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“James Addiction” 2016 Philadelphia Eagles Preview

The 2015 season was a mixed bag for the Philadelphia Eagles. Their high profile free agent signing, DeMarco Murray, had 1,100 fewer yards than the previous season in Dallas, and had trouble running out of a shotgun formation. Their passing game missed Jeremy Maclin terribly after he left to go play for the Chiefs. Their offensive line struggled with their play and with injuries, and their defense ranked as one of the worst in the league, largely due to the amount of time they spent on the field. All of this ultimately led to the end of the Chip Kelly era in Philadelphia.

2015 Record: 7-9  
Passing Offense (YPG): 12th (255.4) Passing Defense (YPG): 28th (267.1)
Rushing Offense (YPG): 14th (108.9) Rushing Defense (YPG): 32nd (134.6)
Total Offense (YPG): 12th (364.4) Total Defense (YPG): 30th (401.6)

Offseason

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Coaching Staff

In the offseason former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson was hired as the new head coach. Frank Reich was brought in to be the offensive coordinator after two years at the same position with San Diego, and Jim Schwarz was hired as the new defensive coordinator. Reich had three solid years in San Diego, the first as quarterbacks coach working directly with Philip Rivers. Rivers saw a definite increase in completion percentage and quarterback rating while working with Reich. Schwarz has both defensive coordinator and head coaching experience on his resume. His last season was with the Buffalo Bills in 2014 prior to the hiring of Rex Ryan.

Trades

Not only did Philadelphia have a busy offseason with their coaching staff, but they were also very active in the trade market and free agency as well. The first big move was trading their first round #13 draft pick, Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso to the Miami Dolphins in return for the #8 pick in the first round. Then they traded DeMarco Murray and the fourth round #113 pick in the draft for the #100 pick, also in the fourth round. They were far from being done. The Eagles then made a big move up to the #2 spot in the draft to grab their quarterback of the future. They gave up the #8 pick they received from the Dolphins, the #100 pick they received from the Titans, their third round pick (#77), as well as next year’s first round pick and 2018’s second round pick. In return they were able to draft QB Carson Wentz and they will receive Cleveland’s fourth round pick next year. Mark Sanchez was also traded to Denver for a conditional seventh round pick in 2017.

Free Agency

In free agency the Eagles signed several players who are projected to start this season. Safety, Rodney McLeod (from the Rams) will play alongside pro bowl safety, Malcolm Jenkins. Offensive guard, Brandon Brooks  (from the Houston Texans), will play right guard. Brooks is a player the Texans had hoped to keep and will be an improvement for the Eagles in both the passing and running game. Chase Daniel followed new head coach, Doug Pederson, from the Chiefs to backup Sam Bradford at QB. With the 3 year, 21 million dollar contract he received, he will be the highest paid backup quarterback in the league depending on what happens with Nick Foles and Colin Kaepernick. In addition, wide receivers Chris Givens and Rueben Randle were signed to a one year deals. Givens has prior experience playing with Bradford while with the Rams and Randle could start at the WR2 or WR3 position. On defense, three former Jim Schwarz players from the Buffalo Bills signed to play with the Eagles. Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks could possibly be the starting corners for the team. Nigel Bradham is penciled in as the Strong Side Linebacker. All three should make the transition to Jim Schwarz’ 4-3 defense easier for the Eagles.

NFL Draft

The NFL draft didn’t produce any day one starters. QB, Carson Wentz, is expected to get time to watch and learn. Third round pick Isaac Seumalo will add depth along the offensive line, and could get a look at left guard if Alan Barbre’s struggles continue. In the fifth round the Eagles took RB Wendell Smallwood, out of West Virginia. Smallwood lead the Big 12 in rushing his senior season and has impressed in OTA’s and minicamp.

 

Offense

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Sam Bradford will once again start at QB for the Eagles. Coach Pederson has said all along that Bradford is his quarterback. Bradford’s numbers are not all bad. He did complete 65% of his passes and throw for 3,725 yards. However, in Chip Kelly’s fast paced offense, there were too many stalled drives and three and outs, and not enough touchdowns. Not all of this can be blamed on Bradford though. His receivers struggled to get open and also struggled with drops at crucial times in games. If the team struggles this year on offense, fans will be calling for Carson Wentz to enter the game. We will see if Coach Pederson sticks to his plan to give Wentz a year to learn. If he does, Chase Daniel would get the first opportunity to play as the backup to Bradford.

Running Back

At running back, Ryan Mathews will get the start. Mathews has plenty of ability, but has always struggled with injuries. He seemed to outplay DeMarco Murray last season every time he was available. He is also a very capable receiver out of the backfield. Darren Sproles is currently listed as the backup running back and third down back and should receive a lot of work this season. According to Coach Pederson, Mathews, Sproles, Smallwood and Kenjon Barner will all receive playing time in the backfield this season. I look for Wendell Smallwood to be the first replacement for Mathews this season if Mathews should miss any time due to injury, keeping Sproles in his current role as third down and change of pace back. If Smallwood is able to handle starting duties in Mathews’ absence then his role will grow fast. Otherwise Smallwood will be brought along more slowly throughout the season.

Wide Receiver

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Jordan Matthews is the best returning receiver for the team. There had been talk of moving Matthews to the outside, away from his customary spot in the slot, but it looks as though plans have changed and he will once again operate from inside. Last year’s first round pick, Nelson Agholor, will get the first crack at the WR2 position. He struggled to make in impact last season even though he was named a starter. We’ll see if Frank Reich’s new offense is a better fit for him this season. Rueben Randle, the former Giant, could take Agholor’s starting spot if Agholor does not show improvement in the upcoming training camp. Randle immediately gives the team more experience at receiver. Behind Matthews, Randle and Agholor are Josh Huff, Chris Givens and T.J. Graham. Huff was drafted by Chip Kelly and has not added much to the receiving game thus far. He struggles with both routes and drops. Givens is a straight line speedster who catches the occasional long touchdown, and T.J. Graham hasn’t been able to stick with a team over the last couple years.

