A new head coach? Check.
Complete overhaul of the staff and personnel? You bet.
Brand new changes in scheme and and philosophy? Damn right.
Super Bowl contender? Not exactly. Then again, there is no team quite like the Philadelphia Eagles.
Theoretically, there is no conceivable way that the Eagles could resemble anything like a playoff-caliber team. "Earning" the No. 4 overall draft pick is not exactly a way to get the fanbase pumped full of confidence. The best that both the Eagles and their fans can hope for is a glimmer of optimism. The Eagles' brass have done all they could to shake up the organization, which seemed to have gotten stale. Without further ado, here are six bold predictions for the Philadelphia Eagles season.
1. The Eagles' leading receiver in yardage will be a tight end: The Eagles boast two very good wide receivers: The electrifying Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Jackson can top 100 yards receiving in a minimum of three catches, and Maclin has been money in the redzone with 15 career redzone touchdowns. With that said, coach Kelly clearly has plans to play the mismatches an athletic tight end can bring to the table. The Eagles signed James Casey, a former tight end for the Houston Texans, and drafted Zach Ertz, a former Stanford tight end, in the second round of the NFL draft. Casey is a versatile player and is also capable of playing H-back, while Ertz was considered one of the top-rated tight ends in the draft. Kelly is an equal opportunity scorer and will play no favorites, giving a tight end the opportunity to stand out (literally) and deliver on offense.
2. Lesean McCoy runs for over 1,000 yards...and so does Bryce Brown: McCoy is the lead back, and will get the lion's share of carries. No argument there. However, there is quality depth playing behind McCoy, and his name is Bryce Brown. Brown exploded for 178 rushing yards on 19 carries in a game against the Carolina Panthers last season, proving his worth while filling in for an injured McCoy. Coach Kelly emphasizes running a very up-tempo offense, and his play-calling could push upwards of 70-80 offensive plays per game. Brown is a good change of pace running back, and can spell McCoy for 10-15 touches. Additionally, Eagles fans have been begging for a more balanced approach to the run and pass. Kelly will revitalize running the football in Philly, much to the relief of Eagles fans tired of watching their quarterback bomb it deep on 3rd-and-1.
3. The Eagles starting quarterback changes - twice - during the season: Is it Vick? Foles? Dennis Dixon? Who knows? Coach Kelly is holding an open competition when training camp begins. There are a few things that the Eagles' starting quarterback should possess: The ability to see the field, make pre-snap reads and react quickly, and keep turnovers to a minimum. The only way to truly determine the starter is to evaluate performance on the field. Regardless, the smart money is on a quarterback swap at least once during the season. This bold prediction calls for a change at the helm at least twice by Week 14. Alternatively, the Eagles could just ship all their quarterbacks for RGIII and a sponsorship from Gatorade ("ONE MORE!") and let it be the Redskins' problem. Sounds like a fair trade.
4. An offensive tackle scores a two-point conversion: Coach Kelly's offensive innovation during his time at the University of Oregon is well-established and detailed. His variation on the "Swinging Gate," a formation in which an offensive lineman is an eligible receiver, was used very often in extra point situations. I'd love to see Jason Peters (who was originally drafted as a tight end) skying for a two-point conversion on a fade route.
5. Bradley Fletcher will be the Eagles best defensive back: If memory serves me correctly, I believe my reaction to the news that the Eagles had signed Nnamdi Asomugha went something like this:
"AAAGGGHHH! NNAAMDDDIII! CHAMPS BABY! LETS GOOOOO!!!!"
Man, do I feel like an idiot now.
What was once considered the greatest Eagle free agent signing since T. O. in 2004 ended up being a cruel punch to the nuts of every Eagle fan that reacted the same way I did. The Eagles' secondary hasn't been the same since the departure of former Eagle strong safety Brian Dawkins. Victor Cruz essentially began his rise to stardom by playing against Philly, scoring five touchdowns in four games since 2011.
This year's unit is looking to change all that. Headlined by Cary Williams from the Ravens and Patrick Chung from the Patriots, there is certainly room for optimism on the back line. One unsung name is Bradley Fletcher, a rangy veteran from the St. Louis Rams, who stands a very good chance of thriving in Philadelphia. Fletcher has good size and is a physical cornerback. His experience playing against elite receivers like Julio Jones and Marques Colston last season will come in handy against the receivers of the NFC East. Even if the defensive backs continue to stink, at the very least it can't get any worse.
Damn you, Nnamdi. Damn you.
6. The Eagles go 12-4, earn the No. 2 seed, and lose in the Divisional round of the playoffs: Clearly the biggest, boldest (lie) prediction of them all. More realistically, the Eagles go 6-10 and tie with the Cowboys for the worst record in the NFC East. However, out of all the divisions in football, the NFC East is the biggest dogfight between rival teams. When the Eagles-Giants or Redskins-Cowboys square off, everything - records, stats, predictions - goes out the window. It is very tough to ever pick a divisional winner, but I am obligated to pick my squad. Gimme the Eagles at the top of the division, only to disappoint me come December.