Tag Archives: Taylor Hart

Countdown to Eagles Football — 43 Days: How Did Chip Kelly Do in HIs First Offseason with Full Control of the Roster?

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a 44-day series counting down the days until the Eagles season begins. The first part can be found here

Unlike yesterday’s question, the answer to this one is a lot more complicated and significant in terms of determining both the Eagles short and long-term outlook.

When Chip Kelly demanded final say over all roster decisions thus removing Howie Roseman’s title and responsibilities as Genera Manager in early January, he did it with one motivation in mind:

To make personnel decisions that would help take the franchise from good to great. Despite back-to-back 10 win seasons and an NFC East title in 2013, Kelly made the determination that the Eagles were too much of a fringe playoff contender and not close enough to competing for a Super Bowl where a few roster tweaks could get them there. He needed something more.

The merits of Kelly’s estimation can certainly be argued. As a counterpoint to Kelly’s findings, the Eagles beat a Colts team on the road that won 11 games and advanced to the AFC Championship.

They hung with the then defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks on the scoreboard in December before succumbing to a 24-14 defeat but were thoroughly outplayed and beaten up throughout the game.

Perhaps the biggest game in favor of Kelly’s argument was the embarrassing 53-20 mid-November loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field where Kelly’s Eagles were outclassed by a Green Bay team that ended up being minutes away from reaching the Super Bowl over Seattle.

Regardless of how the determination was made, it happened, and Kelly set out to overhaul a roster that will have at least 10 new starters come September 14th in Atlanta.

After three wild trades, some controversial departures, several free-agent acquisitions, thousands of Marcus Mariota rumors and one surprisingly calm draft, how did Kelly do in his first offseason running the show?

On the surface, it appears Kelly made parts of the Eagles better. The addition of Kiko Alonso in the LeSean McCoy trade gives the Eagles their most talented inside linebacker since Jeremiah Trotter’s first stint in midnight green.

Whether or not DeMarco Murray can come close to repeating a career year in 2014 remains to be seen, but him and Ryan Mathews give the Eagles more running back depth while simultaneously weakening their biggest division rival.

Byron Maxwell is an instant upgrade in the secondary, one that was in desperate need of improvement when facing Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham, and DeSean Jackson twice a year.

Rather than overpaying to retain the services of Jeremy Maclin, Kelly elected to go the cheaper route and attempt to replace him with rookie first round draft Nelson Agholor. Had the Eagles overpaid for Maclin, they may have been unable to afford a guy like Maxwell.

All of these moves on paper make sense. On the opposing side of things, Kelly did not do much to upgrade offensive line depth or talent at the safety position, two spots that are glaring question marks as the Eagles head into camp. Any injury to the likes of Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, or Malcolm Jenkins could spell doom for the birds rather quickly.

Then, there’s the biggest move of all. Kelly’s first offseason will largely be defined by the successes or failures of Sam Bradford in his system and Nick Foles in St. Louis. Kelly did not simply elect to swap quarterbacks with him getting the less accomplished one. He also surrendered a 2016 second round draft pick for the oft-injured Bradford who is scheduled to make 13 million dollars this season in the final year of his rookie contract while Foles is scheduled to make less than two million with the Rams.

The previous two sentences underscore the biggest question mark about Kelly as a GM. It is abundantly clear to anyone who has watched the Eagles over the past two seasons that the man can coach, and his ability to identify talent going back to his Oregon days is impressive.

The unknown lies in the asset management component of being a genera manager, something that can often be overlooked but essential in ensuring that the team is set up well for both the present and future.

Would a more experienced GM have been able to execute the Bradford-Foles trade without giving up the extra draft pick, something that maybe could have enticed the Titans more in an offer for Mariota. When Kelly signed Maxwell and Murray, was he bidding against himself in those negotiations and did he need to pay them as much as he did?

When Roseman had heavy influence in the draft, there are stories of Kelly overvaluing certain players like Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, and Taylor Hart, wanting to select them a round before most other teams would have, and having to be walked back by Roseman, assuring him that they would be available when they picked again.

Maybe veteran GM’s wouldn’t have the guts to do what Kelly is doing, and if Bradford stays healthy and turns into the franchise quarterback that the Rams once hoped he would be, no one will care very much about the lost second round pick.

Still, football players are not acquired in a vacuum. There is an opportunity cost, both present and future, to every decision made, and whether or not Kelly can master the asset and resource allocation part of the job remains to be seen.

