Friday, July 25, 2014
Five key questions entering camp
By Andy Jasner
It’s finally here.
The Philadelphia Eagles' players report to training camp on Friday. The first practice is scheduled for Saturday.
Coming off a 10-6 record and an NFC East title in coach Chip Kelly’s first season, expectations are clearly raised in 2014.
But there are plenty of questions heading into Year 2 under Kelly. Here are five:
Can the Eagles thrive without DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant?
Losing Jackson’s 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns is difficult. Not to mention his downfield speed. Losing Avant’s reliability and consistency won’t be easy to replace, either. Jeremy Maclin is coming off a torn ACL and Riley Cooper had a solid season, but he is still a young player. Two highly touted draft picks -- Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff -- will have every chance to compete for playing time. There are other wild-cards like Arrelious Benn, who could jump into the equation.
Did the Eagles upgrade their defense enough to compete for another division title?
The Eagles signed free agent safety Malcolm Jenkins to shore up the secondary. They have been lacking for a hard-hitting safety since Brian Dawkins left after the 2008 season. Signing Nolan Carroll to bolster the secondary will help. First-round draft pick Marcus Smith, a linebacker and edge rusher, is unlikely to make an immediate impact. There is still work to be done on defense.
Will Lane Johnson's suspension hurt the Eagles?
If there was a good time to be suspended, it’s for the first four games. The Eagles have a good bit of depth on the offensive line and will be able to get by while Johnson sits out his suspension for performance enhancing drugs. Allen Barbre, Dennis Kelly and Matt Tobin are all good options to replace Johnson at right tackle on a short-term basis. Losing left tackle Jason Peters or center Jason Kelce would be much harder to take.
Will Nick Foles be able to handle the pressure as the starting quarterback?
Yes. This is a poised young quarterback who doesn’t get rattled. It will be nearly impossible to duplicate 27 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 119.2 quarterback rating. But Foles will continue to put in the work on and off the field to be a stellar quarterback. As long as the Eagles are winning, well, that is all that matters.
Can the Eagles win at least 10 games again with expectations raised?
Kelly has proven to be as innovative as anyone in the league. He is also willing to step back and learn from his mistakes. After a slow start last season, the Eagles rallied and won the division in the final game against Dallas. Kelly tweaked his plan throughout the season and wasn’t averse to taking risks. Kelly’s expectations are higher than most, and he has a grand vision once again for the Eagles. A number of changes were made on both sides of the ball, and in a fairly weak division, it should be good enough for at least 10 victories.