Philadelphia Eagles: Eagles' 5 Most Underrated Offensive Options
The team is a popular one and receives a lot of attention from both local and national media. However, most of the media outlets only focus on the Big Four: Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
The truth is, it takes more than four players to make an offense tick, and there are other players on this roster that make significant contributions. The following players are the ones who will be vital to the team's offensive attack, but will largely go unnoticed by the national media.
Jason Avant, Wide Receiver
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For whatever reason, wide receiver Jason Avant never seems to receive the proper recognition for his role on offense. Granted, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are obviously the team’s most talented receivers, but Avant is no pushover himself.
To put it simply, he is the man the team turns to when the chains need to be moved on third down. He is an underrated slot receiver who has great hands and the ability to run tight routes. That makes him deadly in the short to intermediate passing game.
What people remember most, unfortunately, are a couple of big drops that Avant has made. However, those drops are the exception rather than the rule, and more often than not he will come up big when he needs to move the chains.
You won’t find a more reliable slot receiver in the NFC, and Avant deserves more credit than he is given.
Entire Offensive Line
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Obviously, the offensive line does not directly score the points needed to win a game, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable to the offense.
As the season wore on last year, the Eagles’ offensive line began to gel and play at a high level, which let the rest of the offense score more points. It is fair to wonder if the team would have been a below .500 team had it not been for the reliability of the men up front.
Star tackle Jason Peters is out for the season, but the line still has plenty of talent. More importantly, however, is that it will have four out of the five starters from last year returning in 2012. That means more chemistry, which is crucial to line success.
With another strong season (and hopefully a quality left tackle in unproven Demetress Bell), the Eagles will continue to run the ball effectively and Michael Vick will have plenty of time to find his receivers downfield.
Alex Henery, Kicker
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Alex Henery struggled a bit early on in his 2011 rookie campaign, but over the course of the final 12 games he converted all 16 of his field goal attempts. That is 100 percent, for those who are unsure.
Now, it seems that the second-year kicker is kicking with a lot of confidence. That bodes well for his effectiveness early on this season.
The Eagles are known to have a weak red-zone offense, which means that the team has to rely on Henery if they want to consistently put up points. The team has plenty of tough games on the schedule this year that will likely come down to a field goal one way or the other. If that is the case, then it is imperative that Henery builds off his strong rookie campaign and makes strides this season.
Many fans still regret seeing David Akers leave, but Henery can make them easily move on with another strong season.
Brent Celek, Tight End
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Brent Celek is the most recognizable name on this list, but even he does not get all the credit he deserves. In this era of pass-catching tight ends, the only ones who ever get national recognition are the ones who make the highlight reel catches.
Celek has had his fair share of great catches and big plays, but his consistency in all phases of his game make him one of the better all-around tight ends—yet also one of the more severely underrated.
He is an above-average pass catcher and knows how to come through in the clutch, but where he deserves the most recognition is in his blocking ability.
Celek does not garner much national attention because he isn’t asked to be a receiver on every play. Oftentimes, he will be asked to stay in and block, allowing Vick time to throw or providing LeSean McCoy with room to run. He is as equally effective at catching as he is at blocking, which makes him a rare commodity.
Bryce Brown, Running Back
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Bryce Brown has yet to even play a snap in the NFL, so it is understandable if his inclusion on this list provokes skepticism. However, don’t be surprised if he quietly makes an impact this year as LeSean McCoy’s immediate backup.
For much of the offseason, Dion Lewis was believed to be the unquestioned backup to McCoy. Then the Eagles drafted Brown in the seventh round of this year’s draft and signed undrafted rookie Chris Polk shortly thereafter. Even then, most thought Brown would be a camp body at best.
Now, Brown continues to draw rave reviews, especially from Eagles running backs coach Ted Williams. He is built to be an every down back at 6’0” and 223 pounds, and posted a fast 4.48 forty time. He will be an intriguing player to watch in training camp.
Granted, he will be a bit rusty after playing limited football in college. But if he can shake off the rust and showcase his talent, he will be a good bet to eventually become McCoy’s backup and could see a decent amount of carries.