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NFC East Preview: A look at the Philadelphia Eagles

A look at the defending NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles

Nick Foles
Nick Foles
Al Bello

The Eagles went from 4-12 disappointments to 10-6 NFC East champions in Chip Kelly's first year at the helm. The question now is, what do the Eagles do for an encore? Do they have staying power as a perennial contender, or will they slide back into mediocrity?

The first part of the question depends on Kelly. After a highly-successful career at Oregon, Kelly took the Eagles job, brought a fast-paced, big-play offense to the Eagles and seemed to stay a step ahead of defensive coordinators much of the season. Will the league catch up to Kelly, or has he built a team and a system that will be more than a one-year hit?

When Kelly arrived in Philly it was widely assumed that Michael Vick would be the starting quarterback because Kelly's system required a read-option element with a quarterback who could run. Nick Foles, a traditional drop-back passer, did not look like he had a future in Philly. As things turned out, though, Foles started 10 games, threw only two interceptions while tossing 27 touchdown passes, went 8-2 as a starter, and made the Pro Bowl. The 25-year-old now looks entrenched as a long-term fixture at quarterback in Philly. The Eagles were second in the league in 2013 in yards per game, averaging 417.2. They were fourth in the league in points per game at 27.6.

Foles and Kelly won't have the element of surprise working for them in 2014. They also won't have the defense-stretching ability of star wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson is now with the Washington Redskins after being released by the Eagles for reasons that remain mysterious. Jackson takes his 82 catches, 1,332 yards, 16.2 yards per catch average and nine touchdowns with him.

Without Jackson the Eagles would seem unlikely to be as explosive on the outside. Jeremy Maclin, 258 catches in four seasons, returns after missing 2013 with a knee injury. He is a quality player, but not the deep threat Jackson was. The Eagles added wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff in the draft, still have Riley Cooper, and have tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, so Foles has plenty of pass receivers.

Matthews impressed during preseason, but wide receiver remains the position Eagles fans are most concerned about offensively.

Foles also has the outstanding running back LeSean McCoy, who led the league with 1,607 yards rushing a year ago. McCoy is also a dynamic pass catcher, with 52 receptions a year ago. The Eagles also traded for former New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles, which should take some of the burden off McCoy and make up for some of what the Eagles lost with Jackson. Entering his ninth season, Sproles is one of the league's more versatile offensive weapons. He caught 71 passes last season, ran the ball 53 times and returned both punts and kickoffs.

Most prognosticators have the Eagles as a top 10 team and the favorites to win the NFC East. What do you think, Giants fans? How worried are you about the Eagles?