Week Four: Philadelphia Eagles (1PM, FedEx Field)
What Happened: The Eagles had an unfortunate end to the 2014 season, though they still were able to muster a 10-6 record. Of course, they 9-3, but finished losing three of four and missed the playoffs. Turned out that Philly had the best record of any team to miss the playoffs. Turned out injury-related woes at quarterback all season played a major part. The good news? Chip Kelly’s system continued to function highly at the NFL level regardless of the pieces in it. Philadelphia ran a league-high 70.7 plays per game last year while scoring the third most points per game. The Skins split their season series with the Eagles last season.
What’s New: It was a very, very busy and controversial offseason for the Eagles’ front office, as blockbuster trades grabbed the headlines. The frenzy started when star running back LeSean McCoy was shipped to Buffalo in return for a defensive upgrade, linebacker Kiko Alonso. The former Oregon product came over from the Bills to give the Eagles a much needed presence in the middle of the field. Alonso offers a versatile, explosive defensive staple at inside linebacker, as long as he can stay healthy. The Eagles will also welcome Sam Bradford to the team after trading away the former breakout Nick Foles. Bradford is another piece who has health issues, but when on the field he is a much more accurate thrower and far more mobile QB than Foles. The deal holds limited risk for Philly because the backup thrower, Mark Sanchez, is also arguably a better option than Foles. Bradford will further boost a high powered offense as he is a fantastic fit for the Chip Kelly system. Lastly, free agent DeMarco Murray signed and now leads a backfield that also saw the addition of the former Charger, Ryan Matthews. The pair will look to regain the process that the running game held before LeSean McCoy and the O-line suffered last year.
Question for Training Camp: The state of the offensive line is one the biggest question marks for the Eagles this offseason. The unit was one of the best in the league last year despite some trouble with injuries. Former Pro-bowler Evan Mathis left the team, and with his absence comes uncertainty. Jason Kelce is a lock at center while Jason Peters and Lane Johnson hold steady at the tackle positions, but each guard spot is up for grabs. Allen Barbre is the front runner in the left guard battle, but has never started a game at the position. Matt Tobin, Andrew Gardner, Kevin Graf, and John Moffitt will fight to start at right guard. The O-line has the potential to be a top five group, but a lot has to come together before September for that to happen.
Matchup to Watch: In the two games he’s played against his former club since he left, DeSean Jackson has averaged 122 yards and a touchdown. Granted, the feat is less impressive considering the Eagles were one of the worst teams against the big play, and that is D-Jax’s specialty. This year, however, Philly has overhauled it’s entire secondary. The only starter remaining is Malcolm Jenkins, and team practices have focused especially on prohibiting deep passes. Make sure to look at how the Redskins and Jackson adjust to the new look, and how the Eagles matchup against the big play threat when they play Washington.
Fantasy Focus: Jordan Matthews is turning a lot of heads this season as some fantasy owners are expecting big things. Matthews impressed last season in his rookie campaign, tallying 872 yards a 8 touchdowns, while showing flashes of Pro-bowl potential. He’ll look to step into the leading receiver role now that Jeremy Maclin has left for Kansas City, which means that he will see more many more opportunities than he did last year. Matthews’ versatility allowed him to play mostly from the slot in 2014, but he should be given the opportunity to hurt defenses from different positions this year, giving him more opportunities to rack up fantasy points. Matthews is a fantastic option at WR2 for owners who wait to draft their receivers. Look to snatch him up late in round four or early in round five.