PHILADELPHIA – NFL teams are always in transition. It’s the nature of the game.
The Philadelphia Eagles are in a particularly volatile situation going into the 2016 offseason. They have a roster that was shaped by head coach Chip Kelly, and that will be appraised by a new coach with an eye toward running different offensive and defensive schemes.
Only 12 of the current Eagles were on the roster when Kelly arrived in 2013. There’s a very good chance that the next coach will turn over the roster again and most of the current players will be gone after a few seasons.
That said, here’s a position-by-position look at the state of the Eagles roster. First up: the offensive line.
Backups: Guard/tackle Dennis Kelly, guard/center Josh Andrews, guard Tanner Hawkinson, guard/center Barrett Jones. Guard/tackle Andrew Gardner finished the season on injured reserve with a foot injury.
Practice squad: Guard Malcolm Bunche.
State of the squad: The offensive line has been neglected over the past couple years, and the Eagles paid the price for that in 2015. It wasn’t all that far-fetched to release veteran guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans. But it was a mistake to assume that backups Barbre, Tobin and Gardner could step into the starting lineup without a drop-off occurring.
The diminished play at guard created another problem. Kelce was selected for the Pro Bowl after playing between Mathis and Herremans. Without them, and with Barbre and Tobin starting on either side of him, Kelce was not as effective. Early in the season, especially, Kelce seemed to be trying to do too much to make up for the lack of continuity around him.
There was one other issue. Perennial Pro Bowler Peters was plagued by injuries. He turns 34 this month, and it’s possible that the injuries were a sign of an older player reaching the end of his career. It’s also possible that Kelly’s uptempo practice regimen took a toll and that Peters can return to his normal effectiveness next season. Either way, the Eagles must be looking for a replacement. Peters' $11.2 million salary cap hit raises the level of urgency.
That could be Johnson, who played well in a couple of games at left tackle in 2015. If so, though, the Eagles will need a right tackle to replace Johnson.
If the Eagles are fortunate, they could have starters at center and both tackle spots going into 2016. That would make finding reliable guards a priority. It is just as important to draft some young linemen who can be developed into starters over the next couple of years.
One other point: Kelly’s offense placed a premium on quick, agile linemen who could block the man in front of them and then quickly move on to blocked linebackers or defensive backs. If the new coach wants larger, more physical linemen, the Eagles will have to address that as soon as possible.