Can the Eagles contend for a title in ’08? Yes. Maybe.

The 2007 Eagles team was better than their 8-8 record showed. They had a coach that was seriously distracted much of the year. They lost one game because they couldn’t catch a punt. They lost another, because they let the Bears inexplicably drive 97 yards in 1:52. They lost two games on A.J. Feeley interceptions and lost a 5th game when David Akers clanked a 57-yard field goal that had the distance for 67 yards. And yes, they lost a 6th when the absence of William Thomas and Brian Westbrook resulted in a 4-quarter long Osi Umenyiora dance party.

Don’t worry, I will not be arguing that the Eagles should have gone 14-2 in 2008. We all know that is just ridiculous. But, this is a fact: At full strength, the Birds only got outplayed twice all year. Week 2 against the Redskins, and Week 9 against the Cowboys. Both teams fell to the Birds when they played again.

This team has talent. In an “off” offensive year, the Eagles finished 6th in the NFL in total offense and their young defense finished 10th in total defense. Below is a position-by-position breakdown of where the Eagles stand heading into the offseason

Quarterback – McNabb finished with the 9th best QB rating in the NFL, higher than Carson Palmer or Drew Brees. For all his accuracy issues, he had the 4th best interception rate in the NFL. He looked great in the last two games when he seemed to be fully healthy, has been to 5 pro-bowls, led us to 4 NFC Championship games and is the winningest QB in team history. He’s not Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but that is no reason to run him, or anyone, out of town. Let’s stop with the trade McNabb talk, it’s really just makes us seem stupid.

Running-back – There is not a single running-back I would take on my team over Brian Westbrook. Not much more to say except it would be nice if Tony Hunt learned his blocking assignments so we could get him on the field next year.

Wide Receiver – This is the key to whether or not the Eagles are a title contender next year – or just a wild card team. When Donovan had a true #1 receiver on the team, he had a 104.7 QB rating and we went to the Super Bowl. Umm…. WHEN DONOVAN HAD A TRUE #1 RECEIVER, HE HAD A 104.7 QB RATING AND WE WENT TO THE SUPER BOWL! I’m not entirely sure how to make that more clear for the front office. Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis are good receivers and upgrades from the Pinkston/Thrash era. But they are not #1’s. Chad Johnson may be available, Larry Fitzgerald may be available, Randy Moss is a free agent. There are options out there and the Eagles MUST be bold to take the next step.

Tight End – I like what I saw from Brent Celek this year. Good hands, and when he catches it, he looks to make a play with his feet, not just fall down. There are rumors L.J. Smith might be franchised and brought back. Personally, I would prefer Celek as the starter in ’08.

Offensive Line – Runyan and Thomas are getting up there in age, and Winston Justice was mostly horrendous when he played, so it might suit the Eagles to pick up some depth at OT in the draft. At Guard, Shawn Andrews is the 2nd best player on the team behind Westbrook and I really hope Max Jean-Giles steps up and takes the starting spot from Todd Herremans. A guard tandem of Andrews (335 pounds) and Jean-Giles (358 pounds) could be comically dominant.

Defensive End – I was confident about our depth here to start the season, but it looks like it is still an issue. Trent Cole is a pro-bowl caliber end and Juqua Thomas impressed me all year with his ability to run down quick running backs. After that, I still think Victor Abiamiri can make solid contributions, but what would really help this defense would be to sign an elite end (Jared Allen of the Chiefs is available) to go with Cole and have a super sub in Thomas and solid back-up in Abiamiri. There will also be a handful of quality DE’s there at pick #19 in the draft (Derrick Harvey from UF and Calais Campbell from Miami). I’m assuming that Kearse, Howard and McDougle will all be gone. An interesting scenerio being tossed around is using Stewart Bradley at LB and letting Chris Gocong be a full time DE or a DE/OLB hybrid. Personally, I love that idea.

