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Focus Is On A Big 2014 Success

Posted Jan 6, 2014

By the middle of the afternoon on Monday, the locker room was empty, lockers cleaned, as the players departed the NovaCare Complex into their offseason worlds. The page has turned on the 2013 Eagles season ...

That's the way it works in the NFL. This is a cyclical world, and the cycle is now at the bottom. Days after the playoff loss to New Orleans, the Eagles are looking to the future.

No decisions are going to be made any time soon -- other than the signing of the players on the practice squad to 2014 contracts -- as head coach Chip Kelly and his coaching staff are still poring through the '13 campaign and grading players and schemes and dotting every "I" and crossing each "T" and putting an NFC East title-winning season to bed.

And after that, whether it's a matter of days or weeks, the Eagles will move forward with a sole focus on 2014.

Here, of course, we're looking ahead. The Eagles of 2013 were a grand ride, a terrific turnaround after the misery of 2012. The Eagles are in a much better place now than they were 12 months ago, something that general manager Howie Roseman discussed late on Monday afternoon in a sitdown with reporters.

Roseman, along with Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie and team president Don Smolenski, were canvassing the country a year ago searching for their next head coach. It was an exhausting and, ultimately, rewarding experience. But at the time ...

"A year ago at this time, I was on the road. We were on our coaching search. We did have a moment on Saturday -- Don, Jeffrey and I -- were we kind of reflected where we were a year ago at this time. It seems like a lifetime ago in some ways," said Roseman. "It's exciting to think about the potential that we have here with this coaching staff and with this team, but by the same token we've got to get better. Our personnel staff has done a tremendous job of staying focused on that through the season with the ups and downs.

"One game won't change how we identify the draft prospects or the free-agent prospects or how we evaluate our own team. I think that's the way we've got to stay. We've got to stay in the mode of trying to find upgrades for our football team."

You aren't going to hear a peep from the Eagles as far as which players they want to retain, any contracts they might want to re-work, a reaction to anything players say about their contracts or their situations, and absolutely no way will you know what the Eagles are thinking about free agency or the draft. Know this, though: They want to challenge every part of the roster. If they love a running back in the draft, for example, they're going to try to add him, even with the best running back in the league, LeSean McCoy, in his prime. They Eagles are thrilled that quarterback Nick Foles made some great progress in his second NFL season with 29 touchdown passes and just 2 interceptions, but don't they have the responsibility to bring one onboard if they think it makes the roster better for 2014 and beyond?

Of course. And every player on this roster knows he's going to have competition ahead. The Eagles can bump the roster up to 90 players between now and training camp, and however the numbers work, they want to have the very best roster they can put together through the process of developing their own, free agency, trades, the waiver wire, the draft and any means possible to make the Eagles contenders for years to come.

Where are the priority positions? What you saw during the season was the truth. The defense, which Roseman said is a "work in progress," needs impact players across the board. The Eagles won't turn down a difference-making player at any tier. The offense set franchise records for points and yards and explosiveness, but do you really think Chip Kelly would ignore a player who could add a dimension to his attack?

We'll talk about this for the weeks to come, for sure. My "want" list? It's extensive. I want great players at every position. Foles is the quarterback moving forward, but Michael Vick is a question mark to return, so who is the backup? The Eagles need to have a quarterback in place who can win should something happen to Foles. They need to continue to develop Matt Barkley. They need to keep their eyes open.

One of Roseman's favorite terms at this time of the year is "nothing is off the table." It's fertile territory for a team that has positioned itself well within the salary cap, has a roster that is young and talented, and that knows there is so much hard work ahead to continue to rule the NFC East and advance in the conference.

The Eagles aren't pleased they lost to New Orleans. Monday was not a happy day with players packing their bags and leaving town, not knowing what the future holds. In the big picture, the Eagles are in a much-improved place from where they were a year ago. The future is bright. A lot of hard work is ahead.

Kelly and Roseman and everyone will embrace the challenge. They have a vision to achieve greatness. Some of it will come true and in some cases the Eagles will go in other directions with the book on 2013 closed and the team ready to write new chapters for what's to come.

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