Predicting Starters at Every Position for Philadelphia Eagles in 2012
The Eagles at one point in 2011 were staring 4-8 right in the face, but despite the fact they had a very down season they aren't a team in any type of rebuilding mode. It's quite the opposite as most of the Eagles starters will be back in 2012.
Players like DeSean Jackson and Evan Mathis' contracts are up and will need to be re-signed or replaced while other players like Kurt Coleman and Jamar Chaney could be either replaced or given some stiff competition this summer.
Andy Reid has helped the Eagles become a model of consistency in a league where few teams stay competitive for more than a few seasons before having to rebuild. Don't expect the Eagles to make too many sweeping changes this offseason.
Quarterback: Michael Vick
Not much of a bold pick here. Michal Vick took over for a concussed Kevin Kolb in 2010 and won his first two starts. He hasn't looked back although his turnover numbers have to improve in 2012 if he wants to be assured of his starting job in 2013.
Vick had just nine total turnovers in 2010 but nearly doubled that in 2011 with 18 turnovers in 13 starts. If Vick keeps his turnovers to a minimum and can start delivering inside the 20, the potential for an MVP caliber season will be there.
Running Back: LeSean McCoy
LeSean McCoy is coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons where he amassed over 1,500 total yards in both seasons as well. McCoy is the Eagles' top back for 2011 and probably another five seasons after that.
The biggest issue with McCoy is his contract which expires after the 2012 season. The Eagles would be smart to get his contract extended before the season starts after suffering through the mess that was DeSean Jackson this past season. McCoy is much more of a team player than Jackson ever will be but he deserves to be taken care for the long term.
Wide Receivers: Jeremy Maclin, Justin Blackmon and Jason Avant (Slot)
DeSean Jackson will not be an Eagle in 2012. He will want too much money for a receiver who disappears between the 20s. The Eagles need more red zone help, not less, and for that reason I believe we have seen him in an Eagles uniform for the last time.
Jeremy Maclin will be the Eagles No. 1 receiver but who will replace DeSean on the other side? Your guess is as good as mine. If Riley Cooper would fit for the ball in the air I think he would be promoted to starter with Plaxico Burress coming in on red zone situations and on key third downs.
But Cooper doesn't fit for the ball and you can't have him on the outside unless you want the Eagles offense to take a big hit in 2011. Dwayne Bowe and Vincent Jackson are the big names in free agency while Justin Blackmon and Mohammed Sanu are the best fits in the draft.
Justin Blackmon out of Oklahoma State makes the most sense. He would be the best fit for Andy Reid's fast break west coast offense. He can thrive in the screen game while also making plays in the middle of the field on crossing routes and beating corners deep as well.
People get scared away from taking a receiver in the top five that is listed at 6'1, 215 pounds but he plays more like a receiver at 6'5, 240 pounds. He would be an immediate impact player that would help Eagles fans forget about DeSean Jackson from day one.
Tight End: Brent Celek
Brent Celek got off to a rough start in 2011 but finished strong and racked up 811 yards and five touchdowns. He should see his numbers go up even more now that he has earned all of Michael Vick's trust.
Some people believe the Eagles will run more two tight end sets in 2012, but until they add a third tight end to their 53 man roster I think we will see more three receiver sets than two tight end sets.
Offensive Line: Peters, Mathis, Kelce, Watkins, Herremans
There is only one obstacle in keeping the entire Eagles offensive line intact in 2012 and that is the contract of Evan Mathis which is now expired. Mathis wants to come back as he thrived in Howard Mudd's blocking scheme and should have been a Pro Bowl selection this season.
It shouldn't be much of a negotiation period with Mathis blossoming under coach Mudd.
The rest of the line is all under contract with All Pro Jason Peters at left tackle, second year center Jason Kelce, right guard Danny Watkins and right tackle Todd Herremans. All five players have Pro Bowl potential and gave Michael Vick consistent protection.
Defensive Line: Trent Cole, Mike Patterson, Antonio Dixon and Jason Babin
The Eagles defensive line was a dominant force in the pass rush in 2011. They racked up 46 sacked including 18 from Jason Babin. Just about every single player should be back in 2012.
Cullen Jenkins will be due $7.75 million this season and could be a cap casualty despite a stellar 2011 season. Juqua Parker is also on the wrong side of 30 and could be cut to make way for young defensive ends like Brandon Graham and Phillip Hunt.
Antonio Dixon is fresh off of IR stemming from a torn triceps injury and should be back to full strength in 2012 as the Eagles' best run stuffer. He is a restricted free agent but unless a team is willing to give the Eagles their third second round pick in the 2012 draft, he will remain an Eagle.
Linebackers: Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney and Akeem Jordan
It's ironic that an undersized sixth round draft pick from last year is the only Eagles linebacker that has locked up his position. Brian Rolle is the Eagles' weak side linebacker of the future. He may only be 5'10 but he has a very lethal strength and speed combo that make him ideal on the weak side.
Middle linebacker will be speculated to be an outside hire either via free agency or the draft but the coaches are very high on Jamar Chaney and I believe he will remain the middle linebacker in 2012. He has ideal size at 6'0, 242 and is incredibly athletic for the position. A more lengthy offseason should help him get even more comfortable at the position to go along with a defensive coordinator who won't be learning on the job this season.
Strong side linebacker will be very wide open up until the final week of training camp and could be won by anyone on the roster. The Eagles will probably draft or sign a young player to add competition to the position but a veteran like Moise Fokou or Akeem Jordan should win the position. They are both very tough and have the most experience at the position. Jordan played better in 2011 and is the favorite to start in Week 1.
Cornerbacks: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
The biggest problem with the Eagles secondary was trying to play Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the slot while keeping Asante Samuel on the outside. Rodgers-Cromarite struggled in the slot while Joselio Hanson, who excels on the inside, was only used in dime packages.
Samuel will either be released or traded away very early in the 2012 offseason allowing Rodgers-Cromartie to go back to his more natural outside corner spot and keep Joselio Hanson in the slot full time. Nnamdi Asomugha will remain on the outside, although he will matchup against the more dangerous tight ends in the league.
The corner who will replace Nnamdi when he covers tight ends is up in the air. Curtis Marsh has the most potential of the reserve corners on the roster while Brandon Hughes filled in for Nnamdi when he was injured last season. Trevard Lindley, a fourth round pick from 2010, was signed back after being waived prior to the start of the season.
All three players have starters potential but neither has shown any of it early in their careers.
Safety: FS Nate Allen, SS Kurt Coleman
Neither safety showed much stability early in the 2011 season as Nate Allen was still recovering from knee surgery while Kurt Coleman looked out of place early in the year.
Eventually Allen's knee was fully recovered and he showed why he was taken in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft while Coleman became a tackling machine once he was moved back to his more natural strong safety position.
Some people will call for the Eagles to draft a strong safety early in the draft but there isn't a player who looks comfortable in coverage like Coleman does. What Coleman lacks in size and athleticism he makes up for with instincts and effort. He is the Eagles' strong safety for the long term as well as Allen is.