Philadelphia Eagles: The Top 5 Offensive Players They Can't Afford to Lose
Like any other year, Andy Reid will enter the season on the proverbial “hot seat.” And like any other year, he’ll get extra scrutiny for what happens on offense.
In 2010, it was a quarterback carousel between Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick. Last season, it was the blown fourth-quarter leads.
So whatever story lines write themselves in 2012, it will definitely help Reid if these five players make a positive impact.
5. Jason Kelce
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Not all offensive linemen fit Howard Mudd’s attack-style scheme, let alone stand in the middle of it.
Although Jason Kelce was a sixth-round pick, he finished the 2011 season as the team’s most valuable rookie and proved to be more reliable than first-round linemate Danny Watkins.
As the young center enters his second season, not only will he be expected to anchor the offensive line that protects the most mobile quarterback in the league, but he also is going to be burdened with the responsibility of making line calls
This means Kelce will be calling out the necessary pre-snap adjustments at the line of scrimmage, which should allow Michael Vick to focus on reading the defense instead of guessing what it’s going to do.
4. DeSean Jackson
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This explosive big-play wideout is a bit difficult to evaluate. Sometimes, he’ll wow you with lightning speed. Other times, he'll frustrate you with a dropped pass or unnecessary penalty.
Regardless, it’s undeniable how he influences each game. Since there’s no home-run threat quite like him in the NFL, defenses have been known to drop their safeties 20 yards in coverage just to keep Jackson in front of them.
This opens up the middle of the field for Brent Celek and keeps an extra defender away from the box for LeSean McCoy. It also ensures Jeremy Maclin of single coverage on the other side of the field.
So even if Jackson seems to be unproductive, don’t forget that very few can influence a game the way he does.
3. Todd Herremans
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Although he was learning a new blocking scheme and adjusting to a move from left guard to right tackle, Todd Herremans gave up only one blindside sack in 2011. His ability to play multiple positions along the offensive line makes him invaluable to the Eagles and Howard Mudd’s scheme.
The Eagles were fortunate to dodge serious injury to the offensive line in 2011. Obviously, the loss of All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters proves how quickly things can change.
Without their best lineman, the Eagles will look to Herremans to provide veteran leadership for a unit that’s spending only its second season together. However, if Herremans is lost for an extended period of time, expect the entire offense to sputter.
2. LeSean McCoy
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If the Philadelphia Eagles think they can replace LeSean McCoy’s 1,624 yards from scrimmage and 20 total touchdowns with another running back on their roster, they’re sadly mistaken.
There’s not anyone who can run, catch and pass-protect quite like “Shady” can.
McCoy’s innate ability to locate unoccupied space amid a heap of defenders is what sets him apart as the most dangerous ball-carrier in the NFL. The 23-year-old is a dynamo in the open field and is a threat to score every time he reaches the second level of the defense.
In an effort to limit his pounding, Andy Reid will be looking to limit the number of touches his fourth-year running back will receive.
Whether this works remains to be seen. But if it fails, you can expect the entire offensive game plan to be altered.
1. Michael Vick
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Michael Vick remains the premier dual-threat quarterback in the league and is the unquestioned captain of the huddle.
If it weren’t for the No.1 all-time leader in rushing yards for a quarterback, the Eagles offense would lose a lot of its luster.
Assuming that the Eagles cut Trent Edwards before Week 1, the signal-callers behind Vick on the depth chart will be third-year pro Mike Kafka and rookie Nick Foles, neither of whom has started an NFL game. If Philadelphia is looking to rebound from their disappointing 2011 season, it will need Vick to remain healthy.
Although the 11-year pro has finished a complete 16-game season without being injured only once, he is more than aware of the necessary adjustments he needs to make to be available to lead the Eagles on an extended playoff run.