Taking a Look at the Eagles Skill Position Starters:
July 10, 2013 in Philadelphia Eagles
RB LeSean McCoy:
-No player should have been more excited with the Chip Kelly hiring than LeSean McCoy. After an incredible 2011 campaign, McCoy saw his production falter some as the passing game fell apart and the offensive line became a MASH unit. McCoy dealt with his own injury issues as a concussion sidelined him for 4+ games. While people are still trying to get a firm grasp of the Eagles offense, it is likely to be very run centric. That is what Kelly has always been about and that is likely to continue with a star tailback in the fold. McCoy has never gone over 273 carries, but as long as his health holds should break that number by at least 50 carries. In addition to the increased carries, McCoy should still be highly featured in the passing game where he remains a dangerous weapon. His combined touches could be in the top 5 in the league and the Eagles will rely upon him to get back into contention.
FB/H-back James Casey:
-Casey is a do everything player for the Eagles who will line up all over the field for them. He will line up as a full back, H-back, inline TE and joker TE, and should allow the Eagles to run a variety of formations with him in the line-up. Casey shouldn't get many carries, but he'll be an effective blocker and a good weapon in the passing game. He should be a mis-match problem for most linebackers and could come up with a number of key plays for them. Though he likely won't be highly targeted he should get his fair share, and should be a nice safety valve for whomever wins the quarterback job.
WR DeSean Jackson:
-There is a lot of reason to be excited about DeSean Jackson's season this year. Not only does he look to be fully healthy and motivated, but he figures to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Chip Kelly's offensive game plan. Jackson will still be considered a wide receiver, but it is likely he will be utilized as more of a do everything type of athlete. Jackson will likely line up all over the field and could be in line for a fairly significant number of carries. Don't be surprised if Jackson exceed his career total of 54 carries in this season. At Oregon the past two seasons Kelly has utilized D'Anthony Thomas in a hybrid rushing/receiving role with a lot of success and Jackson could replicate some of that this season. Another area where jackson could excel in is the screen game. For all his speed and elusiveness Jackson has never been a huge screen guy for the Eagles, but that should change with this offense. If done correctly it could be a big boost to Jackson's touches and yards.
WR Jeremy Maclin:
-From a basic stats perspective Maclin's numbers were down last season but not too concerning. Looking deeper at Maclin more serious issues creep up and show a really poor season, one that the Eagles can't afford a repeat of. Maclin was just too ineffective in games and didn't come up with the big catches like he has in the past. He dropped too many easy passes and just didn't pose the same sort of threat to opposing defenses that he has in the past. It's a contract year for Maclin so he should be extra motivated. He should also do better in a deeper and healthier offense where he's not so much the focal point. It will be interesting to see how much he's utilized (and in which ways) now that the Eagles have added some more weapons and figure to throw the ball considerably less this year. The Eagles have had at least 550 passing attempts each year Maclin has been on the team with a high of 618 last year. It is likely that their attempts drop by at least a 100 this year, as they focus more on rushing. That could mean fewer targets and catches for Maclin, but the important thing will be how effective he is with those catches.
TE Brent Celek:
-Some expect Brent Celek to play a reduced role with the Eagles offense, but I could actually see him utilized more effectively with Chip Kelly. His targets may remain the same (or even go down if the Eagles pass less), but I think the Eagles may get more out of him. Whether the Eagles take more of a west coast approach or pistol style of offense they will likely rely on shorter and intermediate passes. This is an area where Celek can be very effective and he could find himself open given the mis-direction the offense will likely employ. Last year the Redskins loved throwing to their tight ends off the read option as they frequently caught linebackers out of position. I see the Eagles doing the same sort of thing here, essentially daring teams to use a safety on the tight end, which could open up other options.