffered injuries to reserves like Nolan Carroll and Jaylen Watkins.