The demise of the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles was marked primarily by fourth-quarter collapses, which could be traced back to a subpar group of linebackers and safeties. The Eagles head into ’12 with Super Bowl aspirations once again, following a draft that projects to be highly successful and a collection of quality free-agent signings.
There could still be some problem spots for the Eagles, and in a division as difficult as the NFC East, the Eagles need to shore up every positional area they can. The following 10 problems could cause next year’s Eagles to miss the playoffs once again.
The Philadelphia Eagles shelled out $100 million over six years for Michael Vick, who turned in an MVP-caliber season in 2010, propelling the Eagles to a division title.
Unfortunately, Vick’s success didn’t carry over to 2011, as he turned back into the inconsistent quarterback he had been in Atlanta. Vick fumbled the ball far too many times, was erratic in passing and missed three games due to injuries. His shaky play was a major factor to the Eagles missing the playoffs.
Vick very likely doesn’t have too many years left in Philly, and the Eagles can cut him after 2012 at no penalty. That means Vick could be a problem spot for the Eagles. It’s been said that running quarterbacks can’t win the big game, and the few that have won it—John Elway, Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers—could also throw the ball with the best of them. Vick can’t.
He’s been a major reason the Eagles have won games, but he’s also been holding the team back.
This is a position that really worries me for 2012. Michael Vick is bound to miss time due to injury, especially that he’s now 31 years old and has played a full 16-game season just once in his career.
Nick Foles was a third-round pick of the team this year, and seeing as the Philadelphia Eagles picked him as high as they did in the draft, Andy Reid could be looking at Foles as a potential quarterback of the future. The problem is that Foles probably won’t be ready to see any action in ’12. That leaves Mike Kafka or Trent Edwards, and those two will likely be battling it out for the final quarterback spot on the roster.
My money is on Kafka, since he has been on the team for two seasons already and has the admiration and respect of the coaches. Edwards will probably be cut in preseason, but if he does stick around and has to play, that’s not good news for Eagles fans.
LeSean McCoy is an All-Pro running back and he’s one of the driving forces of the Philadelphia Eagles’ electrifying offense. He can run the ball and catch passes out of the backfield with the best of them, and McCoy is set for a brand-spanking-new contract after 2012.
The problem is that he hasn’t gotten it yet, and while talks are said to be going well, that doesn’t necessarily mean McCoy will get his new deal before the season. If he doesn’t, that could be a problem. McCoy doesn’t seem like the type of player that will let his contract status affect his play on the field, but I would feel much more secure knowing McCoy has been paid.
Speaking of money, DeSean Jackson got his $50 million, so he should be golden for 2012, right? Well, not necessarily. Jackson has always been a hothead and his personality has gotten him in trouble before. Even his play on the field is worrisome—he’s essentially a one-trick pony in that he can beat opponents deep with his untouchable speed, but that’s about it.
If Jackson continues to be a headache for the Eagles, or if he loafs it because he’s gotten his money, or if he suffers an injury and loses some of his speed, that will really hurt the offense that’s designed to accentuate his abilities.
Demetress Bell was signed to be a replacement at left tackle when Jason Peters tore his Achilles tendon, and Bell should have an easier workload than most left tackles seeing as Michael Vick is a left-handed quarterback and Bell isn’t tasked with protecting his blind side.
Bell has shown good ability when healthy, but that has been the key: staying healthy. He has missed significant time in two of his three NFL seasons, and if he misses time in 2012, that forces King Dunlap into the mix, and all of a sudden, the offensive line takes a hit.
The Philadelphia Eagles traded up to the 13th spot in the 2010 NFL draft to select University of Michigan standout defensive end Brandon Graham, but he has vastly disappointed thus far. Graham registered three sacks as a rookie before suffering a serious knee injury late in the season, and that kept him on the PUP list to start 2011. When he did play, he failed to pick up a sack in the three contests for which he saw action.
Graham needs to have a breakout year in 2012 or it may never happen. He’s a part of an unstoppable defensive line that includes Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Fletcher Cox. If defensive line coach Jim Washburn—a guy who resurrected the career of Babin, once thought to be a first-round bust—can’t save Graham, there’s probably no hope.
Andy Reid made no attempt to upgrade the safety position in the offseason, which must tell you either he has a lot of faith in Nate Allen/Kurt Coleman or he simply doesn’t value the position a whole lot.
Personally, I think it’s both of those. I think Allen is a Pro Bowler in the making, and the Eagles are set with him at free safety, especially now that he’s fully recovered from his patellar tendon injury. Meanwhile, Coleman is probably best suited as a backup, and I’m not sold on him going into 2012 as the starter.
Jaiquawn Jarrett also needs to show some improvement after a disappointing rookie campaign. As a whole, this unit has the ability to really affect the season in either a good or bad way.
The Philadelphia Eagles traded away Asante Samuel right before the draft, which means Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie heads into 2012 as the starting cornerback opposite Nnamdi Asomugha. DRC underperformed in 2011 as the nickel corner, although the general consensus among Eagles fans is that moving him to the outside will allow him to return to the form he displayed back when he was a Pro Bowler in Arizona.
The problem is that DRC was a Pro Bowler in 2009, but in 2010 he rated as the single worst cornerback in the entire NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. He was torched repeatedly, struggled against the run and committed far too many penalties. DRC didn’t have much help from the rest of the Cardinals’ defense, but his performance was still frightening.
The Eagles really need a good season from him in ’12.
The Philadelphia Eagles absolutely had to fire Andy Reid after his dismal 2011 performance, and they blew it by letting him return. Reid has never won a Super Bowl in 13 seasons—as we all know—but he has also struggled repeatedly in big games, going just 1-4 in conference championship games and 0-1 in his lone Super Bowl appearance. He has lost consecutive Wild Card playoff games and then finished 8-8 in 2011 with a team that had the talent to win 14 or 15 games.
Reid is stubborn and refuses to change his ways no matter what. He will always struggle with clock management, he will always ignore the opposing tight end, and he will never worry enough about his own linebackers of safeties. He has gotten the Eagles to the playoffs nine times in 13 seasons, but his inability to get the Eagles deep in the postseason should have finally cost him his job.
This is the biggest problem for the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles, and it all starts with Andy Reid’s total and absolute refusal to admit he has made a mistake. Reid’s decision to promote Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator made the two of them the laughingstock of the league, and Castillo did nothing as a coach to remove that label. I can’t even discuss in words how angry the decision to hire and then the decision not to fire Castillo made me.
Castillo was the leader of a defense that allowed five fourth-quarter leads to slip away—four of those at home. He used Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie incorrectly. Jamar Chaney regressed mightily under Castillo, and Jaiquawn Jarrett was left in single coverage against Larry Fitzgerald, one of the more perplexing moves of the season.
Castillo needed to be fired to send a message to the entire team that mediocrity would not be tolerated. In fact, Reid should have been let go, too, but Reid’s refusal to fire Castillo means the Eagles again enter the season with a deeply talented team but a defensive coordinator that lacks the in-game experience necessary to lead the squad.