This is part 1 of a 3 part fan post series I am planning to publish on what I feel the Eagles FO should be looking at this off-season. Part 1 describes the Eagle's current roster and my prediction on what will happen to the players currently on their roster at each position. Please feel free to comment and share your opinion in the comment section.
Great, tremendous, magnificent, scary- these are only a few words that people used to describe the Eagle's 2011 roster before the season started. The Eagle's were going "all-in" in 2011 by signing 12 major free agents this past off-seasonwith four of them panning out to be defensive starters. But, ever since Vince Young uttered the phrase "The Dream Team", nothing but misfortune has followed the franchise. The Philadelphia Eagles' 2011 roster may be have been their most disappointing, underachieving one in the past decade. Even though the Eagles did win four straight to end the season they did nothing to make me believe, as a fan, that they are a Super Bowl contender next year. The offense had their usual solid season under the Andy Reid regime but the defense lacked veteran leadership and toughness, giving up 5 fourth-quarter leads. Speaking of Andy Reid, this has probably been the worst season of Reid's career as his team barely achieved a .500 record. The .500 record doesn't bother me as much as the fact that he did it with his most talented team during his tenure in Philly excluding the 2004 Super Bowl team. Throughout this nightmare of a season some key points about the team emerged. Weaknesses, and predictions for the current roster after the jump.
Coaching: Andy Reid had his worst year as a coach, as said above. Big Red could not manage his team well enough to guide them to a winning record which would have gotten them to the playoffs. Reid continued his pass-oriented offense even during the absence of his star QB and the fact that he had the best RB in the NFL last year. His drafting in last year's draft was mediocre as usual and one of his picks were 2-round reaches (Jaiquawn Jarrett). Perhaps the biggest mistake made was to move Juan Castillo from O-line coach to Def. Coordinator, Castillo's defense played very well at the end of the season, but it was a case of "too little, too late."
Prediction: Andy Reid is guaranteed one more year but the rest of the coaching staff is not. In fear of saving his job Reid drafts more linebackersin the first round than he did in the previous 11 years. The number he drafts this year (1) is a staggering amount and is indicative of his draft philosophy. Castillo is retained as their D-Coordinator. Jim Washburn stays with the staff. Todd Bowles is hired as the Defensive Backs coach and is clearly the D-Coordinator in waiting if Andy Reid wastes another season. Bowles' main objective this season will be to rectify the Eagles underachieving cornerback andsafety core which is filled with star-studded players such as Nnamdi Asomugha, Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Asante Samuel.
Quarterback: Micheal Vick, the annointed QB of the future after signing his new deal, had an average season at best.The Eagles brought in Vince Young this past off-season to be insurance if Vick went down with a major injury. Vick did go down with an injury, albeit a minor one, which forced backup QB's Mike Kafka and Vince Young to compete for the job. Although Young won the job, he wasn't very good at it, leading the Eagles to a 1-2 record when starting. Kafka, who was drafted as a project showed that he still needs coaching, after throwing two picks in relief against the Atlanta Falcons. Adding Trent Edwards was good for the development of Mike Kafka who now has some competetion at the backup QB position.
Prediction: Mike Vick obviously stays. Vince Young let go. Mke Kafka and Trent Edwards stays on roster.
Running Back: LeSean McCoy emerged as the best running back in the NFL in only his 3rd season. He was grossly underutilized but did not complain and was still in the hunt for the NFL rushing title. The signing of Ronnie Brown during the off-season graded out to be a bad one. I thought Brown would be a great change-of-pace back for the Eagles, but instead turned into a laughingstock after the 49ers game. Brown, after the horrible wildcat attempt became one of the least featured players in the offense this season.
Prediction: LeSean McCoy signs extension with the Eagles. Ronnie Brown let go. Dion Lewis stays on roster, becomes backup (for now).
Wide Receiver: DeSean Jackson turned out to be Terrell Owens Jr. this season. At the beginning of the season, many Eagles fans including me thought DeSean showed great maturity when he held out of camp for a week to prove his point and then reported. Sadly, the situation dragged on for months. The Eagles are refusing to pay DeSean Jackson top 10 WR money, while DeSean Jackson refused to catch any balls that put him in danger of being hit. Its these kind of relationships that end on a sour note and never mend (i.e. Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb). Its likely that Jackson won't return next year, even after telling the media that he would accept the franchise tag. Other than Jackson, who otherwise had a solid year, the Eagles have a great #2 receiver in Jeremy Maclin, who has the potential to become their #1 target if Jackson leaves this off-season. Third receiver, Jason Avant, had an unusual turnover prone year in which he had a few fumbles and a couple of drops. Steve Smith, sadly, was just a waste of 2 million dollars. The last relevant 2 receivers on the depth chart- saw time due to injury or special sets. Riley Cooper, the 6'4" WRthe Eagles drafted two years ago seems to have great chemistry with Vince Young, but with VY most likely leaving this off-season Cooper hasn't solidified himself as a reliable reciver with Michael Vick at the helm, rendering him with little value but high potential. Chad Hall, the 6th reciever on the depth chart had a career season this year, scoring 2 TD's and appearing in 4 games. Both Cooper and Hall are replaceable and could be cut during training camp next year if a viable upgrade comes along.
Prediction: DeSean Jackson gets signed to a 3 yr- $26 million dollar deal and traded to the St. Louis Rams with a 1st round pick (Eagles-2012), their own 2nd round pick (pick # 47 overall-2012), a 2nd round pick and 3rd round pick from next year (Eages-2013) for their first round pick and second round pick. Steve Smith let go. Toss-up between Cooper and Hall for roster spot.