 

Tight End

At the Tight End position the Eagles are set. Both Zach Ertz and Brent Celek are signed long term. Zach Ertz is coming off a 75/853/2 season where he exploded over the last month for 35/450, easily becoming Bradford’s favorite target. With Rueben Randle added to the mix, Ertz is likely to see a jump in touchdowns as well, this coming season. Brent Celek is the TE2 and blocking tight end in two tight end sets, which Pederson likes to run, and he will also leak out for the occasional touchdown.

 

Defense

Defensive Line

On defense the Eagles will be improved with Jim Schwarz. They are moving from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense. The switch to more of a ball control type offense should keep them from being on the field so much and tiring out. Last year’s 30th place ranking for Total Defense is an aberration; there is a lot of talent on this defense. On the defensive line Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan will start at the two DT positions. Both are young and active. Cox is coming off a 9.5 sack season and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time. Look for him to flourish even more in Schwarz’ 4-3 defense. At the DE positions Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham will all play. Currently Curry and Barwin are listed as the starters, but Graham should see about equal time and is coming off his best season with 6.5 sacks.

Linebacker

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Gone at linebacker is DeMeco Ryans, but this should be the best linebacker group the Eagles have had in a while. Newcomer Nigel Bradham, will start at the strong side. He is coming off a down year in Rex Ryan’s defense in Buffalo, but looked far more comfortable the previous season under Jim Schwarz. At the weak side, Mychal Kendricks will start. Kendricks has been a solid linebacker all four years in Philadelphia. He is known for his range and quickness. In the middle of the defense will be second year player Jordan Hicks. Hicks was impressive in his few starts last season before getting injured and missing the remainder of the season. He will be a three down LB in Jim Schwarz’ defense this season.

Secondary

In the secondary the Eagles probably have the two best starting safeties in the division, if not the entire league. Malcolm Jenkins was possibly the best safety in the league in 2015 and Rodney McCleod had a breakout year for the Rams. At the corner positions are Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks who came over from Buffalo in the offseason. Both have experience in Schwarz’ defense and should start to open the season. Adding depth in the secondary are Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe. Both have starting experience with the Eagles.

Special Teams

At kicker Cody Parkey should win back the starting job after missing most of last season due to a groin injury. He performed well his rookie season in 2014. However, Parkey’s injury replacement, Caleb Sturgis, is also on the roster. After struggling in Miami, he performed well after signing with the Eagles last season, hitting on 18 of 22 FG Attempts and 35 of 37 PAT’s.

The eagles have of a ton of options in the return game. Darren Sproles has always been an explosive punt returner. Kenjon Barner and Josh Huff are possible kickoff return candidates and both have done well in the past.

Fantasy Targets (ADP provided by myfantasyleague.com as of 7/19/2016)

Ryan Mathews – Current ADP of 83.17 across all leagues and the 26th RB off the board. Mathews definitely has appeal based on what running backs have done previously in Pederson’s offenses. If healthy, Mathews is a definite steal. At the 83rd pick he is definitely worth the “injury” risk.

Jordan Matthews – Current ADP of 54.15 and the 25th WR. Matthews has looked good so far in the off-season. He struggled to get open in 2015, but salvaged fantasy numbers towards the end of games. I’d draft Matthews as a WR3/WR4 this year.

Zach Ertz – Current ADP of 95.92 and the 8th TE off the board. Based on his production over the final month of the 2015 season, Ertz is a breakout candidate. I’d value him more over several TE’s with higher ADP’s: Kelce, Eifert and Fleener.

Fletcher Cox – Current ADP of 119.07 and the 2nd DT off the board. Cox is ranked only behind Aaron Donald. Cox definitely deserves this ranking and should be the 1st or 2nd DT off the board in all IDP drafts.

Jordan Hicks – Current ADP of 150.83 and the 17th LB off the board. Hicks’ ADP has steadily risen throughout the off-season. In this defense he should have the opportunity for a ton of tackles and I’d expect him to finish closer to the top 10 of all LB’s.

Malcolm Jenkins – Current ADP of 172.00 and the 7th Safety on the list. With the switch to the 4-3 Defense and a whole new coaching staff, I expect Jenkins to remain one of the top safeties, but his fantasy numbers will take a hit and come nowhere close to last season’s.

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Major League Fantasy Football Radio: Join Ej GarrCorey D Roberts, and Coach Jeff Nelson live Saturday July 16th from 1-2:30pm EST for episode #64 of Major League Fantasy Football Radio. This is a live broadcast and we take callers at 323-870-4395 press 1 to speak with the hosts. This week we will break down the NFC North from an NFL and fantasy perspective.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(Click the RED link to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio: Join Corey D RobertsKyle Amore, and Coach Andy Macuga live on Sunday July 17th, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #73 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host.

Kyle is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. Andy is the Head Baseball Coach for Borrego Springs H.S. in Southern California as well as a 4 year veteran in MLFB leagues.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

I grew up a Dallas Cowboy's fan in Washington Redskins' country, but I currently reside in Florida. I have played fantasy sports over the last 15 years. I have a beautiful 7 year old daughter, and I know it's hard to believe, but that's my fiancee in the picture!

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