As I have stated previously on Twitter and in 10 Things I Think I Think, I don’t believe Kelly’s offseason has the Eagles worse than the 2014 season, but there is a small fear that he rearranged chairs on the Titanic as opposed to strengthening the collective roster.

Ultimately the Eagles are in better shape with Kelly doing everything as opposed to Kelly coaching somewhere else and doing nothing at all. Time will tell whether he is as capable of a general manager as he is a coach.

The first seven months have sure been something

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Go Ahead and Open Up the Mock Drafts Now

The clock has stuck midnight. The fat lady has sung. Insert your preferable cultural reference here.

An Eagles season that had so much promise as recently as 14 days ago is now over.

They will end the season with a better record than at least one of the 12 teams in the playoffs and maybe more, but unlike an exhilarating end to the 2013 season, there will be no January this time around, no NFC East title, no home playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field.

A big reason why the Eagles suffered this fate is because aside from the Colts, Cowboys, and maybe the Panthers, they couldn’t beat teams that have qualified for the playoffs often enough.

In some of those contests like the Packers and Seahawks game, they were outclassed. In others like the Cardinals, one or two fluke plays could have easily swung things and made a difference in the season.

Meaningless regular season football really sucks. We thankfully have not had much of it in the past decade, but for the second time in three years, there will be a Week 17 game at the Meadowlands with little to directly play for.

Perhaps in ways the repetitive location is fitting in this instance. It was only two short years ago that a 4-12 team quit on their soon to be ex-head coach Andy Reid in an embarrassing 42-7 loss to the Giants to cap off a lost season.

For all Reid did for this franchise, he left the roster mostly in shambles. There was a running back, a couple wide receivers, and some injured offensive linemen, but depth at any position was hard to come by. The defense was devoid of homegrown talent, and the secondary was (and mostly still is) a complete wasteland.

Between an offensive genius taking the NFL by storm, career years from LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, historically good quarterback play from Nick Foles, a draft class that provided immediate impact in the form of Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, and Bennie Logan, and an offensive line staying healthy for all 16 games, the Eagles were able to go from 4-12 to a 10-win team that nearly knocked off Drew Brees in the playoffs.

Billy Davis, a defensive coordinator with a spotty track record and much to prove, took a jumbled collection of noodles and ketchup and made a presentable Italian meal out of it.

Everything clicked and were it not for a bad kicker and a fluke return, the Eagles may have well reached the NFC Championship Game in Chip Kelly’s first season.

Many of those aforementioned things did not click this season. Jackson is wearing a different uniform. McCoy, while still very productive, was far from the player who won the rushing title last season. Nick Foles threw more interceptions and got hurt. When Foles was healthy, the offensive line was not as the quarterback would constantly fear pressure playing behind backups and end up retreating and throwing off his back foot immediately after taking a snap.

Outside of Jordan Matthews, this year’s draft produced little impact. Josh Huff provided one of the most electric moments of the season but made a ton of rookie mistakes in the process. First round pick Marcus Smith cannot play. While the jury remains out, there is little indication to think Jaylen Watkins and Taylor Hart can at the moment.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but the way to expedite the process in the NFL is to draft well. Years of bad drafting under the Reid regime eventually caught up with the team. In 2012, they started to reverse course some, but too many dysfunctional issues overshadowed a strong rookie class in Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Brandon Boykin, Foles, and Bryce Brown. It wasn’t enough to save their jobs, but it was progress.

Kelly and Howie Roseman continued that progress in 2013 but took a big step back this past May by bungling their first round pick in a talent rich draft, fumbling the best chance they had to inject talent onto an improving but still semi-flawed roster.

With a little bit of luck and mostly really solid coaching, the Eagles have gone from a punching bag to a decent team in two years but remain a couple notches below some of the NFL elite who will be playing in January.

Key decisions will be made before May, and some holes will be plugged in free agency. For better or for worse, we will be blogging throughout those periods, but the way to keep building Rome, the way to prevent three consecutive losses in December, will be to nail the May portion of the offseason and prevent a repeat of what took place in 2014.

We are more than five months away, but go ahead, unfortunately. Open up the mock drafts.

Eagles-Packers Sad Haiku

Welp.

There have been more panful losses over the past calendar year, but the Eagles have not looked that overmatched since a visit to Denver last September.

That was really, really bad. The entire country saw how good the Eagles can look against a struggling team last Monday, and today, most of them saw how bad they can look against an elite quarterback.

The way I see it, there are three approaches one could take after what transpired over the past three hours.

