Let's talk about personnel. Specifically, how much better is the Eagles' roster now than it was two years ago, when the Howie Roseman/Chip Kelly regime began shaping their depth chart in their own image. Scheme wise, the Eagles seem to be in a much better place than they were in the last days of the Andy Reid/Juan Castillo/Joe Banner era. But as they showed against the Saints in the postseason last year and against the Cowboys, Seahawks and Redskins down the stretch this year, scheme can only take you so far. Neither the offense nor the defense has proven itself capable of matching up with elite units on the opposite side of the ball. Kelly's offense struggled mightily against the three best defenses it faced this season (Arizona, San Fran, Seattle), while Bill Davis' defense was shredded by the best offense it faced (Green Bay).
Let's go position by position and compare the depth chart to where it was when Kelly first inherited the reins.
Then: Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley
Now: Mark Sanchez, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley
Verdict: Same. Quarterback is as close to a zero sum position as there is on a football field. You either have The Guy or you don't have The Guy. Let's not forget that in Foles' last five games before his injury he completed 59 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. In Sanchez' seven starts this season, he has completed 63.75 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Both lack the pocket presence and footwork necessary to be The Guy. In the NFL, if a QB still requires projection after his third year in the league, he isn't The Guy. That's not to say some combination of Foles/Sanchez won't be the Eagles best option for 2015. It probably will be. It's to say that they have no more clarity at the quarterback position now than when the Roseman/Kelly regime came to power.
Then: LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk
Now: LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Chris Polk
Verdict: Slightly better. LeSean McCoy is only 26 years old, but he hasn't looked like the same player since taking that huge hit against in Week 3, and it's worth noting that he suffered a concussion in 2012. Reaction time is a tough thing to judge, but he has looked more like CutOnHalfDollar than CutOnDime this season. That said, the injury to Jason Kelce early in the year did not help him, and Darren Sproles has offset much of his regression. Of course, Sproles will be 32 next year.
Then: Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson
Now: Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper, Brad Smith, Jeff Maehle
Verdict: Same. Frankly, you can make an argument for improvement or regression since 2012. This is the hardest position to judge given the unique nature of Kelly's offense. The Eagles clearly miss DeSean Jackson's defense-stretching ability, but do they miss it more than the numerous flaw that he brought to the table? The development of Jordan Matthews will tell the tale of this position.
Then: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor
Now: Brent Celek, Zach Ertz
Verdict: Marginally better. This was supposed to be Zach Ertz's breakout year, but he eclipsed 50 yards in just three of the Eagles' first 16 games. Kelly's scheme requires solid blocking at the edges, and Ertz has yet to establish himself as a better all-around option than Celek.
Then: Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, Todd Herremans, Danny Watkins, King Dunlap
Now: Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Matt Tobin, David Molk
Verdict: Better, when healthy. The problem for the line this season, obviously, has been the rotating absences of Johnson, Kelce and Herremans. Herremans, who is on IR with a torn biceps, will be 33 next year. The development of Johnson will be one of the most important factors in the future of this unit.
Then: Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Brandon Graham, Phillip Hunt
Now: Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen
Verdict: Better, because of the development of Cox, Curry and Thornton. The Eagles' run defense has probably made the greatest improvement out of any unit on the team over the last couple of years.
Then: DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Akeem Jordan, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews
Now: Connor Barwin, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans*, Brandon Graham, Trent Cole, Emmanuel Acho, Casey Matthews, Marcus Smith
Verdict: To be determined. The addition of Barwin has been a huge boost to the front seven, but Ryans' Achilles injury was a huge blow. It's the second of his career. Both he Cole are succeptible next year, and Graham can become a free agent. Marcus Smith has been a non-factor in year one. Barwin and Kendricks are a much better duo than the Eagles had when Roseman/Kelly first arrived, but the rest of the position is a question mark as we look toward 2015.
Cornerback and Safety
CB Then: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes
CB Now: Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Nolan Carroll
S Then: Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Colt Anderson
S Now: Malcom Jenkins, Nate Allen, Earl Wolf, Chris Maragos
Verdict: Arguably the biggest personnel failing of the last couple of years. Jenkins at least looks like has played the position before, which is better than can be said about his predeccesors. It's scary to think what the unit would look like if it had not added him. The fact is, a team can't have liabilities at three of its four positions and expect to be competent. Allen is having his best season as a pro, but the Eagles need to get better across the board. Aside from Fletcher, none of the defensive backs are individually as bad as they have played as a unit this year. The problem is, none of them provide any of the others any margin for error. A dramatic facelift is in order, but that has been the case in each of the last two offseasons, and the unit's production has only decreased.
So where does all of this leave us? It is important to note that this was always supposed to be a process. The Eagles are still at a stage where they are paying from some of their draft mistakes during the last few years of the Reid regime. As a whole, they are not dramatically more talented than they were when they went 4-12. They are better, particularly in the front seven. But, at the end of the day, their record is a pretty good reflection of who they are. Talent prevails. The Eagles need more.