Heartbroken to see favorite Eagles go, but hopeful about newcomers
Chip Kelly's gotten rid of some great players, but here's hoping that the newest Eagles will prove to be just as exciting.
OH MY, my head is spinning. It's almost impossible to keep up with Chip Kelly and his wheeling and dealing. Apparently, he is moving as fast as the Eagles' general manager as his offense does on the field. Though it's almost too hard to keep up with, it certainly is exciting.
Think about this, in a 10-day span, the Eagles' No. 1 running back was LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews, and then, finally, DeMarco Murray. Even with McCoy and Gore not on the team, the Eagles have four quality running backs, but still no deep-threat wide receiver.
But is there a need to worry? Not yet, in my opinion. Wednesday was quarterback day, Thursday was running back day, and there's every reason to hope that wide receiver day will be Monday or Tuesday (and if not then, soon enough on draft day).
How do I feel about this? Well, in some ways, my heart aches. I, like most fans, hate to see our favorite players go. My favorite Eagles team of all time was the team of the Buddy Ryan days. We had a dynamic and suffocating defense and an electrifying offense - defensive linemen Reggie White, Jerome Brown and Clyde Simmons were sacking quarterbacks, safeties Wes Hopkins and Andre Waters were crushing wide receivers, and, best of all, "Rockin' " Randall Cunningham was jumping high in the air over tacklers or throwing the ball 80 yards down the field, which was just breathtaking.
My second favorite, however, was our recent Eagles squad, which fielded four spectacular skill players - quarterback Michael Vick, wide receiver DeSean Jackson, McCoy and wideout Jeremy Maclin. I will never forget the 2010 romp at Washington, the incredible comeback victory over the Giants at the Meadowlands that same season or 2013's first-half debut of Kelly's offense against the Redskins. Boy, was it fun to watch! And now, they're all gone, never to return.
It is sad and, in a way, reflects the modern-day reality of sports. But it doesn't lessen the pain. I will miss them all, but particularly LeSean's personality and great smile. These days, it's hard to be a fan.
On the other hand, my goal, as with all of you, is to see the Birds hoist the Lombardi Trophy before I depart this earth. And I think we did indeed just get a little closer to that goal. I'm sure that all of us, at some point during these last 10 days, thought that Kelly had either turned into another Sam Hinkie, or had just totally lost his mind. But let's assess where we are.
First, there can be no controversy over the fact that our defense is much better. Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond, as the two starting cornerbacks, are a marked improvement over Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. The linebacker core of Brandon Graham, Mychal Kendricks, Connor Barwin, a (hopefully) healthy DeMeco Ryans and a potential All-Pro in Kiko Alonso is far superior in skill and depth than what we had last season. Is this defense elite? No it isn't, but it can certainly be very good and capable of playing for a Super Bowl.
I believe the offense is better as well, although that is not quite as clear, and it is still a work in progress. The Eagles' running backs are deeper and provide a wide range of skills, some of which were absent last season. Sure Shady was great, but having Murray, Mathews, Sproles and Polk gives us incredible depth and an incredible skill set. Some people worry that Murray was a 1-year wonder with last seasons' incredible performance, but let the record show that he also gained 1,121 yards in 2013 and his yards per attempt was actually higher than in 2014 (5.2 compared with 4.7). In fact, his career average is 4.8 yards per carry - pretty darn good! Murray also scored 22 rushing touchdowns in the last 2 years. Mathews was injured last year, but in 2013, he rushed for 1,255 yards and averaged 4.4 yards per carry. Also, consider that for McCoy's salary, Kelly added Alonso, Murray and Mathews. That is a great deal.
On quarterbacks, I believe that Sam Bradford has the potential to be very good in Kelly's offense. In his last full year with a bad team (2012), he threw for 3,072 yards, 21 TDs with 13 interceptions. His passer rating was 82.6 that year, and in 2013 though he played only seven games because of injury, he had a rating of 90.9.
However, significant questions remain about the offense: 1) Who will be the No. 1 receiver, and 2) can the Eagles get additional offensive linemen to give them the depth they need. I believe they can use the draft to try to fill the hole Maclin's departure left. Out of the projected top-10 receivers in this year's draft, I believe at least six will still be on the board at when the Eagles draft at No. 20. Among them are some who fit Kelly's ideal combination of size and speed, including Michigan's Devin Funchess (6-5, 230 pounds), Florida State's Rashad Greene (6-0, 180), Auburn's Sammie Coates (6-2, 201), and USC's Nelson Agholor (6-1 190).
Even if the Eagles were to use their first pick on a safety or offensive linemen, some good wide receivers will be available in the second round, including Stanford's Ty Montgomery (6-2, 230) and two burners - Miami's Phillip Dorsett and Kansas State's Tyler Lockett (both a little undersized but so was Jackson).
I know some of you wonder whether we can depend on a rookie to fill that hole. If last season is any indication the answer is, yes we can. Think of how impactful Odell Beckham Jr. was with the Giants, Sammy Watkins with the Bills, and Kelvin Benjamin with the Panthers - all rookies!
I wrote this article yesterday afternoon, but by the time you read it, Kelly might have made more moves. He might have traded guard Evan Mathis or added an offensive lineman or even signed a safety. Who knows?
But there is one thing you can say about Chip Kelly - he is fearless! The Eagles are now truly the "Chip Ship," and if they succeed, he will be hailed as a guru. If they fail, he might be run out of town and back to college by a very large angry mob.
Though Kelly is clearly "all-in," with all of these erratic and unpredictable moves, I'm not sure we can trust in Chip just yet. All we can hope for is that he is more mad scientist than, well, just plain mad.
On Twitter: @GovEdRendell