The Philadelphia Eagles’ 2011 season not only saw the team’s streak of three consecutive playoff appearances end, but the season as a whole fell short of expectations obtained following numerous free-agent signings in a condensed offseason.
For a team that had Super Bowl aspirations at the start of the season, a 4-8 record heading into Week 14 summed up the disappointment that the 2011 season had brought up to that point.
Rather than cheering the team on as they attempted to continue their streak of playoff appearances and advance past the Wild Card Round for the first time since the 2008 season, fans had more reasons to feel frustrated and disappointed at the way the season had gone.
But that was last season.
After witnessing the team award extensions to current players rather than spending big on free-agent acquisitions, and after focusing on defense early in April’s draft, might fans have more to cheer about this season?
Furthermore, could the frustration and disappointment that was felt towards certain players turn into applause and encouragement?
Eagles fans already have their favorite players who have played hard for the team over the past few seasons, but here are 10 less obvious choices for players who will become fan favorites this season.
Aside from Akeem Jordan, no Eagle linebacker from last season has over 150 career tackles.
The two-time Pro Bowler was acquired by the Eagles earlier in the offseason from the Houston Texans, and he instantly provides the presence at middle linebacker that the team lacked last season.
Ryans finished last season with 64 tackles, including 44 solo, for the Texans. His 637 career tackles are the most in Texans’ history. Ryans recorded 23 tackles in the final four games of the regular season, as well.
Ryans also had 11 tackles combined in the Texans’ two playoff games last season.
In 2006, Ryans won AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after leading all rookies with 156 tackles.
Ryans’ acquisition may have come as a surprise this offseason, but his play on the field will help a defense that ranked at the bottom of the league in total tackles.
Between his play on the field and his work in the community off it, Ryans has a chance to become a fan favorite in his first season with the team.
Landri’s first regular-season game with the Eagles wasn’t until Week 5 of last season.
After leading the team with eight tackles for a loss, Landri was re-signed to a one-year deal earlier during the offseason.
And this isn’t the first time the Eagles have signed him. Landri originally signed with the Eagles during last year’s training camp.
After rejoining the team for their Week 5 game, Landri went on to have 43 tackles and two sacks in 12 games.
Landri spent the 2010 season as a starter with the Carolina Panthers.
For his career, Landri has 158 tackles and eight sacks.
After going from a starter to a player who was released during training camp, Landri has a chance to win over fans during a full regular season.
And if his play from last year is any indication, he could soon be a fan favorite.
The Eagles’ 2011 special teams MVP led the team in special teams tackles through the first 12 games of last season, his second season with the team.
However, Anderson must fully recover from an ACL injury that he suffered in Week 13 in order to match that success this season.
In two seasons with the Eagles, Anderson has recorded 27 tackles in 20 games on defense.
However, it’s the job that he’s done on special teams that captures the attention of fans.
If healthy, Anderson can continue turning in performances on special teams of the caliber that Eagles fans appreciate, while continuing his work on defense.
And, in the process, he'll turn himself into a fan favorite.
Kelce started all 16 games for the Eagles as a rookie last season.
And this season, the center is set to have more authority at the line.
In an article that appeared on philly.com, Les Bowen explains how, rather than quarterback Michael Vick making the protection calls, offensive line coach Howard Mudd has placed the calls in the hands of Kelce.
Just having a year under my belt, having a year with Mike in the film room, a year with this unit, I feel much more comfortable. I feel the guys feel much more comfortable with me being the guy to make the calls.
With Vick at quarterback, the offensive line will continue to have their work cut out for them, since a lot of this season’s success will depend on his health throughout the year.
With Kelce snapping the ball and having more authority as a part of that offensive line, there should be multiple areas in which he can prove himself and become a fan favorite this season.
Boykin joins the Eagles’ group of defensive backs after being selected by the team in the fourth round of April’s draft.
The 2011 Paul Hornung Award recipient from the University of Georgia had 159 tackles and nine interceptions in four years.
Continuing with his versatility, Boykin also returned four kickoffs for touchdowns and one punt for a touchdown during his career with the Bulldogs.
Boykin also rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown, had 71 receiving yards and caught two touchdown passes in 2011.
Boykin gives the Eagles many options going into his rookie season, but cornerback is the position where he could earn the most playing time.
With experience in so many different areas, Boykin has a chance to become a rookie fan favorite this season.
Following LeSean McCoy’s 2011 season, in which he rushed for 1,309 yards and 17 touchdowns, the Pro Bowler signed a five-year extension with the Eagles.
Which makes Lewis’ job that much more important this season.
Lewis rushed for 102 yards on 23 carries in 15 games last season, and he had one touchdown. The rookie averaged 4.4 yards per carry during his first season in the league.
Lewis also had 669 kickoff return yards last season.
Following Ronnie Brown’s signing with the San Diego Chargers, Lewis has moved up the Eagles’ depth chart to back up McCoy.
If Lewis can become a solid backup for McCoy, the Eagles may be able to lessen the wear and tear of their Pro Bowler this season.
If that happens, his value as a running back could be felt in multiple areas, including with the fans.
Continuing with the additions to the team’s group of linebackers, the Eagles drafted Kendricks in the second round of this year’s draft from the University of California.
The 2011 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year had 258 career tackles for the Golden Bears and 13.5 sacks. He also had four interceptions during his collegiate career. Kendricks' 2010 season saw him record 8.5 sacks.
Kendricks played in all 51 games in four years with the Golden Bears, and he led the team in tackles during his senior season.
With a chance to be one of the Eagles’ starters at linebacker by Week 1 of the regular season, Kendricks is another player who could become a rookie fan favorite.
Mathis went from signing a one-year deal with the Eagles during training camp last year, to receiving a five-year contract earlier this offseason.
After starting only seven games from 2007-2010, Mathis started 15 games for the Eagles last season, as he helped solidify the team’s offensive line.
The Eagles were able to pick up 356 first downs last season, a franchise record.
Between protecting Vick and blocking for McCoy, Mathis’ presence at guard is a key reason why the Eagles’ offensive line is one of the strongest areas of the team.
With Mathis signed long-term, he has a chance to continue the offensive line’s success from last season while attempting to win over the fans this season.
Cooper is not a guarantee to make the Eagles’ roster with competition at the wide receiver position set to battle during training camp.
However, if Cooper does make the roster, it means he must have turned in an impressive training camp that has kept the coaches on his side.
If those types of performances continue into the regular season, Cooper could have more than just the coaches on his side.
In 29 career games, Cooper has 23 receptions for 431 yards and two touchdowns.
The former fifth-round draft choice could provide the Eagles with yet another weapon on offense if he continues with his progression this season.
If he does, he’ll join DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in leading the Eagles’ group of wide receivers.
And also as a fan favorite.
Yes, he’s a kicker.
And yes, he missed two field goals in a one-point loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
And, no, he did not miss a field goal following that loss.
After leaving college as the most accurate kicker in NCAA history, Henery’s next challenge was to replace David Akers, a kicker who had already left his mark in Eagles’ history.
How did he respond? Henery made 24 of 27 field goals for an 88.9 percent accuracy rate, the best for a rookie in NFL history.
Henery’s longest field goal from his rookie season was a 51-yarder.
Henery also finished with the second-highest field-goal total by a rookie in Eagles’ history.
After replacing Akers and setting the NFL’s rookie accuracy record for a kicker in a season, Henery can use this season to prove that his rookie year was no fluke, while also winning over the fans.