It’s easy to forget the low expectations facing Chip Kelly as he opened camp as a rookie head coach one year ago. Now, he has the expectations ofa playoff berth firmly on his shoulders.
Metro takes a look at five players who will be on everyone’s mind when training camp gets underway Friday.
1. Jeremy Maclin
The expectations were high for Maclin entering training camp last season. But Maclin tore his ACL on July 27, 2013 and was done for the season before even getting a chance to show what he could do. Maclin has a strange training camp history. Besides the season-ending injury last season, he also was injured in 2010 and had an inflammatory virus in 2011.
Maclin will be counted on to replace DeSean Jackson’s 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns from 2013.
2. Darren Sproles
The smallest addition — in size only — this offseason was running back Darren Sproles.
Eagles fans were thrilled to hear Kelly and crew swept in to sign the free agent because of all the multiple formations Sproles could fit into in Kelly’s offense. Sproles should be able to take a little bit of the pressure off all-everything back LeSean McCoy as well. McCoy had 314 carries last season to lead the league. Only he and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch had over 300 carries. And while McCoy was unbelievably impressive with all of those carries, the offense could certainly benefit from a well-rested McCoy in the latter half of the season and, hopefully, the playoffs.
With Bryce Brown now with Buffalo, it will be up to Sproles — and Chris Polk — to help out McCoy.
3. Malcolm Jenkins
The Eagles’ big free agent signing this offseason was safety Malcolm Jenkins from New Orleans.
They signed him to a three-year, $16.25 million deal in March to help bolster a secondary led — frighteningly enough — by Patrick Chung in 2013. The Eagles were dead last in the NFL last season in passing yards allowed. Jenkins will be counted on to help bring that number down. Chung is gone, and Jenkins will likely be paired with Nate Allen, the only member of the secondary who was halfway decent.
4. Mark Sanchez
Admittedly there might not be much to watch here.
But there was no offseason move more mystifying than the Eagles’ addition of washed-up Jets QB Mark Sanchez. Sanchez took the same hits for inaccuracy he did in New York during the minicamps this summer in Philadelphia, but Matt Barkley hasn’t established himself as a clear winner to back up Nick Foles either.
Let’s see if Sanchez, who Kelly saw plenty of when coaching at Oregon, can take a stranglehold on the backup role.
5. Jordan Matthews
The raves about Matthews have come fast and furious over the offseason.
The second-round pick from Vanderbilt may be contributing sooner rather than later. At 6-foot-3, Matthews runs a 4.46-second 40-yard dash and has already been called the best receiver on the roster by the Inquirer and was also compared to former Eagles wideout Terrell Owens by ESPN’s Phil Sheridan.