The difference in the Eagles’ 9-3 checkpoint record compared to their 7-5 mark last year has been the stellar play of the defense and special teams. This year’s defense has been opportunistic, and has used its stellar front seven play to mask the secondary (except for Sunday night’s debacle). Howie Roseman’s offseason signings have paid off tremendously, as Malcolm Jenkins and Darren Sproles—though that have struggled at times these past few weeks—have added a few wins to the team on their own. Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman have added ferocity to the special teams, and have forced opposing coaching staffs to game plan for the coverage and return units.
In spite of all these positives, the difference between the Eagles’ final four 2013 games and the two they’ve played this month, has been the quarterback play. While Nick Foles made plays in key moments of last year’s games, Mark Sanchez has failed to keep the Eagles in attack mode when they need it most.
When they took the lead against Dallas, Sanchez failed to pile on after missing easy throws, and making poor decisions in the pocket. Against Seattle, Sanchez was given solid field position one or two times in the game. Instead of cashing in and scoring touchdowns, Sanchez couldn’t lead the Eagles to the goal line, and forced the team to kick field goals.
Chip Kelyl has been unable to open up his playbook recently, with both Foles and Sanchez proving they aren’t trustworthy with taking care of the ball. Though Foles is more of an unknown, the remedy for the offensive obstacle at hand is right in front of the Eagles. With a quarterback, and some average, addition-by-subtraction like improvement in the secondary, the Eagles would likely prove unstoppable in 2015.
Fans will cowardly state that trading for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is a pipe dream. They naively claim that the trade cannot be done. They timidly point to the disastrous Redskins’ trade, leaving Washington staring at another top pick.
However, fans fail to realize that Marcus Mariota is not a “guess” pick, or a projection of how he will play in the pros. Mariota has already thrived in the same offense Chip Kelly runs in Philadelphia, and offers the dual threat that neither Foles nor Sanchez can consistently provide. One of the ways Seattle’s Russell Wilson bailed out the ‘Hawks was by breaking contain, and running for major yardage (most notably a 26-yard touchdown). When defenses try to play man coverage, and overpower the receivers, Mariota will be able to break contain and run for yardage, since the corners won’t be following the quarterback’s movement while playing man.
Though his vision and accuracy are sometimes questioned by scouts, Mariota’s arm strength will again open up the deep pass for the Eagles. With an offseason to prepare for 2015, rookie Josh Huff is likely to blossom into a deep threat for the offense. Huff, Jeremy Maclin, and even Darren Sproles could open up the long passing game for the offense, since Mariota is capable of reaching deep receivers.
To acquire Mariota, negotiation will be instrumental. The Eagles could send a package including their 1st and 2nd round picks in 2015, their 1st and 3rd round picks in 2016, and quarterback Nick Foles for the top pick. While this is a hefty price, the Eagles likely do not need another six or seven rookies in a season where the Super Bowl is the objective. Foles offers trade value because he has proven to be successful in the NFL, and teams will invest in him hoping he can replicate his 2013 form.
Walter Cherepinsky of WalterFootball.com noted that the ideal trade partner for the Eagles would be the Buccaneers, mainly because of their coach’s mentality: “Usually, I wouldn’t think the No. 1 team would give up a potential franchise quarterback,” Cherepinsky said. “But Lovie Smith hates rookie quarterbacks, so I think he’d be interested in starting Foles and adding pieces elsewhere.”
This trade would create a near unstoppable offense, and may send the Eagles into a gear even faster than the one they played with in Dallas. With the defense steadily growing, the team would resemble the ’09 Saints that marched to the Super Bowl, and knocked off a top quarterback in Peyton Manning. Without risk, there will be no reward. While this proposition is radical, such a risk is required to break a Super Bowl drought nearing a half -century. Obviously, if Roseman’s gamble fails to pay off, he’d better be prepared to take shots like this.
No matter how far the Eagles go this year, Marcus Mariota has to be at the top of the grocery list for the Eagle brass.
Photo: USA Today