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Eagles season preview: Chip Kelly bets on himself


Around The NFL's season preview goes to the NFC East. Our podcast NFC preview is right here.

Change we can believe in


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. 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.

Dumping DeSean Jackson was the ultimate "bet on yourself" move. Kelly will rely again on pace, yards after the catch, a sprinkling of sports science, and more pace. The more we read about Kelly, the more we believe the hype.

Biggest concern


The secondary is ordinary, even after adding Jenkins. The defense overall, in fact, lacks a transcendent talent. Where is the pass rusher who will consistently win one-on-one matchups? Fletcher Cox is an underrated player, but that typifies the defense. It's a group of guys who can make the case as underrated, not All-Pros. For all of Kelly's innovations on offense and running a team, the defense risks being boring. First-round pick Marcus Smith doesn't look ready to make an instant impact.

Notable Madden ratings

The other concern here is a Nick Foles regression at quarterback. He never looked quite as impressive on film last year as he did in the box score, especially down the stretch. No one expects him to repeat his historical TD:INT ratio last season, but would it really be that big a surprise if Foles experienced some of the growing pains he avoided last year? A great offensive line and running game are huge allies.

Training camp surprise


It's been a relatively quiet Eagles training camp outside of rookie slot receiver Jordan Matthews getting the beat writers hot and bothered. He has a chance to lead the team in receiving in the post-DeSean world where passes should be evenly distributed. Also surprising: Mark Sanchez looking positively rejuvenated as Foles' backup. It's as if Kelly saw what Marc Trestman was doing with Jimmy Clausen and wanted to top him.

What we'll be saying in February


We'll be admitting that Kelly was smart to bet on himself, especially in such a lousy division.

Around The NFL's predicted finish: First place in NFC East, 10th in Around The NFL's Power Index.

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