Tight End: Brent Celek started out the year very slow, mostly due to the fact that he had to stay in to block, as the offensive line got used to Howard Mudd's blocking scheme. As the season progressed, Celek turned out to be one of Vick's favorite targets and became another weapon for the Eagle's offense. Clay Harbor had a solid season as the backup making plays when he needed to. Harbor also had a couple of lowlights including some dropped passes and bad blocking.
Prediction: Brent Celek remains the starting tight end for this Eagles offense, the Eagles look for a better backup in the mid to late rounds of the NFL draft. Harbor remains backup until then.
Offensive Line: The Eagles started the season with the offensive line as a weakness but as the season progressed, they became a strength and finshed as a top-five offensive line in the NFL. Even though their line is relatively young, I think the Eagles know that they need depth especially since King Dunlap and Jamal Jackson are the only reliable options if injury occurs.
Defensive Line: The defensive line might have been one of the lone bright spots for the Eagles this season, the other being LeSean McCoy. The duo of Trent Cole and Jason Babin was one of the most dominant pair of defensive ends in recent NFL history. Babin fell 4 sacks short of tying Reggie White's franchise record, he also fell .5 sacks short of being the sack leader in the NFL this year. Trent Cole did not have a bad season himself, totaling 10.5 sack while facing double coverage for most of the year. Interior linemen also played well, most of all Cullen Jenkins, who had an amazing start to the year and eventually cooled off. Derek Landri was a great mid-season signing, one who I thought should have made the 53-man roster out of training camp. The Eagles did lack depth in their defensive line, including Trevor Laws, who I thought had a dissapointing season. The biggest addition to the defensive line might have been the hiring of coach Jim Washburn who installed the "Wide-9" technique which allowed the D-line to amass the league-high for sacks.
Prediction: Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Mike Patterson, and Cullen Jenkins stay as leaders of this unit. Derek Landri is signed to a two-year deal and Antonio Dixon is signed to a one-year deal. Juqua Parker is waived/released. Darryl Tapp, who is owed a $5 million roster bonus, is traded to the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, who need a pass rush badly, for a 4th round pick.
Linebackers: The linebacking corps of this unit sucks... horribly. Believe it or not the Rams' linebackers were graded out better than the Eagles linebackers, and the Rams finished at 2-14. The linebackers of this Eagles team was the worst for nearly 75% of the season before they finished strong as a top 15 linebacking corps, but against some struggling offenses and teams. The Casey Matthews experiment was a huge flop even though he found his niche as a nickel linebacker late in the season. Moise Fokou on the other hand, an original starter started out the season badly but eventually progressed to average play, on the verge of solid play, before being placed on Injured Reserve. The only positive item related to the linebackers was the emergence of Brian Rolle as the starting weakside linebacker. Jamar Chaney, coming of a brilliant 2010 season was at best average throughout the season. Akeem Jordan was a solid backup.
Prediction: Akeem Jordan resigns as a special teamer for one or two years. Greg Lloyd is cut. Keenan Clayton is moved to the safety position. Casey Matthews is moved to special teams or is reserved to one or two packages. Jamar Chaney and Brian Rolle are retained as base package linebackers. Moise Fokou is a cut candidate at training camp.
Cornerbacks: Possibly the most dissappointing unit of the Eagles' team this year was their group of prized cornerbacks. Nnamdi Asomugha had an uncharacteristic struggle of a season, he was burned on a couple of plays he usually breaks up and overall just had a bad season. After watching replays of the games though, it seems as if he was playing like his usual self but wasn't suited to the zone coverage Juan Castillo assigned to him, the silver lining for him was that he now has a full offseason in this scheme, a better secondary coach, and came off a season in which he had more interceptions than the previous three years combined. Asante Samuel played like his usual ball-hawking self notching around 5 or 6 interceptions, which is a down year for him and yet again failed to impress with his tackling. Although he recorded the most tackles of his career he usually just threw himself at a reciever who just fell, Samuel was also burned on a couple of double moves yet again, but his down year came along in a year in which the whole defense failed to live up to expectations. Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie was put in the slot and nickel packages, which he accepted, where he struggled mightily. Cromartie just seemed to be out of position and out of his comfort zone on most plays and was burned badly and often, when he was put on the outside though he flourished and played some very good football. The rest of the cornerbacks recieved very little playing time and played very well in the limited playing time they were given.
Prediction: Nnamdi Asomugha and Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie are almost consensus locks to return. Contrary to popular belief, I believe that Asante Samuel will return to the Eagles. The rest of the cornerback unit stays the same.
Safety: Of all the things that the Eagles' front office did this off-season when they went "all in," they missed one important detail- safety. The Eagles front office knew that Nate Allen was not going to be 100% at the start of the season, especially when the recovery time/rehab time for a torn patellar tendonitis around 8 months, with the help of NFL trainers. Allen had a total of 2 months to rehab with NFL trainers andstill started in the third game of the season showing the ineptitude of the Eagles safety depth. The Eagles also drafted Jaiquawn Jarrett in the 2nd round of the draft. Judged by many as a reach, as he was projected to go in the third or fourth round, the Eagles hoped Jarrett would start at safety in a shortened offseason in which he got around only a month of coaching. The worst mistake the Eagles might have made was the signing of Jarrad Page. Page who was a solid tackler for about a grand total of 2 games was a defensive and tackling liability for the rest of them.
Prediction: No safeties in their contract years. Only 4 safeties on the roster- all of them stay, no cut. Colt Anderson is moved backed to special teams after his ACL surgery.
Draft Picks: The Eages aquire the 2nd overall pick with the DeSean Jackson trade listed above. The Eagles then trade the Ram's second round pick and the Cardinal's 2nd round pick and their own 2nd round pick to the Rams for the 15th pick in the draft.
Please comment and share your opinions on the first part of this series. Thank You.