Year Two of the Chip Kelly era came to a close Sunday, and there were as many ups as there were downs for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014.
The team had high hopes after earning a trip to the playoffs in Kelly’s first year at the helm of the Eagles. But another 10-6 finish this season left Philadelphia behind the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East and out of the upcoming postseason race.
Without further ado, here is the unofficial review of the 2014 Philadelphia Eagles:
Regular Season Record: 10-6
NFC East Final Standings:
- Dallas Cowboys: 12-4
- Philadelphia Eagles: 10-6
- New York Giants: 6-10
- Washington Redskins: 4-12
- W vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 34-17
- W @ Indianapolis Colts, 30-27
- W vs. Washington Redskins, 37-34
- L @ San Francisco 49ers, 26-21
- W vs. St. Louis Rams, 34-28
- W vs. New York Giants, 27-0
- Bye Week
- L @ Arizona Cardinals, 24-20
- W @ Houston Texans, 31-21
- W vs. Carolina Panthers, 45-21
- L @ Green Bay Packers, 53-20
- W vs. Tennessee Titans, 43-24
- W @ Dallas Cowboys, 33-10
- L vs. Seattle Seahawks, 24-14
- L vs. Dallas Cowboys, 38-27
- L @ Washington Redskins, 27-24
- W @ New York Giants, 34-26
Mark Sanchez: 2,418 yards, 14 TD, 11 INT, 64.1 completion percentage, 88.4 passer rating
Nick Foles: 2,163 yards, 13 TD, 10 INT, 59.8 completion percentage, 81.4 passer rating
LeSean McCoy: 1,319 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 5 TD
Darren Sproles: 329 yards, 5.8 yards per carry, 6 TD
Chris Polk: 172 yards, 3.7 yards per carry, 4 TD
Jeremy Maclin: 85 receptions, 1,318 yards, 15.5 yards per catch, 10 TD
Jordan Matthews: 67 receptions, 872 yards, 13.0 yards per catch, 8 TD
Zach Ertz: 58 receptions, 702 yards, 12.1 yards per catch, 3 TD
Mychal Kendricks: 83 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
Malcolm Jenkins: 80 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Bradley Fletcher: 60 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Connor Barwin: 14.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
Vinny Curry: 9.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
Trent Cole: 6.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
Nate Allen: 4 interceptions, 5 pass deflections
Malcolm Jenkins: 3 interceptions, 15 pass deflections
Cary Williams: 2 interceptions, 10 pass deflections
Cody Parkey: 32-26 field goal, 88.9 field goal percentage, 54-54 PAT, 150 points
Donnie Jones: 76 punts, 43.8 yards per punt, 34 punts inside 20
Pro Bowl Selections, according to NFL.com: RB LeSean McCoy (third career selection), RB Darren Sproles (first), OT Jason Peters (seventh), C Jason Kelce (first), OLB Connor Barwin (first)
*Note: The following players were named alternates and will earn Pro Bowl appearances in the event of injuries or declined invitations by other players: WR Jeremy Maclin (third alternate), OG Evan Mathis (second), DE Fletcher Cox (sixth), S Chris Maragos (second) and K Cody Parkey (first).
What Went Right:
The Maclin Machine: After missing all of 2013 because of a torn ACL, Jeremy Maclin had a career season as the Eagles’ No. 1 receiver. The former first-round draft pick had always been a productive starter behind ex-Eagle DeSean Jackson. But his numbers this year were off the charts. Even after a slight dip in production that seemed to correspond with the injury of quarterback Nick Foles, Maclin posted career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns. His 85 catches for more than 1,300 yards put him on par with some of the best receiving performances in team history.
Forces Up Front: The Eagles defense had plenty of problems, but its front seven also put together some dominant showings. Pro Bowl pass rusher Connor Barwin was a terror in multiple roles, and three others (Trent Cole, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham) had at least 5.5 sacks. Fletcher Cox embraced his year-old transition to 3-4 DE like no other, and Bennie Logan had a few shining moments in the interior as well. At linebacker, Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho were hardly superstars in place of an injured DeMeco Ryans, but Mychal Kendricks helped make up for the rotation, leading the Eagles in tackles despite missing four games himself.
Takeaways and Special Days: Perhaps due in large part to the defense’s success up front, the Eagles had little trouble forcing turnovers this year. In fact, they had more takeaways than any team in the NFL. Along with 23 forced fumbles and 11 interceptions, Philadelphia scored points off a trio of blocked points. Aside from a pair of late-season field goal misses, the Eagles special teams unit was a driving force in virtually all of the team’s victories. Darren Sproles helped the punt return unit take off with several touchdowns, and rookie kicker Cody Parkey had a historic campaign as Alex Henery’s successor, setting the club record for most points scored in a single season.
What Went Wrong:
Picks All Around: Interceptions were a big problem for the Eagles in 2014, and the issue was apparent no matter who took snaps at quarterback. Nick Foles was bound to see a statistical decline after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2013, but his 10 picks in eight starts had some fans unnerved. After Foles went down with a broken collarbone, Mark Sanchez wasn’t much better in the turnover department, throwing 11 of his own interceptions over the course of nine games. Both signal-callers had their fair share of highlights, but the mass amount of picks did, in fact, catch up to the Eagles in some crucial games.
Troubles Up Front: In contrast to the dominant flashes of the Eagles defensive line, the team’s O-line was very much up and down in 2014. It didn’t help that starters Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson all missed time due to either injuries or suspension. And while left tackle Jason Peters was his usual elite self and the line was far from horrendous, the group was unable to replicate its wholesome dominance of late. LeSean McCoy still topped 1,000 rushing yards behind the line, but he also had a number of games in which he was all but a non-factor, even if he was at fault for some of his own struggles.
