The Philadelphia Eagles imploded in 2012. For a team with as much talent as the Eagles have had, for them to have underachieve in the way they did was pretty remarkable.
That simple fact led to the demise of Andy Reid as the head coach of the Eagles, but it was time for both parties to move on anyway. The Eagles hired former Oregon coach Chip Kelly to be their new head man, and the brand of football we’ve come to know from the Eagles could change pretty dramatically.
Kelly has opted to build the defense around a 3-4 base scheme and the offense will likely run through Michael Vick. He’s wasted no time placing his imprint on the Philly offense, pushing DeSean Jackson down the depth chart at OTAs.
While things will be very different in Philadelphia, I think this team and the fan base has a lot to look forward to. As far as the defensive front, the Eagles actually have some really intriguing young personnel to work with in a 3-4 defensive scheme, and I think they could have some breakout players in that area. Here we will look at three potential breakout players for the Eagles, one from the 2011, 2012, and 2013 rookie class.
Third Year–Cedric Thornton, DL
The former undrafted free agent out of Division II Southern Arkansas is ready for a breakout season in 2013. After spending 13 games on the Eagles’ practice squad as a rookie in 2011, Thornton finally cracked the 53 man roster and has never looked back. He played in all 16 games last season, and has emerged as one of the favorites to start in the new 3-4 defensive look being installed by coordinator Billy Davis.
Coming out of Southern Arkansas, I was one of the analysts out there who thought Thornton might get picked up in the fourth or fifth round because of the upside he showed leading up to the draft. Obviously, teams were concerned about something and he wound up not getting drafted, but he’s earned his way into a playing role and he’s an ideal fit for the 3-4 defensive scheme. He has great size and length for the DE position in a 3-4 front, and at 6’4″ 309 pounds, Thornton racked up 27 tackles and a sack last season, his first seeing any real sort of playing time.
The Eagles are pretty high on Thornton, so don’t be surprised if he is the other starting DE with our next potential breakout player in 2013…