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2015 Team Report: Philadelphia Eagles

Quarterbacks

Starter: Sam Bradford
Backup(s): Mark Sanchez

Starting QB: Chip Kelly certainly likes to keep things interesting. Even though the Eagles finished 3rd in points scored last year, Chip Kelly opted to completely rebuild the offense starting at the quarterback position. Kelly traded Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for Sam Bradford. Bradford, a former 1st overall pick, enters his 6th season with much to prove. Bradford hasn't attempted a regular season pass in a year and a half thanks to back-to-back ACL injuries. Add to that concerns about his shoulder dating back to his college days at Oklahoma and it's a high risk bet Coach Kelly is making at the most important position. Kelly believes Bradford is an ideal fit for his offense, given Bradford's high football IQ, quick release and ability to survey the entire field. While unproven, it's worth pointing out that the Eagles finished as a top 5 scoring offense in each of Kelly's seasons, with the likes of Mark Sanchez and Nick Foles under center. From a pedigree standpoint, Bradford is the most accomplished of that trio.

Backup QB: Mark Sanchez found redemption in the City of Brotherly Love. A Nick Foles injury (and subpar play) vaulted Sanchez into the starting lineup. He started 8 games and finished 4-4 while showing a massive jump in productivity versus his time as the Jets starter. He completed 64% of his passes (55% career mark prior to last season), 14 TDs (4.5% TD rate) and had an impressive 7.8 yards per attempt average (versus 6.5 as a Jet). Sanchez was rewarded for his breakthrough season by be demoted to backup status again. The good news is Chip Kelly knows Sanchez can keep the offense humming if (when?) Bradford gets hurt.

Running Backs

Starter: DeMarco Murray
Backup(s): Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews, Kenjon Barner
Fullback(s): NONE

Starting RB: LeSean McCoy was shockingly traded to Buffalo in the preseason, and most presumed it was because Chip Kelly didn't see the point in investing huge money at the running back position. After a botched attempt at signing Frank Gore, the Eagles shocked the world by scooping DeMarco Murray away from the Dallas Cowboys. Murray is coming off a 2,200-yard season and signed a contract that in many ways exceeds McCoy's. Murray's talent was never in question, but the Eagles need to hope that 2014 wasn't an outlier. Murray struggled to stay healthy in his first three seasons, but logged a league-leading 392 carries in 2014 running behind Dallas' bruising offensive line. The Eagles offensive line has talent, but wasn't able to open holes consistently for McCoy. Given the depth at the RB position, Murray won't be asked to touch the ball 450 times this year, but given his contract, age and ability, he'll be the centerpiece of the 2015 Eagles offense.

Backup RBs: After the Eagles attempt to sign Frank Gore fell through, Ryan Mathews thought he won the free agent lottery. Mathews was set to sign in Philadelphia as LeSean McCoy's replacement. Then came the DeMarco Murray signing, and Mathews initially balked at the verbal offer his agent had negotiated. Upon second though, Mathews took the Eagles offer and will go from being the Chargers starter to a backup in Philadelphia. When healthy, Mathews has a well-rounded game and can contribute in all facets. Rounding out the running back stable is Darren Sproles -- last year's free agent addition. Sproles amassed 716 yards and 6 touchdowns last season, as his role was ebbed and flowed based on the game script. Expect more of the same in 2015, particularly with two proven, full-time starters on the roster. Kenjon Barner made the team thanks to an astounding preseason as a returner.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor [R]
Backups: Riley Cooper, Miles Austin, Josh Huff, Seyi Ajirotutu

Starting WRs: The Eagles enter the 2015 season with a new starting quarterback, new lead running back, and are guaranteed to have a new leading receiver. For the second consecutive offseason, Chip Kelly let the Eagles' top receiver leave town, although the circumstances aren't analogous. Kelly wanted DeSean Jackson gone, but the Eagles prioritized re-signing Jeremy Maclin after a monstrous 85 catch, 1,318-yard, 10 TD season. Unfortunately, Maclin took a massive offer from the Kansas City Chiefs. The pressure is now on Jordan Matthews. Matthews' strong rookie season (67 receptions, 872 yards and 8 TDs) was overshadowed by the greatest rookie WR class in NFL history, but make no mistake, Matthews did everything the team asked. Matthews is poised to lead the team in receiving, in spite of spending the bulk of his time playing in the slot. Speaking of pressure, rookie 1st rounder Nelson Agholor is expected to step into a major role sooner rather than later. Agholor's smooth route running and urgency at the point of attack bode well as fits in Kelly's offense, but he faces a steep learning curve over the next few months.

Backup WRs: 2nd year Josh Huff is an X-factor. Huff is from Kelly's Oregon program, but struggled to contribute as a rookie (8 catches for 98 yards). He's looked like a different player this preseason and stands a good chance of playing more snaps than Riley Cooper. Cooper was third among receivers with 95 targets last year but only managed 55 catches for 577 yards and 3 TDs. His ability to beat defenders deep disappeared last year, leaving him as one of the league's worst starting receivers. Miles Austin may be years removed from stardom in Dallas, but he's been a consistent contributor in the preseason. Ajirotuto is a special teams ace.

