Are the Philadelphia Eagles the best team in the NFC East?
The locals might believe it, and it might be true—but for Philly to make a run in 2012, Michael Vick will have to stay healthy, and the secondary will have to perform better than it did in 2011.
I don't live in Philadelphia. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer does, and he spends more time with Andy Reid and his players than almost anyone not listed on the 53-man roster. So to take the Eagles' pulse locally, Bleacher Report checked in with McLane on Monday morning to debate some of the hottest topics in Eagle-land.
Bleacher Report: There's been so much talk lately about chemistry. Obviously this team had a lot of new players last offseason and didn't have much time to pull things together. This year, they have a full offseason. I think that'll make a world of difference. How valuable do you feel chemistry is in this case?
Jeff McLane: I think it's valuable. I think chemistry in professional team sports is somewhat overrated, but in this case, there's some validity because they made so many changes last offseason. They made so many moves prior to the start of training camp.
I think it's fair to say that Nnamdi Asomugha struggled because of that short window, and I think it's fair to say that the rookies struggled because of that. Now, every team had that obstacle in front of them, but the Eagles also were drastically changing their coaching staff.
B/R: Considering the status of the offensive line with Jason Peters hurt, I think Michael Vick might have to make some serious adjustments or he'll end up injured again. And with him hurt, they don't stand a chance of competing. Do you agree that Vick has to make changes to his game? Is it too late for him to do that at 32?
JM: He has to remain healthy, that's a fact. The backup quarterback situation as it is with Mike Kafka now pretty much the No. 2, a guy who really only has 16 passes to his name, he can't get hurt. Most teams have that same problem themselves: Your starting quarterback goes down, and you're screwed.
Vick last year missed three games total, but he missed parts of four or five other games. The three games that he missed were the result of a broken rib, which a lot of people say happened in the pocket. Some of the other injuries happened in the pocket. But a number of (injuries) were because, again, he was kind of needlessly running down field.
That's something that he has fought and struggled with his entire career. I think at this point, it's fair to say that he probably won't be able to change. He'll be 32 by the start of next season. I think he has to pick his spots a little better, and he's gotta do the slide thing, get down, get out of bounds. He can't be like a running back anymore.
B/R: On defense, I see this team being great all over, but I do worry about depth at cornerback. I'm not sure about Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as a starter, and I think this is a team that is a lot better with Asante Samuel on the roster. I would have kept Samuel around.
JM: It was a deal they pretty much had to make, although I agree with you, I probably would have kept Asante because I do have a lot of questions about DRC. But from the Eagles' perspective, it made sense salary cap-wise.
He was making a lot of money; they feel like he's certainly on the downslope of his career. He doesn't schematically fit in with what they want to do. They wanna have press corners, guys that are more open to playing man...so it makes sense in that regard.
DRC, big question mark. I mean, he didn't play well as a nickel. I think you can excuse that somewhat because he never really played nickel before. When he did play the last two games of the season at left cornerback, his natural spot, he looked pretty good. But the effort and lackadaisical tackling—he made Asante Samuel look like Chuck Bednarik out there. That's a concern.
B/R: Is the consensus among the fans in Philly that this team is the favorite to win that division, regardless of the fact the Giants won the Super Bowl last year?
JM: Yeah, I think they can look at the team and say that there's a lot of talent on the team—this is a team that will certainly vie for the division title. I mean, you look at this team, and they are stocked at virtually every position.
But the Giants, as we all know, are defending Super Bowl champions. They had a pretty good offseason, they still have the best quarterback in the (division), so they still have to be considered the favorites. I don't think anyone's going to dispute that.
But the Eagles have beaten the Giants six out of the last seven times they've played. It's not like the Giants have their number, they've just been better in the postseason.