Defensive Tackle – Like DE, thought we had more depth here with the additions of Montae Reagor and Ian Scott, but it didn’t turn out that way. Broderick Bunkley played well all year, and should continue to improve after an awful rookie year. With Mike Patterson next to Broderick, our starters are very solid (though not spectacular), but we could use a couple back-ups to spell them and keep them fresh.

Linebacker – The threesome of Spikes, Gaither and Gocong started the year off slow, but really seemed to come on down the stretch. Gaither and Gocong aren’t great players yet, but they showed they have the potential to be once they fully grasp Jim Johnson’s system. Spikes also played well down the stretch, but is getting up there in years. Nonetheless, it seems as though he will be back with the team next year. Stewart Bradley really looked like a player in the last couple games and could play outside next year.

Safeties – Andy Reid said Quintin Mikell played like a “pro-bowler” the last couple games, and it is hard to argue with him. Brian Dawkins is still a very good player and leader. However, I would now consider him an injury risk and would like to see someone who is not Sean “cleat marks on my chest” Considine in a back-up role.

Corners– Sheldon Brown is phenomenal. He rarely gets beat, and just ask Reggie Bush how he hits. If Lito Sheppard can stay healthy (and I would just assume he won’t), the Eagles have an elite CB tandem. Will James didn’t cut it as Rod Hood’s replacement at Nickel, hopefully we can pick one up so Joselio Hanson doesn’t spend too much time on the field.

If the Eagles stand pat, and only make minor adjustments, my guess is they will be a 10-6 team next year. Brian Westbrook makes this team special, and we have to capitalize on his prime years before they are gone. In my opinion, this is what they need to do to be a 12-4 or 13-3 Super Bowl contender.

Priority #1: Obtain, through trade or free agency, a new #1 receiver. Trade your first rounder for Chad Johnson if you have to, you certainly had no problem giving it away to Dallas last year.

Priority #2: See Priority #1

Priority #3: Obtain, through trade, free agency, or the draft, a solid DE. Aside from the options mentioned above, perhaps make a play for Jason Taylor, who may be traded from the Dolphins.

Priority #4: Draft a DT, OT, CB and S – sign FAs at any of those positions you don’t get in the draft.

Doing this, along with some development from our 2007 rookies (Celek, S. Bradley, Abiamiri) and sophomores (Bunkley, Gaither, Gocong, Jean-Gilles) will put the Eagles in position to be one of the elite teams in the NFL once again.

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13 Responses

  1. ‘At full strength, the Birds only got outplayed twice all year. Week 2 against the Redskins, and Week 9 against the Cowboys.”

    Well stated but it only makes me cry more.

    And about the safeties, I liked what i saw from JR Reed. He hit hard, granted he was lacking in coverage a little bit but he is head and shoulders above Considine.

  2. Yo Pete, I like the breakdown. Especially glad that someone other than me noticed that Celek’s a gamer.

    Definitely think you keep McNabb. He’s a great QB when he can stay healthy, and frankly, looking around the league there aren’t that many who can say that.

    Westbrook goes without saying. Best eagle. Maybe the most exciting eagle ever.

    Here’s where we start to diverge. Receiver can’t be #1 priority. Like you said, the offense put up yards. They just didn’t get into the end zone. What you need is a big threat in close. Better tight end play can provide that (Celek!). Not that I don’t want a receiver. I would flip to see ocho cinco in green. But there are three big holes you need to address.

    1) CB – Will Allen/James is the worst football player I’ve ever seen. He’s terrible. I don’t think I saw him make more than 3 plays all year, and just about every series he started he was responsible for 1/3 of the yards given up. Lito can’t stay healthy, so you need to draft a CB to play nickel, and who could start if needed.

    2) Tackle – Thomas didn’t play well this year (especially compared to years past). Yes, he may be having a down year, yes McNabb was less mobile. But he and Runyan are old. I know tackles play forever, but you NEED two good young tackles on the team, ready to step in. Justice could be okay. He got thrown into a terrible position against the giants. But get at least one stud tackle via draft.

