We have this series running this week called "Teams We Can't Wait to See," and it's going to spotlight five teams -- one per day -- that we're especially looking forward to watching in 2013. Two of the five play in the NFC East, and today's is the Philadelphia Eagles. Per Ashley Fox:
They are the most mysterious team in the National Football League. What are the Philadelphia Eagles going to look like under first-year coach Chip Kelly? Exactly how fast is the offense going to play? What type of defense are the Eagles going to run? And who in the name of Donovan McNabb is going to be the starting quarterback?
Most of Ashley's piece is focused on that last question there, and for good reason. It's impossible to imagine even the smartest, most innovative young coach sauntering into the NFL and installing a complex new offensive system without a good, reliable quarterback to run it. But given the choices on his current roster, Kelly may end up having to do just that. He knows what he wants in a quarterback. ...
"Who can move us the best, and who gets the football team up and down the field," Kelly said. "You know that's the most important thing. It doesn't have to be that he throws a prettier ball or all those things. There [are] a lot of different things. How do you manage a game? How do you secure the football? Are we not turning it over? Are we constantly moving in a positive direction? Are we getting into third-and-short and converting them? Things like that. It really is who moves the team the best is what we are looking for at the quarterbacks."
... He just doesn't necessarily have anyone on the roster right now who neatly fits the description. Michael Vick is the veteran and the most-likely candidate, but that entire quote could have been interpreted as For Vick's Ears Only. No one's ever thrown a prettier ball, but managing a game and protecting the football and doing the things that make sure you end up in third-and short ... these are not, historically, Vick strengths. Nick Foles could win the job, but he's very unproven, and there's not enough evidence to show whether he's good enough at the things with which Vick struggles to wrest the job away from Vick. Matt Barkley could be the long-term answer, but he's likely got a ways to go before he's up to NFL speed.
These are the troubling facts around which all else -- the assignment of running-back carries, the roles of the receivers, the deployment of the many tight ends on the roster -- will work as Kelly develops his offense at the NFL level. And we haven't even discussed the brand-new defense, in which many talented holdovers and some newcomers will work to fit into new roles and new assignments.
I think the 2013 Eagles come with major question marks. My willingness to point this out in my analysis has, I am well aware, marked me among some of my Eagles readers as a "hater" of the team and/or Kelly. That's okay. Part of the job. But the truth is that I have no rooting interest for or against, nor do I have any idea what to expect from the 2013 Eagles. They could bottom out as they all learn all these new things and struggle to settle on a quarterback. Or Kelly could be a Jim Harbaugh-style instant genius (Alex Smith didn't look like the answer this time two years ago, right), and the Eagles could click right away and be one of the best teams in the league. Or something in between.
I don't know what the Eagles will do this year. Neither do you. Neither does Kelly, I promise you that. They are, as Ashley points out, the biggest mystery in the league right now. And to those of us who love sports because we can't know what's coming news, that's what makes them one of the most exciting and interesting teams of 2013.
Look for the Washington Redskins' entry Wednesday. I'm putting the finishing touches on it as we speak.