Jimmy Kempski, author of "Blogging the bEast", put together a piece called "The 10 players the Eagles can least afford to lose to injury in 2013" over the July 4th mid-weekend.
It''s worthy of a look.
Here's how Jimmy sees it:
10. Nick Foles: A couple weeks ago, we noted the very underrated rookie season that Nick Foles had last year. Of course, there's that pesky QB competition he'll have to win over Michael Vick. Whether he beats out Vick or not, there's a safe bet he'll get on the field at some point in 2013. The Eagles need to see if Foles can be a franchise-caliber starting QB so that they can attack the 2014 offseason accordingly. The only way they can do that is if Foles stays healthy, and plays.
9. Bryce Brown: According to Rotoworld's Evan Silva, the Oregon Ducks' run:pass ratio was 685:373 in 2012. That would be just shy of 65% run plays. Silva also put together a tremendous breakdown of Brown's rookie season, and he noted some flaws in his game that need improvement. We're all aware of Brown's fumbling issues, but Silva talked other things like Brown's penchant for unnecessarily bouncing runs to the outside. The good news is that Brown's deficiencies are fixable, and he flashed the potential to be special. If Brown can eliminate some of his mistakes, he and LeSean McCoy may form the best 1-2 RB combination in the NFL, behind what might be one of the most athletic offensive lines in NFL history.
8. Jason Kelce: a pulling center in a Chip Kelly offense? Say no more…
7. Evan Mathis: Mathis is really good, and the Eagles' depth at guard is not.
6. Mychal Kendricks: In Kendricks' rookie season, he did some good things and some bad things, although the bad things probably outweighed the good things. So why is Kendricks so high on this list? The Eagles need Kendricks to be a really good player, and he has the athleticism, instincts, and ability to be just that. It's only a matter of time before the light goes on. He needs to play and learn.
5. DeSean Jackson: DeSean's ridiculous 2009 season seems like a long time ago. He's ready to recapture that glory.
Because of DeSean's early success in the NFL getting behind defenses, he often faced huge cushions. Here's an example from 2011:
- The guys circled in yellow are Eagles eligible receivers not named DeSean Jackson.
- The guy circled in blue is DeSean Jackson.
- The red line is drawn from the line of scrimmage to the safety giving over-the-top help on DeSean. That would be a cushion of 20 yards.
So essentially, what you have here is Jeremy Maclin getting a one-on-one matchup up top with Mike Jenkins, the slot receiver getting a one-on-one matchup on the safety, Brent Celek getting a one-on-one with a linebacker, and if you choose to send him out into a pattern, LeSean McCoy one-on-one against a linebacker. That’s Jackson's value.
Last season was encouraging in many ways for DeSean. In 2012, he had just 1 dropped pass, according to Pro Football Focus. That was the lowest number of drops of any receiver in the NFL with as many targets or snaps played. If DeSean can combine his progress of not making mistakes with his big-play ability, he can once again become a special player.
Above, we already mentioned Oregon's lopsided run:pass ratio. If the Eagles can run the ball effectively, opposing safeties will no longer be able to park themselves 20 yards off the line of scrimmage, which could open up the door for DeSean get behind opposing defenses like he used to.
4. Lane Johnson: He's the 4th overall pick in the draft. You expect guys drafted this highly to be special. Lane Johnson put together a Combine that Mike Mayock described as "the freakiest Combine in the history of (NFL Network's) coverage of the Combine." He's "right tackle of the present, and the left tackle of the future, or as my friend Derek Sarley of IgglesBlog.com puts it, the "RTOTP LTOTF," although the Eagles don't list that as his official position on their roster.
The 2013 draft was loaded with talented offensive linemen, and there was a thinking that Johnson has the biggest upside of the them all. He needs to play to realize that potential.
3. LeSean McCoy: He's good.
2. Jason Peters: This is based solely on the premise that Jason Peters will be something close to what he was before the Achilles tendon injury—which was great.
1. Fletcher Cox: In 2010, Jason Pierre-Paul was a rookie with the Giants. He was a role player, but flashed impressive athleticism, and made some plays. In 2011, there was a case for JPP to be the NFL's defensive player of the year:
Can Fletcher Cox be the NFL's next defensive lineman to make that huge jump from Year 1 to Year 2?
Cox absolutely flashed legitimate game-changing ability his rookie season, and he could be a player that the Eagles build around on their defense.
The bottom line, though— he's got to play—and he's got to stay healthy— or we may never know.