WARNING: THIS IS A LENGTHY READ. HOWEVER, IT IS A DISCUSSION-BASED ARTICLE, AND FEEDBACK IS MORE THAN WELCOME IF YOU MANAGE TO READ THROUGH THE WHOLE DAMN THING. THANK YOU.
Alright guys, there's already a lot of speculation going into what the Philadelphia Eagles need to do this offseason to get everything set into place for the Super Bowl run, and victory, that seems to be getting more and more distant as the seasons go on, the players get older, and the fans get even more restless.
This post is (hopefully) going to sprout a lot of discussion between the fans about different moves the organization could make, but I'm mainly creating this post because I want to get all my honest opinions and ideas out into some form of permanent text so that it's out there and it's not just stuck floating in my head bugging the crap out of me all offseason long. Just being honest.
So, let's get right down to it. By the way, if my style resembles Dave Spadaro, that's because it kind of is because it's a great way to organize your thoughts. AND THERE'S NOTHING UNORIGINAL ABOUT THAT!
QUARTERBACK: I SAY WE TRADE MICHAEL VICK. Please don't just read that and then post death-threats, it's bad or our health. I can't emphasize how sarcastic I am being with that statement. Anyway, Vick is here for...probably the rest of his career, unless he suffers a severe injury in some form *knock on wood*. Vick had a disappointing season compared to his first year as the Eagles' starter. He was either missing his receivers because he couldn't trust them (similar to Donovan McNabb), or he was just having an off year. I mean the guy was getting hit practically every other play, so any kind of answer wouldn't be surprising. I expect a better season overall from him in 2012 just based off of his work ethic that he's developed since coming out of prison. Mike Kafka will probably be moved up to 2nd string, and I think that's a good idea. Unfortunately, he's had the bad luck of facing teams when the game was already lost (New York Giants) and didn't exactly show fans how capable he could be. You give guys like these more chances so that they can grow and gain confidence, that's just how it is. Vince Young's contract is up I believe, and he might not return. If he does, I'll honestly be surprised, because I don't think drafting a QB in the late rounds would be a terrible idea. Whatever the organization chooses to do, they have to take into account the record the team had when Vick was out with injuries and Young held the reins and plan accordingly. Which they will. It's their job...
RUNNINGBACK: LeSean McCoy is living, breathing proof of the old adage "Third time's a charm." Why do I say that? Well let's just say the Eagles haven't exactly been as willing to give past runningbacks the ball (Brian Westbrook; Duce Staley) as they have been with Shady this past season. Not to say Westbrook and Staley NEVER had games, or even seasons, when they did all the work, but the Eagles had so much more balance using the run with Shady than in recent memory. The Eagles' so-so record at the time, or opposing teams that seemingly kept Shady contained didn't stop them from giving Shady the ball. One game early on in the season I remembered they stopped handing it off, but they learned their lesson after that. Because they were being stupid. I think if they stay true to this, McCoy could have another successful season next year. Moving on, I gotta say, I REALLY like Dion Lewis as McCoy's backup. The two know each other from college, share a similar style, and have incredible speed. Lewis needs to work on some fundamentals and decision making in his runs, but I hope he get some more reps. I mean, having another one-two runningback tandem like the good old days would be nice, right?. As far as Ronnie Brown goes, the Eagles obviously didn't think he fit when they tried to trade him, but there's a difference between a player making a big mistake on the field (I.E. the bonehead fumble) and just not having enough opportunities to run the ball. I felt that if Shady was getting stuffed on short yardage plays, Brown could have had a better shot at them. And when he DID get the chance, it was an odd draw play or an outside run which isn't Brown's specialty. He can do it, but he's more of an up-the-gut runner. His contract is also up as well, I think. So looking for a suitable back up in free agency or another late pick in the draft might not be a bad idea. But for now, I think Dion Lewis should get more coaching and reps, 'cuz there could be something special in that kid. Giving the benefit of the doubt to players is something that'll be repeated, so just a heads up.
FULLBACK: For so long this position has just confused me, and as long as we had a big enough guy back there to make the necessary blocks, it wasn't a big deal. Then Leonard Weaver became an Eagle. The guy brought something completely different to the position as well as the team. He brought a spirit with him and this wonderful love of the game, his team and city to his style of play, and I'll forever miss that about him. You forgot at times that this was just a fullback making plays with his feet that could have made other runningbacks jealous. It still hurts to hear that he is no longer an Eagle and his career is pretty much over, given the amount of promise he had for his future. For now, though, we have a very capable Owen Schmitt playing the position. We haven't really been in need of a fullback since Weaver's departure due to Schmitt's consistent play, and I also can't seem to remember his name coming up on any injury lists that kept him out of the game. So this one's definitely a position the Eagles should feel comfortable with, and at the least find depth for the position in some way.
