Heading into 2012, no one thought the Philadelphia Eagles would possibly be as bad as they were in 2011.
After all, the team had entered last year with Super Bowl aspirations amid a slew of high-profile free agent acquisitions. Following backup quarterback Vince Young’s “Dream Team” comments, the Eagles stumbled to a horrific 8-8 season.
They missed the playoffs by just one game, seeing their division rival New York Giants capture the Super Bowl title.
The Eagles expected to have a fresh start in 2012, as the team enjoyed a promising offseason. Andy Reid’s draft appeared to be one of his best in a long time, and the team upgraded many key positions in free agency and trades.
But, one player after another, this year’s Eagles have come up short.
The Eagles are still just 3-4 and they could easily make the playoffs. After all, the team doesn’t face an opponent with a winning record until Week 17. What it will take, though, is for the following 10 players to start turning their performances around before it’s too late.
This isn’t so much one player as it is a group of players. The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Bryce Brown in the seventh round and signed Chris Polk as an undrafted free agent as well.
One of the two of them was expected to compete with Dion Lewis, last year’s backup, to be a part of the rotation behind LeSean McCoy.
Instead, Brown has struggled in his limited opportunities. He’s averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, and that includes a 17-yard scamper. Polk hasn’t seen the field yet and Lewis has been demoted down to fourth string, where he doesn’t even dress for games.
Andy Reid has never been a run-happy coach, and it can be argued that he doesn’t even use McCoy as much as he should. But if McCoy ever goes down, Reid may have to seemingly abandon the run altogether.
When a player is released just 18 months after being a second-round pick, it’s safe to say he is a colossal bust.
The Philadelphia Eagles probably shouldn’t have taken Jaiquawn Jarrett as high as they did. Andy Reid liked the Temple safety enough to insert him into the defense regularly even as a rookie.
Jarrett was vastly overmatched, though. He struggled in pass coverage, allowing a 107.2 passer rating in pass defense. He missed his fair share of tackles. And as a result, Jarrett was a surprise cut early this year.
This may seem high for a player that wasn’t expected to play a bigger role than that of a rotational player on the defensive line.
But after being a CFL star and impressing the Philadelphia Eagles coaches in the 2011 preseason, many thought Phillip Hunt would show off his pass-rushing skills this year. He registered 15 quarterback hurries in just 180 snaps, a number that would have led the league had he played as a regular on the defensive line.
This year, Hunt has regressed to the tune of just one quarterback hurry in 62 snaps. It’s actually gotten to the point where he’s not even getting snaps. Hunt still has one year remaining on the three-year deal he signed with the Eagles, but he may not make it through 2013.
The Philadelphia Eagles got one of the greatest draft-day steals of the last decades when they selected Trent Cole in 2005. A fifth-round pick, Cole has gone on to earn two Pro Bowl invitations and register double-digit sacks on four occasions.
Whether he’s showing his age or having a rough stretch, Cole is not the same player in 2012. He has just 1.5 sacks in seven games. He’s gone four consecutive games without a sack for the first time since 2007. And he’s the veteran leader of an Eagles defense that ranks dead-last in the NFC in sacks (nine).
Jason Babin is a one-trick pony. He can rush the passer and that’s it. He can’t defend the run or play in pass coverage, and he commits a high amount of penalties.
No one really seemed to care last year when he registered 18.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. This year, though, Babin has picked up just 2.5 sacks, and he hasn’t sacked the quarterback since Week 3.
Against Atlanta, Babin lost many of his snaps to 2010 first-rounder Brandon Graham, who has been playing out of his mind in limited snaps recently. If Babin isn’t too careful, he may find himself getting released come the end of the season.
It’s too early to officially declare Danny Watkins a bust. But for a first-round pick from 2011, he sure hasn’t shown the team much.
The Philadelphia Eagles made the 26-year-old Watkins the oldest player ever to be picked in the first round. He didn’t start as a rookie until Week 5 and then showed the growing pains to be expected for the remainder of the season.
Watkins hasn’t shown any improvement in 2012 though, and reports say he is still battling a chronic ankle problem from his collegiate days. Fifth-round rookie tackle Dennis Kelly played for Watkins this past Sunday and performed at an admirable level, given his lack of experience.
If Watkins doesn’t step it up quickly, he could permanently lose his starting job.
Losing Jason Peters may be the most costly injury the Philadelphia Eagles have had under Andy Reid.
The team thought they had an adequate replacement when they signed Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Demetress Bell to be Peters’ replacement this season. After all, Bell had performed well when healthy over the last three years.
He has been downright awful in 2012 though, and he’s a major reason Michael Vick has been sacked so many times. Bell officially lost his starting job in preseason. He got it back when King Dunlap suffered a hamstring injury, but now that Dunlap has returned, Bell is right back on the bench.
When Jason Peters suffered an Achilles injury in March, many Philadelphia Eagles fans took comfort in the knowledge that right tackle Todd Herremans is one of the best in the game.
That, coupled with a solid interior group of Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins, meant the Eagles would probably survive on offense.
That hasn’t been the case though; Kelce went down with a knee injury, Watkins has been awful and Herremans has been as inconsistent as ever.
What’s most frustrating is that Herremans just signed a three-year contract extension with the Eagles because the team thought they knew what they had in him. They thought they had a Pro Bowl-caliber tackle that could run block and pass block.
Instead, Herremans has looked exposed in all aspects of the game, and he’s a big reason the Eagles are just 31st in the NFL in scoring offense.
It’s common sense; the more money a player makes, the higher standards he has to fulfill.
In Nnamdi Asomugha’s case, the judgments and criticisms against him are perfectly legit. Before the 2011 season, Asomugha signed a five-year, $60 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles thought they had locked up arguably the best corner in the league. Asomugha had allowed just one touchdown catch in three seasons with Oakland from 2008 through 2010, and he was rarely even challenged.
His struggles in Philly in 2011 were written off as a product of Juan Castillo’s poor defensive scheming. However, Asomugha has looked downright vulnerable in 2012, and that’s with him being used as a regular cover corner.
Asomugha has permitted opposing quarterbacks to torch him to the tune of 355 passing yards, two touchdowns, and a 103.0 passer rating thus far. And he’s allowing a ridiculous 11.1 yards per passing attempt.
Perhaps the most frustrating moment for Eagles fans was seeing Asomugha burned on a 63-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones last week.
Who else could possibly be number one but Michael Vick?
Expectations were high after 2010 that Vick had finally developed into the quarterback he was destined to become his whole career. Andy Reid showed so much confidence in the Philadelphia Eagles that he handed Vick a six-year, $100 million contract extension in the 2011 preseason.
Vick’s story last year was one to forget—he threw a career-high 14 interceptions, fumbled 10 times and missed three games due to injury. All this was in the midst of a disappointing 8-8 season that put Vick’s job unofficially on the hot seat heading into 2012.
Vick has had his share of fine moments this year. He’s led three fourth-quarter comebacks and he’s managed to stay standing tall behind a makeshift offensive line that has already allowed him to get sacked 23 times.
But the turnovers have continued. Vick threw four interceptions in Week 1 against Cleveland and two more in Week 2 against Baltimore. He has fumbled the football nine times already in 2012, and his 13 turnovers rank third-most in the league among quarterbacks.
Andy Reid announced earlier this week that Vick will remain the starting quarterback for now. But if Vick doesn’t show some serious improvement soon, he will take the whole team down with him.