Philadelphia Eagles: Who Should Stay and Who Should Go?
That means the time has come to start assessing what worked, what didn't, who comes back and who should be looking for work elsewhere in 2012.
The Eagles are not really a team in need of a huge overhaul. They have a lot of players in place and a few positions that need to be fixed—some by addition, some by subtraction.
Here is an early position-by-position look at who should be back to make a run next year and who hasn't earned another chance in Philadelphia.
Quarterback is the position of most importance and under the largest microscope.
The saying goes that the most popular guy in every city is the backup quarterback; maybe every city but Philadelphia.
Vince Young didn't endear himself to fans with his play or his demeanor. Despite a late 17-10 victory over the Giants, Young was absolutely awful. He threw nine interceptions in three games, plus a couple of plays. He needs to go, and the sooner the better.
Michael Vick is the starter and the team's biggest hope for improvement in 2012. Vick had his ups and downs this year, but he is the most important player on the team.
The only real question is whether or not Mike Kafka is ready to be the backup. There is a chance the Eagles draft a quarterback in the first couple rounds of the draft.
Like quarterback, the Eagles are extremely top-heavy at running back with superstar LeSean McCoy.
After a great 2010, McCoy burst onto the scene this year with an All-Pro season. He has somehow seamlessly transitioned this offense from the days of the great Brian Westbrook.
Behind McCoy is another question.
Similar to Vince Young, Ronnie Brown was a bust who should see his way out of town. Is Dion Lewis a capable backup? Probably not. The Eagles need to find someone who can spell McCoy or fill in if the need ever arises.
At fullback, Owen Schmitt is a hard worker and a tough football player. He has sure hands and is a capable lead blocker. The Eagles' offense still misses Leonard Weaver, but Schmitt deserves to be a part of this team.
At wide receiver there is really only one question: DeSean Jackson.
Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper will all be back next year, and Jackson should be as well. A lot has been made of his lack of effort and fear of the middle of the field, but that kid plays harder than he is given credit for.
Jackson opens up the field for everyone else, and with Michael Vick at quarterback, Jackson is still a big play waiting to happen on every snap. This group should remain intact, and hopefully it does.
Absolutely no changes are needed at tight end.
Brent Celek had a season worthy of the Pro Bowl, and with news of his two offseason surgeries, a place in the hearts of Philadelphians as well. Celek will remain a productive player and a team leader.
Backing up Celek is Clay Harbor, who has shown a lot of promise and has a chance to be a speedy threat in the middle of the field who can possibly stretch the seam.
The Eagles ran a lot of two tight end sets, and there is likely to be more of the same. They may add another player as insurance, but this is a really good tandem that is still getting better.
A huge area of concern, the offensive line started to flourish under the tutelage of Howard Mudd.
Jason Peters was the best tackle in the league, and Todd Herremans was very successful in his first season at right tackle. Evan Mathis was an afterthought, but he turned out to be a key component, along with rookies Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins.
The rookies will only get better, and as a unit, they have a chance to put together a nice run over the next few years. They should definitely make keeping a Mathis a priority, and the only changes should be made in addressing depth in case of injury.
The defensive line was extremely productive rushing the passer, and there is no reason to think next year will be any different.
Trent Cole and Jason Babin will be back, along with tackle Cullen Jenkins.
Darryl Tapp and Phillip Hunt showed life late in the season, and Hunt should definitely earn a nod next year. Brandon Graham will have a spot, but Juqua Parker's days in midnight green should be over.
At tackle, Trevor Laws hasn't provided much, but Derek Landri was very productive in limited action this season. He should be brought back.
Assuming Antonio Dixon comes back from injury, he should definitely be in the mix, but the Eagles would be smart to add a run-stopping tackle next year.
This is a tough position to call. No one guy has stood above the pack, and really no other guy has been significantly worse than the rest of the group.
The Eagles need to make some serious additions, whether through free agency, the draft or both. They have some nice complementary pieces, but no standouts.
Philadelphia must find a middle linebacker, and Jamar Chaney would provide good depth. Casey Matthews and Keenan Clayton can provide, and Brian Rolle could actually be a decent starter if he was playing alongside two other good linebackers.
If anyone needs to go it's Moise Fokou or Akeem Jordan. They've been on the team the longest and have done nothing to establish themselves. This group needs a major upgrade.
While there isn't really a bad player in the bunch, this group could use addition by subtraction—that would come in the form of Asante Samuel packing his bags.
Samuel didn't have a bad season, but he didn't make plays, and his attitude over trade rumors definitely affected his play and the team's morale. He is too one-dimensional and needs to move on so the cornerback group can become a more cohesive group.
Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should be the starters on the outside with Joselio Hanson at the nickel. Brandon Hughes and Curtis Marsh should battle for playing time.
It wouldn't be shocking to see the Eagles draft a corner, but they really have a group with potential.
As maligned as this group was all season, their main cogs will most likely all be in an Eagles uniform next year.
Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman and Jaiquawn Jarret are all under 25, and all will be given an opportunity to compete for a starting job. A throw-away guy like Tom Nelson will likely give way to a new acquisition.
Many would like to see a veteran come in or a draft pick, but it seems that Andy Reid will let his three young incumbents battle it out to get playing time.
The Eagles took a chance and gave most of the main special teams duties to rookies.
They added kicker Alex Henery in the draft, and he set a new rookie accuracy record for field goals. He even kicked his first 50-yarder in Week 16 at Dallas.
At punter the Eagles picked up Chas Henry as a free agent. He had a nice season and should become more consistent and more adept at pinning opponents deep.
At kick returner, Dion Lewis was dreadful. Whether he is back as a reserve running back or not, he needs to be replaced on kickoffs. He rarely got the team past the 20-yard line, and his longest return was just 33 yards.
DeSean Jackson will likely be used more sparingly as a punt returner if he is retained, so the Eagles need to find someone better than Chad Hall to fill in. Maybe Mardy Gilyard will be the answer next year, but probably not.
The Eagles really don't have much to change. They are set at quite a few positions and can get by with minor upgrades at the ones that aren't.
The major needs are really at linebacker, defensive tackle, safety and kick/punt returns. They need to think long and hard about the backup quarterback and running back spots as well.
If they can make just a handful of additions, the Eagles should be in a lot better shape in 2012.