Philadelphia Eagles: 10 Predictions for 2012
The Philadelphia Eagles have proven to be one of the most unpredictable (least predictable?) teams in the National Football League. So naturally, we're going to make 10 predictions regarding the Eagles, who are flushed with talent but plagued by uncertainty.
Who knows, maybe we'll get one right.
Michael Vick Will Miss at Least Three Games
Vick hasn't been able to make it through more than 13 games in either of his seasons as the Eagles' starter, and what happened in the preseason indicates he'll likely expose himself to injuries again in 2012.
Vick was hurt twice on only 12 dropbacks in August, and he refuses to change his approach. That might make sense because he might be a less effective quarterback otherwise, but it means the Eagles will have to be prepared to survive without their franchise pivot at some point.
With Nick Foles, this team is good enough to live sans Vick for a few weeks. Beyond that, they're in trouble.
Spoiler alert: My concern regarding Vick's health is the sole reason why I'm not picking the Eagles to win the Super Bowl.
Brandon Graham Will Continue to Be a Bust
I don't think he'll be a mega-bust that will end up out of the league in a year's time or anything, but I just didn't see enough from Graham this summer to indicate that he'll flip a switch and become a top-tier pass-rusher in 2012.
If I'm the Eagles, I'm including Darryl Tapp and Phillip Hunt in that rotation. And when you consider all the pressure that'll come from the inside with Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri and Fletcher Cox working at defensive tackle, I don't know if the 2010 first-round pick will have enough opportunities to break out of his rut this season.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie Will Be Benched
I don't doubt that DRC is one hell of an athlete, and he should still make some big plays in 2012.
That said, I don't trust him to contribute consistently in coverage or as a tackler. I think he'll benefit from playing opposite Nnamdi Asomugha, who's on the verge of another big season, but I think Juan Castillo and Co. will recognize that.
It'll take a few classic Rodgers-Comartie mistakes before they finally give Curtis Marsh a shot at more reps on the outside, and rookie Brandon Boykin could see increased snaps as well.
Right now, it's Nnamdi and DRC and then everybody else. I'm thinking that by the end of the season, it'll simply be Nnamdi and then everybody else.
DeMeco Ryans Will Be a Disappointment
Stop saying Ryans is a sure tackler. He isn't. In fact, he ranked 31st among 37 qualifying inside linebackers in tackling efficiency in 2011, 47th out of 50 in 2010 and 27th out of 39 in 2009, according to Pro Football Focus.
Simply accumulating a lot of tackles doesn't necessarily make one a good tackler.
Ryans is also vulnerable on passing downs and comes with injury concerns. He's one of the most overrated defensive players in the league, but the Eagles' linebacking corps was so bad last season that he'll still make them slightly better in 2012.
LeSean McCoy Will Lead the League in Rushing
Notice how I gave all the bad news first? Time for the happy stuff, starting with McCoy, who is only going to keep getting better. The 24-year-old was rewarded with a new contract in the offseason, but he doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who will now rest on his laurels.
I'm projecting McCoy over Ray Rice in a close race here. I think both should hit the 1,500-yard mark.
They'll Record a League-High 55 Sacks
I've been saying all offseason that it's a toss-up between Philadelphia and the Giants when trying to determine who has the best pass-rush in football. I gave the G-men a slight edge in my summer rankings, but I think they'll be neck-and-neck all year.
The Eagles tied for a league high with 50 sacks last year, but I think the wide-nine will be even better with the back end improving. I'm guessing they improve that total by 10 percent this season. That said, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Giants up their 2011 total from 48 to the mid-50s. No one will hit quarterbacks like Philly and New York this year.
King Dunlap Will Hold His Ground at Left Tackle
I'm not going to claim that Dunlap can replace All-Pro Jason Peters, but the longtime reserve tackle has always performed well in spot duties, and I believe he has the ability (and clearly the size and strength) to succeed in the role this season.
Dunlap knows Howard Mudd and his system well, which is key. He'll have some problems here and there, but I think he'll be a pleasant surprise more often than not. Don't expect to see much of Demetress Bell in 2012.
Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins Will Become a Top-Tier Interior Unit
The interior offensive line was already good last year because Mathis was so dominant. The veteran had a career year and was probably the best all-around guard in football. Kelce and Watkins showed glimpses as rookies, and the trajectory is promising.
Watkins seemed to pick up steam as the season wore on. A full offseason to work with Howard Mudd should be a huge benefit for the 2011 first-round pick.
Kelce was horrible in pass protection as a rookie, but he's already emerged as a mature leader who's being relied upon to make calls at the line in 2012. Expect him and Watkins to make significant strides with Mathis' help.
Mychal Kendricks Will Make a Run at Defensive Rookie of the Year
The second-round pick out of Cal is only 5'11", but he has the speed and athleticism to make up for that. He spans the field like no one else on the roster and is versatile enough to rush the passer effectively.
The 21-year-old grabbed a starting job with a superb run of organized team activities in the offseason and held onto the role with a strong training camp. Watch for him to emerge as not only the Eagles' best rookie this year, but also one of the league's best rookies.
The Eagles Will Win the NFC East
I do think Philadelphia is by far the strongest team in this division. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Giants or Cowboys take the NFC East, but I'm pretty confident that the Eagles will be good enough on both sides of the ball to prevail.
The key is that the pressure's higher than ever, and they've had time this year to allow a slew of talented veterans to jell.
Predicted outcome: 12-4; lose to Green Bay in the NFC championship game
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