    3) Saftey. The X Factor ain’t getting any younger. Mikel played well, and I’ve always been a fan, but he and JR Reed give up too much coverage ability when you need to beat teams w/ big home-run style receivers – Moss, Plax, TO (yes, i know we did well shutting them down, but only b/c we double teamed them all game. One of the main reasons Welker got 100 yards against us.

    4) Big ass fast receiver who can jump. 85’s the only one who’d likely be affordable (somehow I doubt Moss will reach the free agent market). I just can’t see giving up a mid first round pick that you could use to deal with the cornerback/tackle situation.

  3. Pete i really like wat u did here…. a really agree with many things that you stated…
    1) Trading our #1 draft pick for a guy like Chad Johnson…. great idea in my opinion
    2) McNabb will be solid with better recievers
    3) I agree with the beginning as well… we woudve been in the playoffs if J.R Reed caught the punt and the D didnt let the bears go 97 yards in 1:50 (around there i think)
    4) Drafting an OT is a good idea
    5) I love the idea of getting help at DE or picking up an elite DE to play with Cole- and get rid of Howard and Kearse and McDougle… Abiamiri is pretty solid as well
    – by the way… we have alot of cap room to make some of these big moves in the offseason

    However i do not agree with 2 things:
    1) Your Omar Gaither opinion: he’s an outstanding LB and will be elite very soon.
    2) Your opinio on Joselio Hanson- If you watch him play he is actually pretty good… better than James in my opinion.

    -Overall i like your opinion and the Eagles should be an elite team next year =)

  4. Mike – I don’t know if Pete will respond to your comment but definitely will. Let me preface my comments by saying that I like Omar Gaither and think he has the potential to be very good in time exactly as Pete’s post states.

    1) It’s a pet peeve of mine when people throw around words like “outstanding” “elite” “great” etc. to describe players who have yet to earn that distinction and clearly are not. It’s a disservice to those players who have earned that degree of success. Omar is in his 2nd year and had a decent season. But in no way would anyone consider 103 total tackles (tied at 18th in the NFC and 32 in the entire league), 70 solo tackles (tied at 34th in the NFC and not even in the top 50 in the NFL), 4 tackles for loss, 0 sacks, 1 int, 1 FF (where is the major game changing impact?) outstanding. It has always bothered me as an athlete when I was considered good and ppl would call a competitor good as well who I was vastly superior to.

    2. Hanson just flat out STINKS. What games where you watching? He lacks the vital tools needed to play that position, namely size (5-9), strength (can’t jam ANYONE), and most importantly for a smaller DB SPEED – this has been the knock on this guy since entering the league. At his size he would need to have good jumping ability and be extremely fast to make up for his stature. He has neither. He gets bullied everytime he is matched up with a bigger receiver and burnt by fast slot guys. All season I asked myself and anyone in the room why is this dude was on the field? I think Pete hit it right on the nose with that comment.

  5. thanks for the comments man, you’ve been blog rolled!
    http://lebasketbawl.blogspot.com

  6. great article

  7. the Eagles should be just fine next year. McNabb finished strong and as long as they keep him around and maybe pick up a legit WR for once and give him some help, they could contend with Dallas.

  8. Don’t the Eagles owe #5 about $9 million in a roster bonus this summer ? I think they do, and if so I don’t expect Donovan to be at Lehigh this summer.

    It’s too bad because looking around the NFL I see nothing but dreck at the QB position. Heck Eli Manning is a wreck and he’s probably the 12th best in the NFL right now. There is nothing wrong with Donovan as your QB, leave that part of the team alone and worry about making other parts of the team better.

    #20 is my 3rd favorite Eagle all time, but I think he is done, add another year to him and I don’t see him doing much else besides nickel or subbing in and out next year. That combined with Will James and a regularly hurt Lito is a disaster waiting to happen.

  9. Just to prioritize…

    #1 need on the team
    WR (and least likely to fill)

    #2 Secondary (see above)

    #3 Punt / Kick Return Look around the league it isn’t just Hester anymore. Vikings, Giants and others have guys that can score at this position.

