Philadelphia Eagles Dream Team- Take Two
You would think after being the NFL’s unquestioned most disappointing team last season, pundits would think twice about picking the Eagles to beat out the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants (and the Dallas Cowboys), but apparently that is not the case. The Eagles have been a popular and appropriate pick to make noise in the upcoming season.
First and foremost we must acknowledge how foolish it was to expect the Eagles to be a dream team after adding so many new faces, and having absolutely no offseason. Although it was thought that Philly had the best offseason last summer, they left a lot of holes throughout their roster. This offseason, Andy Reid and GM Howie Roseman did a great job of filling in those holes with a mix of vets and great draft picks. Let’s take a look at the notable moves the Eagles did this offseason.
DeMeco Ryans: The Eagles linebacking corps was so abysmal in every facet of the game last season that it made everyone else on the defense look bad. Picking up DeMeco Ryans for just a 4th round pick is the steal of this offseason. Not only does he fill in a major hole at middle linebacker, but he provides a sense of leadership that has been sorely missed ever since the departure of Brian Dawkins. Ryans, who is a perfect fit for a 4-3 defense, is a stout run stopper who also plays great pass defense for a linebacker.
Demetress Bell: Losing Jason Peters to a torn Achilles tendon was a rough blow for the Eagles. Instead of handing the position to the underwhelming King Dunlap, the Eagles did a great job in signing the best left tackle available. Although Bell is no Peters, there is not much of a drop off between the two when it comes to athleticism. Bell will fit perfectly in Howard Mudd’s scheme that favors athletic lineman.
Extending Key Players: The Eagles did a great job this offseason of preventing contract issues from becoming a distraction like it was last year. DeSean Jackson, whose play dropped off significantly last season, got the contract he has been waiting for. Trent Cole, a guy who has been a model of consistency, got his extension. LeSean McCoy got the contract he deserves. And guys like Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans were also resigned so the offensive line can have some continuity that it desperately missed last season.
Excellent Draft: The selection of Fletcher Cox has the makings of being a match made in heaven. The Eagles have been missing a monster DT ever since the days of Cory Simon. Fletcher Cox not only was the best player available when the Eagles selected him, but more importantly they were able to fill a desperate need. A defensive line of Babin-Jenkins-Cox-Cole should be regarded as the leagues best, hands down. On top of the Cox selection, the Eagles hit another need with LB Mychal Kendriks in the second round. Kendricks, who is expected to step in and start on the strong side, has the athleticism to fix the Eagles’ woes in covering the tight end. Philly also selected a beast DE in Vinny Curry who will provide great depth, as Jim Washburn likes to keep his lineman fresh to attack the QB. Brandon Boykin should beat out Joselio Hanson for the nickel corner job, and he will provide an upgrade in the return game that was poor last season. My favorite move the Eagles made this offseason was signing undrafted free agent Cliff Harris from Oregon. Harris had the makings of being a first round pick until he was kicked off the team for a run in with the police, where he told the officer that he ‘smoked all the weed’. Harris gives the Eagles great depth at the corner position, a privilege they have not had in a long time.
Trading Away Asante Samuel: Yes, trading Asante for next to nothing was a smart decision by the Eagles brass. Not to take anything away from Samuel, but the way he played did not fit in the Eagles system. Samuel, an off cover corner, was too stubborn to jam receivers at the line, a skill that Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha both share. Ideally you would rather have your corners play press, which is why I see the DRC-Nnamdi duo being much stronger than the Samuel-Nnamdi duo.
O.J. Atogwe: As the offseason started coming to a close I was beginning to label the safety position as Andy Reid’s annual position that he completely ignores. But then something crazy happened, Andy Reid addressed every weak spot on the roster in one offseason. Signing O.J. Atogwe gives the Eagles great depth at the safety position, and also brings in a proven veteran who will most likely finish the season as a starting safety alongside Nate Allen.
The Eagles are loaded with talent, as they usually are, the difference this time is the experience factor. Juan Castillo will have a better grasp of what works and what doesn’t (wide 9), the offensive line will be more comfortable with each other in Howard Mudd’s scheme, and Mike Vick will finally have his first training camp as the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting QB. Although I’ve listed multiple reasons why the Eagles deserve some Super Bowl consideration this year, none of those will matter if Mike Vick doesn’t elevate his game from last season. Vick is going to have to limit his mistakes and stay on the field so the Eagles aren’t forced to throw Mike Kafka in there. All in all I expect Vick to rise to the occasion, and lead this Eagles team to places they have never been before.