Philadelphia Sports Nation caught up with Philadelphia’s own Walter Cherepinsky of Walter Football to help compose our season preview for the 2014 Philadelphia Eagles.
As the 2014 season nears, the stakes have changed significantly. Following a dismal 2012 season, 2013 was scheduled as a “rebuild” of sorts. With a new coach, new schemes on both sides of the ball, and a new balance of power, fans stocked their medicine cabinets with cures for growing pains. However, optimism and expectations are higher than the new video boards at the Linc. In Walter Cherepinsky’s eyes, expectation of a cakewalk regular season could be crushed by reality.
“I think the Eagles may struggle to score at times.,” Cherepinsky admitted. “Nick Foles battled only one team in the top-15 in terms of pass defense (YPA) in the regular season (Cardinals), and the Eagles barely won that game at home. They play tougher teams this year, plus the opposition has had an opportunity to study film of Chip Kelly’s offense.” The highly publicized loss of DeSean Jackson, as well as the short-term suspension of Lane Johnson, will stunt the Eagle offense in the beginning of the season.
Fortunately, the Eagles face mediocre defenses in the first three weeks: Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Washington will find stopping the Eagles difficult. “The Eagles should still be able to put up tons of points against lesser competition,” assured Cherepinsky. Hopefully, the team will be able to iron out the wrinkles in time for its week four tilt in San Francisco. Cherepinsky also says that Nick Foles will return to Earth after an absurd second year: “I don’t think he’ll necessarily struggle or anything, but I don’t think he’ll be as good as he was last year.”
Head coach Chip Kelly expects some of the younger players to provide targets for Nick Foles, and Cherepinsky believes one of those players has yet to play an NFL game in receiver Jordan Matthews: “He’s been great in OTAs, and it sounds like he’ll get plenty of action in the slot. I expect a big year out of [Zach Ertz].” If Matthews and Ertz can combine to make up Jackson’s missing yardage—and speedster Josh Huff can account for Jason Avant’s 2013 production—the Eagles should find their 2013 form.
Defensively, the team may pick up where it left off in 2013. Having added a role model and a prospect, the Eagles remain largely unimproved. ” I don’t think they’ll be anemic like the Cowboys or anything, but they have a weak unit overall. The secondary is a huge issue,” Cherepinsky said.While the defense as a whole found life difficult last year, the secondary held its own for the majority of the season. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher became serviceable starters towards the latter part of the year. Brandon Boykin became a household hero last year: in two months, Boykin ended a ten-game losing streak against Washington, and saved the season against Dallas. Though Malcolm Jenkins’ numbers in New Orleans were not jaw-dropping, the former Buckeye should provide ample cover for the high-press style the cornerbacks employ. “Malcolm Jenkins has never lived up to his potential, but he’s better than what the Eagles had at safety last year,” Cherepinsky said.
Though the secondary may perform better than expected, the front seven may be subject to abuse from teams like Indianapolis, San Francisco, and Green Bay. All these offenses boast threatening passing attacks, and unless the Eagles can serve up a strong pass rush, the team may leave its secondary out to dry. While first-round pick Marcus Smith could become a solid replacement for Trent Cole next year, his 2014 contribution may be underwhelming. “He has a ton of potential, but I don’t see him contributing much this year unless there are injuries and he has to be forced into the lineup. He could have a big 2015 season,” Cherepinsky agreed.
Overall, the Eagles should produce the same outcome as they did last year. Even if they face a bumpy ride, the Eagles should find themselves atop the division at a familiar 10-6.
I have them going 10-6 in my season previews and losing in the second round of the playoffs to the 49ers. I could see them winning anywhere between eight and 11 games, barring a multitude of injuries. Eagles: 10-6. Redskins: 8-8 (biggest threat if Robert Griffin stays healthy all year, but I don’t think that’ll happen). Giants: 5-11. Cowboys: 3-13.
They have a good chance to win the division, and any team that makes the playoffs has a shot. Just look at the Giants and Ravens of prior years. No one thought they’d win the Super Bowl, but they got hot at the right time. The Eagles are not in my top five or six teams to most likely claim the Lombardi Trophy, but they could do it.