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June 16, 2016

10 reasons the Eagles will be a dumpster fire this season

Eagles NFL
061616SamBradford Matt Rourke/AP

Sleevie Wonder is likely little more than a one-year rental.

This week, all week long, we took a brutal look at each of the teams in the NFC East, in detail. The first target was the last place 4-12 Dallas Cowboys, who we roasted on Monday. On Tuesday, we busted on the Giants. Wednesday we ripped the Redskins

Today we'll finish up with your Philadelphia Eagles. To note, we did not talk about the positives of any of the Eagles' NFC East rivals, because, well, that wouldn't be any fun. They were 100 percent vitriolic, and it will be no different with the Eagles.

1) Sam Bradford is the Eagles' quarterback

On the whole last season, Sam Bradford was very clearly a below average quarterback. Here is where his numbers ranked among other quarterbacks:

 Sam BradfordStat Rank 
 QB rating86.4 26 
 YPA7.0 25 
 TD passes19 T-22 
 Completion percentage65.0% 11 

He also threw the seventh-most interceptions.

The only stat above that is somewhat favorable was Bradford's completion percentage, which was a little above average, but only because the vast majority of his completions were short throws. The typical Bradford completion is noted here:

(That's a forward pass, to be clear, so at least DeMarco fell forward).

Of course, many Bradford supporters (most notably his agent) pointed to Bradford's "last seven games," which will go down as some sort of magical time in American history in which diseases ceased to exist, it was 81 degrees and sunny literally everywhere, and we had world peace. 

In reality, Sam Bradford's last seven games, while certainly better than his first seven games, were not impressive. We even published a children's book about it. Bradford put up inflated stats in garbage time blowout losses to the Cardinals and Redskins, followed by a meaningless Week 17 game against the third-worst defense in NFL history.

The Eagles may have themselves a future at quarterback with the addition of Carson Wentz. That's to be determined. But in 2016, a guy entering his seventh season in the NFL with 25 career wins will be the Eagles' quarterback. Make all the excuses you want for him, but he's "middle of the road" (MOTR), at best.

2) Ryan Mathews is the Eagles' running back

When Ryan Mathews got playing time last season, he was very good. He carried the ball 106 times for 539 yards (5.1 YPC) and 6 TDs, which made him the most productive runner on the team. 

Unfortunately, he's never not hurt. Mathews has only played all 16 games once in his career, and even when he wasn't missing games, he was often playing with some kind of injury. From 2010-2015, Mathews appeared on the injury report a staggering 53 times.

He's also not a great fit for the offense. Doug Pederson has said that he wants to be able to move his backs around to create mismatches for opposing defenses in the passing game. Unfortunately, Mathews can't catch.

This offseason, both Mathews and DeMarco Murray were on the trading block. The Eagles were going to trade one and keep the other. When they traded Murray, Mathews became the lead back, out of necessity. Behind him, they have Darren Sproles, who is more "offensive weapon" than traditional running back, rookie Wendell Smallwood, who still has to learn how to pass protect, and Kenjon Barner, who for some reason is beloved by many in the fan base despite never having done jack in the NFL since he was drafted three years ago.

The Eagles don't necessarily want Mathews long term, and yet they're kinda screwed in 2016 without him in the short term. In that sense, Mathews is kind of like the Sam Bradford of running backs.

3) The Eagles' wide receivers aren't good enough

I believe this video kind of says it all.

The Eagles led the league in drops last season, and a few of their receivers have struggled with them so far this offseason in OTAs and minicamp.

Jordan Matthews is a very good player who is likely to make a boatload of catches over a long NFL career. However, his coaches to this point in his career have not shown that they want him playing on the outside. Should his career continue along that path, he can be a premier slot receiver, which of course isn't the worst thing, but may be his ceiling. 

After Matthews, it's ugly. Nelson Agholor had a disappointing rookie season, and now he's dealing with very serious legal issues stemming from accusations of sexual assault in a Philly strip club. Meanwhile, the Eagles signed a receiver the Giants no longer wanted in Rueben Randle, Josh Huff can't catch the football, and Chris Givens has been on a downward trajectory since a decent rookie season.

4) The offensive line remains a concern

After Chip Kelly essentially ignored the offensive line for the entirety of his tenure in Philly, the Eagles were left with an offensive line a season ago that lacked depth, and was the oldest in the NFL. We covered it at length in our "Eagles dumpster fire" series a year ago.

This offseason, the Eagles took a major step in the right direction by trying to fix the offensive line. They signed starting RG Brandon Brooks and versatile interior lineman Stefen Wisniewski in free agency, and then spent two of their first four draft picks on OT/OG/C Isaac Seumalo and OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

Unquestionably, the Eagles will head into the 2016 season in better shape along their offensive line than they did in 2015. Still, there are concerns:

  1. Jason Peters turned 34 years old in January, and his play fell off significantly last season. He is no longer looked at as a dominant left tackle. Rather, the more realistic hope is that he can make it through the season without any serious injuries and provide good play, not great.
  2. The LG spot is still an obvious hole.
  3. Jason Kelce would be the first to say he has to play a lot better in 2016 than he did in 2015.
  4. While Brandon Brooks will almost certainly be an upgrade at RG, he still has to assimilate into a new offensive scheme playing in between two new teammates.

