10 Reasons to Be Optimistic About the Eagles in 2012
Once again, the Philadelphia Eagles are giving their fans numerous reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season.
Whether they deliver on this unspoken promise remains to be seen.
However, they've positioned themselves in contention through the addition of new personnel and the return of key players on both sides of the ball.
Here are 10 reasons why fans should be excited for another year of Eagles football.
Incoming Draft Class
First-round pick, No. 91 Fletcher Cox
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Who has two thumbs and is excited about the Philadelphia Eagles’ new incoming draft class?
From first-round selection Fletcher Cox to the signing of unrestricted free-agent Cliff Harris, the Eagles are bringing in a bunch of talented young prospects.
Along with Cox, linebacker Mychal Kendricks and cornerback Brandon Boykin also expect to compete for starting spots during training camp and have a major impact during the season.
As a defensive tackle, Cox fits the mold for Jim Washburn’s wide-nine scheme perfectly. Not only will he make an immediate impact against the run, but also has the versatility to move outside on passing downs. Washburn is so excited to have Cox that he’s gone as far as to claim, “When God made him (Cox), he meant him to play in this system.”
Although Kendricks is short at 5’11”, he is athletic enough to be a pass-rusher and stick with tight ends in coverage.
Seventh-round pick Bryce Brown is a running back who I previously thought would be a good fit in Philly’s offense and provide them with a different running style.
Andy Reid has received high praise for his haul of talent, and I expect every single one of them to contribute during their first year.
Full Training Camp
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Although last year’s shortened offseason netted the Philadelphia Eagles a bunch of Pro Bowl talent, it also gave them little time to mesh.
This made integrating new coaching schemes with new players all that more difficult and explains why the team stumbled out the gate.
Since the 2012 draft class won’t have to deal with the distractions of a lockout, it affords them more time in minicamp and training camp to get acclimated to the pro level.
Having a full schedule of practice sessions means that this talented rookie class should begin the year focused and prepared—unlike last year.
No Contract Distractions
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DeSean Jackson’s 2011 contract dispute with management served as a perpetual distraction for a team that didn’t require any extra attention.
Jackson held out for the first 11 days of an already shortened training camp. And when he didn’t get the extension he sought after, it affected his play and professionalism.
Now that general manager Howie Roseman has given D-Jax, Trent Cole, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans new contracts, the team should be spared this headache.
While LeSean McCoy remains the only player on the roster who has obviously outperformed his contract, it is known that both sides are eagerly looking to get a deal done.
Look for this season to be more about the play than the pay.
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Speaking of the man who deserves a new contract, LeSean McCoy will be entering this season as one of the league’s premier running backs—and for good reason.
McCoy does it all.
He runs well in between the tackles, has superb lateral agility, is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and does a good job in pass protection.
Although the three-year veteran missed the season finale and received 15 carries or less in six contests, he still finished fourth in the race for the NFL rushing title.
If Andy Reid can find a way to give him a consistent workload, McCoy should have no problem duplicating his career year and find himself in the discussion for MVP honors at the end of the season.
New Secondary Coach
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The hiring of Todd Bowles remains one of the under-the-radar acquisitions for the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason.
After finishing 2011 as interim head coach for the Miami Dolphins, Bowles was brought into Philadelphia to shape their secondary.
Although the Eagles had a trio of Pro Bowl cornerbacks at their disposal, the back-end of their defense still struggled mightily.
With the recent departure of Asante Samuel and the direction of the league becoming progressively pass-happy, Bowles will be imperative to this unit’s improvement.
Bowles spent eight years in the league as a safety and even won a championship.
His calm demeanor and respectability should be pay dividends in the development of high-round picks Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett as well.
More Press Coverage
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During this upcoming season, the Philadelphia Eagles secondary will look different in more ways than one.
With the hiring of Todd Bowles combined with the departure of Asante Samuel, there are indications that the team will be deploring more man-to-man press coverage than last year.
Although the Eagles recorded 50 sacks under their first year of the wide-nine alignment, they still allowed 27 passing touchdowns as they routinely experimented with zone packages.
Nnamdi Asomugha had a down year, but still displayed flashes that previously made him one of the best one-on-one corners in NFL
With super-freak athlete Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie manning the other corner spot, this year’s secondary should be better suited to complement their aggressive defensive line play.
Brandon Graham’s return from injury is just another reason to be optimistic about the defensive line.
When the Philadelphia Eagles selected Graham two years ago with the 13th overall selection, they were expecting to get another energetic pass-rusher.
What they’ve gotten instead is an inconsistent player who has battled injuries and eating problems. This makes watching Jason Pierre-Paul’s magnificent development sting a bit more when considering he was selected by the New York Giants just two picks after Graham.
The former Michigan star has recovered from an ACL injury that caused him to miss 13 games last season and will enter training camp fully healthy.
Along with Fletcher Cox, the Eagles will be essentially featuring two new weapons in their front-four rotation.
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Even with all the new acquisitions on the defensive side of the ball, I have yet to mention the most important one.
The Philadelphia Eagles received DeMeco Ryans, a two-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker who is also the Houston Texans' franchise leader in tackles, in a pre-draft trade that allowed them the freedom to draft without the burden of need.
Before the Texans transitioned their defense to a 3-4 set, Ryans routinely led the team in tackles and was a force against the run.
He’ll be expected to play aggressively and downhill for a team that constantly gave up big runs up the middle.
His veteran presence not only gives the team some consistency at the linebacker position, but also a voice that commands respect in the huddle.
Shedding the "Dream Team" Label
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When Vince Young made his famous “Dream Team” reference in training camp, expectations for the season were set understandably high.
After a Week 1 clobbering of the St. Louis Rams, the team would go on to finish 8-8 and have that moniker haunt them throughout the entirety of the year.
With 2011 now in the books and Young taking his talents to Buffalo, I’ll be surprised to see if anyone on the roster provides the media with that kind of firepower again.
The team clearly couldn’t pay the bill on last year’s remarks, so it’ll be a relief to finally start fresh.
Late Season Turnaround
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While it was difficult to remain emotionally invested as the team opened 2011 with a 1-4 mark, the Philadelphia Eagles were still only one game away from the division crown.
Last year was a perpetual roller coaster ride that began with a bunch of drops, but ended with a promising 4-0 buildup.
It is this mini win-streak that has Philly fans optimistic, but also a bit bitter as well.
Everyone now knows what this team is capable of. Why it took them so long to figure out still remains to be answered.
But with the Eagles featuring an ever-dangerous offense and the promise of an improved defense, there is good reason to believe that the sun will shine brightly in Philadelphia this upcoming year.