1. Jump off the Walt Whitman. The Eagles are a fraud, pretenders and not contenders at 7-3. Chip Kelly was ridiculously out coached, and Mark Sanchez isn’t good enough to get them to the playoffs. The defense is awful, and Dallas is going to win the division. 

I don’t believe any of that for a second. I do have some obvious concerns about Sanchez, and the defense certainly underachieved today, but that line of thinking is a big time overreaction for a team still sitting pretty.

2. Today wasn’t a big deal at all. Aaron Rodgers does this to everyone, and the Packers caught a few lucky breaks. LeSean McCoy will get on track, and the pass rush will be better. We have nothing to worry about and will be fine in a January rematch. 

I would buy into this rationale more than the first approach, but completely tossing this game out of the window would be brushing away some clear issues. The Eagles are better than what they showed today but came up short on a big stage.

3. The Packers are nearly unbeatable at Lambeau with Aaron Rodgers, but the Eagles never gave themselves a chance. Between bad penalties like Trent Cole jumping offsides on third and long in the first quarter and untimely turnovers, this one unraveled quickly. The Eagles are still 7-3 and in great shape. They haven’t been blown out in quite some time and were perhaps due for a letdown, but doesn’t make it hurt any less. 

That is the way I mostly look at this. The Eagles are still in excellent shape overall but are trying to survive with a backup quarterback and a secondary that features three players who likely would not start for most other teams between Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, and Nate Allen. Rodgers, being one of the smartest and beset signal-callers on the planet, knew that and targeted Fletcher early and often.

In a chance to showcase himself for potential head coaching gigs next season, defensive coordinator Billy Davis looked miles behind Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.

Short yardage situations in the red zone are still a troublesome issue, and LeSean McCoy doesn’t look like LeSean McCoy even with 80 percent of the offensive line together.

Unfortunately, this team is still trying to recover from a few awful draft classes toward the end of the Andy Reid regime and are not getting much impact from this year’s rookies aside from Jordan Matthews. Marcus Smith, Jaylen Watkins, and Taylor Hart cannot get on the field, and Josh Huff is making mistakes every time he gets on the field.

The Eagles are at a point where while their roster is greatly improving, they still can’t afford to miss on many guys and need immediate impact from rookies whenever possible. They are getting absolutely nothing from their first round pick, and it hurts against an elite team like the Packers.

It is also becoming increasingly important that the Eagles win the division and find a way to get the second seed for a first round bye. 5-0 at home, 2-3 on the road. Despite being a very good road squad in 2013, they are clearly not the same team away from Lincoln Financial Field this season and need to end up there in January.

Thankfully there is a path for that. The Packers, Lions, and Cowboys all have three losses, and the Cardinals face four teams currently above .500 in their last six games.

A roadmap exists, and it starts next week at home against a bad Titans team before Turkey Day in Dallas.

Stay tuned for an announcement about something on our blog this week, but in the meantime, let’s hit the haiku and try to shake this one off some:

Fletcher picked on bad

Rodgers, Nelson, Cobb, oh my

Still seven and three

Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly Look Really Smart with Some of Their Offseason Acquisitions Right Now

Darren Sproles and Malcolm Jenkins helped end the Eagles season last year at Lincoln Financial Field as members of the New Orleans Saints.

Fast forward eight months, and they are now integral parts of the Eagles 2-0 start.

Sproles was a flat out stud tonight. The 31-year old running back looked not a day over 25, running for a 19-yard touchdown to tie the game at 20 in the third quarter and catching seven passes for 152 yards (only 20 less than the entire Colts team).

Sproles also helped jump start a stagnant Eagles offense in Week 1 with a 49-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.

Jenkins nearly forced a fumble last week and had an interception with the Colts leading 27-20 late in the fourth quarter. Absolutely no way Patrick Chung would have made that play in a spot like that or at all for that matter.

When the Eagles gave up a fifth round pick for Sproles in March, Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman essentially justified it by saying that if Sproles was available in the fifth round of this draft, teams would certainly pick him.

The actual draft, unlike 2012 and 2013, is not yet yielding positive results. The only rookie really seeing any playing time is second round receiver Jordan Matthews. Marcus Smith is a big time project. Josh Huff would likely have a role if healthy but is still recovering from a shoulder injury. Taylor Hart and Jaylen Watkins have both been healthy inactives.

With little impact from the draft, it is absolutely vital that additions made via trade and free agency pan out, and so far between these two plus the recently acquired Cody Parkey, they are.

Well said, Connor. Well said, indeed.

Connor Barwin Tweet