So the draft chatter will continue as the post-season all-star games begin next week and continue through the draft, held this year on May 8-10. Free agency starts in March.
Between now and then, we've got a lot to talk about. Let's start here ...
- What happened to the running game in Saturday's loss to New Orleans?
LeSean McCoyhad 77 yards on 21 carries and Eagles gained just 80 yards on the ground after leading the NFL in that category during the regular season. Was it a case of the Sants just winning the battle with their big and strong defensive line or did they run blitz particularly well or commit in the box? Whatever the reason, the Eagles need to learn from the performance, because the running game is critical in the playoffs. New Orleans ran for 185 yards to beat the Eagles. San Diego ran for 196 yards in its win over the Bengals. San Francisco, with the help of quarterback Colin Kaepernick's 98 yards on 7 runs, gained 167 on the ground to beat Green Bay. Indianapolis ran the football reasonably well, averaging 5.3 yards on 19 attempts (100 total rushing yards, 45 by quarterback Andrew Luck). The NFL is a passing league, no doubt about it, but the running game is critical in the postseason.
- A new coaching staff in 2013 is going to be all that much better in 2014. The schemes in every phase were excellent. Bill Davis would be a candidate for Coordinator of the Year, if there was such a category. He did a tremendous job helping the defense transition from the 4-3 front to the 3-4 front this year. The Eagles are going to add to the defensive roster and they're going to get players who fit the scheme. It's exciting to think of the next steps the offense and defense will take in 2014.
- The first priority for the defense: Find a way to get off the field on third down. New Orleans was 0 for 2 on Saturday night before converting 7 of its final 11 third downs. That was a huge difference in the game, of course. So how do you go about improving on third down? It helps to put offenses in less-manageable third-down situations. Better work on first and second down aids the cause.
- Defensive lineman
Cedric Thorntonis an exclusive-rights free agent, meaning he can't get offers from any other team. Thornton made terrific progress in his first season as a starter and he's going to get better. He needs to continue building strength and adding to his technique.
- I think the wide receiver position is fascinating. Both
Jeremy Maclinand Riley Cooperare scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in March. Damaris Johnsonwasn't used much at all during the 2013 season. Jeff Maehlplayed sparingly. Jason Avant's numbers dipped. Brad Smithplayed very well on special teams, but he wasn't much of a factor in the passing game. Could the Eagles turn the wide receiver positions over through free agency and the draft? Could both Maclin and Cooper return? One of them? There are a lot of questions.
- Before you ask, Johnny Manziel could very well be a top five selection in May's draft and the Cleveland Browns are said to be in love with him. So no, the Eagles are not in the game for Johnny Football. Besides, is he going to throw 29 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in his second NFL season?
- Speaking of
Nick Foles, it's humorous to read of the reaction head coach Chip Kelly had when asked about Foles on Monday during Kelly's end-of-season press conference. Did he endorse Foles as the "franchise" quarterback? Was Kelly less than enthusiastic about Foles? How about this perspective: Kelly isn't one of those coaches who uses labels, or who jumps to conclusions, or who predicts the future. He was impressed with Foles in 2013. Foles is the starting quarterback for this football team. That doesn't mean the Eagles will ignore a quarterback they think can challenge the position and make Foles a better player. That's just the way it is around here, for every position and every player.
- Any coaches perhaps leaving? ESPN reported on Wednesday that quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor interviewed in Miami for the offensive coordinator job there. Lazor, of course worked with Foles,
Michael Vick, Matt Barkleyand G.J. Kinnethis year.
- Looking forward to seeing what the Eagles do to improve their return game. Jackson had a 29-yard punt return against the Saints and Smith had some flashes on kickoffs (along with
Brandon Boykin), but the explosiveness must return to the return units in 2014.