    #4 DE Need to cut a bunch of dead wood here. J. Kearse second highest paid Eagle at 8 million per year , and Darren Howard sixth highest paid eagle at 5+ million a year, and McDougle all need to go.

    This money is needed for a replacement DE, a WR and A BUNCH of it needs to be paid to Brian Westbrook

    #5 Offensive Line, Can Winston Justice play?

    #50 QB Donovan is still amoung the best at the position, leave this roster spot alone and focus attention elsewhere.
    #51 RB Westbrook rocks, and Buckhalter really showed me something this year.

  10. I think Kearse is definitely on his way out. Read that he put his crib up for sale recently. Looks like a sign to me.

    Link:
    http://www.philly.com/inquirer/magazine/20080103_Inqlings___Eagles_nest_is_up_for_sale.html

  11. From my buddy Al, the biggest Eagle fan I know, who by the way loves this blog and agrees with most of it.

    “Al’s State of the Eagles Address”

    Philadelphia Eagles 2008 Schedule

    Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
    San Francisco 49ers(5-11)
    St Louis Rams (3-13)
    Seattle Seahawks(10-6)
    Cleveland Browns(10-6)
    Baltimore Ravens(5-11)
    Pittsburgh Steelers(10-6)
    Cincinnati Bengals(7-9)
    Atlanta Falcons(4-12)
    Chicago Bears(7-9)

    And of course…2 Games w/ Washington, New York, and Dallas

    I’m predicting a nice bounce back from our beloved Birds…Out of the above, minus, of course the teams in our division who all made the Playoffs (two of which probably might not have even been there…had we taken care of our business against them…), there are only 2 teams on the schedule that actually made the Playoffs in 2007/08. Even with the possibility of improvement from teams like Chicago, Cleveland, or possibly one of the others. The Eagles are still looking at a very easy schedule with 7 games against teams with a record of 8-8, and mostly much worse.

    With the proper offseason moves, this might be a very good opportunity to make another run at the Bowl. Easy there…don’t choke on your morning coffee…Yeah I said…the Super Bowl…The Eagles will be making a run at it next year. In the wacky world of the NFC (and take a look at how things have gone over the last couple of years for evidence to the fact), the Eagles have an extremely good chance of being right back in the Hunt. I’m looking for that.

    Easy schedule aside, I think the it’s going to be key for the Eagles to recognize their weaknesses and address them accordingly-and quickly.

    Necessary Additions/ Offseason Moves/Etc:

    PK/KR: I believe the Eagles will need to add a legitimate PR/KR out of the draft and hopefully will select someone who can also add depth in the secondary. It would be great to find someone with big play ability, in the mold of a young Deion Sanders. If the Eagles use one of the their top 3 picks on this selection, I believe it would help their fortunes out immensely. The simple fact that this position on the team has been held by the likes of Reno Mahe, and we didn’t even have an actual Punt Return/Kick Return man in the first game against the Pack, made us lose that key game. Looking back, who knows how much of a difference even just that one win would have been in regards to impacting how the team played early on in the season.

    Punter: It’s a safe bet, that the Eagles better find themselves an actual Punter, one who can directional punt and drop a ball inside the 20. We had way too many instances where teams would get the ball back in touchbacks, and the promise of that long punt was never there in the regular season. So, it’s Goodbye for Mr. Rocca. G’day, Mate!

    Kicker: Not that my faith in David Akers has been shaken…but maybe a little bit of competition in Training Camp might put Akers back on track…either that or they might want to just bring a guy in for a look…For the first time during his career…I would actually question or worry during a routine field goal…David, say it isn’t so! Akers was the first Kicker I ever liked. I hope he hasn’t lost his footing…heh.

