My expectations for the 2015-2016 Philadelphia Eagles are mixed. I’m optimistic because we got stronger in places of our weaknesses from years past. We bring in Byron Maxwell from Seattle who is an instant upgrade over Cary Williams. Sam Bradford, if healthy is an upgrade over Nick Foles. Chip Kelly was able to flip LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso and a running back that fits his offense better, DeMarco Murray.
I expect DeMarco Murray to slightly regress this season because he will not receive the 449 touches he got in Dallas last season. Chip won’t work him that hard which will not be that big of a deal because of the depth the Eagles have at running back. Ryan Matthews has 1,000 yard seasons under his belt, and the always electric Darren Sproles is also on the roster.
As far as the receiving core, I believe that Jordan Matthews will have an even better season than he did last year. Josh Huff will step up showing improvement from last season. I think he’ll be the Eagles deep threat that we missed last year after the release of DeSean Jackson. Nelson Agholor will have at least one game in preseason where he gets a rude awakening, and then he’ll have an impressive rookie season. I’m expecting a breakout season from Zach Ertz, as he will see more targets this year. Aside from those names I don’t expect much out of Riley Cooper, Miles Austin, etc.
However, there are still some very important question marks that this team has to answer. Chip released Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans and didn’t draft their replacements. Now he and all of Eagles Nation are depending on Allen Barbre who didn’t look like a sure thing in 2014 and the winner of the competition between Matt Tobin, Andrew Gardner, and John Moffitt for the other guard position. Someone has to protect a quarterback in Sam Bradford who is coming off back to back torn ACL’s.
Other areas of concern are whether or not Walter Thurmond can play safety opposite Malcolm Jenkins, and will the Eagles get enough pass rush from Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, and Marcus Smith? First, let’s talk about Walter Thurmond. He has predominantly played slot corner throughout his career and I just don’t see a guy who is 190lbs being a good safety. Malcolm Jenkins should be handling the ball hawking duties and the other safety would help play the run. No offense to Eric Rowe but that’s why I wanted the Eagles to draft Landon Collins as safety. Thurmond could play his natural position especially since they were going to trade Brandon Boykin if Collins was drafted.
I’m also worried about the corner spot opposite Byron Maxwell. I don’t know what to expect out of Nolan Carroll. We really didn’t see what he could do until the end of last season when the Eagles were already eliminated from playoff contention. With the injury of JaCorey Shepard, this thrusts Eric Rowe into a spot as Nickel corner where his game doesn’t fit.
Now lets talk about the pass rush situation. I think there is a lot of uncertainty because the Eagles don’t know how well Brandon Graham will do in a starting role. The Eagles also don’t know what to expect out of Marcus Smith. I’m hopeful that Vinny Curry will get more snaps this year, because he’s a problem on passing downs. The outside linebacker group is one injury away from the Eagles getting next to no pass rush.
With all that being said I just don’t see this team being able to compete with the Seahawks, Packers, Cardinals, or even the Cowboys for that matter. However, I do believe if Sam Bradford turns out to be a franchise quarterback he was once expected to be I think this team is one or two more years from being special. The Eagles record can fall anywhere from 9-7 to 11-5. Even if the Eagles go 11-5, I think the Cowboys will be better and the wildcard team will come out of the NFC West. I’m really hoping this Eagles team can prove me wrong, win the NFC East and make some noise in the playoffs. The uncertainty of this team is what makes them so fun to follow. Either way the season goes I think we can look forward to an interesting season with a lot of storylines from the Eagles.