By Kevin McGuire
When it comes time to attempt to put the 2014 season into perspective for the Philadelphia Eagles, there will be moments of regret from not cashing in on golden opportunities from start to finish. The Eagles went from being able to wrap up a second straight NFC East crown at home to three weeks later being locked out of the postseason fun. The Eagles won 10 games, but will have nothing more to show for it. It never should have come to this.
Chip Kelly’s second tour through the NFL had its highs and lows. The lows were tough, with close calls on the road against teams standing in the way of the Eagles and a spot in the playoffs. Philadelphia suffered last-second losses at Arizona and San Francisco, but it was losses to Green Bay and Seattle later in the season that showed just how far the Eagles still have to go in order to be considered a legitimate threat in the NFC instead of a preseason hype creation.
The biggest question remains under center with the starting quarterback. There was no way Nick Foles would find a way to duplicate the magical numbers he had in 2013, but his roller coaster season came to an early end when he broke his collarbone on the road against the Houston Texans. In stepped Mark Sanchez, who kept things relatively stabilized on offense. The offense could have been better regardless of the quarterback, but there were some positives that developed. Running back LeSean McCoy did not turn in quite the kind of season Eagles fans would have liked to see, but he had his moments that reminded anyone watching just how good he can be. Tight end Zach Ertz grew more in his second season and rookie wide receive Jordan Matthews showed some good potential as the year rolled along. Jeremy Maclin put together a full season of solid work and good hands with a handful of highlight catches along the sideline in clutch moments. But the loss of Desean Jackson was noticeable at times. Not having Jackson though was not what ultimately kept the Eagles out of the playoffs.
The defense spent a lot of time on the field this season, and the more teams saw, the less they feared. By the end of the season it was no secret that teams would be able to move the football through the air against the Eagles. Carry Williams and Bradley Fletcher struggled all year and got little time to rest and catch their breath. The defense did prove to be more dependable up front than most may have expected, with Mychael Kendricks and Fletcher Cox coming on for strong seasons.
If it was not for the special teams work done this season, who knows where the Eagles would have landed. Special teams accounted for multiple touchdowns, whether by returns or blocks, and rookie kicker Cody Parkey became one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL.
As the year comes to a premature end, the list of things to work on for next year is longer than perhaps expected. The first thing that needs to be addressed is whether or not the franchise has enough faith in moving through 2015 with Foles and/or Sanchez at quarterback, or will the team need to get creative to find a way to pick up a potential franchise quarterback in the draft (they may have to get VERY creative). The defense needs help in the secondary, and a shift in offensive philosophy to allow more time for the defense to rest may be needed as well.
Some may want to criticize Chip Kelly, and that is deserved, but the Eagles should be in good hands with Kelly in year three if the head coach finds ways to fix some of the glaring holes on the roster. It may not take much to get the Eagles to take the next step forward, but how they do so will be fascinating to watch unfold during the offseason.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.