The Eagles have played seven games, and their bye week has come and gone. It’s a perfect time to take a look at which players have exceeded expectations, and which ones are costing the 3-4 team a chance at winning a stunningly lackluster NFC East.
Most Valuable Player: Fletcher Cox
Fletcher Cox is in the midst of a breakout season. The selfless beast of a defensive end usually makes an impact in the run game while setting up teammates on the pass-rush. But this year he’s continued to be a team player while making huge plays all by himself.
Cox has a third of the Eagles 15 sacks, and in a win against the Saints caused two fumbles and recovered one of them himself.
“It’s what Fletch has done here since we’ve been here,” Chip Kelly said a few weeks ago of the 24-year-old and likely Pro Bowler Cox.”I mean, he’s been a very disruptive force on the defensive line since we’ve been here. I think he’s just starting to get noticed what he probably should have gotten before. I think you even — you go back to last year, and an opponent is talking about going in, getting ready to play us, and they’re talking about Fletcher’s name.”
Least Valuable Player: Sam Bradford
Among a slew of underachieving players on the Eagles’ roster, their quarterback is certainly one of them.
After trading away a second round pick and Nick Foles, the Eagles got in exchange an interception machine. Bradford has thrown 10, the second-most in football and ranks 30th in passer rating.
There have been a few gems, like his games against the Redskins and Saints, but the rest have been mired with inaccurate throws and problems getting on the same page with hisreceivers.
Bradford will need to have a big second-half turnaround to make his nearly $18 million salary worth it.
Best Offensive Player: Ryan Mathews
Mathews wins this category simply by default. DeMarco Murray has been dreadful running behind an equally dreadful offensive line. Bradford has been a turnover machine, and as such hasn’t really hooked up with many of the Eagles top receivers enough to warrant a pass-catcher winning the designation.
Darren Sproles, who has a punt-return touchdown and is always a difference-maker, has not had as many opportunities as Mathews, and with the Eagles’ offense ranked No. 18 of 32 teams there is not much to boast about after seven games.
Mathews leads Eagles running backs 342 yards — 35 more than Murray on 32 fewer carries.
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Best Defensive Player: The Secondary
While Cox is probably the best individual player, the secondary has been so much better than it was in 2014 thatit wins the mid-season award.
The unit ranks 13th in overall pass defense, up from 31st a year ago. Malcolm Jenkins, Walter Thurmond, Nolan Carroll and Byron Maxwell have combined for 11 interceptions, the third best total in the league and allow 6.7 yards per pass attempt, sixth best in the NFL.
Best Rookie: Jordan Hicks
The Eagles have dealt with a ton of injuries on defense, but it still comes as a surprise that their leading tackler is thirdround pick Hicks from Texas.
The inside linebacker has gotten extensive time with Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans each missing a bevy of games during the first seven games of the year. He’s taken advantage of the opportunity, compiling a team-best 43 total tackles as well as a forced fumble and interception.
“He has been a — I don’t want to say a surprise, but you never know when you get a rookie,” Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said.”We knew when we drafted him, he was a highly intelligent, high-football IQ, good athlete, solid inside backer. What you don’t know is how they respond to the NFL games, and a lot of times that’s where they kind of hit a wall. Even though you have a smart guy, it takes him a year or two to be able to do it on Sundays when it’s going fast. … It’s exciting, that on game day he’s as calm as a veteran.”
Player Most Likely to Rebound in Second Half: Jordan Matthews
It’s not exactly a sophomore slump when you lead your team in receiving, as Matthews has for the Eagles through seven games with 398 yards on 39 catches. But he has had three (and possibly more) key drops on Bradford passes and more than that, has been caught up in miscommunication with the new Eagles QB.
As a whole, the Eagles receiving unit has dropped 6.6 percent of the passes thrown to them, the highest in the entire NFL. Eagles fans certainly hope this does not continue, and Matthews, with a big body and (typically) sure hands can be the catalyst for a rejuvenated pass-game in the season’s second half.