The 2013 season for the Philadelphia Eagles ended in a disappointing manner after a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs. However, with the dust beginning to settle, it’s becoming more clear that the Eagles do, in fact, have a bright future ahead of them.
Heading into this season there were a lot of unknowns:
Would Chip Kelly cut it in the NFL? Could Kelly get out of Mike Vick what no other coach could? If needed, could Nick Foles run Kelly’s offense? Was Bill Davis the right choice to lead the defense? How will the defense perform while undergoing a major scheme change? Will the team buy what Kelly was selling?
For the record, those answers are: Yes, No, Yes, Seemingly, Better than expected, Yes.
In short, this was a good season for the Eagles. They exceeded the expectations of everyone outside of the organization and created some much-needed excitement for the fans (albeit short lived).
They did have a lot of things go their way this year and the stars seemed to align for an improbable playoff run. It’s also true things will be more difficult next year because of it (later pick in the draft, tougher schedule, will have to play with expectations, etc).
However, this team showed something we all can be proud of: heart.
They never quit and always played hard. The only game all season this team didn’t really have a chance to win was against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Every other game was a battle and the team showed good fight.
Now that the sting of the playoff loss is starting to go away, let’s take a look at some other positives we can draw from this season:
1. We may have found our QB of the future in Nick Foles. He’s not a “slam dunk” yet, but he played well enough to earn the starting job next year and alleviate the need for a first round QB in the draft.
2. Chip Kelly is a good coach. Coming from a college program without NFL experience on any level, I’m sure Kelly must have been a tough sell to the players. However, from smoothies to competition to being a coach who communicates well, the players bought in.
It also didn’t hurt that the offense rolled up yards and points from the very beginning.
3. Speaking of the offense…how about this offense?! Imagine what can happen now that Kelly has a full year’s worth of NFL experience to go into his planning for next year. Only killer injuries or a serious regression by Foles can stop this offense.
It’s exciting and capable of putting points on the board in the blink of an eye.
4. Bill Davis is a good coordinator. I wasn’t too sure about his resume coming in, but getting this defense to accomplish what they did was nothing short of magic. He schemed with smoke and mirrors to cover up some serious deficiencies.
Imagine what he’ll be able to concoct when he has more talent to work with?
5. The turnover differential was at a championship quality level. They ended the regular season at +12, which was tied for fourth in the league. Compare that to the -24 and -14 differentials of the previous two seasons.
The Eagles’ defense was opportunistic and made plays. They also did so without much of a pass rush. Imagine what could happen if they can wreak more havoc on quarterbacks?
Oh, and how refreshing is it to not turn the ball over all the time? In 2011 and 2012, the Eagles turned the ball over a total of 75 times…that’s more than twice per game! They turned it over just 19 times this year and I think half of that came when Matt Barkley played (seemed like it anyway).
6. This team is still young for the most part. Foles is 24, McCoy is 25, and Jackson is 27 if you want to look at this team’s “big three.” They also have several young and promising players to build with: Cox, Kendricks, Boykin, Thornton, Logan and Wolff on defense along with Ertz, Kelce, and Johnson of offense.
7. The Eagles now have a team that runs the ball. It’s a refreshing change from most of the past 14 years under Reid. The run/pass ratio this season ended pretty damn close to 50/50, although that’s counting runs by the quarterbacks (some planned, some not).
Even if you remove the QB runs from the equation, it would still be a 55/45 (pass/run) ratio. LeSean McCoy had a career year in leading the NFL in rushing and posted career highs in rushing attempts and yardage.
8. This team rose to the occasion. After a 3-5 start, they went 7-1 down the stretch. They won important games against Arizona and Detroit when they were fighting for the playoffs. They bounced back from a “trap game” and dominated the Bears.
They went into Dallas for a winner-take-all game and won after all the pressure shifted from Dallas to Philly that week. In the playoffs, they held Drew Brees in check, rallied from a 20-7 deficit to take the lead with under five minutes left and took a very good Saints team to the brink.
Those are important confidence builders that this team can feed upon for next year.
9. Still in good shape in regards to the salary cap. I can’t seem to find a definitive number yet, but early estimates are that the Eagles should have somewhere between 15 – 20 million in cap space to work with.
The actual cap number could be altered as the team makes moves once the league year starts. Players will be cut and/or restrutctured to clear up more room. In any case, they will have enough room to be active in free agency.
10. With a few key additions, this team will seriously compete in 2014. My first instincts are that if they add a good safety (Jairus Byrd?), a pass-rushing OLB (1st round pick?), and a big-bodied NT (draft) to what we already have, that should suffice.
There is still a lot of work to do in regards to roster shaping, the defense particularly. They also have some key decisions to make at the WR position (Cooper, Maclin are free agents and Jackson wants “security”).
The team certainly needs more depth at other positions, but for the most part, they have all of their key players under contract for next year and are in good position to supplement the roster as needed.
The biggest thing is that Chip Kelly seems like a great coup for the Eagles’ front office and he has successfully begun to change the culture of this organization.
The Eagles are once again a team on the rise.