    WR: Deja Vu anyone?? The Eagles definitely need to bolster their receiving corps with an actual legitimate gamebreaker or at the very least veteran wideout who will come onto the team’s number one receiver. This has been a sticking point and one of my favorite gripes/criticisms throughout Andy Reid’s tenure as our Head Coach (minus the move to bring in T.O. and the year we had Stallworth, which I was stunned that the Eagles would go into the season this year with losing a couple of very important Veterans). Adding Kevin Curtis was a good move, and he turned out to be a very good complementary receiver, we need more than that. I believe Reggie Brown has shown that he isn’t the Number One receiver that he was touted to be. Looks like we need serious Number threat and add him to the WR corp. Avant played decently. Baskett was missing in action this year. And Greg Lewis shouldn’t have a chance to make the squad. If New England didn’t stand pat with their receiving corp why should anyone in the League minus maybe Indy, Arizona, or Detroit stay with theirs? With the swirling rumors of Chad Johnson’s discontent in Cincinnati, and the prospect of one of the two New England receivers being available, or possibly making a run at Bernard Berrian. The Eagles have a chance to add a very key component for the team in the coming offseason. Personally, I would go with the best gamebreaker available.

    Never heard of him? Take a look…He’s a free agent at the end of the season:
    Bernard Berrian #80 | Wide Receiver | Chicago Bears

    QB: For this coming season to be anything at all, the Eagles will have to stick with Donovan McNabb at QB. McNabb had a rough going in the beginning of the ’07 campaign but definitely showed signs of his old self in the last couple of games, including a really nice run in the New Orleans game. Regardless of everything else that seems to follow McNabb in regards to controversy (whether you like it or not), he’s still one of the top QB’s in the league…and I will argue that he is still a top 10 if not top 5 QB in the league. Without him, the Eagles fortunes in the coming season would be completely uncertain and IMHO, would be in doubt. So, if there is any question at all, I’m sticking with McNabb. Answering any question about the prospect of Kevin Kolb…just take a look at the fortunes of over 90 percent of all QB selected in the 2nd Round. Almost all of them have been busts or have not made any real impact on the team that drafted them, which would even include Mr. Favre, who was actually drafted by Atlanta…but that’s another story altogether. Favre, aside, you are looking at serious questions in regards to Mr. Kolb when I think of his future as the Eagles QB. And sadly his pedigree from Houston doesn’t help his future stock, when I think about it. With the likes of other infamous QBs like Andre Ware, and David Klingler as other Houston standouts…hmmmm…yeah…I think I am going to stick with McNabb for as long as possible. In fact, I hope I don’t see Kevin Kolb get a snap in the coming season, and possibly for the next 5 seasons after that (of course, I mean as long as Donovan is healthy). When I think of this post Super Bowl slump the Eagles have been in, I liken it to the situation that Denver had during Elway’s career. What would have happened if Denver had given up on Mr. Elway during those lean years after their Super Bowls in the 80s…? Maybe he would be still considered a QB that could never have won the Big One. Just some food for thought.

    RB: I am not even embarrassed to see this. I LOVE Brian Westbrook. What an amazing season he had for the Birds, and if we were a Playoff team, he might even had a chance to be considered as MVP. He was definitely our MVP player this season. Breaking two team records, and having to give the Eagles back a 3 Million accounting snafu…Hmmm, maybe it’s time to reevaluate his contract and shoot this guy some money. He really earned it, and he truly DESERVES it. And, while they are at giving him some money…Maybe it’s time to really move towards getting the running game in order. A little run first, here and there would help. I personally would like to see a little bit of mix up with a bigger bruising back as well. We didn’t really get a chance to see how Tony Hunt would have been in that role. And the yearly question mark that Mr. Buckhalter poses…Might this be the time to add another back as well. I think we can possibly sever ties with Mr. Mahe, with the moves mentioned above. I wish we had a Tank Fullback…Tapeh has been… Okay (I love rhyming)…but that’s all. He seems to block well, and catches the occasional pass, but I think we could do better. We could use a guy who can be a threat to punch it in at the goal line or when we need just one yard.

