Tom Byrne is a Philly Influencer contributor and national sports radio host on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio and NBA Radio. He started at SiriusXM in 2013 after hosting “The Tom Byrne Show” on 97.5 The Fanatic.
The Eagles abandoned ship on the Chip Kelly revolution before last season even finished, giving the proven winner less than three years to make a run at the Super Bowl. Suddenly Jeffrey Lurie, who had been enamored with Kelly’s up-tempo, spread offense and belief in sports science was thirsting for the Andy Reid tenure again.
Lurie first reinstated Howie Roseman as the man making football decisions moving forward. Roseman reportedly targeted Adam Gase, Ben McAdoo and Tom Coughlin before settling on former Birds quarterback and Reid disciple, Doug Pederson.
Can The Eagles score?
Sam Bradford was given a two-year, $35 million deal – $22 mil guaranteed – to presumably be the starter for the short-term. Next, the Eagles inexplicably threw former Chiefs backup Chase Daniel $21 million – $12 mil guaranteed – over three years. The Eagles seemed set at the quarterback position until they made a brash move a week before draft night. Roseman jumped up to grab the second overall selection, tabbing 6’5″, 235 lb. Carson Wentz from North Dakota State, prompting Bradford to demand a trade.
Bradford, who has never lived up to the hype after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Rams in 20101, came crawling back in early May, issuing the following lame statement:
“I’m excited to be back on the field today with my teammates and coaches. The business-side of football is sometimes a necessary consideration. My attention and efforts are focused on the participation in and preparation for a championship season: I am committed to my teammates and the Eagles organization for nothing less.”
It remains to be seen if the fans turn on Bradford quickly and whether or not he can remain healthy. Wentz, who suffered a hairline fracture in his rib in the team’s first preseason game, will begin the season as the third stringer.2
Bradford will be relying on an offensive line with some major flaws. Even former Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters has seen a decline over the last couple of seasons.3 Right tackle Lane Johnson is facing a 10-game suspension.
The running game will be left in the hands of Ryan Mathews and long-time veteran Darren Sproles. Wendell Smallwood, a fifth-round pick from West Virginia, may get some touches as well. After the Eagles swung and missed with the DeMarco Murray signing, they seem destined to be average on the ground.
The wide receivers fail to inspire, as well. Jordan Matthews is a solid receiver who is moving from the slot to the outside. Newly acquired receiver Dorial Green-Beckham brings an impressive skillset, but a number of question marks surround him. Second-year wideout Nelson Agholor looks to avoid the bust label after finishing with only 23 catches a year ago.4 Rueben Randle and Josh Huff provide some depth, if not much else.
Can the Eagles stop anyone?
The Birds’ defense hid behind the “Chip Kelly doesn’t understand ball control” excuse last season, finishing 30th in total defense. The fact is the defense is still searching for big-time playmakers. The closest thing the Eagles have is defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who inked a six-year, $103 million – $63 mil guaranteed – extension in June.5 Cox will need to stuff the run and get pressure on the opposing quarterback for a team that was in the middle of the pack with 37 sacks a season ago. Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham and Bennie Logan also will look to pressure the opposing quarterback to complement Cox.
Jordan Hicks, who was very impressive in his rookie year, returns from injury in 2016. He will be paired with Mychal Kendricks as well as newcomers Stephen Tulloch and Nigel Bradham. That’s pretty solid.
The secondary will have a new look this season after finishing 28th in passing yards allowed last year. The safeties are solid, led by Malcolm Jenkins and free agent signee Rodney McLeod. Cornerback may be a problem area for new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Gone is Byron Maxwell, a bitter disappointment signed to big money last offseason. Schwartz will have his former Buffalo Bill, Leodis McKelvin, to work alongside Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe. Counting on late-round draft picks Jalen Mills and and Blake Countess to perform at a high level this season would not be wise.
Cody Parkey returns after missing most of last season due to injury. An injury that I would never wish on any man. Parkey tore all three muscles in his groin, one year after proving to be a reliable kicker in 2014 making 32-of-36 field goals. He should be an upgrade over Caleb Sturgis. Donnie Jones may be one of the better punters in the NFL, averaging 47 yards per punt in 2016. Sproles has always been an electric punt returner, but at 33 years old, it remains to be seen how much he has left in the tank. Returning kickoffs will be Josh Huff who averaged 23.7 yards per return.
The Eagles averaged nine wins over the last three seasons under Chip Kelly, who was hamstrung with Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford at quarterback. Let’s see what “lil’ Andy” Doug Pederson can do in year one with the more conventional West Coast style offense. Roseman hardly inspires much confidence as far his ability to retool the roster. His risky decision to acquire Wentz is potentially problematic.6
If Bradford remains healthy, a chance at .500 is possible. However, it’s likely Bradford misses some time, if we just go by his past, which would usher in the nightmare scenario of seeing Chase Daniel behind center. Without a number one pick in next year’s draft,7 Pederson and co. will likely push to win every game they can, trusting Daniel more than Wentz since he’s been in the system for years. Fans will be bored stiff watching a 7-9 football team finish last in the NFC East without even getting a glimpse of the future at quarterback.
Can’t wait for football season.
1Who the hell does Bradford think he is? He should drop to his knees every night thankful someone gave him $35 million!
2I love all the writers and radio hosts breaking down Wentz like they have a clue. Nobody is watching North Dakota State football. Nobody.
3Believe it or not, I wouldn’t have minded if Peters was cut. The man disgracefully quit on his team last season.
4I have to admit to being wrong about Agholor. The guy was a stud at USC. I saw him live in South Bend where he was unstoppable against Notre Dame.
5For the record, the only player I would pay QB money to is the QB!
6If Wentz can’t play, that trade will set them back five years. Seems hard to believe an FCS QB nobody ever heard of 12 months ago will be worth it. We’ll see.
7The draft will be in Philly and we don’ t have a first-round pick! Ughhhhhh.