How Much Has Each Eagles Positional Unit Improved This Offseason?
Every offseason NFL teams seek to fill holes and add depth to their rosters. This year, the Philadelphia Eagles made a splash by signing running back Darren Sproles, but they also made a splash in a negative way by releasing wide receiver DeSean Jackson for no compensation.
But it's often not splashes that make the biggest impact, but smaller under-the-radar signings. Nolan Carroll could turn out to be a great addition, for example, and Bradley Fletcher was more or less a competent corner last season.
How much has the team improved at each position? Continue reading to find out. Each position is graded from A to F, with C being average or not much change.
The addition of Mark Sanchez would ordinarily seem like a solid depth move, except we also have to consider the loss of veteran Michael Vick.
Sanchez is coming off concerns about his injured shoulder, and there are also concerns about his history of inconsistent play with the New York Jets. Even if he plays well in training camp it's hard to imagine he will be a better backup than Vick, who led the Eagles to a 10-6 record in 2010 and a playoff appearance.
Matt Barkley played poorly when given playing time in 2013. The starting quarterback position is cemented with Nick Foles, but the backup spot is still a question mark.
The Eagles lost talented backup Bryce Brown but replaced him with Sproles. Sproles will likely prove to be an excellent backup to complement LeSean McCoy.
Regarded as one of the most versatile players in the league, Sproles averaged more than four yards per carry and over 600 yards receiving in each of his last three years with New Orleans.
He is capable of lining up in the backfield and as a receiver. He is the perfect player to add another wrinkle to Chip Kelly's system.
Not much has changed at tight end for the Eagles. This is one of the few areas that has not seen significant additions or losses during the offseason.
Zach Ertz can be expected to improve with another year to work on his blocking, as well as to familiarize himself with Kelly's offense. Brent Celek is aging (currently 29 years old) but still likely has another season or two before decline starts to set in.
Not much to report here, but sometimes no news is good news.
The Eagles saw by far the most change at their wide receiver position. They released Pro Bowl receiver Jackson and drafted the 6'3" sure-handed Jordan Matthews.
Matthews has been impressive so far this offseason and could compete for a starting spot. But it's too early to say anything before he is seen on the field.
Jeremy Maclin will return, but he is coming off a major knee injury and his performance is also uncertain.
It will be difficult to replicate Jackson's production, as he hauled in a career-high 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. Despite having some great candidates, the new receivers have some big shoes to fill.
The Eagles O-line was looking solid for 2014, with no major losses, until the suspension of Lane Johnson for four weeks.
It may not sound like much, but consider that that's basically one-fourth of the season. Considering Johnson played all 16 games in 2013, his play will be hard to replace.
Without Johnson, Allen Barbre will likely have to step up. It's too early to say if he will be effective, but he certainly lacks the natural talent that Johnson has.
Defensive line was not heavily prioritized by the Eagles in the offseason. The team added a pair of late-rounders, but that's about it. The rest of the unit remains intact.
This could be the year Fletcher Cox finally takes that big step forward in becoming more of a dominant defensive end. Bennie Logan will compete with Beau Allen and Wade Keliikipi for the nose tackle role, but it's likely there will be some rotation.
The Eagles are still without a true 3-4 nose tackle. Still, not many significant losses here.
The Eagles made the interesting decision to draft Marcus Smith with their first-round pick. Smith is talented but very raw. Many experts predicted him as a second-round pick at the highest, with the possibility of even falling to the fourth round.
Still, the Eagles made sure to at least address the need of a pass-rusher. Trent Cole nabbed eight sacks in 2013, but he is aging. It may not be realistic to expect the 31-year-old to be as productive next season.
Smith may not be ready to start in 2014, but he can likely at least be a change-of-pace player and a great project for the future.
The secondary was a top priority for the Eagles as they were desperate to improve their last-ranked 2013 pass defense.
The Eagles added underrated corner Carroll to the mix. Carroll is a solid veteran player who could win a starting role in 2014. They also drafted Jaylen Watkins, the younger brother of talented wideout Sammy Watkins, in the fourth round.
The rest of the unit remained intact, but this cornerback corp should be much improved next season.
Safety was clearly prioritized by the Eagles. They added the talented Malcolm Jenkins to the roster. Jenkins is not the most reliable tackler, but he should provide instant relief in coverage, especially considering the debacle that the Eagles had last season in Patrick Chung.
Also importantly, the Eagles retained Nate Allen. Allen was not flashy, but he was a solid player in 2013. Competing with him will be Earl Wolff. Wolff showed potential in 2013 and will look to take the next step, possibly as a starter, in 2014.
Overall this unit, which was dreadful in 2013, looks to be on the rise.
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