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Team MVP? And The Fans Say ...

Posted Jun 5, 2014

The roster has been significantly upgraded in the last couple of years. The blue-chip count has grown. Is there one player who rises above all to be deemed "Most Valuable" here? ...

The roster has been significantly upgraded in the last couple of years. The blue-chip count has grown. Is there one player who rises above all to be deemed "Most Valuable" here?

The fans think so. On the Fan Poll on PhiladelphiaEagles.com, running back LeSean McCoy received 53 percent of the first 2,200-plus votes and, truthfully, it's hard to argue those results. McCoy is a top, top running back and his production last season when he gained a league-best 2,146 yards from scrimmage is impossible to ignore.

McCoy is a star player. So is left tackle Jason Peters, who made the sixth Pro Bowl of his career last season. Left guard Evan Mathis earned some worthy recognition with a Pro Bowl nod in 2013 and inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans played more snaps than any player in the NFL on any defense last season. Running back Darren Sproles may not be a "starter," per se, but he's been extraordinarily productive in his NFL career, most recently with the New Orleans Saints.

What's exciting is that the Eagles have added to the talent mix with youth. Very good youth. Quarterback Nick Foles tossed 27 touchdown passes after taking over the starting job and ended his season in Honolulu earning Offensive MVP honors in the Pro Bowl. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks recovered an NFL-high four fumbles and had a hand in eight defensive takeaways (four fumble recoveries, three interceptions, one forced fumble) in his first year playing an inside position. Center Jason Kelce returned from a knee injury to lead the offensive line and establish himself as one of the game's best at his position. Second-year right tackle Lane Johnson is coming off an outstanding rookie season and is aiming for world dominance.

Tight end Zach Ertz enjoyed a strong rookie season and has the skill set and the work ethic to become the latest in a long line of terrific players at his position, joining veteran Brent Celek among the celebrated tight ends in Eagles history.  There are also a handful -- growing, by the way -- of young players who are on the verge of emerging, including defensive linemen Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton and Bennie Logan, a player on whom the coaches are high for 2014 and beyond.

I'm not going to agree with the fans, then. While McCoy is a remarkable player and will in the next couple of seasons become the most productive running back in the history of the franchise and who, at age 25, is very much on top of his game, he plays a position that requires depth and interchangeable pieces for the long haul of a 16-game season. For that very reason, the addition of Sproles in the offseason will prove to be so important and will pay such huge dividends in the season ahead.

From this perspective, the most valuable player on any football team is the quarterback. There is the very true notion that the sum of the parts is greater than any single player, but it is also true that in no sport is there a position more vital than quarterback in football.

For that reason, Foles gets the nod as the team's most valuable on the field. As he raised his game in 2013, the offense soared. Turnovers were minimized. Big plays were maximized, and the level of efficiency increased tremendously. The Eagles won seven of their final eight games in the regular season and claimed the NFC East to reach the playoffs for the first time after missing out in 2011 and 2012.

The premise is also that if "something should happen to Player X, who would step up?" and I understand that. Behind McCoy there is Sproles, a super-productive player with varied skills, but who has also never had more than 93 carries in a season. Given the chance, though, and with a strong supporting cast, the expectation is that Sproles -- as well as Chris Polk and any running back who makes this talented roster -- would keep the chains moving as the coaching staff devises its scheme. McCoy is at a different level, please understand, but the other backs here have ability as well.

We don't yet know where Matt Barkley is in his second year of development, nor do we know yet how Mark Sanchez fits in with the scheme, but if either of them should gain playing time they would then become "most valuable."

That's the way it works in the NFL. That's why quarterbacks are so coveted. That's why franchises treasure the position so dearly. That's why the biggest contracts in the league go to the quarterbacks.

Quarterback is the most valuable position, for better or worse. No other position in any sport has as much impact in the fortunes of a franchise. That's the rule in the NFL, not to be broken any time soon.

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