When you have as much talent on your roster year in and year out as the Philadelphia Eagles consistently have had over the past five years, your team is bound to fall under a certain amount of scrutiny. Just when it seemed like the Eagles were going to avoid an offseason of drama, first came the tragic death of Garrett Reid, which was followed by the latest Michael Vick injury as well as a screaming match between Andy Reid and Cullen Jenkins. And all of sudden, the Eagles were having another tumultuous offseason.
Now, with questions about Vick's health and durability, the Eagles are back to flying somewhat under the radar as a Super Bowl favorite, which is exactly where they should want to be. Because the fact of the matter is that there are many good reasons why Eagles fans should quietly feel good about where their team stands heading into the season.
As of today, based on the three preseason games the Eagles have played so far, here are 11 bold predictions for the Eagles' 2012-2013 Season.
1. Michael Vick will miss five games due to injury.
Eagles fans might panic reading that first prediction, but they should take a deep breath and accept the fact that Vick will definitely miss some games this season. He should be 100% to start the season after he was injured against the Patriots—and they are going to give him extra padding protection—but the way Vick plays will always leave him susceptible to injury. Vick will go out in Week 9 against the Saints when he gets hit heading out of bounds during a tough road game and then come back in week 15 against the Bengals to lead the Eagles through the stretch run and into the playoffs.
2. Nick Foles will go 4-1 as the starter in Vick's absence.
It's no secret that Nick Foles has been impressive during the preseason. So far, the rookie out of Arizona has thrown six touchdowns to two interceptions with a 63.2 completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 112.2. Now, granted, he's done this in the preseason when there is very little game-planning and both offenses and defenses alike are running "vanilla" schemes; but Foles can be a steady hand for the Eagles when Vick inevitably goes out. He has already shown that he can manage the game well, bounce back quickly from mistakes (like his first-drive interception against the Browns) and throw a very good deep ball. If A.J. Feeley could do it as a second-year, third-string quarterback back in 2002, Foles can do it as a rookie backup in 2012.
3. LeSean McCoy will lead the league in yards from scrimmage.
Last season, McCoy finished fifth in the league in yards from scrimmage, this is the season where he leads the entire league. This is McCoy's fourth year in the league and, recently, the trend has been for running backs to hit their prime in the 24-28-year-old range. McCoy turned 24 in July and he has increased his yardage totals each year that he's been in the league. With Vick trying to stay injury free—and with Foles eventually taking center when Vick goes out—McCoy will be used as a safety blanket both in the run game and in the check down game. He is one of the three or five elite backs in the game and he's going to make sure everyone knows it after this season.
4. The defense will lead the entire league in sacks again.
In 2011, the Eagles defense was tied with the Minnesota Vikings for the league lead in sacks with 50. The Eagles will be right there again. Last year, Jason Babin led the team with 18 sacks, but he is working his way back from injury. However, the entire defense should be comfortable with Juan Castillo and Howard Mudd's system; they still have Trent Cole, 2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham is poised for a breakout season and second-year player Phillip Hunt has opened a lot of eyes while leading the team with 3.5 sacks in the preseason. The Eagles defensive line comes at an opponent in waves, and they are even deeper and more talented than they were last year.
5. Mychal Kendricks will lead the team in tackles.
One of the biggest stories of the Eagles' offseason has been the fantastic play of rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks. The rookie has basically been flying all over the field and is currently second on the team with 13 preseason tackles. Again, it's only the preseason, but so far Kendricks has shown the kind of motor that you need to lead a team in tackles. And on a team like the Eagles where the defense is always rushing and taking risks to get at the passer, there will be a lot of room for him to run and try to take away the opposition's check down passes.
6. Brandon Boykin will turn one game for the Eagles.
Boykins is a rookie cornerback out of Georgia who will start the season as the Eagles' kick returner. So far in the preseason, Boykin has averaged 27.6 yards on returns—including a long of 46 yards. Last season the Eagles finished 31st in the league in kickoff returns, so they can only go up. Still, this promising speedster should have plenty of chances to improve on that number as well as give the Eagles a boost when their offseason has one of those trademark, lethargic midseason games.
7. Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson will both finish the season with 10 or more receiving touchdowns.
Traditionally, the Eagles offense likes to spread the ball around to many different receivers, and tight ends and running backs are usually the main targets in the red zone. In addition, Maclin and Jackson have never had double-digit receiving touchdown years in the same season. In fact, Jackson has never caught double-digit touchdowns—Maclin caught 10 in 2012. However, last season Maclin was not healthy and Jackson was pouting and under-performing due to his contract situation. They are both due for big bounce-back years and if the Eagles are going to go as far as they should, these two are going to have to put up big numbers.
8. Nnamdi Asomugha will have a bounce back season.
In his first season in Philadelphia, Asomugha was a bit of a disappointment. He was brought in to be an elite cornerback, and was anything but. The Eagles defense had a lot of growing pains last season and very often Asomugha had to play out of position to make room for Asante Samuel. Some people still remain down on Asomugha heading into the season, but it still seems like he is ready to perform better this season than he did last season.
9. King Dunlap will be a solid replacement for Jason Peters at left tackle.
Jason Peters is an irreplaceable left tackle, yet replacing Peters is precisely what King Dunlap is going to have to do. Dunlap is entering his fifth season with the Eagles and has proven to be a steady hand at right tackle. However, due to Peters' injury, Dunlap now has to fill the shoes of arguably the best player at arguably the most important position in the game. It is going to be a big challenge, but at 6'9" and 330 pounds with four years of NFL experience already under his belt, Dunlap may be just the man to make it work.
10. Mat McBriar will give the Eagles a boost in the punting game.
Given the Eagles' recent history with punters (Chas Henry? Sav Rocca?) this really isn't that much of a bold prediction. Yet, when you are a team like the Eagles whose fans always seem to hold their collective breath whenever it's time to punt, it's something to acknowledge.
11. The Eagles will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The Eagles have the tools on offense and defense. The 49ers and Saints are going to take a step back. The Lions and Cowboys aren't as good as everyone thinks they will be. The Packers, Giants and Bears present the biggest challenges to the Eagles, but based on talent and experience as a group, it seems like 2012-2013 will be the year for Philadelphia.
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