OFFENSIVE LINE: I'm probably not gonna bring up every offensive linemen because this entry is getting long enough as it is, but I will say that there is still a lot of room for improvement with this group. They were obviously much better from last year's line, and McCoy's All-Pro and first Pro-Bowl season is proof of that. Vick and the receivers just couldn't seem to sync up well enough until the last four games of the season, otherwise the line would have gotten a lot more attention as a great pass-blocking group as well. I think the key for this part of the offense is finding more depth for the line and making sure Vick's blind side is as fortified as any quarterback's in the league. It's wonderful to see the line staying healthier than it has all year, and that gives them more time together which is the most important part of any offensive line. Once you give Vick a good enough excuse not to run the ball and trust his line, he'll become more of the quarterback he desires to be, and that he can definitely become. Just keep the guys working together and get them used to each other. You do that, and they should be just as good, if not better, next season.
TIGHT END: Okay, how much do we love Brent Celek? I mean, I could gloat about this guy all day long. After a season of being somewhat quiet in 2010, the guy came back this year and made plays thanks to the improved offensive line. He's made plays like we know Brent Celek can do, and is every bit the tight end we've needed for so long. But you all knew that. As far as his backups go, that's a little more uncertain. Clay Harbor has made a play here and there and is still young and making a few mistakes, but the Eagles seem to like what they have in the guy, and again, I think he could be a capable backup if they keep putting him out on the field. I think they should still pursue another tight end just to make sure they have this position locked up, God forbid Celek suffers an injury. he's a tough bastard, though, so that shouldn't be a concern. That's all I can really come up with for this position, though, so movin' right along.
WIDE RECEIVER: Here's where things get a bit interesting. We all know that things might get a little intense with DeSean Jackson's contract situation, and hopefully it's just as easily solvable as a couple years, a couple million dollars and we all move on with our lives, happy and hopeful. But for now, it is what it is. Jeremy Maclin is content, Jason Avant is content, and so are Chad Hall and Riley Cooper. All of these guys have finally seemed to figure out what "catching the ball" is all about, at least towards the end of the season. I swear to God, the Eagles need to get Cooper and Hall involved in games sooner than Weeks 15-17. Cooper has had a bit more opportunities since the week Young stepped in as starter, and his reliable play has kept him on the field, and that's great. I still think that he and Chad Hall need more chances, though. I really love what those two can do for the team when they make big plays. For God's sake, Hall made a friggin' Lambeau Leap in Philadelphia. I prefer to call it a Lincoln Leap, and so does he apparently, but I doubt that'll catch on. Even Hall wants most of the team to stay intact for next season because "they really clicked", so hopefully the front office hears the few of us that have this opinion. The Eagles also have a future contract in store for former St. Louis Rams WR Mardy Gilyard, who I'm told from a Rams friend of mine, is slow and short, but apparently has great hands. He also has kickoff experience, so we'll see what he can bring to the table. As usual, I'm excited for a new prospect to come into Philadelphia, especially one who is very excited to work with Vick.
DEFENSIVE LINE: It seems that we have very rarely had to worry about this portion of the defense in recent memory. Trent Cole has been a constant threat on his side of the field, both as an end and as a run defender, which has been a blessing. The switch-up between Mike Patterson and Trevor Laws keeps both guys healthy and works very well when you have a very good tackle next to you in Cullen Jenkins. Side note, I personally think they oughta give Jenkins a couple more years because he did wonders for the defensive line. And on the opposite end you've got the All-Pro and now 2-time Pro Bowler Jason Babin. He's gotten lots of criticism for being too one-dimensional because he's not very good against the run, but let's be honest, if ONE guy is gonna be the downfall of a whole run defense, then we'd have gotten rid of more guys in that front seven group that we could count on our hands...and probably toes. He gets the quarterback. That's what he does, and it's what we needed on the opposite side of Cole for a few years now. My only concern is that we have second-stringers in Brandon Graham, Derk Landri, and Juqua Parker, and only Graham (a first round pick by the way) hasn't seen as much time as anyone else on the line. Hopefully his injury is fully healed like he says it is so he can break what seems to be a curse for high round defensive ends not producing until it's too late *cough* Jerome McDougle *cough*. So maybe bring in another end or tackle or two in free agency or draft again, and I'm practically cutting and pasting this last sentence over and over again, but if there are any other ideas to get valuable depth for positions we're pretty set in, let me know. I'm thinking paranoid just in case someone is out for the year *knock on wood*.
LINEBACKER: Okay, I'm still a little uneasy about letting Stewart Bradley go a few years ago, and maybe I'm the only one, but he seemed very promising to me, and after having a very good season was just released into free agency. Now that we have ANOTHER promising linebacker in Casey Matthews, I think that combination would've been something fierce if Bradley had stayed and Matthews had kept hitting the playbooks. However, we now have some very low radar linebackers in Jamar Chaney, Brian Rolle, and Matthews. Also, Akeem Jordan has been getting some reps again after having and up and down season. People have been saying linebacker is a need, and I agree to an extent. Every position requires time and jelling with the player next to them, and shoving new guys into the scheme just kinda messes with that. Sometimes, though, it is the perfect answer for what was an issue the previous season. We saw that with Babin coming in when Jim Washburn was hired and Babin filled the role of QB rusher beautifully opposite Cole. But back to the 'backers. I have a lot of confidence and excitement in Chaney, Rolle, and Matthews. Rolle seemed to be all over the field towards the end of the season, and even came up with some big turnovers in the last few games. Matthews went from being unable to lead the defense at the start of the season to being a potentially dangerous outside linebacker (I believe it was outside, correct me if I'm wrong). I saw his jersey making the tackles on each run play and even some pass plays to tight ends, and it was great to see. Hoping he'll turn out to be like his brother is a bit much, but he can be just as good with time. As far as what they should do for improvement, I'd say we need at least one big bruising linebacker like when we had Joe Mays (another guy I'm kinda upset we let go) and I mean I'm not sure what else we can do for that group except let them grow and blah. Blah. Blah.
