In two weeks, the journey to Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey officially begins when rookies report to training camp. Unlike years past, the Philadelphia Eagles’ camp will have a much different feel to it. For the last decade the team made the trek up the Northeast Extension to Lehigh University, led by head coach Andy Reid. This year however, Reid will be at the helm in Kansas City, replaced by Chip Kelly and the destination of training camp has moved to the team’s NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia.
Veterans report three days later and then all sights will be set on the season opener, a Monday night matchup on September 9th against the reigning NFC East Champion Washington Redskins.
It’s an understatement to say that the Eagles had a tough season in 2012, going 4-12 overall, 2-10 against conference opponents and 1-5 against NFC East rivals. After winning their first divisional game of the season in Week 4 at home against the New York Giants, Philadelphia lost 8 straight games until a last minute win at Tampa Bay, and proceeded to lose every divisional game from that point on.
The Redskins and Robert Griffin III had their way with Philadelphia last season, sweeping the season series for the first time since 2008. Things might be a little different by the Monday night tilt due to Griffin III’s right knee injury that he has been rehabbing throughout the offseason. Eagles’ fans won’t complain if the speedy RGIII isn’t ready for the opener. Washington’s dual threat quarterback torched the Eagles in two games last season, throwing 6 touchdown passes to just 1 interception. In the first matchup at home in Week 11, Griffin III was one pass from perfection, completing 14 of 15 passes for 200 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also rushed for 84 yards in that contest.
Philadelphia did a better job containing the mobile quarterback in their Week 16 matchup at Lincoln Financial Field, but he still threw a couple of touchdown passes while Redskins’ rookie running back Alfred Morris rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown.
The run-pass, spread offense of Washington caused problems for Philadelphia but hiring former University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly may help solve some of them. Kelly is known to be an offensive guru with a spread attack that registered gaudy offensive numbers while at Oregon.
Since signing with the Eagles, Kelly has been through a couple of mini-camps and the players have said that Kelly’s style is fast paced like a cheetah in the African safari or a jet flying at Mach-1. Whichever the case, Kelly’s high speed practice methods will translate to high speed game preparation and hopefully, higher scores on the scoreboard. At the same time, the defense might control spread offenses such as Washington’s a little better since they will be working at such a quick pace during camp with the likes of Michael Vick.
Or will it be Nick Foles?
That has been the burning question on the minds of Eagles fans, media, and players for that matter throughout this offseason. Who will be the Eagles’ starting quarterback?
Kelly has stated that he doesn’t care for a depth chart. Both Vick and Foles have received reps with starters and the upcoming training camp will breed competition from each. Vick lost the starting job last year due to a concussion but his numbers didn’t warrant an immediate return to the lineup when he returned to full health. In 10 games last season, he threw 12 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and had trouble holding onto the ball, fumbling 11 times.
Foles took over for Vick in the Week 11 matchup against Washington and although his record didn’t show it (1-5 as a starter), he looked comfortable in Andy Reid’s pass happy attack. The former Arizona Wildcat threw for more than 300 yards twice in those 6 starts and finished the season with 6 touchdown passes and 5 interceptions before suffering a broken hand against Washington in Week 16. Foles finished the season with a 79.1 quarterback rating while Vick recorded a 78.1 rating. Looks like it will be a difficult decision for the first year coach, but one thing is certain, whichever holds onto the ball and commits the least amount of turnovers will be the front runner for the starting job.
In defense of the quarterbacks, the offensive line was a mess last season for Philadelphia. With 4th overall pick Lane Johnson joining the fold and Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters returning from injury, an offensive line that allowed the 5th most sacks in the NFL (48) will greatly improve. Another aspect that Kelly will look to improve is the amount of turnovers forced from his defense. The Eagles defense and special teams forced a total of 13 turnovers (8 interceptions, 5 fumbles) which tied for the least amount in the NFL with Kansas City. Philadelphia addressed this need in the offseason by signing cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher and safety Patrick Chung.
Unlike the Eagles inconsistencies on the defensive side, the Redskins’ defense was Jekyll and Hyde last season for head coach Mike Shanahan. Washington had one of the stingiest run defenses (95 YPG) in the league but also one of the most porous pass defenses (281 YPG).
There will be a lot of similarities in this game with the new look Philadelphia offense mimicking the spread that Washington runs with RGIII. The first Monday night matchup of the year will showcase two high flying offensive attacks but it is still uncertain who will be behind center for both teams. Questions still remain for both teams due to the health of Griffin III’s surgically repaired knee and the QB competition of Foles and Vick. Those questions will continue to be brought up throughout camp, but we are that much closer to an answer. Only time will tell.