Secondary in Shambles: Despite forcing turnovers, the Eagles defense was marred for much of the year by an inability to defend the pass. The secondary wasn’t completely helpless in all of its games, but it struggled enough to warrant a rightful label as one of the Eagles’ biggest weaknesses. The unit finished the season as the 25th-ranked pass “D” in the league. And it also surrendered more passes of at least 20 yards than any other team. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher was a popular target of criticism late in the season, but defensive coordinator Billy Davis – or the Eagles front office, for that matter – might deserve just as much blame for the team’s struggles.
The High Point:
Week 13: Eagles 33, Cowboys 10
The Eagles looked like the class of the conference after a Thanksgiving Day rout of the rival Cowboys. For Philadelphia to dominate the way it did was promising to say the least, and the fact that the Eagles walked all over Dallas in the Cowboys’ own home simply added fuel to the fire. Mark Sanchez had perhaps his best performance of the year, leading the Eagles to a pair of quick scoring drives, and Philly’s “D” stepped up to bottle up DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher. The win gave the Eagles sole possession of first place in the NFC East and allowed the team control of its own destiny with four games remaining in the season.
The Low Point:
Week 11: Eagles 20, Packers 53
The Eagles’ Week 15 loss to Dallas might have been the unofficial nail in the coffin of the 2014 season, and its emotional defeat might have been as heavy as the team’s emotional victory against the Cowboys two weeks earlier. But if there was one game that epitomized Philadelphia’s struggles, it was the team’s blowout loss to Green Bay. Aside from Philadelphia simply looking outmatched and exhausted, the team’s problems in the secondary and with turnovers were severely exposed. Perhaps more than anything, the Eagles received a warning of the work they desperately needed to do before being able to compete with the NFL’s best.
DE Fletcher Cox: His numbers don’t exactly speak volumes, but his presence in the trenches did. In his second year as a 3-4 end, Cox built a name for himself as one of the NFL’s most feared defensive linemen. He wasn’t a sack artist this season, but he was almost always driving someone into the backfield and helped set the tone for the Eagles’ productive run “D.” The pressure applied by Cox also aided his teammates’ pass rushing success and set up several turnovers throughout the season.
OLB Connor Barwin: Like Cox, Barwin was a standout without gaudy numbers in 2013. This year, however, the veteran outside linebacker was all over the field, making highlight after highlight as the defense’s play-making centerpiece. Although he wasn’t elite in coverage and his unit, the defense, had plenty of trouble stopping big plays, Barwin rarely appeared out of position. He was a constant force around the edge with NUMBER sacks and once again played a pivotal role in filling blocks up front.
The Final One-Liners:
The Eagles really struggled when they needed to step up this season, but they are also still very much a fresh project of Chip Kelly.
Improvements are necessary on both sides of the ball and some glaring concerns might not even be quick fixes, but the tempo, tenacity and culture of Kelly’s Eagles have already seemed to make the team a perennial candidate to do some damage.
What 2014 should have taught Philadelphia is that Nick Foles may or may not be the Eagles’ answer at quarterback, but Mark Sanchez most definitely is not.
That is not a knock against Sanchez, who might have done more than any veteran backup is reasonably expected to do as an injury replacement, but rather a suggestion that patience should be taken with Foles after his injury- and turnover-riddled showing as a first-time, full-time starter.
LeSean McCoy’s dependence on deadly cutbacks was bittersweet more than ever in 2014, but Eagles fans would be wise to appreciate how mediocre he made a 1,300-yard rushing season look.
Critics of the Eagles’ deep passing game (or lack thereof) are probably right that the post-DeSean Jackson offense wasn’t nearly as vertical, but they should also consider the evident drop-off on long throws that occurred when Sanchez replaced an injured Foles halfway through the year.
Eagles fans might say the team should have buyer’s remorse for the contract it gave Riley Cooper after 2013, but not one of those people should feel slighted if the team gives even more money to ensure Cooper’s fellow receiver, Jeremy Maclin, sticks around in 2015 and beyond.
Somehow, all of a sudden, age could be a concern with the Eagles offensive line, which has the pieces to be dominant but maybe not the endurance.
On the flip side, the Eagles might have the makings of a historic defensive front if they continue to develop their young starters, namely forceful defensive end Fletcher Cox and the team’s pair of fiery nose tackles in Bennie Logan and Beau Allen.
DeMeco Ryans’ 2014 injury was unfortunate and it might not be long before the Eagles have to part ways with the veteran’s invaluable experience and leadership, but the team might also have one of the NFL’s top up-and-coming stars at Ryans’ position in Mychal Kendricks.
Give credit to Casey Matthews, a guy whose future with the Eagles is unclear but who overcame several years of subpar backup play to become a more-than-adequate fill-in for Ryans this season.
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding an Eagles secondary that struggled mightily in some areas, and if this season revealed anything within it, it’s probably that both Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher would make good backups but not everyday starters.
Fletcher has generally been the more consistent of the two cornerbacks but simply couldn’t keep up with any top-tier receivers, whereas Williams, who could understandably return in his role next year, saw his physicality work both for and against him.
Malcolm Jenkins wasn’t quite as impacting in the second half of the season, but to deny that he was one of the most promising and reliable safeties the Eagles had since Brian Dawkins left town would be borderline illogical.
Jenkins’ counterpart, Nate Allen, shouldn’t be forgotten, either, and while Allen’s position could be upgraded if he hits free agency for a second straight year, his work ethic paid off in some respects during a four-interception season at SS.
Cody Parkey may have missed a few crucial kicks late in the year, but he also put together one of the finest seasons of any kicker in Eagles history, solidifying himself as a standout rookie and the team’s anticipated special teams ace for years to come.