2012 Record: 4-12
Watching Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie lollygag behind receivers, Nate Allen blow assignments, and Kurt Coleman go for the knockout shoulder block instead of a wrap-up tackle.
Those were the "highlights" of the Eagles' secondary in 2012.
Philadelphia gave up 32 touchdown passes last season, the most in the league.
They also posted a pathetic 8 interceptions, after recording 4 in their opening game vs. Cleveland. In fact, their seventh pick was recorded on October 14. They wouldn't get their eighth until December 23.
Their 30 sacks dropped considerably from the 50 they had in 2011, and curmudgeonly Wide 9 guru Jim Washburn ended up fired in early December. Jason Babin and Trent Cole had a respective 18 and 11 sacks in 2011, but just 5.5 and 3 in 2012.
Between a banged-up Michael Vick making poor decisions behind an injury-laden offensive line, and rookie Nick Foles enduring a trial-by-fire behind that same broken shield, there were bound to be plenty of cough-ups by the Eagles offense.
In addition to the 48 combined sacks that Vick and Foles took, the Eagles turned the ball over 37 times: 15 interceptions, and a horrific 22 lost fumbles. The team fumbled a total of 37 times; 19 of which came from Vick and Foles.
The offensive line was indeed ravaged. Perennial Pro Bowler Jason Peters was lost in the spring with a ruptured Achilles tendon, Jason Kelce went down in Week 2 with a torn ACL, and veteran Todd Herremans broke his foot in November.
2013 Projected Wins: 6.5
Top 3 Rookies
-Lane Johnson, OT (1/4): Mobile pass blocker with quick feet will solidify the right side of the line, moving Herremans to right guard, and displacing 2011 first round bust Danny Watkins.
-Zach Ertz, TE (2/35): Natural slot receiver is prone to making circus catches, and is known to be a complete team player with versatility valued by a Chip Kelly-run offense.
-Bennie Logan, DT (3/67): Has the strength to bully guards and centers, but instinctively relies more on that raw power than acquired counter-punches to try and break blocks.
For the most part, Chip Kelly seemed content with the offensive pieces he already had. There were some complimentary moves, like signing James Casey (to bolster a three-headed tight end attack with Ertz and starter Brent Celek) and drafting Matt Barkley, but he already has the multi-use dust kickers in LeSean McCoy in DeSean Jackson that keep his offenses going.
It was the defense that needed the overhaul, and what an overhaul it is. With Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie gone, corners Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher join the fold, along with possible sleeper seventh round pick Jordan Poyer. The safeties get an upgrade in veterans Patrick Chung, and the injury-prone Kenny Phillips.
Aiding the defensive turnover are breakout linebacker Connor Barwin, who thrived in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense in Houston. Speaking of 3-4, the nose of the Eagles' defensive line looks to be former 49er Isaac Sopoaga.
Potential Starting Lineup
QB - Michael Vick
RB - LeSean McCoy
WR - DeSean Jackson
WR - Jeremy Maclin
TE - Brent Celek
TE - James Casey
LT - Jason Peters
LG - Evan Mathis
C - Jason Kelce
RG - Todd Herremans
RT - Lane Johnson
DE - Cedric Thornton
NT - Isaac Sopoaga
DE - Fletcher Cox
OLB - Connor Barwin
ILB - Mychal Kendricks
ILB - DeMeco Ryans
OLB - Trent Cole
CB - Cary Williams
CB - Bradley Fletcher
FS - Kenny Phillips
SS - Patrick Chung
K - Alex Henery
P - Donnie Jones
LS - Jon Dorenbos
2013 at a Glance
After making the trip from Eugene, OR, Kelly has wasted little time changing the culture of the Eagles.
Players are given prepared protein shakes after practices that test the human capacity for speed and endurance.
Dime-cutting running back LeSean McCoy famously compared the workouts to a "freaking track meet".
Practices also feature Kelly taking on the role of amateur deejay, playing a blend of driving, bass-heavy anthems across the pop and rock spectrum to keep the players energized.
These methods are being put to the test with a team that withered away since the end of the Donovan McNabb/Brian Westbrook/Brian Dawkins era, save for Vick's resurgent 2010.
Andy Reid's stubborn play-calling, a few questionable drafts, and the disorganization on defense (especially with offensive mind Juan Castillo running it for a year and a half) led to the Birds hitting rock bottom.
The biggest question facing the Eagles this season is who their leader will be. Vick's been beleaguered with rib injuries over the past several years, and will be 33 years old on opening day. He's had a couple down seasons, but Kelly's giving him the chance, knowing the line did him no favors last year.
Foles seems to be a prime candidate, doing a solid job behind that same rickety line. At 24 years of age, he fits the Ben Roethlisberger mold of a big, unwavering quarterback, though he lacks Big Ben's elusiveness. Rookie Matt Barkley adds intrigue to the competition, but may be better served doing extensive homework first.
Whoever leads the way, he'll be running a playbook that will likely catch even their best foes off guard. Borrowing the Bill O'Brien concept of many tight ends, coupled with a great running game (McCoy is joined by promising second-year man Bryce Brown and former Cowboy Felix Jones), as well as a strengthened line, gives Kelly the capacity to outwit and outwork opposing defenses.
Speaking of defense, the Eagles find themselves transitioning many new players in, under the eye of linebacker guru Billy Davis. The Eagles will be running the 3-4 with variants (including a 3-3-5 with a linebacker spy), but at this point, anything is an upgrade over the confusion and letdowns of the past 2 seasons.
The Eagles did bring in many new defenders of reputable quality, but the 'Dream Team' year proved one thing: recognizable names don't always a team make.
Living in the Philadelphia market and following the team more than others, it seems as if every day, I hear of a new thing Kelly's trying in practice. Whether it's using offensive players on defense, or vice versa, the new coach is committed to a bold, unique vision.
But will it work? College coaches like Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh have proven in recent years that their new approaches can work, so the precedent is there for Kelly's Eagles to hit the ground running.
If they're all on the same page, there will be strides. Maybe not playoff strides, but strides nonetheless.