Eagles' Armory Stockpiled At Skill Positions
By Frank Irving
Coach Chip Kelly will enter the 2014 season with the luxury of revving up — rather than overhauling — the NFL's second ranked offense. The Philadelphia Eagles have skill position Pro Bowlers across the board in QB Nick Foles, RB LeSean McCoy and WR DeSean Jackson.
The real intrigue in coming months, through the March free agency and April draft periods, will be how the Eagles supplement their talent.
The three aforementioned players are fixtures at their respective positions, all coming off career years. Let's take a look at where Philadelphia may upgrade.
Bryce Brown and Chris Polk, while not in the same class as McCoy, provide solid depth at running back. The pair combined for 457 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns in 98 touches with no fumbles in 2013. What the Eagles lack, however, is a pure power back capable of picking up tough yards in short down-and-distance and goal-to-go situations. They're unlikely to invest a draft pick on such a player, but may keep their options open on a free agent bruiser who could also contribute on special teams.
At wide receiver, the Eagles must decide between free-agents-to-be Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin; the team will likely only retain one of the pair. Cooper is coming off an 835-yard, eight-touchdown season, while Maclin logged more than 3,400 yards and scored 26 touchdowns in his first four seasons with Philadelphia before going on injured reserve at the start of 2013 training camp. Both Cooper and Maclin are 26, but with health status taken into consideration, the former is probably a lower risk than the latter. Cooper may also extend a bit of a home-team discount to the Birds, given his acceptance by teammates following an ugly racial slur incident at the start of last season.
A number of pre-draft reports have the Eagles adding youth and depth at wideout with the possible selection of Kelvin Benjamin, who caught the winning score in the BCS National Championship game. That scenario would certainly make more sense if Philadelphia were to lose both Cooper and Maclin to free agency. At 6-5 and 235 pounds with 4.5 speed, Benjamin is an intriguing prospect.
The Eagles are set at tight end. Zach Ertz and Brent Celek combined for 68 catches, 971 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns during the just-completed season. Of the two, Ertz seems to be the rising star, praised by coaches for his precise route-running. Although, he needs to gain some strength. James Casey, the third tight end, saw increased reps toward the end of the season, recognized for his blocking contributions.
Taken as a whole, the skill positions should flourish in Kelly's second year as Philadelphia's offensive mastermind.