3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Philadelphia Eagles

The next team up in our NFC East previews, part of our previews of all 32 NFL teams, is the Philadelphia Eagles, who finished in second place in the division last season.

The Eagles enter the season with new head coach Doug Pederson following the somewhat surprising firing of Chip Kelly toward the end of last season. The team on the field looks largely the same as it did last season, except at running back following the offseason trade of RB DeMarco Murray to the Titans, leaving RB Ryan Mathews to be the expected starter.

QB Sam Bradford played in 14 games last season, throwing for 3,725 yards and 19 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. His favorite target was WR Jordan Matthews, who had 85 receptions for 997 yards and 8 touchdowns, while TE Zach Ertz added 75 catches for 853 yards and 2 touchdowns. In 106 carries over six starts last season, Mathews ran for 539 yards and 6 touchdowns. RB Darren Sproles served mostly as a backup for the season, carrying the ball 83 times for 317 yards and 3 touchdowns. As is typical with Sproles, most of his production came in the passing game, with 55 receptions for 388 yards and 1 touchdown.The Eagles were near the bottom of the pack in defense, allowing opponents to score 430 points while, but above average with 15 interceptions.

Bradford remains the starter, but the Eagles drafted QB Carson Wentz in the first round this year, possibly to take over starting duties by the end of the season but he suffered a rib injury in the team’s first preseason game, which could delay his development and eventual timetable for taking over for Bradford if that was the original plan. With Bradford’s injury history, it is likely that a backup — whether it’s Wentz or QB Chase Daniel — will have to start at least one game. There are questions about the running game, as injuries have limited Mathews’ playing time through much of his career — he has never started a full 16 games in a year — and Sproles’ production has been steadily declining in recent years as he gets older, now 33 years old. The receiving game should be all right with Ertz, Matthews and WR Nelson Agholor, if they get decent quarterback play out of that questionable trio.

The Eagles host the Browns in Week 1 to begin their schedule. They face their in-state rivals when the Steelers come to Philadelphia in Week 3, which takes them into their Week 4 bye. The Eagles visit the defending division champion Redskins in Week 6, host the Vikings in Week 7 and visit the Cowboys in Week 8. They have a tough three-game stretch in Weeks 11-13, with a road game against the Seahawks, the Packers at home and the Bengals on the road. The Eagles meet division rivals in Weeks 16 and 17, with home games against the Giants and Cowboys. With some difficult opponents on the schedule and some questions on both sides of the ball, I’m projecting the Eagles to do worse than the 7-9 record they achieved last season, possibly as bad as winning just three games.

Source: http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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