Fresh off a 4-12 season, the Eagles are clearly in rebuilding mode. They have holes, certainly, but more importantly, they have an opportunity to start fresh. Chip Kelly has a blank canvas before him, and he will need to build his team’s identity around holdovers from the Andy Reid era as well as the players he has already drafted. Here are the players who can best anchor the new look Eagles.
- RB LeSean McCoy – Chip Kelly funnels his offense through the tailback, and he inherits a great one in Philadelphia. LeSean McCoy is an absolute magician in space and should thrive in Kelly’s spread system. Tailbacks don’t typically last long in the NFL, but McCoy may be the exception to the rule. He’s not yet 25 and doesn’t take many big hits since he’s not an overly physical runner. Kelly should be grateful that McCoy is under contract through the 2017 season.
- C Jason Kelce – Above all else, athleticism is the trait Chip Kelly covets in his offensive linemen. This is especially true of the center position, as he loves to pull the center around as a lead blocker. Kelce, provided he fully recovers from a devastating knee injury, can flourish in that role as one of the most atheltic centers in the league. His quickness and toughness make him a rock at the heart of the offensive line.
- DE Fletcher Cox – His pass rush skills are overrated at this point, but Fletcher Cox is already a solid starter with plenty of room for improvement. He’s a rare physical specimen with the versatility to make an impact in any scheme from any alignment. His conditioning is superior for an interior defensive lineman, and Chip Kelly needs players who can hold up for four quarters. Cox doesn’t wear down and can chase quarterbacks up and down the field all day long.
- OLB Brandon Graham – Graham is finally coming into his own as a 25-year-old. After seasons of disappointment, Graham is Philadelphia’s best defensive player. He’s the team’s top pass rusher and his motor never quits. He must prove he can play in a 3-4 system, but after dropping weight, he should have little trouble making the transition. If he builds on an excellent 2012 season, the Eagles should lock him up long term.
- OT Lane Johnson – It’s premature to put Johnson on this list, but the Eagles have big plans for him. He’s already being counted on as the starting right tackle, and he looks to be Jason Peters’ heir apparent on the left side. From a physical standpoint, Johnson is Chip Kelly’s dream at offensive tackle. He’s 6’6″ with tight end speed and gets to the second level with ease. He already has experience in an up-tempo offense and only figures to improve.
- TE Zach Ertz – I questioned the Ertz pick on draft weekend and still believe that the Eagles should have taken a defensive player in the second round, but Chip Kelly clearly envisions a large role in the offense for him. I expect him to overtake Brent Celek as the in-line tight end before this time next season, and he may very well lead the team in receptions in 2014. Ertz isn’t the best blocker or the most explosive athlete, but he’s got soft hands and understands how to play the position. He’s one of the more polished rookies in his draft class and is ready to contribute soon.