5) So to recap...

Offensively, the Eagles have varying levels of concern at QB, RB, WR, and their OL. But their tight ends are good! So there's that.

6) Special teams will likely experience a dropoff

For all of his faults, one of the great things Chip Kelly did in his tenure with the Eagles was bring back great special teams play. In 2014 and 2015, the Eagles scored 10 special teams touchdowns, an absolutely ridiculous total.

Kelly's fast-paced practices emphasized special teams. While I cannot confirm this for sure, there's almost no way there was another team in the NFL that practiced special teams drills more than the Eagles did when Kelly was the head coach.

Under Doug Pederson, the Eagles' practices are more instructive, and thus, slower. There are benefits and drawbacks to that approach, and one of the drawbacks is that the Eagles are paying far less attention to special teams in practice these days.

The Eagles still have standout special teams players like Sproles, Chris Maragos, Bryan Braman, and Donnie Jones, but it's hard to imagine them maintaining the level of success they had under Kelly. Special teams coach Dave Fipp will have to make the most of his limited time coaching up his units. For no reason whatsoever, here's Fipp if his eyes rapidly changed colors.

7) Lack of depth at key spots

#JimmyConfession: You know how we writers like to do 53-man roster projections in freaking May? I can't speak for other writers, but I do them because they're easy and they do well traffic-wise. They're good posts to do when you can't think of other stuff to write, but they're nearly useless until you start to get deep into training camp.

The one thing they are good for this early in the offseason process is getting a good feel for how deep the team is. If you have 56 or 57 players you'd like to keep on the roster, but making those final three or four cuts is difficult, there's a good chance the team is deep. 

Conversely, if you can quickly pencil in 47 or 48 guys who you definitely want and then you're picking the final five or six guys just because you have to, then your depth probably isn't very good. In doing my 53-man roster projection so far this offseason, picking those final five guys was like being a 1980's Wheel of Fortune contestant picking crappy prizes after solving a puzzle.

We already mentioned the Eagles' lack of depth at running back and wide receiver, but they also have significant depth concerns at defensive tackle, linebacker, and safety.

8) The Eagles hate possessing the football

Over the last five years, the Eagles have turned the ball over 161 times, which is by far the most in the NFL:

Team 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 TOTAL
Eagles 31 36 19 37 38 161
Jets 24 24 29 37 34 148
Buccaneers 28 33 21 23 40 145
Raiders 24 29 31 26 30 140
Giants 21 28 44 21 24 138
Cardinals 24 17 31 34 32 138
Redskins 22 31 34 14 35 136
Lions 24 20 34 33 23 134
Titans 33 26 25 28 22 134
Bills 19 23 27 34 30 133
Broncos 31 20 26 25 30 132
Steelers 28 21 24 30 28 131
Colts 30 31 14 27 29 131
Jaguars 28 26 27 26 23 130
Cowboys 33 25 20 29 21 128
Browns 30 23 29 26 19 127
Bears 21 29 23 24 29 126
Chargers 24 23 21 26 28 122
Bengals 17 26 30 26 22 121
Falcons 30 23 28 18 21 120
Dolphins 19 23 26 26 25 119
Vikings 17 20 32 23 26 118
Ravens 28 20 29 16 24 117
Chiefs 15 17 18 37 28 115
Rams 21 27 21 22 23 114
Saints 20 30 19 24 19 112
Texans 20 22 31 17 20 110
Panthers 19 23 19 22 23 106
Packers 17 13 25 16 24 95
Seahawks 16 14 19 18 23 90
49ers 17 22 18 16 10 83
Patriots 14 13 20 16 17 80

Over that span, they have more than double the number of turnovers as the Patriots. Both Andy Reid and Chip Kelly were offenders of terrible ball security. Can Doug Pederson turn that around?

9) The Eagles have a lot of guys at corner, but no studs

Leodis McKelvin played his best ball under Jim Schwartz in 2014, but the rest of his career has been underwhelming for a former 11th overall draft pick. It appears he'll be the "No. 1 corner" for the Eagles this season. Meanwhile, Eric Rowe played well as a rookie last season, best has yet to stand out so far this offseason and has mostly been running with the second team defense. 

Otherwise, there's Nolan Carroll, who was a decent starter a year ago, Ron Brooks, a vet with three career starts, and a handful of rookies and second-year players the Eagles hope will step up.

While it could certainly be worse, the Eagles CB situation is not ideal.

10) Doug Pederson himself is a concern

When the Eagles were trying to hire a new head coach, they wanted to hire Ben McAdoo, who took the Giants' head job instead. They even had a gift basket with Tastykakes and all kinds of other Philly-themed stuff ready and waiting for McAdoo on the second floor of the NovaCare Complex, like this:

Just because Pederson wasn't the Eagles' first choice doesn't mean he won't be successful. But like any neophyte coach, Pederson has a lot to prove. 

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski