Since free agency opened March 11, front offices around the league have been busy retooling rosters and preparing for next season. Here at CSNWashington.com, we’ve been keeping a watching eye on the moves made by teams who appear on the Redskins’ 2014 schedule.
Some teams have gotten better. Others? Not so much. Let’s take a closer look:
Up today …
Opponent: Eagles (in Philly Sept. 21, in Landover Dec. 20).
2013 record: 10-6 (first in NFC East).
Arriving: RB Darren Sproles (Saints), S Malcolm Jenkins (Saints), CB Nolan Carroll (Dolphins), S Chris Maragos (Seahawks), QB Mark Sanchez (Jets), T Andrew Gardner (Texans) and LB Bryan Braman (Texans).
Departing: WR DeSean Jackson (Redskins), QB Michael Vick (Jets), S Patrick Chung (Patriots), WR Jason Avant (Panthers), S Kurt Coleman (Vikings), S Colt Anderson (Colts) and DT Clifton Geathers (Redskins).
Cap space remaining: $20,288,629, according to the NFLPA.
Best move thus far: Trading for Sproles, who was acquired from the Saints for a fifth round pick. The versatile running back averaged 77 catches and 660 receiving yards the past three seasons and seems tailor made for Chip Kelly’s offense. Sproles’ addition should also ease some of the pain felt from the loss of Jackson.
The bottom line: The big story lines in the coming months figure to be Darren Sproles’ addition to an already potent offense, whether Nick Foles can duplicate last season’s unexpected success and, of course, the story that keeps on giving … DeSean Jackson’s controversial release and his return to The Linc as a member of the Redskins in Week 3.
But offense probably won’t be what determines whether the Eagles repeat as division champions in 2014. Even without Jackson, Kelly’s unit posses enough firepower to match, if not surpass, the 27.6 points per game it averaged a year ago.
Instead, the determining factor could be whether they got better on defense.
Bill Davis’ unit showed steady improvement throughout the campaign. In fact, after yielding 52 points in Denver in Week 4, the Eagles allowed 21 or fewer points in nine consecutive games. Not bad for a unit that switched schemes in the offseason.
But no one will argue that the Eagles’ defense needs a more potent pass rush and stronger play from the backend if they want to make a long run in the postseason. In 2013, they ranked 20th in sacks (37), 29th in yards allowed per game (394) and dead last in average pass yards permitted (290).
The addition of safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Nolan Carroll to a secondary corps that features Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams, Brandon Boykin and Earl Wolff will indeed help. But the defense still is in need of reinforcements. If the Eagles don’t use the No. 22 pick on a wide receiver to replace Jackson, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see GM Howie Roseman target a safety, corner or pass rusher in the first round.
In the final analysis, losing Jackson hurts. Probably more than anyone in Philly is willing to admit right now. But make no mistake, Kelly is building something special and, with continued improvement on defense, the Eagles figure to be tough to beat again next season.