Tight Ends

Starters: Brent Celek
Backups: Zach Ertz, Trey Burton

Although Zach Ertz is the more enticing fantasy prospect given his athleticm and upside, it's the venerable Brent Celek who sits atop the depth chart yet again. Celek is no longer a major offensive force, but he is a solid blocker, a team leader, and can make tough first down catches in traffic. Ertz was pushing Celek for the starting role until he suffered a groin injury in early August; requiring surgery. The timetable is uncertain although he's expected back on the field early in the season. Ertz did't have the 2nd year breakout many expected, but he did show enough growth to credibly argue he's still an ascendant player, if healthy. He caught 58 receptions for 702 yards and 3 TDs but sometimes disappeared for long stretches. At his best, Ertz can work the middle of the field and make difficult catches in traffic. What's yet to be proven is Ertz' ability to win jump balls in the red zone.

Place Kicker

Cody Parkey: Parkey made a quite a splash in his first year as full-time kicker, finishing second in the league in points with 150, while converting 32 of his 36 field goal attempts. Parkey was 4-of-4 from over 50 yards, and the Eagles fast-paced tempo should keep him among the league leaders again this year. He's going off the board in the top five kickers, and his 2014 success and team offensive philosophy makes it understandable.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Josh Huff, Kenjon Barner, Darren Sproles, Ryan Matthews, Nelson Agholor [R], Nolan Carroll

Last year there was speculation that newly acquired Darren Sproles might handle both punt and kick returns. Sproles handled punts but saw only one kickoff return with the rest split mostly between Josh Huff and Chris Polk. The departure of Polk and Huff's 29.6 yard average and 1 kickoff return touchdown make Huff the favorite going into 2015. Ryan Matthews and Nelson Agholor appeared on the depth chart early in camp as backups to Huff, but the stellar job done by Kenjon Barner in preseason games earned him the backup spot.

Punt Returners: Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, Nelson Agholor [R]

When the Eagles drafted receiver and punt returner Nelson Agholor, there was speculation that the rookie might take over punt returns. Coach Chip Kelly quickly put that to rest and indicated Sproles will continue to handle punt returns with Agholor as a highly regarded backup. Kelly said, "If Darren has to come off the field, you feel like you have another guy, and you're trotting [number] 1 and 1-A out there." Kenjon Barner had such a tremendous preseason as a punt returner that the Eagles list him as the backup over Agholor. All three players may see returns during the season.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Jason Peters, LG Evan Mathis, C Jason Kelce, RG Allen Barbre, RT Lane Johnson
Key Backups: T Andrew Gardner, G Dennis Kelly, C David Molk, C Julian Vandervelde, G Matt Tobin, G Josh Andrews

The Eagles' offensive line starts 2015 where it ended last season: at the top of the rankings. It was a bumpy ride for the unit last year, as it had to deal with several injuries and a suspension but by the time the season ended, they were all healthy and dominant. The line was the best run blocking unit last season and a top ten ranking in pass protection. The strength of this unit continues to be the left side of the line, where left tackle Jason Peters and left guard Evan Mathis combined for another All-Pro level performance. Peters is a rock and his nickname in the locker room is actually "the franchise." He's a physical freak that should be performing at a high level for several more years. The left guard position with Mathis could be a situation to watch. Rumors had the team wanting to trade this player before the draft, as he is getting older (33) and has a relatively high cap number. 33 might not sound too old (especially for those of us well above that age) but Mathis is actually the oldest starting guard in the NFL this season. However, the team lacks in obvious replacement candidates, and fans can expect Mathis to remain for at least another season. This situation could change, but for 2015 it seems stable. At center, Jason Kelce is among the league's better starters and is just hitting his stride at the age of 27. Right tackle Lane Johnson is a very good player, and could be on his way to amazing. A former top ten draft pick, Johnson is blessed with rare physical attributes. It's safe to call the Peters/Johnson bookends the best in the league. If the line has a weak spot it is at right guard, where Allen Barbre is currently penciled in to start the season. Barbre had been a super sub for the Eagles in years past but spent most of last season injured. Barbre will have to hold off Andrew Gardner and Matt Tobin for the spot, and should do so if he remains healthy. While some fans are concerned about the depth of the unit, (and the fact that they haven't drafted a lineman for the last two seasons), the starting five are currently graded out as the best in the league.

