This summer has been focused mainly on the 76ers. From the lottery to the draft, and then all of the fun Joel Embiid tweets, throw in a championship in the Orlando Summer League and you have yourself a Sixer summer full of excitement. I’ve watched some Phillies, but for the most part I have followed from a distance. Just reading box scores, and watching how far in the standings they’ve fallen after a weekend series. Around this time, though, it’s football. One football franchise, the Buffalo Bills, has already started practicing. Every other team will begin camp this weekend, including your Philadelphia Eagles. A year after you win 10 games, the division and have a player throw 29 touchdowns to two interceptions (including the postseason), there’s a reason to be highly optimistic. Even if the No. 1 receiving target for Foles’ record-setting season is playing down 1-95 for the Washington Redskins, there’s still plenty of belief that this team can win even more games, and advance even deeper in the postseason.
Lane Johnson will spend the first four games of the season suspended after failing a drug test, and that’s more than a reason to worry since no Philly lineman missed any starts last season. Actually the only Philly offensive player to miss a game or two (besides the quarterbacks) was Jeremy Maclin, who tore his ACL before the season began. Can they possibly stay nearly 100 percent healthy for the second consecutive season? Philly didn’t draft any offensive lineman to add depth, but that’s primarily because they already had some depth, and because they needed help at other positions. After all, their offensive line unit ranks as one of the best in football. Jason Kelce, Jason Peters and Evan Mathis are an absolutely terrifying trio. They’re the anchors of the No. 1 rushing attack. Johnson suspension hurts because he’s young, and missing anytime during this stage in his career could hurt his development. The offensive line will be fine because of Kelce, Peters and Mathis, but an injury to any of them, well, too simply put it, that would suck. Again, lots and lots of their success had to do with health. Remember 2012? Injury after injury derailed that unit, and was a main reason why Philly struggled on offense, which led Philly to sign Chip Kelly to revamp their offense. You know how last season went. LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing, and Foles refused to turnover the ball. Foles tied an NFL record for most touchdowns thrown in a game with seven.
It’s the system. It’s Chip Kelly’s offense. It’s his wide outs catching short throws, and then turning them into large gains. It’s Foles only throwing check downs. Whatever. Philly had the most 20+ pass plays last season with 80. Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos finished second with 68. Philly.com’s Jimmy Kempski did a great job in his story from earlier this month detailing how Foles isn’t just a check down quarterback. Here’s the story.
Foles doesn’t have Jackson’s speed to help him out on the outside, but he has some versatile route runners in Maclin and Jordan Matthews. Matthews, from what the media has reported, looks like an absolute steal. He had the most receiving yards in SEC history after a four-year Vanderbilt career. He’ll be expected to be an impact player from Game one against Jacksonville. Tight end Zach Ertz looks to build off a nice rookie season. He had 36 catches for 469 yards and four touchdowns. It looks like Philly’s offense will have more depth this year. Yes, you lose DeSean Jackson and Bryce Brown, but you add Matthews, Josh Huff, Maclin and Darren Sproles, plus the expected jump from Ertzs, and you have yourself a potentially great offense. McCoy’s key. He’ll be the key until he’s 30. He remains one of the most explosive offensive players. His health is extremely important. Sproles should take some pressure off of him, but a guy I’m really looking forward to see is Chris Polk. Philly traded Brown to Buffalo for a number of reasons, but the main one might have been that they’re really high on Polk, and want to see him featured more in the offense this year. Polk had three touchdowns on 11 carries for 98 yards a year ago. He also had four catches for 61 yards, so he has shown flashes of brilliance in Chip Kelly’s offense.
Philly’s offense should be one of the best in the NFL. If they’re not, well, they’re screwed. All players report Friday to Nova Care. Last year the hype surrounded Philadelphia solely because of Kelly and his impact on Michael Vick, and Philly’s offense. This year the hype surrounds the entire team, and how they can shape into Super Bowl contenders.
I’ll say a few things about Philly’s defense, which has many, many more question marks later this week.