Philadelphia Eagles: Progress Report Headed into Week 13

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistNovember 27, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 26:  Brandon LaFell #11 of the Carolina Panthers scores a touchdown as  DeMeco Ryans #59 of the Philadelphia Eagles chases during their game at Lincoln Financial Field on November 26, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

At this point, there's little left to say about the Philadelphia Eagles. They suck, plain and simple. But it's being reported—unsurprisingly—that Andy Reid will continue to be the head coach as December gets underway. And so right now, we're just left asking questions about the long-term future of the roster. 

Let's update our answers for four important questions that we've been asking each week.


Four Key Questions to Monitor

Is Nick Foles able to lead the offense?

I'm starting to wonder if we're ever going to get an answer to this question because the Eagles continue to employ an extra-conservative approach with Foles. He attempted zero throws of 20 yards or more Monday night against Carolina and was again Captain Checkdown. 

It's a shame, because you can't get a proper read on a guy when you aren't letting him drop back and unleash, and this is an opportunity for that to happen against regular season NFL competition. But Reid isn't letting it happen.

Why? Well, Reid's also suggested that Michael Vick will return to the lineup when he's cleared of his concussion, so maybe he figures the Eagles have their best chance to win keeping it on the ground and playing it safe with the passing game. The irony there, of course, is that that's what he and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg should have been doing all freakin' season. Odd that they only finally do it now that Vick and LeSean McCoy are out.

It's not a certainty that Foles makes his third straight start Sunday night against Dallas, and even if he does, he won't have top deep threat DeSean Jackson, who's lost for the season, and the offensive line still isn't right. So, I'm beginning to fear we'll have to wait for the offseason to find out if Foles is a potential starter in 2013. And even in that case, we won't know whether the team can trust him or not.

Current answer: Probably not, but we're not seeing enough


Can Brandon Graham be relied upon to replace Jason Babin and emerge as the team's next great pass-rusher? 

Graham has actually been outplayed by Babin in the two weeks since we've started measuring his progress using this format. He had two hurries against the Panthers, according to Pro Football Focus, but Babin had a sack and three pressures in the loss. 

I'm still not sure Babin's done enough to merit being kept on the roster for an extra $3.5 million at the age of 33, especially if a new regime is trying to wash its hands of leftovers from the previous era. Graham has still had a superb season and would probably be a better all-around complement to Trent Cole while possessing a higher upside. 

There's also the Vinny Curry factor to consider here. The rookie made his debut in Week 12, got pressure once and made a few good stops against the run in limited snaps. If the second-round pick out of Marshall can prove over the next five games that he's worthy of a spot in the rotation next year, keeping Babin around would only threaten to stunt the growth of youngsters like him and Graham.

Current answer: Yes and maybe

UPDATE: Babin was released Tuesday afternoon, according to the team.


What do they have in Curtis Marsh and Brandon Boykin?

It was good to see Boykin play one of his best games of the year in the slot. We'll have to wait to check the all-22 tape on how solid his coverage was, but all that matters is he was rarely tested while being on the field for more than half the game. He gave up zero catches on only a single target to Brandon LaFell. 

Marsh continues to be buried on the depth chart. He saw the field only twice outside of special teams. It's beginning to become apparent we won't get a feel for what he can do until the offseason, but it's not an especially good sign that Todd Bowles doesn't seem to believe he can be a valued contributor, even at this desperate point. 

I think it's become obvious that Nnamdi Asomugha's time in Philly is running out, though, so Boykin has a serious shot to gain traction. The question is whether Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie can step it up late in order to earn a big contract here or elsewhere. He didn't play particularly well against the Panthers.

Current answer: Marsh is a mystery at best, while Boykin looks as though he'll be a good slot cover guy in 2013.


Can Dennis Kelly start at offensive tackle?

After performing well in his first start on the right side last week, Kelly gave up more pressure than anyone else on the offensive line in Week 12. That said, PFF didn't charge him with a sack and it was a penalty-free effort. 

It's still too early to tell how good the rookie fifth-round pick might be, but it's apparent King Dunlap and Demetress Bell won't be starting in Week 1 next season, and I think the Eagles would prefer to use Kelly as a swing tackle behind Jason Peters and Todd Herremans. He's passed his first two tests, but not with flying colors. Another one comes against DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer this Sunday night. 

Current answer: Early indications are very good.


A note on the DeSean Jackson injury

All things considered, Jackson was having a decent season before going down for the year with an injury to his ribs. The 26-year-old signed a long-term contract this past offseason, and there should be no doubt that he'll be the team's top deep threat going forward.

Still, his injury might give Damaris Johnson a chance to make a statement. With Jason Avant also out, Johnson's getting just as many snaps as Riley Cooper. Let's hope the coaching staff allows both of those guys to run some of Jackson's routes over these final five weeks in order to find out if they have more depth than they realized within this receiving corps. 


Week 12 Stock Report

Stock Rising (offense): Bryce Brown

I guess this one's obvious. Brown put up an Eagles rookie-record 178 rushing yards in his first start since high school Monday night. It was also the second-highest rushing output by a Philadelphia running back this century. 


Stock Rising (defense): Vinny Curry

I'd go with Boykin, but the rookie fumbled on a return. Curry played well on limited snaps in his debut, displaying his versatility.


Stock Dropping (offense): LeSean McCoy 

I don't think he's going to get Wally Pipped, but your stock drops when your backup's rises. The concussed McCoy did not have a good season after receiving that large new contract in the spring.


Stock Dropping (defense): Nate Allen

I gave it to Kurt Coleman last week, but it seems both starting safeties are seeing their stock drop on a weekly basis, so this time, we'll go with Allen. He appeared to botch a coverage on LaFell's touchdown and has been a disaster for much of this season. 

View last week's report here


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