The Philadelphia Eagles’ 2011 season was, at best, disappointing. Despite all of their spending last offseason, various holes in the roster remained and new holes appeared.
Those holes created a lot of uncertainty around the Eagles, and that uncertainty places doubt inside the minds of fans. Fortunately, one thing is certain: There will be a 2012 season.
If the Eagles want to vault themselves back into playoff contention, they must address weaknesses at the following positions.
The consistently mediocre play at linebacker this season was a big reason why the Philadelphia Eagles ranked only 16th against the run. The group became the scapegoat for and underachieving defense that offered fans more head scratchers than big plays.
In all fairness to them, many of the linebackers who saw significant playing time either were not ready or not skilled enough for the roles thrust upon them. All were drafted no higher than the fourth round, and none were older than 26.
In fact, perhaps the best linebacker this team fielded was Brian Rolle, a rookie drafted in the sixth round.
What the Eagles need at linebacker is experience and raw talent. They can satisfy both those needs by signing a free agent veteran like London Fletcher, and then coupling him with a fierce rookie such as Vontaze Burfict.
That would be an ideal situation. But given head coach Andy Reid’s reputation as a man not keen on spending high draft picks on linebackers, that scenario is unlikely to happen.
The future of DeSean Jackson will largely determine how much time and effort the Philadelphia Eagles sink into the wide receiver position. But regardless of if the troubled receiver stays or goes, there is a need for a big, possession-type receiver who can be a threat in the red zone.
The Eagles have struggled within 20 yards of the end zone for a couple years now, and the team simply does not have the size at the receiver position that is needed to be successful in that area. In between the 20s, Jackson is a defense’s nightmare, but in red zone situations, he pulls a disappearing act.
There are numerous paths the team can take in securing a big-bodied receiver.
Free agents such as Dwayne Bowe or Brandon Lloyd will be available in the offseason, and their experience will make them an instant threat out on the field. Or, the team could opt to find a solution in the draft by taking a player like Michael Floyd.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter how the Eagles do it, just as long as they go out and score themselves a big receiver.
While Nate Allen can be expected to bounce back after a rough second season, the team cannot rely on the play of Kurt Coleman at safety any longer.
Hopefully, Jaiquawn Jarrett will learn from his experience this year and become the solid player most projected him to be when the team selected him in the second round of last year’s draft.
To be certain, however, the team would be wise to bring in someone who can make an instant impact in both the run game and against the pass. There are many quality safeties available in free agency this year, including LaRon Landry of the Washington Redskins.
Bringing in a veteran would not only help secure the safety position next season, but also benefit the younger players like Jarrett, who will be able to take notes and then hopefully take over as the long-term answer at the position.
Dion Lewis makes for a fine backup to starting running back LeSean McCoy, but he is not the answer to the team’s woes at kick returner.
In fact, it has been many years since the team has had a spark at that position. This year, they were dreadfully average, as the longest return the team had all season went for a meager 33 yards.
What the Eagles need is a quick, shifty player who can take the ball out of the end zone and put the team in favorable field position.
This may be surprising to some, as the Philadelphia Eagles signed quarterback Michael Vick to an $80 million contract only last year. But the truth is that Vick may never lead this team to a Super Bowl if he cannot stay on the field for 16 games.
Even if Vick’s health wasn’t a concern, his age is. Being 31 years old gives him a limited amount of opportunities to take the team to the promise land, and his style of play may shrink that window even further.
Starting with the draft this year, it is time to find a quality backup who can come in and take over the reins should Vick go down. A second-round pick would suffice—there are numerous capable quarterbacks entering the draft.
Starting next year, however, the Eagles would be smart to start looking for a long-term solution at the starting quarterback position.