For the most part, the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles shouldn’t be too much different from the 2011 Eagles team that went just 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
The team will be relying on quarterback Michael Vick to bounce back, the defense to gel in the second year under Juan Castillo’s system, and young linemen Danny Watkins, Jason Kelce and Brandon Graham to step up and make more of an impact.
There is the looming question as to whether DeSean Jackson will be back in 2012—if the team will franchise him or sign him to a long-term deal—but, ultimately, most of the 22 starters will be the same.
There are several positions that need to be upgraded, though. The linebacking corps was a notable weak spot for the Eagles last season. The team relied on unproven players that ultimately struggled in pass coverage and on tackling.
Safety was also a subpar unit of the Eagles. The team still hasn’t recovered from letting Brian Dawkins walk after the 2008 season or Quintin Mikell after 2010.
Making a few changes in the right areas of the team could make all the difference and determine whether the Eagles finish in the middle of the pack at 8-8 again or win the NFC East with 10 or 11 wins.
Fullback is a dying position in the NFL, with the emergence of the two-tight end sets, popularized by the New England Patriots’ standout players Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta of the Baltimore Ravens.
Owen Schmitt is a free agent. It is highly unlikely the team will re-sign him. He played in just 16 percent of the team’s snaps in 2011, making minimal impact positively or negatively. He’s not a good enough ball carrier to be used as a goal-line runner, as evidenced by just the four carries (for six yards) he’s received in two seasons with the Eagles.
Schmitt is a decent pass catcher but he went from 19 catches in 2010 to just three in 2011, likely due to the reemergence of Brent Celek as a standout tight end. According to Pro Football Focus, Schmitt rated slightly below average as a pass blocker and significantly below average as a run blocker.
The New York Giants won the Super Bowl with the league’s 32nd ranked rushing offense, showing how little a strong running game really is needed in the modern, passing NFL.
The Eagles will assuredly sign someone as a fullback for 2012, simply because no team plays every game without a fullback at all. But it will probably be some journeyman free agent or maybe a sixth-round pick out of college.
Schmitt is really a dime-a-dozen player at a position that isn’t needed. That’s just not good enough to come back for the ’12 season.
When Jamar Chaney took over as the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting middle linebacker late in the 2010 season, NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger went as far as to call Chaney one of the top ten middle linebackers in the game.
Chaney then went on to struggle mightily in 2011, first at the strong side spot and then when he took over as the middle linebacker for Casey Matthews.
Chaney played poorly against the pass and even worse against the run. He failed to wrap up ball carriers–– never more so than when he whiffed twice on Marshawn Lynch’s 15-yard touchdown against the Eagles late in the season.
Chaney is still just 25 years old and has enough natural talent that he may one day develop into a playmaker at linebacker. For now, his deficiencies are costing the Eagles.
London Fletcher would be a terrific addition to the Eagles. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler who would provide a veteran presence amid a young and underachieving group of linebackers.
Vontaze Burfict is a top collegiate linebacker who has the fiery attitude to instantly be a leader on the Eagles.
Akeem Jordan is, to the Philadelphia Eagles, what Kyle Kendrick is to the Philadelphia Phillies. He’s nothing more than a fill-in that the team keeps bringing back year after year, rather than really trying to upgrade the position.
When it finally looked as if Jordan wouldn’t be with the Eagles for the 2011 season, management went and signed Jordan to a one-year deal. They cut him soon afterwards but then brought him back for two years.
Jordan took over the strongside spot when Moise Fokou suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Fokou really made no impact for the team in his seven starts; Jordan went on to do the same thing for the remainder of the season.
Jordan is adequate against the run, he’s adequate against the pass, he’s not an effective blitzer, and he really offers no value to the team other than as a backup.
If the Eagles want Jordan back in 2012 to be a veteran backup, that’s fine. But I don’t want to see him starting a single game.
Many people think Kurt Coleman has a promising future with the Philadelphia Eagles. I’m not one of them.
Coleman had his highs and his lows in 2011, topping out with his three-interception game against the Washington Redskins—a performance that earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week—and bottoming out with his abysmal performance in the run game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Coleman is a good value for a seventh-round pick. He’s a ballhawk and could develop into a good safety later in his career. As of now, the Eagles are still a few players away from being a serious contender in the NFC. An upgrade from Coleman is essential.
Who would have thought that the Philadelphia Eagles would actually miss Saverio Rocca?
Chas Henry was awful as an undrafted rookie free agent, finishing 25th in the league in yards-per-punt (42.9), 26th in net yards-per-punt (37.5), and 25th in punts inside the 20-yard line (19).
If Henry––a high school quarterback—made that throw, the Eagles could easily have gone on to win the game against the Bears. That would have been the difference between the Eagles missing the playoffs and the New York Giants making it.
Punters certainly aren’t one of the more important positions on the team, but Henry didn’t show enough that he deserves to return in 2012.