The Eagles' great unknowns
Chip Kelly has shown daring in his offseason moves, but it remains to be seen whether they work or blow up in his face.
ESCAPE THE confusing dissonance that now envelops the Eagles and recognize this reality:
Any evaluation of the 2015 version cannot be attempted until at least the end of training camp. The team has too many unknowns . . . and too few players.
So much noise surrounds the franchise. Did Jeffrey Lurie or Chip Kelly demote Howie Roseman? Is it stable? Racist?
This unharmonious symphony is the work of one man, Chip Kelly, who apparently loves blue-chip players who are better known for their injuries than for their accomplishments.
Considering the holes that remain on the roster, Kelly either sees brilliance in the back end of his roster or he expects this to be the best draft since 1983.
He composed this glorious mess in his quest to mold an organization to his exact specifications:
He wants a specific sort of running back (one-cut), a specific sort of quarterback (big and strong-armed), a specific sort of general manager (not Roseman).
For these desires, he cannot be blamed. Life is too short. A man should seek what he wants, if he can, and Kelly could. After all, when he met with Eagles owner Lurie in January and overthrew Roseman, Kelly held more negotiating power than any football coach alive.
Jim Harbaugh was the only one close, and Kelly lacked Harbaugh's personality baggage. Even if Kelly did not explicitly threaten it to Lurie, Kelly could walk away from millions of dollars in Philadelphia confident that, given his sharp mind, innovative methods and quick tongue, he quickly would recoup those millions.
So, kudos to Kelly for his daring. He put himself in position for the rarest of quinellas: coach of the year and executive of the year.
If the Eagles win a playoff game next season, Kelly's overhaul and his sexy system will make him even more popular.
Then again, if things don't improve past 10-6 by the end of 2016, Kelly will be fired.
Try to get better than even money on either of those two outcomes.
Projected starting quarterback Sam Bradford must learn a totally foreign offense. He must acquaint himself with what has to be considered a below-average receiving corps. He must do this without the benefit of a fully incorporated offseason, since he is recovering from a second left knee injury in as many years.
Bradford's injury issues are only slightly better known than those of new featured running back DeMarco Murray, but that's only because Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick in 2010. Murray went 71st a year later, but has since suffered knee, foot, ankle and hand injuries, and appears to have sensitive hamstrings.
Looks like a job for sports science.
Murray, too, will have to learn the offense. So will new runner Ryan Mathews.
Really, Kelly's tale will be told as much by how well the players play whom he did not want.
In the past two seasons, Kelly dismissed three of the top 10 non-quarterback offensive weapons in team history in their prime. That might be hard to digest, but slice it any way you like. Given the disparate eras, Mike Quick, Harold Carmichael, Pete Retzlaff, Pete Pihos and Tommy McDonald might have been better receivers than Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, and you might take running back Steve Van Buren over LeSean McCoy. That's still only nine players.
Through one lens, Kelly traded the best running back in team history; cut the most explosive receiver in team history; and failed to re-sign one of its more complete receivers. Each of them might wind up in two or three more Pro Bowls.
Cap space, and Kiko Alonso.
As it stands, Alonso, acquired from Buffalo for McCoy, is the insurance policy against inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans' return from a right Achilles' tendon rupture suffered in November. It is Ryans' second rupture. When he ruptured his left Achilles', it was well over a year before he returned to form.
Some insurance policy.
Alonso is recovering from a devastating knee injury suffered last summer. Players usually need a year to recover . . . and another 6 months to a year to return to form.
That means the Eagles have no guaranteed starter next to Mychal Kendricks at inside linebacker.
They have no sure starter opposite overpaid free-agent cornerback Byron Maxwell, the fourth Beatle in Seattle's superstar secondary who commanded $25 million in guaranteed money.
Nor do they have a second safety to play with Malcolm Jenkins.
Nor do they have a No. 1 receiver.
Nor do they have a sure answer at right guard after cutting Todd Herremans. Allen Barbre, the most likely candidate, missed 15 games last year with an ankle injury and has never started at guard in the NFL.
Nor do they have any real depth at linebacker, or cornerback, or safety.
At least Kelly has not overcommitted.
Bradford is in the final year of his deal. The 2-year, $9 million re-sign of backup Mark Sanchez is sensible, since he can be cut with minimal pain next year. Murray's deal is absorbable after two seasons. So is Maxwell's, and that of outside linebacker Brandon Graham, who also re-signed.
Clearly, what the Eagles have is enviable flexibility.
Just as clearly, they lack players.
On Twitter: @inkstainedretch