The Eagles season came to a close Jan. 4 when a hard-fought playoff battle with the New Orleans Saints ended in a 26-24 loss. As disappointing as the end result turned out to be, the season as a whole should go down as a success.
For starters, the Birds brought the NFC East title back to Philadelphia for the first time since 2010. Head coach Chip Kelly proved to be a more-than-capable rookie, overcoming early season adversity (loss of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and quarterback Michael Vick to injuries) and drawing up innovative offensive game plans, which breakout — and record breaking — quarterback Nick Foles often executed to perfection. The young quarterback finished the season with a 119.2 passer rating, and a 27-2 touchdown-interception ratio. Running back LeSean McCoy won the rushing title and earned Associated Press First Team All Pro honors after dancing his way to 1,607 yards and 11 touchdowns. DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper formed one of the more formidable and certainly consistent wide receiver duos in the league, while the tight end combination of Brent Celek and rookie Zack Ertz delivered 10 touchdowns.
But the unsung heroes of the offense (and probably the entire team) were the offensive linemen, led by another AP First Team All Pro, left tackle Jason Peters. The fearsome five up front opened up huge lanes for McCoy and gave Foles time to make his progressions. Probably most impressively, the unit that averages a little over 310 pounds per lineman proved quite nimble in getting upfield, an important attribute required in Kelly’s fast-paced offense.
The Eagles defense, led by new defensive coordinator Billy Davis, was equally as impressive. The group improved from 27.8 points allowed per game in 2012 to 23.8 this season. Second-year linebacker Mychal Kendricks blossomed into a legitimate star, putting up 106 total tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles and three interceptions. Fletcher Cox, who was a force on the defensive line, also performed well. New additions Connor Barwin and Cary Williams were also vital to the team’s success.
But the ever-passionate Eagles fans will not be satisfied until the ultimate goal of a Super Bowl victory is reached. The front office will have to make some key decisions this offseason to get closer to the Lombardi Trophy. Rumors are already swirling that longtime defensive end Trent Cole’s and even Williams’ days in green are numbered, since both are due significant bonuses in the future. Cooper’s and Maclin’s contracts expire in March and losing both would be a substantial blow to the receiving corps.
General manager Howie Roseman must also maneuver through free agency strategically because as it stands now Foles and Kendricks are in line for significant extensions. As a result, look for the Eagles to add players mainly through the draft. Primary needs (depending on their willingness to retain expiring contracts within) include a wide receiver, players in the secondary and a kicker to possibly replace Alex Henery, who missed a key field goal in the playoff loss to New Orleans. It should be another interesting offseason as the Eagles try to lessen the distance between themselves and a ring.