Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Players Who Could Have a Surprising Impact in 2012
After a disappointing 2011, it feels like the Eagles are destined for a bounce back year in 2012.
A flurry of offseason moves made the 2011 season a hectic one, and while an 8-8 finish wasn't ideal, a few players showed they have the potential to make a lasting impact moving forward.
With a full offseason it would seem inevitable that the Birds will produce a more cohesive product on the field, both offensively and defensively.
One player who I'm omitting from this list is run-stopping defensive end Antonio Dixon who only played in four games last year after suffering a torn triceps. A restricted free agent in 2012, Dixon's return isn't definite at this point, but if he does return I would expect a big season from him.
Alongside Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson, and the surprising Derek Landri, Dixon could provide superior depth along the interior of the Eagles defensive line next season.
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While he compiled a mere 23 carries last season, Lewis showed flashes of his potential in the final game of the 2011 season, rushing for 53 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown against the Washington Redskins.
After carrying the ball 273 times in 2011, LeSean McCoy may be in search of a little help, and that's where Lewis can fill a big hole. The Eagles haven't had a reliable backup since Correll Buckhalter, and it's only fitting that Lewis dons Buckhalter's old No. 28 jersey.
Just like McCoy, Lewis is a former Pitt Panther who can run between the tackles despite his 5'8'', 195-pound frame.
Given McCoy's hefty workload from this past season, it seems pretty certain that Lewis will see an increase in his carries, especially if Ronnie Brown leaves the nest.
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A second year player out of Missouri State, Harbor improved on a quiet 2010 season, increasing his receiving output by nearly 100 yards.
The 6'3'' Harbor doesn't possess elite speed, but his size is certainly a plus.
With the tenured Brent Celek firmly entrenched as the team's starter, it will be interesting to see if the Eagles run more two tight-end sets this season, especially with Harbor working out of the slot.
In 2011, Harbor was primarily used as an extra blocker to help protect the often rushed Michael Vick, but something tells me that Harbor could become an integral part of this Eagles offense if he is given the opportunity.
While they may not be Gronkowski and Hernandez, Celek and Harbor could become a fairly potent tight-end duo in the near future.
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We all know that Henery, combined with Ronnie Brown's mental lapse on the goal-line, and Justin Smith's strip of Jeremy Maclin cost the Eagles a big win against the 49ers in week four.
However, Henery bounced back in a big way after missing those two crucial field-goals that could have cemented a victory.
Henery missed a mere three field-goals all season long, finishing 24/27, with a long of 51.
Converting on 88.9 percent of his attempts, Henery set the NFL record for the most accurate season ever by a rookie kicker.
While Andy Reid didn't show the utmost confidence in his rookie kicker early on, opting to go for short fourth downs instead of kicking from distance, I would expect to see an increase in Henery's attempts and makes 2012.
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When the Eagles dealt for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie shortly after the NFL lockout ended, it looked like a match made in heaven.
The Eagles had Asante Samuel, the veteran ball-hawk starting on one side, and it appeared that Cromartie, possessing top-flight speed and athleticism, would start opposite of him.
However, things quickly changed when the Eagles made the biggest splash of the offseason, signing Nnamdi Asomugha.
DRC was relegated to slot duty, shadowing teams' third best receivers, and was very confused, having never played the position before in his career.
He started a mere three games, and never truly felt comfortable in Juan Castillo's system.
That said, with the departure of Asante Samuel looking more possible by the day (he's set to make $8.4 million in 2012), it would be a pleasant sight to see DRC show all that he has to bring given a full offseason to learn the playbook and adjust to a complex defense.
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People can talk all they want about Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald as the most sure-handed receivers in the NFL, but trust me, Jason Avant is up there. If you don't believe me just watch this video of Avant making an incredible fingertip catch against the Giants this past season.
With DeSean Jackson's status looking hazy, Avant will provide the steadiness and security that Michael Vick loves.
Avant posted career highs in receptions (52) and yards (679) in 2011, and regardless of Jackson's return I think he will improve on those numbers.
If Jackson does come back, Avant will still see the same workload, and could easily post 60 catches and 700 yards.
If he doesn't return, Avant would serve as a security blanket for Michael Vick as he begins to work with any new weapons that the Eagles acquire through free agency or the draft.