5 Unheralded Stars Most Important to the Philadelphia Eagles' Success
So much attention is given to the big-name players on a team, such as Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy, that one often forgets about the unsung heroes.
Many of these players deserve arguably as much credit as the stars do, as they often play ultimately for the team's success, rather than personal recognition. A team is much more than just its quarterback, franchise running back and star receiver, and the Eagles are no exception.
Even if improvements can be made, such as by Vick and DeSean Jackson, the Eagles cannot hope to realize their Super Bowl dreams without the continued strong play of these five individuals, who are the unheralded stars of the team...
1. Evan Mathis
On an offensive line that struggled for most of the 2011 season, Evan Mathis was a pleasant surprise, becoming an instant star at the left guard spot after being signed in free agency. While the O-Line and Vick struggled throughout the season, Mathis was being praised as the best left guard in football.
To say that Mathis has received no recognition would be inaccurate, as Mathis was praised by sportswriters for his strong play. However, more credit was given to LeSean McCoy for his breakout season and for emerging as one of the elite running backs in the NFL.
But McCoy likely would not have had such a phenomenal season without Mathis and left tackle Jason Peters opening up huge holes for him.
The Eagles were wise to re-sign him to a long-term deal. They will need him to replicate his 2011 success if they are to make it back to the postseason.
2. Jason Kelce
It is often said that a team's success starts with its O-Line, and Jason Kelce is the center of the Eagles and, therefore, the O-Line's leader.
Kelce struggled for much of the 2011 season, but it must be considered that he was a sixth-round pick rookie and was given a very short offseason to learn a new system. Regardless of his inexperience, he was decided as the better option over the veteran Jamaal Jackson.
In the later part of the season, Kelce began to play very well. His strong play helped stabilize Vick's protection and helped the Eagles soar to a four-game winning streak to end the season.
Much credit was given to the improved play of Vick and the defense. Not enough credit was given to Kelce's drastic improvement. And at only 24 years of age, Kelce can be expected to continue to improve and become a long-term starter for years to come for the Eagles.
3. Colt Anderson
Despite some ups and downs, the Eagles' special teams unit has been solid for the most part. And much of this can be attributed to its star, Colt Anderson.
On any kickoff or punt return, Anderson can be expected to make a much-needed tackle to stop opposing teams and limit their field position.
The Eagles showed so much confidence in Anderson that they even called a fake-punt play in Week 9 against the Chicago Bears that was intended for Anderson to catch a wide-open pass from Chas Henry, which was unfortunately badly underthrown.
Anderson is the ace of the special teams unit, which is also an often unheralded aspect of a team's success.
4. Joselio Hanson
While Joselio Hanson has struggled at times during the 2011 season, he has overall been a very solid player for the Eagles. And when Hanson was re-inserted into the Eagles lineup at the nickel position, the Eagles' pass defense improved.
Despite not being very effective playing on the outside, Hanson is a very capable nickel corner and the Eagles valued his services so much that they kept him on the roster, even after acquiring Pro Bowlers Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha.
Now that Asante Samuel has been traded, the Eagles will expect Hanson to continue to play at a high level. Rodgers-Cromartie struggled mightily on the inside last season and, as he is expected to be returned to playing the outside, the Eagles will rely heavily on Hanson to replicate his past success.
5. Brent Celek
Brent Celek is not only one of the most underrated players on the Eagles roster, but he is one of the most underrated tight ends in the NFL. Celek is a very capable pass-catcher and he can make difficult catches, run routes, and muscle a defender for an extra yard or two.
And while Celek was once regarded as a very poor blocker, he has since improved greatly upon his blocking techniques, and when the Eagles O-Line struggles, Celek can be counted on to assist in pass protection.
Celek does all of this and never complains that he is not getting enough passes or that he is not involved enough in the offense. He is a true team player and a very important player on the Eagles roster.