Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The Eagles' five biggest concerns heading into the regular season

Many of the Eagles' biggest concerns heading into training camp, such as the backup quarterback spot, have been quelled. However, the Eagles are not without their share of issues, like every other team in the NFL. Here are the Eagles' five biggest concerns heading into the regular season:

The Eagles' five biggest concerns heading into the regular season

Many of the Eagles' biggest concerns heading into training camp, such as the backup quarterback spot, have been quelled. However, the Eagles are not without their share of issues, like every other team in the NFL. Here are the Eagles' five biggest concerns heading into the regular season:

1) Kicker

Duh. Alex Henery has missed 47 and 31 yard field goal attempts this preseason... badly.

In response, the Eagles brought in rookie Cody Parkey from the Colts in a last-ditch effort to give Henery legitimate competition. The Eagles are likely going to head into this season with a struggling veteran kicker with a weak leg, or a kicker who has never attempted a field goal in an NFL regular season game. Neither option is all that appealing at the moment.

2) Pass rush

Last season, the Eagles were next to last in Sack % (sacks per opposing dropback).

The Eagles' pass rush arrow could be pointing up:

• Despite his age, Trent Cole could have a better season with a year under his belt in Billy Davis' 3-4 defense. In his first eight games last season, Cole had no sacks. He had nine sacks in his last nine games.

• It appears Vinny Curry may begin to see more playing time this year. Curry is probably the best pass rusher on the team, and the Eagles should be expected to find creative ways to get him on the field more. Ditto that for Brandon Graham, assuming he sticks on the team. Graham is an obvious "passing down only" player in this 3-4 scheme, but he has proven he can get to the QB.

• Better starters/depth in the secondary could help boost the pass rush.

• The Eagles added guys like Marcus Smith, Taylor Hart, and Beau Allen in the draft. None of them are expected to make an immediate impact as pass rushers, but we'll see how they progress as the season wears on.

Still, even with those mildly promising bullet points above, the Eagles' pass rush has a long way to go, and remains worlds away from teams like Panthers and Rams.

3) The new emphasis on pass interference and illegal contact

Last season, the Eagles were second in the NFL with 14 defensive pass interference penalties. This preseason, they have been hit hard with penalties in their defensive secondary:

That would be 15 combined pass interference, defensive holding, and illegal contact penalties against the Eagles in three preseason games. As we've seen, many of them were officials being over-officious, but with the Eagles having built a secondary full of players who like to get their hands on opposing receivers, it's a major concern if the zebras continue to throw flags in the regular season like they did in the preseason.

On the other hand, the Eagles' offense could also be major beneficiaries of this new emphasis, as they are expected to face a boatload of man coverage this year.

4) OL depth

This is an area that I would have had higher on the list a few weeks ago, but the Eagles' second team OL was very impressive during the preseason games. Regardless, it remains extremely inexperienced in games that matter. Here are the total career snap counts of the Eagles' current second teamers, minus Lane Johnson, who will begin serving his four game suspension next week.

Of the four players above, Kelly is probably the least likely to make the team. Again, the Eagles' second team OL has shown promise, but their inexperience has to remain a concern until they've proven they can perform in games that matter.

5) Wide receiver depth

According to ProFootballFocus, Jeremy Maclin has more injury scares than any player in the league. (Kidding). But certainly, after missing all of last season with a torn ACL, and several practices with some other minor injuries, Maclin can dismiss his injury prone label all he wants, but the reality is that his health is a fair concern.

The Eagles have a nice WR trio in Maclin, Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews. If the Eagles lose Maclin or Cooper, you're looking at guys like Arrelious Benn, Brad Smith or Jeff Maehl starting. Those guys can be nice role players, but obviously, it's not ideal if they have to start.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

More coverage
 
VOTE: Bigger event: Eagles or Thanksgiving dinner?
 
VIDEO: Eagles-Cowboys by the numbers
 
POLL: How often should Eagles play on Thanksgiving?
 
WIN: Make picks in our weekly pro football contest
 
DOWNLOAD: Philly Pro Football app
 
FORUMS: Will the Eagles repeat as NFC East champs?
 
Latest NFL odds
 
Buy Eagles jerseys and other gear
About this blog
For news, stats, video, live chats and more, Red Zone is the place to find Eagles coverage you can't get anywhere else.

Jimmy Kempski Philly.com
Latest Videos:
Also on Philly.com:
Stay Connected