NFC Offseason Colonoscopy: Philadelphia Eagles

The 2014 Philadelphia Eagles entered the season with a good deal of expectations after proving to be an offensive juggernaut in 2013. Starting QB Nick Foles showed flashes of being a superstar NFL signal caller and the thinking was that if the defense could figure out how to play well when they were completely gassed from being on the field for so long, they would be tough to stop.

A 6-2 start- with those two losses coming by a combined 9 points to the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals- had Eagles fans feeling good about the state of football in the Philly. However, there were concerns. Namely turnovers as Foles, who threw only one interception in 2013 after taking over, looked every bit the rookie in 2014.

Once Foles was lost to injury and Mark Sanchez was pressed into duty, it was all downhill on roller skates through a nitro-glycerin plant. The Eagles limped to a 4-4 record the rest of the way and ended up missing the playoffs by a game.

In the offseason, there would be more turnover in Philadelphia than a Las Vegas brothel. DE Trent Cole and G Todd Herremanns were deemed too old to re-sign. CB Cary Williams was allowed to leave. RB LeSean McCoy would be traded to the Buffalo Bills for LB Kiko Alonso. WR Jeremy Maclin was allowed to leave in free agency. Foles was traded to the St. Louis Rams for Sam Bradford- yes, that Sam Bradford.

Enter CB Walter Thurmond III, CB Byron Maxwell, and RB Ryan Mathews. All in all, head coach Chip Kelly smirked and asked us all to trust him. Days later, 2014 NFL rushing leader RB DeMarco Murray was bolting the rival Dallas Cowboys for Eagles’ green.

Is your head spinning yet?

Where do they go from here?

The Eagles glaring need for a quarterback cannot be ignored. The numbers Foles put up in 2013 created hope that came crashing down in 2014. The obvious link would be Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, having guided the program Kelly left to become coach of the Eagles.

The Eagles pick 20th in the first round. You have to believe the New York Jets will take whoever isn’t selected between Mariota and Florida State QB Jameis Winston at the 6th pick. If the Eagles were to trade their first three picks, they could only get to the 8th pick if you go by the Jimmy Johnson scale. It would be awfully challenging to get up that high. However, if Mariota slips past the Jets you might see some wheeling and dealing.

The departure of Maclin leaves an almost as big glaring whole at WR as well. Players like Hakeem Nicks, Reggie Wayne, and Greg Jennings are still available, but none of those can be considered building blocks anymore.

They seem to have addressed the need to improve their secondary in free agency so anything else added to the mix is straight butter.

Where can they get better?

QB- Foles and Sanchez were bad. Even when Foles was healthy, he was not who they thought he was.

G- Evan Mathis rated well at LG, but that was only for 9 games. No one played well at the RG spot and veteran Herremans was allowed to leave.

DE- No one consequence took the field for the Eagles at this position last year.

DT- Bennie Logan played the run well, but there was no pass rush being generated by interior lineman last year.

OLB- It’s remarkable how few Eagles are listed when you start looking at Pro Football Focus ratings by position. Not a single Eagle on this list.

 

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NFC Offseason Colonoscopy: Chicago Bears

Oh, the Chicago Bears. The once mighty ‘Monsters Of The Midway’ once again returned to laughingstock status. A team that was expected to take flight in head coach Marc Trestman’s second year, instead floundered and left fans scratching their heads and wondering just how this happened.

And no, you can’t blame it all on Jay Cutler.

A shocking OT loss in week 1 to the Buffalo Bills raised everyone’s radar that maybe everything was not kosher in the Second City. However, bounce back wins against the San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets on the road seemed to right the ship. No, things weren’t perfect, but the Bears were winning and they hosted the Green Bay Packers week 4.

However the Bears would lose 5 of their next 6. They toyed with everyone’s emotions by beating the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but would ultimately drop their last 5 games.

During this tawdry exercise we call the ‘Regular Season’, the Bears surrendered the 2nd most points in the league, gave up back-to-back 50 point games, and by week 16 had benched Jay Cutler for Jimmy Clausen.

