10 Bold Predictions for the Eagles in 2015
Sam Bradford starts all 16 regular season games and throws for 4,000 yards: Let me first start by saying that no Eagles quarterback has ever surpassed 4,000 yards passing in a season. Ever. Why will Bradford? Health will be the biggest factor in him getting to the 4,000 yard mark. If Bradford plays all 16 games, he only has to average 250 yards per game. Look, I get it, Bradford has had a tough time staying healthy, but if you throw on the tape of Bradford in St. Louis, you see a guy that can take plenty of hits and get back up. Chip’s offense will eliminate the number of hits he takes and will keep him upright. Big season coming for the former number one overall pick.
Darren Sproles catches 60 passes: Last year, Sproles was forced to be the Eagles number two running back. With the signings of DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, expect the Eagles to use Sproles in the slot a ton. The Eagles are looking to get the ball out quickly to pick up first downs on short yardage, something Sproles is very good at in the passing game.
Jordan Matthews surpasses 1,200 yards: If Sam Bradford is going to throw for 4,000 yards, a big chunk will be going to his favorite target. Sam Bradford has made it very clear that Jordan Matthews is his man crush: “he’s not your typical slot receiver, he’s bigger and he’s got more range. I really trust him.” Bradford said. Matthews needs to average 75 yards per game to get to 1,200 on the season. The second year receiver is ready to emerge as the number one target for Bradford.
Walter Thurmond will lead the team in interceptions: Thurmond is the Eagles best playmaker in the secondary. He’s always around the ball and seems to always make plays. He has 2 interceptions in the preseason including a pick-six against Green Bay. I think Billy Davis knows that Thurmond won’t be great in run defense, so expect him to line up all over the field and make plays against the pass.
Brandon Graham records at least 12 sacks: One of my favorite parts of this crazy offseason was when the Eagles re-signed Brandon Graham. Graham was hindered by injuries early in his career which forced him to fall back on the depth chart. 2015 will be Graham’s first chance to finally start and show what he’s capable of. In limited snaps in 2014, PFF ranked Brandon Graham as the 8th most productive 3-4 OLB, in which it factors in QB sacks, hits and hurries. Perspective: Connor Barwin was ranked 13th. #FreeBrandonGraham
Demarco Murray will surpass 300 touches: Most fans expect DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews to be close to a 50/50 split in touches. I just can’t agree with it. Ryan Mathews signed a 3-year, $12 million dollar contract in the offseason, while DeMarco Murray signed a 5-year $40 million contract. Money talks, expect Murray to see 60-65% of the carries. I will say this: If the Eagles are up big in the third to fourth quarter, I can easily see Chip Kelly letting Mathews be the workhorse to avoid an injury to Murray.
Fletcher Cox gets snubbed from the Pro Bowl (again): Cox had an incredible 2014 campaign as he broke onto the scene with 5.5 sacks and was stout against the run. You can make the case that Fletcher Cox is the second best 3-4 DE in football behind only J.J. Watt. Unfortunately, unless Cox increases his sack total to about 9, I have a hard time believing he will get voted into the pro bowl. The pro-bowl is a popularity contest and unless you’re getting a ton of sacks in a season, it’s very hard for a player to get recognized at a position like DE. I still expect a very good season from Cox who is in a contract year.
Connor Barwin has less than 9 sacks: 4.5, 11.5, 3.0, 5.0, 14.5. Those are Connor Barwin’s sack totals by season. That’s an average of 7.7 per. Look, I think Connor Barwin is a really good player and he fits what the Eagles want to do on defense to a tee. But, the 14.5 sacks he had in 2014 were arguably the biggest surprise (and fluke) of the season for the Eagles. Barwin is incredible against the run and setting the edge, but he doesn’t put fear into lineman as a dominating pass rusher. Having Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton on the defensive line certainly helps Barwin out as a pass rusher, and with all of them returning, who knows maybe he will prove me wrong.
The Eagles will lead the NFL in rushing: Chip Kelly always wants to set the tone by running the ball to pick up first downs and tiring out a defense. His first 2 years in the league, he didn’t have the exact players to do that. When Chip Kelly hand-picked DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in the offseason, two running backs that have similar styles in which they run through defenders and not around them, it only insinuates that Chip wants to get back to his roots of running the ball like he did at Oregon. In 2014. Don’t expect the Eagles to be throwing more than 35 times a game very often in 2015.
Zach Ertz finally emerges: Ertz missing the entire preseason with in injury has sort of slowed the hype down on him. If you’re like me and are targeting Ertz in fantasy, you don’t mind it at all. Before the injury Ertz was dominating in camp and was Bradford’s favorite target after Jordan Matthews. With an offseason dedicated to improving his blocking, and him being a far superior pass catcher than Brent Celek, expect Zach Ertz to finally emerge as the Eagles number one TE and be a big red zone threat.