Chip Kelly came to Philadelphia to make this team’s offense the best in the league. That’s his forte, using all sorts of crazy formations and plays to rack up a lot of yards and a lot of points as quickly as possible. This style of play isn’t for everyone, but Eagles Nation seems to have embraced it with open arms since he came here. Has it always been the best? No, but it’s always been up there as one of the best.
Unfortunately though, there were many games in which I felt the offense was the weakest point of this team. Instead of the defense or special teams coming up short, it would be the offense struggling to the point of failure. This doesn’t sound like what was expected of Kelly’s offense. Sure, it still was really good this year and finished fifth in the league in total yards per game (396.8), sixth in pass yards per game (272.3), ninth in rush yards per game (124.5) and third in points per game. So they were top ten in all four categories…but why’d they only finish 10-6? Well, there were multiple games where the offense barely produced at all.
Some of this isn’t Kelly’s fault. They had their fair share of injuries on the offensive side of the ball, including three starting offensive lineman and their starting quarterback. Nick Foles missed half the season with a broken collarbone, Evan Mathis missed seven games with a sprained MCL, Jason Kelce missed four games with a hurt groin and Todd Herremans missed eight games with a torn bicep. Those are some of their most important players on their team. But all teams have injuries.
Obviously, the injury to Foles was the biggest. Mark Sanchez came in and was all right as a backup, but nothing special. He beat the bad teams and got crushed by the good teams. Well, surprisingly he actually beat two playoff teams, the Cowboys on Thanksgiving and the Panthers on MNF. But the Cowboys struggled at home and the Panthers entered the playoffs with a losing record. Sanchez more notably appeared helpless against the Seahawks and Packers, two pivotal games in their season.
Now I wouldn’t say Foles was putting up a Pro Bowl caliber season, but he played better than Sanchez. He finished 6-2 as a starter and almost 8-0. Wins are wins. Foles finished with 2,163 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in eight games. Sanchez finished with 2,418 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Sanchez added a rushing touchdown, but was sacked 23 times in nine games compared to Foles getting sacked only nine times in his eight games. Foles also dealt with a shattered offensive line the entire time he was playing…not only did he deal with the injuries to Kelce and Mathis, but Lane Johnson missed the first four games due to suspension. He is a huge part of their run game, and it was a clear difference when he finally returned.
Overall, Sanchez didn’t look good enough to earn himself a starting job with the Eagles next year and will probably sign elsewhere. Foles has one more year left on his contract, so he will likely be the starter in 2015 and need to perform well to continue to be the starter.
On the ground, the Eagles weren’t nearly as deadly as they were last year, but LeSean McCoy still had a really good season. McCoy finished with 1,319 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He also had 155 receiving yards and three total fumbles. McCoy may not have matched his dominance from last year, but the rushing yards were the second highest of his career and good for third in the league. His low YPC and rushing touchdowns were the concern though. Only five touchdowns on over 300 rushing attempts is pretty poor. He also only averaged 4.2 YPC. It was also his least receiving yards in a season of his career and his first season without a receiving touchdown since his rookie year.
Darren Sproles had an excellent season in his first year in Philadelphia, running for 329 yards and five touchdowns and 387 receiving yards. He also led the league in punt return average and punt return touchdowns, earning himself a Pro Bowl and second-team All Pro honors. Can’t get much better than that for a backup running back. He exceeded expectations and was a big part of their “x factor” on offense. Chris Polk, the third string running back, ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns, adding a kick return touchdown as well. It’s a bit strange to have two running backs on the roster finish with more total touchdowns than the starting running back, but the Eagles spread the ball out well.
In terms of receiving, many thought their offense would never be the same without DeSean Jackson going out for passes. Believe me, there were very few situations in which they missed him. Jeremy Maclin returned from a torn ACL and had a career year, catching 85 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. The yards were good for ninth in the league. Rookie Jordan Matthews also had an excellent season for his first year, catching 67 passes for 872 yards and eight touchdowns. He was also the third receiver most times, making it even more impressive. Unfortunately, re-signing Riley Cooper over the offseason to a new contract was a mistake. He struggled all year and finished with 55 catches for 577 yards and three touchdowns. His 10.7 yards per catch were a severe drop off from his 17.8 yards per catch last year, one of the big reasons why he received a new deal. I expect him to return next year, but it should be in a lesser role.
After just surpassing 1,000 yards combined among the tight ends last year (by one yard I think, but still), they did it again this year behind Zach Ertz‘s best season thus far. Ertz had 58 catches for 702 yards and three touchdowns, including a huge 15 catch, 115 yard performance in Week 16 against the Redskins. He will continue to be a big part of their offense going forward. Brent Celek is nearing the end of his career and thus had a down year, catching 32 passes for 340 yards and one touchdown. It was his fewest yards in a season since 2008, but it wasn’t part of the plan to have a huge year. Third string James Casey even added three catches for 59 yards and two touchdowns. I really like Casey, but this was likely his last year with the team.
On the offensive line, I already mentioned the vast amount of injuries, and it really took a tole on their running game. It picked back up once most of them returned, but the Eagles went all 16 games without having their original five starting lineup for a single game. As soon as everyone was set to return, Herremans tore his bicep and was put on injured reserve. Jason Peters surprisingly was the only one to make it through the whole season, minus the one game he was ejected from in the beginning of the year. Their line still managed to combine for three Pro Bowls, possibly the most from an Eagles offensive line ever. Mathis and Kelce probably had down years despite this honor, but their injuries played a big part in that. Herremans may be looking to retire soon after playing his 10th season, and backup Andrew Gardner is not the answer. Mathis also just completed his 10th year and Peters his 11th. They will no doubt look to draft someone in the next year or two.
Overall, it was a very good year from the Eagles’ offense, but I can’t help but feel they under-performed. Like I mentioned before, injuries were a big reason, but that’s not much of an excuse. Sometimes I felt like the system was failing and it cost them games. I don’t expect the core offensive group to change much next year, so as long as everyone stays healthy, I think they can have another great year in 2015.