I’m taking a break from the AFC South while I try and find an expert on the remaining teams to help me out. I mean, I could put together the previews, but that would be like what happens when the national media types comment on the Seahawks, and we all know how bad that turns out.
Instead, I’m coming back to the NFC as we take a look at the always overhyped and then ultimately disappointing NFC East. We’ll start with the Philadelphia Eagles, the team with the most to prove and a coach who appears to be fighting for his job.
Helping me out with this one is Bob Wankel from Inside The Iggles.
Biggest Team Need Heading Into Offseason: MLB/ILB/DT
Key Free Agents Retained: WR DeSean Jackson, OG Evan Mathis, DT Derek Landri
Key Player Additions: MLB DeMeco Ryans, DT Fletcher Cox, OLB Mychal Kendricks, OT Demetress Bell
Key Players Leaving: OT Jason Peters (Injury), Asante Samuel (trade), C Jamaal Jackson, QB Vince Young , RB Ronnie Brown, WR Steve Smith
Although, Jackson was a backup and nobody will be sad to see Young, Smith or Brown depart. Each were horrendous in Philadelphia.
Quick Thoughts on Draft: The Eagles had what was by most accounts an excellent draft. They got the player they most coveted in Fletcher Cox. Cox may not start, but he should immediately contribute to a deep and talented Eagles’ defensive line. California LB Mychal Kendricks, who should start as the team’s strong-side linebacker, also provides good second-round value. Their best pick may have been fourth-round selection Brandon Boykin, who has a chance to return kicks and earn the starting slot-corner job.
Quick Thoughts on 2012 schedule: It’s a difficult schedule. The NFC East figures to be brutal. Games against Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Detroit, New Orleans, and an improving Carolina team will certainly test this team’s mettle.
Most Interesting Roster Battle: Joselio Hanson vs. Brandon Boykin for the team’s slot corner job. Hanson has been a quality player for the Eagles, but Boykin is ultra-athletic and his versatility may give him the edge.
Biggest Strength Heading Into 2012: The defensive line. Jason Babin and Trent Cole were studs in 2011. Now, they add second-round selection Vinny Curry to the group, along with returning 2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham. There’s some serious potential rushing from the edge. Meanwhile, the interior of the line should be improved with the addition of Cox.
Biggest Weakness Heading Into 2012: Backup quarterback. There are definitely some questions regarding the Eagles’ safety play, but the rest of the defense is talented enough to compensate for that. I don’t think the Eagles are going to miss the playoffs or not win the Super Bowl because of questions at safety. But if Michael Vick goes down, forget it. Mike Kafka can serve as a one or two-game stop gap, but there’s no way the Eagles can stay afloat of Vick misses significant time. Third-round draft pick Nick Foles is simply not ready.
Biggest Question Still To Be Answered: Can the Eagles finally play to their level of talent, or will be another year of baffling and untimely mistakes?
2012 Prediction: 11-5 (1st, NFC East); Loss in NFC Championship Game to Green Bay
After a year in which the self proclaimed “dream team” went 8-8, the pressure is really on the Eagles and head coach Andy Reid. Over the past couple years, the Eagles have been the NFC’s version of the Jets; a telented team that can’t seem to shut their mouths long enough to win consistently. Luckily for them, that only comes from the players. Reid should be able to put his foot down and get people to focus this season.
The Eagles have some seriously dynamic playmakers on offense with Vick, Jackson and McCoy. The problem has been keeping them all on the field. If that trio stays healthy and out of trouble, this offense can really be scary.
The defense on the other hand is full of holes. The play of the linebackers and safeties last season was atrocious. The line is good, but the “wide-9″ scheme along with bad linebackers meant the Eagles were an easy team to run against. The Eagles must find a way stop the run or 2012 could end up looking a like the 2011 disappointment.