It is the first day of September and on this Labor Day, the Philadelphia Eagles reconvene at the NovaCare Complex for conditioning work and meetings before holding a full training session on Tuesday. It is also now less than a week before the first regular season game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. With this in mind, let's take a look at some national predictions for the 2014 Eagles in our 5 Things To Know Today ...
1. The MMQB: Homefield Advantage For The Eagles
Peter King of The MMQB believes that the road to the Super Bowl will go through Philadelphia citing a "weak division" and a "rising" offense. King's counterpart at Sports Illustrated, Andy Benoit, wasn't as effusive in his praise, but predicts the Eagles to win the division with a 10-6 record. Again. This year, the NFC East championship game will be the Eagles-Giants. The Cowboys, per Benoit, will be in the cellar at 5-11.
The interesting note about Benoit's preview of the Eagles is that he highlights the "outstanding defense" which features the "most improved" cornerback tandem of Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams, the "best young slot artist" in the league in Brandon Boykin and now safety Malcolm Jenkins on the back end.
2. Sports Illustrated: Kendricks Is A Breakout Player
Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated profiled his "breakout players" for 2014 and included linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
"Kendricks finished second on the Eagles only to DeMeco Ryans in tackles last season, finishing with 106 and four fumble recoveries. Philadelphia is banking on that level of production and then some from its third-year linebacker. Kendricks is more than capable of meeting those expectations, particularly if he improves as a three-down player," Burke wrote. "(T)his defense could be under Kendricks' control sooner rather than later."
3. Chip Kelly Bets On Himself
The Around the NFL team at NFL.com also has the Eagles taking the NFC East title for the second straight season based on its belief that head coach Chip Kelly is indeed the real deal.
"The Eagles' roster is stable considering this is only Year 2 of the Chip Kelly era. Kelly wound up enjoying a lot of the pieces Andy Reid kept behind, and he brought back many of them on long-term contracts," wrote Gregg Rosenthal. "The entire starting offensive line and its top backup are now signed through 2016. Receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin signed new contracts to return. Running back Darren Sproles and safety Malcolm Jenkins are solid additions to the mix, but Kelly is banking on his coaching and roster continuity to carry the day in a watered down division."
4. ESPN: Jason Kelce Is The Team's Best-Kept Secret
Should Eagles fans be concerned that nearly everyone is in agreement that the team will win the NFC East? ESPN also has the Eagles back in the postseason hosting a home game after winning the division. As part of its season preview, ESPN listed each team's best- and worst-kept secrets. Phil Sheridan listed center Jason Kelce as the Eagles' best-kept secret.
"Jason Kelce somehow wasn't selected for the Pro Bowl last season. Left tackle Jason Peters and left guard Evan Mathis were, so they don't qualify as secrets. Kelce, the Eagles' smart, technically sound center, does more than bend over and push a football through his legs. He reads defenses and makes sure the linemen on either side of him are all on the same page," Sheridan wrote.
"After snapping the ball, Kelce gets moving. He pulls along with guards on some plays. He fends off massive defensive tackles to stabilize the pocket on others. The Eagles had all five linemen start every game last season. That continuity and stability helped explain LeSean McCoy's NFL-leading ground game as well as Foles' breakout year as a passer. It took all five linemen to make it happen, but Kelce was right in the middle of it all."
5. Football Outsiders Likes The Eagles To Make The Playoffs
Football Outsiders projects the Eagles at 9.3 wins this season with a 59.4 percent chance of making the postseason. FO is very confident that at the very least the Eagles will finish .500 or better, with an 80 percent chance of eight wins or more. There are three key stats that FO is keeping an eye on with regards to the 2014 Eagles.
- Pace - Per FO, the Eagles averaged 23.38 seconds per play—the fastest pace of any offense since they began tracking the stat in 1997.
- YAC - Per STATS LLC, the Eagles averaged 7.04 yards after the catch, the highest average since 1992.
- Zone Read - The zone read was used on just 1.4 percent of all offensive plays. The Eagles, meanwhile, used it on 63.6 percent of their rushing plays - minus kneeldowns - and 135 more times on running plays than Buffalo, the team that ranked second in the league.