The 2011 season for the Philadelphia Eagles was an epic fail. They stockpiled on veteran talent to go along with an already explosive offense and all it got them was a .500 season. There's a light at the end of the tunnel however, it's called the 2012 season.
The Eagles are primed to contend for a title in next season. Remember this is a team that was killed by turnovers, a lack of red-zone touchdowns and sloppy tackling more than any other factor. If the Eagles can clean things up with a full offseason program this summer, they should cement themselves as the clear cut favorite in the NFC East and one of the legitimate contenders in the NFC.
The offseason will be key for the Eagles. They have key players to re-sign and a couple of positions to upgrade. Andy Reid and his front office will have plenty of cap space and 10 draft picks to play with to put the Eagles in prime position to contend in 2012.
LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson are the Eagles' two biggest playmakers. McCoy firmly established himself as one of the top running backs in the league with his 1,600 total yards and 20 total touchdowns in 2011 while Jackson's ability to stretch the defense with his speed changes the way teams game plan against the Eagles.
Jackson's rookie contract is up and he would be free to sign with any team if he isn't re-signed or given the franchise tag. The projected amount for a tag on Jackson is about $9.4 million.
You can't blame Jackson for his lack of effort at times in 2011. It's frustrating for the fans in Philly but for a 5'10" 175-pound receiver making about 10 percent of what he deserves in the final year of his contract, it's difficult to expect him to risk his neck out there when going over the middle.
It's a business. If the Eagles want to cut him near the end of his next contract because injuries have slowed him, we would all say it's the nature of the business. The same thing applies for Jackson making peanuts in the final year of his contract.
The Eagles need to sign him long term and keep the most dangerous receiver in football catching passes from the strongest arm in football, Michael Vick.
Re-signing LeSean McCoy is essential as well. Running backs have a short life in the NFL to begin with and you can't expect a top-notch running back to risk injury by going all out against 300-pound linemen while making a humble $575,000 in the final year of his rookie deal.
Keeping both of these playmakers happy for years to come is essential for an offense that thrives on speed. Losing either one of these players would greatly hamper the offense going into 2012.
Evan Mathis was signed last July to add depth to the Eagles' offensive line. Since he was brought into the Eagles' camp he has done nothing but good things for the line. Mathis has thrived under offensive line coach Howard Mudd and had his best year as a pro. He was named to Pro Football Focus' 2011 All-Pro Team along with his linemate to his left, Jason Peters.
The Eagles' line with Peters, Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins and veteran Todd Herremans were dominant at times under coach Mudd in 2011. It would be foolish to break up this fab five.
Most speculation around the Eagles' front office is that Mathis will be brought back. He wants to come back and the team wants him back so this seems like an open and shut case.
Middle linebacker was a disaster at best for the Eagles in 2011. They tried Casey Matthews early at middle linebacker and he failed. They moved Jamar Chaney back to middle linebacker and he struggled to make an impact against the run.
Chaney is better suited to be an outside linebacker opposite of Brian Rolle, where the Eagles had put Chaney to start the season. The problem with upgrading at middle linebacker is most teams like to hold onto their middle linebackers when they are doing a great job because it is such an important position. That rules out free agency, but the Eagles should be able to get a solid upgrade at MIKE in the draft.
Luke Kuechly should be available at the Eagles' 15th overall pick in the first round of the draft. Kuechly is a solid run-stuffing middle linebacker at 6'2" 237 pounds. He has great football instincts and is far more adept to shedding blocks than Matthews is.
Drafting a player like Kuechly in the first round gives the Eagles an immediate impact player who can stuff the run and let the defensive linemen do what they do best, get after the quarterback.
Eagles defensive tackles Derek Landri and Antonio Dixon both had very different paths in 2011, but both need to be brought back in 2012. Landri was released during final cuts at the end of preseason but was brought back after Dixon tore his triceps in early October. Landri had 18 quarterback pressures in just 178 snaps in 2011. He also made a living in the backfield, disrupting several plays with his consistent penetration.
Dixon has been vital to the Eagles' run defense in the past two seasons. Philadelphia's run defense greatly improved in 2010 when Dixon replaced Broderick Bunkley in the starting lineup, and struggled mightily when he went down in 2011.
Both players are outstanding in defensive line coach Jim Washburn's rotation. They can team up with Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins in 2012 to really wreak havoc in the backfield and improve upon the 46 sacks the defensive line racked up in 2011.
Strong safety is a bit of a mystery for the Eagles going into 2012. Kurt Coleman eventual won the starting spot and did very well for himself in 2011, leading the team in interceptions and finishing second in tackles.
Jaiquawn Jarrett was the Eagles' second-round draft pick in 2011. His tackling skills got rave reviews coming out of Temple but he struggled as a rookie. He didn't get the full offseason to learn the defense and the speed of the game and he could challenge Coleman for the starting spot in training camp.
The Eagles could also opt to draft a safety early on in the draft. Mark Barron is the top-rated strong safety heading into the 2012 NFL Draft, but it seems highly unlikely that the Eagles would waste a second-round draft pick on a strong safety for the second straight season.
It looks like it should be an interesting battle between both Jarrett and Coleman heading into 2012. Coleman has the experience and the knack for being around the football, but Jarrett is bigger and more athletic than Coleman. He has a higher ceiling and for that reason he will have a shot to really shine in training camp.
Whoever the Eagles give the job to, they need to figure it out quickly. The uncertainty at both safety spots hurt the Eagles early in 2011 and they need to have some stability in the secondary in 2012 if they are going to compete with the likes of the Saints, Packers and Falcons.