WR Brandon Marshall made headlines for screaming at teammates in the locker room, LB Lance Briggs admitted to the media he would tune out in meetings, DE Lamarr Houston suffered a season ending knee injury celebrating a sack in the waning moments of a blowout loss, and Marshall called out his QB in the media saying he would understand why the Bears would have ‘buyer’s remorse’ after making Cutler the highest paid quarterback last offseason.

A tire fire to end all tire fires. Exit Trestman. Exit GM Phil Emery. Exit Briggs. Exit Marshall. Do not pass ‘Go’. Do not collect $200.

Where do they go from here?

The team has  hired the hot ‘young gun’ GM in Ryan Pace and brought in John Fox as head coach. Fox has proven successful in multiple spots, including getting to the Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme at quarterback.

As far as free agents, Briggs, S Chris Conte, DT Stephen Paea, and MLB D.J. Williams are either gone or told they will not be back. CB Charles Tillman is a bit of a wild card, after missing most of the last two seasons with injuries, however he can still play and I would love to see the Bears bring him back under the right terms.

QB Jimmy Clausen and TE Dante Rosario have been re-signed to serve as 2nd stringers. OT Eben Britton isn’t a world beater, but there are still question marks on this line and I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes back for the right money. RFA ILB Darryl Sharpton is intriguing because he showed flashes last year and has experience in a 3-4 scheme, to which the Bears will be transitioning this season under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, from his time with the Houston Texans.

The Bears have signed OLB Pernell McPhee (Baltimore Ravens) and S Antrell Rolle (New York Giants). McPhee has the potential to provide an edge pass rush presence the Bears have lacked. Rolle was forced into a FS role last season with the Giants and did not fare well. Hopefully, a full offseason of preparation can allow him to harness his previous success at SS.

Where can they get better?

QB- The Bears are locked into Jay Cutler, warts and all. He simply has to play better and cannot turn the ball over at the rate he has in the past. The Bears ranked 30th in rushing attempts and 27th in rushing yards, despite RB Matt Forte ranking 12th in rushing yards. You are not going to be successful with Cutler and that kind of offensive imbalance.

WR- The Bears traded away Brandon Marshall, leaving them without a true ‘X’ receiver. How they move on will mean a lot. Alshon Jeffrey has performed well the last two seasons, but in the closing weeks last year when Marshall was injured and he inevitably drew the attention of better corners who didn’t have to worry about Marshall, Jeffrey’s ‘catch %’ (how many balls thrown his were way were hauled in) were 50 or less- the only games under 50% all season.

OT- Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills were abhorrent last season. Michael Ola, while young, provided no relief.

OG- Kyle Long played well for the second straight season, but when LG Matt Slauson was lost to injury, the Bears had no options capable of filling that hole. The signing of Minnesota Vikings Vladimir Ducasse speaks volumes.

C- Roberto Garza has been a nemesis of mine for a while now, and last season did nothing to prove me wrong for my skepticism. Brian De La Puente, an UFA BTW, rated well in 330 snaps but he’s no guarantee to be back.

RB- OK, this is nitpicky. Matt Forte is an incredible talent who was more a pass catcher than anything last year, through no fault of his own. He was a liability in pass protection, though, and could get better. However, that’s not why you have Forte on the field.

DE- This is going to be tricky going forward as the Bears transition to a new scheme and new responsibilities. Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston played mediocre against the pass and god awful against the run.

DT- Jay Ratliff played the run well, but I don’t know if he’s good enough to play NT in a 3-4 front. This should be a priority in the draft at the 7th spot.

MLB- Williams is gone. 2nd year man Jon Bostic rated as the 25th best MLB, boosted by a decent ability on run plays. He was on a milk carton, though, on pass plays. Rumors have the Bears working on a deal with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Mason Foster, but he didn’t play all that well- albeit in a challenging scheme for MLB’s.

CB- Tim Jennings has probably suffered from the lack of quality at the safety position, but he has not resembled his previous Pro Bowl form. With Tillman a question, this is yet another high priority in the coming months.

S- Ryan Mundy was the Bears highest rated safety last season- at 36th! Conte rejoined his Sith Master (Lovie Smith) in Tampa and the Bears brought in Rolle- who actually rated lower than Conte last season. A wise man taught me never to confuse effort with results. Neither should the Bears.

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