Team Defense

The Eagles D/ST came out of nowhere to be the #1 unit in fantasy leagues last year on the back of an astonishing seven special teams scores. They also had four defensive scores and tied for #2 in the league in sacks. While the number of scores is highly likely to fall off, a defense that ranked in the bottom ten in points and yards allowed should be better with the addition of Kiko Alonso and top free agent corner Byron Maxwell. Trent Cole is gone to Indianapolis, but Brandon Graham was retained to fill the hole left by Cole, and Graham was highly productive on a per snap basis in a part-time role. While the Eagles aren't worth drafting as the #1 D/ST, or possibly even as a Week 1 starter, some of their productivity on special teams should persist and keep them very high in streaming consideration. At the very least, the return corps of Darren Sproles, Josh Huff, and now Nelson Agholor will preserve some of the special teams upside.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Fletcher Cox, DE Cedric Thornton, NT Bennie Logan
Backups: DE Vinny Curry, DE Brandon Bair, DE Taylor Hart, NT Beau Allen

Starting DL: The Eagles defensive line has been one of their better units over the last four to five years and should remain a strong part of their overall defense. Fletcher Cox took a big step forward development-wise in his third year and has become one of the league's premier 3-4 defensive ends. Although it didn't necessarily translate to sacks, Cox was a disruptive presence in the offensive backfield and finished third in the league in total tackles with 62. In a similar vein to Fletcher Cox, second year player Bennie Logan saw year over year improvement and is cemented in as the team's starting nose tackle. Cedric Thornton will continue to serve as a run-stopping end on early downs with Vinny Curry (nine sacks in 2014) coming into the game in obvious passing situations.

Backup DL: Although he's considered a backup, expect Vinny Curry to see 30-40% of the team's snaps. Neither Beau Allen and Brandon Bair are nothing to write home about and aren't a threat to steal playing time away from the starters. Taylor Hart, a fifth round pick out of Oregon, was inactive all of last season but could vie for some playing time behind a weak set of reserve linemen if he shows that he's improved his strength since last season.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Kiko Alonso, ILB Mychal Kendricks, OLB Brandon Graham, OLB Connor Barwin
Backups: ILB DeMeco Ryans, ILB Jordan Hicks, OLB Marcus Smith II, OLB Brad Jones, OLB Bryan Braman,

Starting LBs: The Eagles are expected to field one of the more dynamic group of starting linebackers in the NFL this season. Connor Barwin set career highs in solo tackles (47), assists (17), and sacks (14.5) and will form a formidable duo with Brandon Graham at outside linebacker. After spending much of his career as a drastically underutilized reserve player, Graham will finally get the opportunity to play every down. He was one of the most productive players in the league on a per snap basis the last two seasons, so there's reason to believe that double digit sacks are within reach this year. On the inside, you have former DROY Kiko Alonso who was acquired from the Bills in an off-season trade for LeSean McCoy. Alonso, a former Oregon Duck, is reunited with his old college coach and figures to be a focal point of the defense moving forward. He's been battling tendonitis in his surgically repaired left knee but should be ready for the start of the season. Mychal Kendricks continues to develop into the dynamic all-around player many thought he would be when he was drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft. The Eagles rewarded Kendricks for his strong performance with a four year contract extension.

Backup LBs: To the surprise of many, the Eagles extended the contract of DeMeco Ryans - a 31 year old player coming off an Achilles injury. A puzzling move considering the team also ended up extending Mychal Kendricks later in the preseason. Chip Kelly is anything but conservative so there's always a chance Ryans gets the starting job over Kendricks if the latter falters at all, but that's still unlikely. Last year's first round pick Marcus Smith has been a complete bust so far in his NFL career. He's added 15 pounds over the off-season in hopes to hold up better at the point of attack, but he has a ways to go to dig himself out of Chip Kelly's doghouse. Brad Jones comes to the Eagles after being discarded in Green Bay after an extremely poor season. Despite playing inside for the Pack the last two seasons, Jones entered the league as an outside linebacker and may carve out a situational role there eventually although he was brought in primarily as a special teams player.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Byron Maxwell, CB Nolan Carroll II, SS Walter Thurmond, FS Malcolm Jenkins
Backups: CB Eric Rowe, CB E.J. Biggers, CB Denzel Rice, SS Jerome Couplin III, FS Chris Maragos, S JaCorey Shepherd [IR]

Starting DBs: Byron Maxwell signed a hefty contract over the off-season (six years, $63 million) and fits well as a physical, press corner within Philly's defensive scheme. He will likely play right cornerback. 2014 free agent acquisition Nolan Carroll is currently considered the favorite for the starting role opposite Maxwell as he has the size coach Chip Kelly looks for in his outside cornerbacks and he received positive grades in coverage last year across 350+ snaps. Malcolm Jenkins has solidified his role as the team's top safety, playing more snaps than any other defensive player in the league last year. Career cornerback Walter Thurmond is in line to open the season as the team's starting strong safety. Although he's never played the position before, his play making skills should set him up to be a decent safety for the Eagles.

Backup DBs: The Eagles traded up in the draft to select Utah defensive back Eric Rowe in the second round (37th overall). Rowe showed great versatility at the college level playing his first three years at free safety before moving to corner his senior year. He practiced at corner during rookie mini-camp and will continue to challenge Nolan Carroll for the starting corner spot across from Bryon Maxwell in base packages. With Brandon Boykin traded away to Pittsburgh and JaCorey Sheperd lost for the year with a torn ACL, the Eagles have a huge hole to fill at the slot corner position. E.J. Biggers may be the team's best option there as he is a versatile player who has played in the slot at various points in his career. Denzel Rice, an undrafted rookie out of Coastal Carolina, had a strong camp but is a relative unknown and remains a long shot to see significant playing time early in the year (even at the slot corner position).

Last modified: 2015-09-12 14:32:03