No NFL team was more active in free agency this offseason than the Philadelphia Eagles. We’re talking trades left and right. It wasn’t just journeymen and no-namers coming and going, either. It was big-timers – guys considered to be elite at their position.
After adding Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray, among others, the Eagles then used five of their six draft picks on defense.
So, what do we make of the Eagles right now, today, heading into 2015?
“Well, listen, their roster is stacked,” NFL Network analyst Heath Evans said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “And I’ve been very clear that . . . Chip hit the nail on the head when he got Sam. If it wasn’t for the injuries, a quarterback like Sam would never be available in free agency. Sam has shown every GM in this league – as well as owner, as well as head coach – that he can flat out play. Jeff Fisher took that job in St. Louis because Sam was there. He has been snakebitten (by injuries) like nobody I’ve ever seen, honestly. But if he’s healthy, Philly is going to be tough to beat in the regular season.”
Notice the words “in the regular season.”
“This tempo thing, it’s not new,” Evans said. “It’s just none of the great coaches or none of the great quarterbacks would ever want to run it for 60 minutes because it’s not what’s best for the team. There’s a thing called complementary football that Bill Belichick taught me. There’s times when you slow the pace down and there’s times when you pick up the pace. There’s sometimes where you go two tight ends and one fullback and one tailback. There’s times where you go five wide and you don’t have a running back on the field. Every week has to change.
“Well, every week is the same for Chip,” Evans continued. “That’s why you see the great teams come to town – Dallas late in the year, Seattle late in the year – when this team is physically exhausted, they get embarrassed. So until Chip is going to pull his foot off that tempo gas pedal, they’re never going to be a great team. That defense gets a bad rap. That defense was one of the best at hitting the quarterback, best at sacking the quarterback. They had a lot of great football on the defensive side of the ball. They just spend 35 minutes a game on the field because that offense either scores real quick or they go three-and-out. It’s an NFL game. And honestly, that style never won a championship in the college game, and it’s not going to work here, either.”
Now, to be fair, the Eagles did win 20 games in the last two years – with mostly backup quarterbacks. That has to count for something, right?
“I kind of always follow the domino effect,” Evans said. “The domino effect is no quarterback at Oregon ever throws interceptions. You take advantage of poor coaching at times in the college ranks, but you also take advantage of really what is a great college system in most weeks. You take this to the NFL. Year one, Nick Foles has 27 touchdowns and two interceptions. (But) last year, you start to see all these compromised defensive coverages to remove the space these quarterbacks were throwing in. This league catches up to everyone. It caught up to RG3. You can’t just keep doing what you’ve done. I look at Jason Peters, who’s arguably the best left tackle in the game. He played some of his worst football in December.”
He wasn’t the only Eagle you could say that about – and Evans doesn’t think that’s a coincidence.
“We’re not dealing with 21- and 22-year-old and 18-year-olds that can go out and play 85 snaps a game,” he said. “The war of attrition eventually catches up to your offense or defense. And I’ll say (this): they won three or four games last year at the beginning of the year solely on special teams when the defense wasn’t playing well (and) the offense wasn’t playing well.
“I know this,” Evans continued. “This game is constantly changing, but it always gets back to the same thing. If tempo for 60 minutes was the best thing, there’s no better quarterback in the league to do that than Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees and Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. None of them have ever done it – not just because people didn’t think about doing it. It’s because it’s not the best thing for your football team.
“So, ten (wins) a year? Great. What great teams and what good teams have you beat? And in December, when you’re playing championship football, this team faded like I didn’t even think they were going to fade. I told everyone they would fade, but their month of December was absolutely embarrassing.”
The Eagles lost at home to Seattle and Dallas in Weeks 14 and 15 and then lost at Washington in Week 16. They went from 9-3 and a potential first-round bye to missing the playoffs altogether.
“It was for the whole world to see,” Evans said. “It’s like people don’t want to look at that, but that’s the reality of when you play the best defense and a good, well-balanced football team in Seattle. (That’s) what’s going to happen when you try to tempo them. The speed of Seattle overwhelmed them. The proof was in the pudding.”