Philadelphia Eagles: 6 Backups Who Will Play a Key Role in 2012
The 2012 Philadelphia Eagles have made several key moves in upgrading their roster, and it should make the team significantly more talented next season than they were when they finished just 8-8 in 2011.
It’s difficult to pinpoint just six players on the team who need to play a key role for Andy Reid and the Eagles to finally win the Super Bowl championship that has so long eluded them.
The Backup Quarterback
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Michael Vick has missed seven games due to injury in the past two seasons, and he will assuredly miss time again in 2012.
Vick is 31 years old, and he plays a reckless style of football that leaves him prone to getting hurt, which means the backup quarterback is even more important for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Nick Foles was a third-round draft pick of the team last Friday, and he will have every chance to win the backup job.
That means Mike Kafka and Trent Edwards will be battling for the third quarterback spot, and I expect Kafka to win that job. Foles is still raw, and the team may go to Kafka should Vick get hurt. Either way, that role will be very important.
Last year, Vince Young had to start three games with Vick injured, and Young went just 1-2, including an extremely disappointing performance against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football.
Had Young played better and the Eagles won that game, they would have made the playoffs over the New York Giants. The NFC East will only be tougher next season, and the Eagles will need a backup quarterback who can come in and not turn the ball over a lot.
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The Philadelphia Eagles traded up three spots in the 2012 NFL draft to select Mississippi State standout defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
Cox will join an already formidable defensive line, and he provides depth on the interior part.
He is an extremely efficient pass-rusher and a fine run-stopper.
Andy Reid has always used a strong rotation on his defensive line, and line coach Jim Washburn described Cox as a player who was born to play in the wide nine defense.
Derek Landri, Antonio Dixon and Cox to go with Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson make the Eagles’ defensive tackles group one of the best in the game.
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With the trade that sent Asante Samuel to the Atlanta Falcons, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will move outside and combine with Nnamdi Asomugha to give the Philadelphia Eagles a strong group of cornerbacks.
The NFL is more of a pass-happy league than ever, and many football teams use three-receiver sets.
Brandon Boykin is undersized, but he has tremendous ball skills and leaping ability, and he will man the slot position on defense.
Last year’s slot man, DRC, was largely a disappointment, but Boykin should fit the role much better.
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The Philadelphia Eagles made no attempt to improve the tight end position through the NFL draft or free agency, which means the front office must have confidence in two-year backup Clay Harbor.
Harbor has big-play ability and he has excellent leaping ability, although his career numbers are just 22 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns.
The New England Patriots revolutionized the league with the two-tight end system with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and if Harbor can step up and be a receiving threat for the Eagles along with Brent Celek, it will make the Eagles all the more dangerous.
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The Philadelphia Eagles spent a first-round pick on Brandon Graham in the 2010 NFL draft—actually trading up to get the former Michigan star—and he hasn’t shown much yet in his two seasons.
Graham tore his ACL late in his rookie campaign and struggled to regain his form in his sophomore season, failing to pick up a sack in the three games for which he dressed.
Many fans feel Graham is already a bust, especially considering the Eagles could have gotten Jason Pierre-Paul with their pick.
Graham enters 2012 fully healthy and with a chip on his shoulder. He won’t be the starter with Trent Cole and Jason Babin on the end of the line, but Graham could work his way into the rotation if he is productive.
The Eagles really need him to step up and be the pass-rushing force they thought he was when they traded up to get him.
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Like Brandon Graham, Jaiquawn Jarrett was another high draft pick that has disappointed so far.
It’s only been one season for Jarrett, and it’s not his fault Juan Castillo put him one-on-one with All-World wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, but Jarrett needs to have a breakout season in 2012.
The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t address the safety positions in free agency or the NFL draft, so the team will likely enter the season with Nate Allen as the free safety and Kurt Coleman as the strong safety.
Allen is a good enough player, and he is fully healthy now from the patellar tendon injury he suffered late in 2010, but if Jarrett emerges as a quality backup, it makes the Eagles’ secondary all the better.
Jarrett was torched in pass coverage—giving up nearly 13 yards per pass attempt—and he missed too many tackles in the run game. The Eagles are still trying to find their replacements for Brian Dawkins and Quintin Mikell, and while Jarrett probably won’t ever be the type of player Dawkins was, he could still be a defensive force for the Eagles.