The kids are off for the summer. Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly broke minicamp on Thursday. Athletes & coaches, alike, will have roughly 6 weeks to rest & relax—or train & mentally prep— prior to preseason beginning on August 2nd. Until then, it is likely that the continuous stream of Eagles-related news will slow significantly from the torrid pace that began in February. There are no drastic moves to be made or players to be released…we think. The guys that contribute for the Eagles next season are (presumably) currently on the 90-man roster.
It’s time to give due attention to these guys & their future in the Eagles organization. The next couple weeks we’ll attempt to project the offensive production per unit. Last week we projected the running backs. This week, we’re on to the wide receivers. Next week, we’ll project the tight ends & Darren Sproles. Finally, we’ll finish with the quarterbacks.
(NOTE: for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll assume the Eagles carry five game-day WRs that will contribute significantly on offense…sorry GJ Kinne et al.)
Jordan Matthews – 80 receptions, 1100 yards, 9 touchdowns
Matthews was targeted just eight times in his first two games in the NFL before busting out with eight catches for 59 yards & two scores against the Redskins in week 3. After that, he was a significant weekly contributor but was overshadowed by a prolific, contract-year Jeremy Maclin. In his sophomore campaign, Matthews will emerge as the bread & butter receiving option on which Bradford Sanchez the quarterback can lean. If he doesn’t get to 80 catches, it is because the team leaned more heavily on the rushing attack than I thought or one of the guys below (or a TE) outperformed expectations…both of those are good things. He is never going to be a deep threat or yards-after-the-catch producer but should stay close to the 13 yards/catch he averaged last year. More red zone targets, as he becomes a more polished route runner & learns to use his frame out of the slot, account for the slight increase in touchdowns.
Nelson Agholor – 70 rec, 900 yards, 9 TDs
If this stat line looks familiar, then you’re paying attention. It is nearly identical to the production provided by Jordan Matthews in 2014 (67 receptions, 872 yards, 8 TDs). While Matthews is going to continue to be Mr. Reliable for Kelly, Agholor is the more polished route runner &, by all accounts, has the look of a big play receiver. As a rookie, he’ll have to earn his way onto the field; but his talent will demand targets, eventually. I think Agholor makes a slightly larger rookie splash because I think (a healthy) Bradford outperforms the Foles/Sanchez reality Matthews played under in 2014. The combination of Matthews & Agholor could very well be Chip’s version of Marvin Harrison & Reggie Wayne…if he is able to find his own poor-man’s Peyton Manning, that is.
Josh Huff – 30 rec, 450 yards, 5 TDs
While I am very high on Josh Huff, I think he will need one more season in 2015 to completely supplant Riley Cooper as a starter on the outside. In reality, I think 2016 is a reasonable timeframe for Huff to bust out. Will he ever be DeSean Jackson? Probably not…but only because I don’t think Chip Kelly has that kind of vision for this offense. He only had eight receptions last year so I think it would be aggressive to project him to increase that four-fold or more. At the same time, he has the explosive capability to get an average of 15 yards/catch & turn at least five of those receptions into electric scores.
Riley Cooper – 30 rec, 350 yards, 1 TDs
But he is a great blocker! (He said, sarcastically.) Cooper will begin to be phased out of the starting lineup this upcoming season: giving up targets to the younger WR core of the future listed above. He’ll continue to prove that his 5-year, ~ $22.5M contract extension (signed after the 2013 season) is extremely unlikely to play out in Philadelphia. It’s hard to envision him getting to 55 receptions again as he did last year while considering both the young receiving talent & likely focus on the new look Murray/Mathews/Sproles rushing attack. As such, 30 receptions for 350 yards & three touchdowns seems conservatively optimistic.
Miles Austin – 20 rec, 220 yards, 2 TDs.
I think Austin was brought in mostly as a professional mentor for the younger guys. Last year, in Cleveland, he contributed 47 catches, 568 yards & 2 TDs to a miserable offense. This year, I am guess he’s good to average roughly one catch per game, at 11 yards a pop, and two-ish sneaky scores: a Jason Avant-esque stat line.
Total: 230 receptions, 3020 yards, 26 touchdowns
For comparison’s sake, last year Eagles wideouts (Maclin, Matthews, Cooper, Huff, Maehl, & Smith) caught 221 passes for just over 2900 yards and 21 touchdowns.