    Offensive Line: Not that they definitely need it, but I will take ANY bet from anyone that the Eagles will add an Offensive lineman in the draft. Heh. Any takers?? I wasn’t too pleased with what I saw of Winston Justice. Max Jean-Gilles filled in well. William Tre Thomas was decent but not fantastic. And Runyan was just plain Runyan…I’ll hate it when he retires finally. The Big Kid Andrews has been a great pick, and is going to Honolulu once again. The line played decently but there’s room for improvement. I’ll say we take an Offensive lineman in the draft…I just don’t hope it’s our first pick…then I will just hate waiting hours on Draft Day (again)…

    Defensive Line: I like how the young DE’s and DT’s have come along. Trent Cole looks like the star of the bunch, and he has a pretty good compliment in J. Thomas. I am looking for good things from Albiamiri. The Eagles can bolster their Ends with a move in either Free Agency or in the Draft again. The DT’s look improved as both Patterson and Bunkley had decent improved seasons.

    Linebackers: Am I going to shock even myself in saying that this has ACTUALLY become one of the team’s strong areas…Wow, what a difference a year makes…
    The coming of Stewart Bradley, and the play of Gaither, and even Gocong has been pretty good. I am predicting good things from Mr. Bradley (who’s best outing was his game against New Orleans where he finished with 5 solo tackles, 1 Sack, and 1 Interception…Not bad considering he didn’t play all that much in his rookie season). Add Takeo to that mix and you have a decent group. The Eagles are high on Jordan as well…I haven’t seen enough to make my decision there.

    Secondary: Injuries to Lito and B-Dawk put the Eagles in a little bit of a bind. Age could be a factor in Dawkins but I firmly believe that he will come back ready and hungry to play next year. He’s under contract for one more year, and the future Hall of Famer deserves the chance to come back and play with the team. The Eagles had good help from Mikell, and serviceable help from an undersized Hanson. I believe the Eagles need to add a player or two to the Secondary-just in case. Maybe they will fare well without injuries from the veterans on this group…but they cannot bank on it. I believe it might be time to shift Mr. Considine back into a more spotty role…and maybe more work in Special Teams.

    Departures: Look for the Eagles to probably sever their ties with Jevon Kearse, Jerome McDougal, Darren Howard, Kimo VanOelhoffen, and Montae Reagor on the Defensive line. In the Secondary, Will James probably needs to go. On Special teams, it’s time to let Sav Rocca and Reno Mahe go. On Offense, say goodbye to my least favorite Tight End L.J (Fumbles) Smith (who will probably still be a somewhat sought after Tight End in Free Agency. Personally, I say it’s good riddance…as I have still not forgiven him for fumbling in the Super Bowl. And defintely it’s time for Greg Lewis

    The Distinguished/Competition: Here’s how it might shake out…Let’s say the Cowboys make it to the Super Bowl and then lose (as they more than likely will) to New England. You can pretty much bank on the eventual Super Bowl slump that has affected SO many of the NFC teams that have lost in recent years (*ahem* including our own). Don’t look for them to contend if they make it there this year. Crazy, huh?

    If the Packers make it to the Super Bowl…regardless of even outcome…I’d say that would be a good Swan Song for Brett Favre (this might actually make John Madden weep openly). Don’t look for the Pack to go back (I even made that rhyme…)

    Not so certain who will show up in the NFC. I’d venture to put Minnesota, and New Orleans into the mix.

    Unknowns to show up or not might be Detroit (who always shows a knack for finding ways to lose…and always on the road). A slightly improved Arizona? A very mercurial, but might be in the thick of it, Chicago??

    So, let’s see what happens in the NFC in the coming weeks, but at least one team in our division will possibly be a Playoff team next year.

    If the Eagles emerge as I expect them to, you can take at least one of the 3 teams in our divison out of the Playoffs, and depending upon if Dallas goes and loses, you might see them actually even miss the playoffs on top of that…Shocker? (If I have to suffer through a Dallas/New England Super Bowl…at least I can hope that I don’t even see them in the Playoffs next year, right?)

    Just my two cents…

    -Al

  12. 1.need 1wr
    2.need de
    3.need ot
    4.need kr,pr
    5.get rid of kearse,hanson,howard,avant,trade 1round pick

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