First year head coach Chip Kelly led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 10-6 record despite a change in starting quarterbacks, a 1-4 start to the season, and a locker room that threatened to be torn apart by a racial slur being used by one of the team's receivers. They also managed to play their way into the NFL post-season with a defense that was less than stellar, thanks to an offensive attack that put up franchise records for yardage, points, and touchdown. The Eagles find themselves in a position where they face an opportunity to better themselves in preparation for a run deep in the playoffs.
With the Chip Kelly offense blending right in and establishing itself with Nick Foles at the helm, the obvious area for the Eagles to focus on is in building a defense that can slow down the opposition. The Philly defense did not out perform their counterparts in Dallas by much. The Eagles scoring defense was 29th in the league. As a unit, the Eagles were top ten against the run, but the secondary was atrocious. Improving that will be the biggest opportunity for the Philadelphia front office to make a difference.
One other challenge that will loom large for the Eagles will be in replacing DeSean Jackson, who has departed for the Washington Redskins along with Jason Avant, who is now a Carolina Panther.
For a team that obviously had issues keeping opponents off the scoreboard selecting a defensive player in the first round is a solid move. Strangely, with the team's immediate need to upgrade the secondary, Philadelphia chose Marcus Smith, an OLB out of Louisville. Smith will most likely start his career as a rotational player behind Connor Barwin and Trent Cole. The Eagles then invested their next two picks in replacing the two receivers that were lost during the off season; Jordan Matthews from Vanderbilt and Josh Huff, who played for Kelly at the University of Oregon. Both men should see plenty of opportunities to make an impact in the Foles-led offensive attack.
Having completed the replacement project for their high-powered offense, the Philadelphia front office returned to their area of greatest need, the defense. In the fourth round they finally addressed the most glaring weakness on the team, the secondary. The Eagles used their fourth-round selection on cornerback Jaylen Watkins out of Florida. The most intriguing thing about this selection is that Watkins had never been a full-time starter at any point during his time in Gainesville. This move was followed by a pair of picks in the fifth round; first they selected another former Chip Kelly player, DE Taylor Hart to strengthen the rotation up front and then S Ed Reynolds out of Stanford. The final Eagle selection was NT Beau Allen, a mammoth out of the University of Wisconsin where he practiced daily against Cowboys center Travis Frederick.
The Eagles addressed their issues in the secondary by signing Malcolm Jenkins, the former New Orleans Saints safety. Jenkins will be an immediate upgrade over the departed Patrick Chung. He will be joined by another free agent acquisition for the secondary, former Miami Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll. He looks serviceable on defense and can be counted on to help enhance the Philadelphia special teams unit. To replace former starting QB turned back-up Michael Vick, the Eagles brought in former New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez. The front office also made a deal to bring in Darren Sproles to pair up with Shady McCoy and give the team an explosive backfield tandem.
The Philadelphia front office made some key moves to keep Chip Kelly's high flying offense fully stocked. In addition a few moves were made to improve the defense that hampered the squad in 2013, but not all of the moves were made in strengthening positions that needed to be addressed. Will it be enough to allow the Eagles to repeat as the NFC East winner and perhaps give them a chance to go further into the playoffs? Only 16 weeks (or more) of football will provide that answer.