Everyone knows that in the NFL defense wins championships but do not tell that to Eagles' head coach Chip Kelly. The team's biggest moves so far this offseason have been to ensure that his up-tempo, high octane offense continues to roll next season after finishing 2013 ranked second in the NFL in total yards per game.
Before the start of free agency this past Tuesday, Philadelphia had already signed wide receivers' Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper to new deals as well as come to terms on a lucrative contract extension with offensive linemen Jason Peters and Jason Kelse.
Thursday's big news was trading a fifth round pick in this year’s draft to New Orleans for running back Darren Sproles. He should be a perfect fit with starting running back LeSean McCoy, who put up some huge numbers last season, but also endured a bit too much wear and tear.
Both runners are similar in style with nifty moves and explosive speed and Sproles brings the added dimension of catching the ball out of the backfield. He only rushed for 220 yards last season on 53 carries, but he racked-up 604 yards through the air on 71 receptions. What makes his addition even more exciting is that he gained 507 of those yards after the catch. The possibilities of incorporating another playmaker into this offense are endless, but the best scenario could be to line-up Sproles and McCoy in the backfield at the same time and let opposing defenses pick their poison.
Kelly and GM Howie Roseman have not been completely one-sided in all of the team’s off field activity since the free agent market opened for business at 4 p.m. on March 11. The Eagles’ other player signings were targeted at improving the team’s weakest link; the defensive secondary. First, they came to terms with another Saint, safety Malcolm Jenkins. He spent his first five seasons in the NFL in New Orleans including the last four as a starter. Jenkins is coming off his best year as a pro with 68 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.
The Eagles also announced that they signed free agent cornerback Nolan Carroll, who recorded three interceptions while starting 12 games for Miami last year. It is doubtful that he will fill a starting role in the Birds' defense, but he does add some much needed depth at the position as well as on special teams.