CORNERBACK: Okay...Cornerback. Asante Samuel could bring in enticing offers, but we've already seen the drama after he felt unwanted because Jeff Lurie didn't send him a Valentine's gift or whatever the hell he was whining about. But I still think he's an incredible talent that should play out his contract (again, pretty sure he's got at least a year left, but let me know) and THEN you choose what to do. Nnamdi Asomugha can't be considered a failure just because he had one bad season. Oh my God, you guys, a player didn't do well under an unbelievably complex defense that relies on cornerbacks keeping their matchups contained and silenced, which is impossible to do if the front seven doesn't apply pressure, even if you're Champ goddamned Bailey in his prime. The guy is an incredible class act and possible leader on the team (I wouldn't know, I'm not in the locker room) and is still a good corner, and wasn't completely terrible this year. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie showed the hell up against Washington when he was named starter. I really love what this kid can do. He's tall and fast enough to stop the deep threat receivers and swat the ball away, and occasionally pick it off. He's also tough enough to make the important tackles. As for the rest of the crew, Joselio Hanson, Curtis Marsh, and now returning Trevard Lindley, I'm not sure. We've all seen the ability that each of these guys brings to the table, Hanson with his skill at nickel, Marsh in special teams, and Lindley with his height and ability to tackle, but when you've got starts like Samuel, Asomugha, and DRC out on the field, it's going to be tough to get time. But that's what they need if they're going to be reliable in case one of three guys go down. If you couldn't tell by now, my biggest fear is injuries because it seems like the fates just like to screw with us by injuring half of our roster after a potentially great season that promises greatness the following year
SAFETY: Alright, we're finally at safety. Nate Allen had a lot of promise coming into the year as one of the better safeties coming into the NFL, but received some criticism in his second year as starter. I haven't followed this position as closely ever since the beloved Brian Dawkins went to Denver, but when he was first drafted, I loved the pick. He showed great potential, and still does. He made a few good plays since he's been here, and just needs to continue to study the defensive playbook a little more and get out there. Kurt Coleman showed up out of nowhere this year and proved to be a consistent player as well, who can make the interceptions and the tackles and do what defensive players get paid to do. However, at the beginning of the year he drove me up a freaking wall with getting into players' faces after the whistle blew. That went away in the second half of the season, and I think that it vastly improved his gameplay as a result. From what I hear, lots of people wanted to see Jaiquawn Jarrett get some more time as well. I mean, obviously it's 'cuz he's from Temple, but also because he was known as the big safety who could lay down the wood on players if need be. His height was also an asset. Point being, it's nice to know we've got qualities guys in a position that was literally owned by Dawkins for his tenure here. Hopefully we can have another player back there making it known that the position belongs to him, and that opposing players better be ready to face ____
-SPECIAL TEAMS: I gotta say, I'm extremely pleased to see the Henreys doing so well at punter and kicker. Rookies, guys. These guys are rookies, and played like vets the whole season. I wasn't banging my head against the wall because some no-name rookie kicker missed an easy 30 yarder multiple times (Alex Henerey missed a few, yes, but not enough to frustrate us). I was glad to see that. Now to get the returns team back to semi-threatening status, and we'll be set. I've always been the kinda guy who just wanted special teams to be consistent and not f**k up too many plays, and I'd be happy, so I don't have a lot of input here. Sorry, all.
-COACHING: Hey, guess what? Andy Reid is still our head coach, and Jon Gruden is still commentating it up with Jaws and Mike Tirico. And that's all I've got right now. I mean, Juan Castillo's future is in the dark as of right now, and apparently Steve Spagnuolo making a return was just a rumor and nothing more. There was a mention of Washburn moving to defensive coordinator and having both Howard Mudd and Castillo working with the offensive line. I'm not sure how that would all technically work out, but I honestly think that that might not be a terrible decision. You've got a defensive mind taking the entire defense into his hands, which honestly, it was to begin with because of the way he coached his defensive line. And then you've got Castillo going back to the offensive line partnering with another great line coach in Mudd. I mean, what sounds better than that? For those of you who answered Gruden or Tony Dungy, get the hell out of my house now.
Well, I think I've finally developed carpel tunnel, and you've probably had to clean up the blood from your eyes from reading for so long, so just leave your own opinion of what this team needs to do to finally lift the damn Lombardi Trophy and bring an end the insanity and chaos that has run rampant through Philadelphia for so long.