2009 Philadelphia Eagles Preview
I hear you.
"Don't do it, Geoff," you say.
"You're gonna jinx 'em," you say.
"It's too early," you say.
Fact is, that horse left the barn right after the draft. I am already on record with the Eagles winning Super Bowl XLIV. I went so far as to call it a STONE COLD LEAD PIPE LOCK(tm).
It won't be easy. First we'll talk about what obstacles they will need to overcome to win their first Super Bowl. Then I will explain why the scales will tip the Eagles way.
Stop being so paranoid.
1. Tight Ends who Can't Block.
I like Brent Celek. I am a huge, huge fan of fifth round pick Cornelius Ingram. I believe that he will be the starter by the end of the season. But neither of them can block a third grade girl scout on crutches. The tight ends' inability to block has cost the Eagles games over the last couple of years. It could potentially do so again if these two don't improve their blocking.
2. The Wolverine Factor.
On the field, Brian Dawkins had lost a step. This was evident to most observers who followed the team. Off the field, however, is a different story. In the locker room, Brian Dawkins was the unquestioned, unrivaled leader of this team. His defense of McNabb under adversity and his ability to rally the team are unparalleled. It was thought that Sheldon Brown would step into this void, but he is now demanding a trade or a raise. Someone will have to fill this leadership void, or this season will not be as successful as it should be.
3. In-Game Decision Making.
Andy Reid's in-game coaching is sometimes questionable at best. We won't go into the New Orleans game, or the end of the Super Bowl, or this team's continued inability to run a hurry-up offense. Andy's not gonna get into all that, and neither are we. The bottom line is that it has to get better. Now.
Calm down. Here is why we will win it all.
1. Super 5 is Healthy.
Any time Donovan McNabb is healthy, the Eagles are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. His detractors will point out that when he was hurt a couple of years ago, Jeff Garcia stepped in and led the Birds to the playoffs before losing to New Orleans in the second round. In fact, Garcia played well in that game, and if not for a questionable coaching decision by Andy Reid (SHOCKER!), the Eagles may have won that game.
But they didn't.
McNabb bashers will also point to the way the Eagles have responded to Koy Detmer, A.J. Feeley, and Kevin Kolb (oops, scratch that last one). They talk of McNabb's inaccuracy, and a general inability to make his receivers better.
Hogwash. And that is as politely as I can put it.
Donovan McNabb is, quite simply, the greatest player ever to put on an Eagles uniform. He is, in my opinion, the greatest athlete to play in Philadelphia, in any sport, since 1980. You can point out the occasional ball in the dirt or behind a guy, as if no other quarterback does that.
I will point to the fact that every single year he has been healthy after his first year as a starter, the Eagles go to at least the NFC Championship. For those who say that he only went to the Super Bowl because of TO, I will remind them that TO did not play in the playoffs that season until the Super Bowl.
TO did not get them over the hump. Donovan McNabb did.
I can go on about McNabb's greatness, but the fact of the matter is, if he stays healthy, which is more likely with his new offensive line, the Eagles are Super Bowl contenders.
2. Brian Westbrook is Healthy.
Brian Westbrook is one of the most dangerous and complete running backs in the NFL, when healthy. He was injured all of last season, only practicing on a limited basis and missing two games. He had an off year. For him.
In an off year, a year in which he played through pain severe enough to require knee surgery after the season, B-Dub had over 1,300 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns, averaging four yards a carry. In an off year.
There are running backs who would kill for a season like that, yet Westbrook did it in 14 games, while hurt.
Now he is not.
In addition, he will be pushed for playing time by second round draft pick LeSean McCoy. McCoy is a tremendous talent with very good speed (4.52 40), who catches the ball well out of the backfield. He is a great fit for the Eagles' offense. His biggest flaw is that he does not block well. Yet.
But he will make Westbrook better. Somewhere, Giant fans are shaking their heads saying, "How can Westbrook be BETTER?"
3. Improved Wide Receivers.
The Eagles' wide receivers have been frequently bashed, and with good reason. Here is a partial list of wide receivers McNabb has thrown to in his Eagles career:
Charles Johnson. Torrance Small. James Thrash. Todd Pinkston. Na Brown. Freddie Mitchell. Greg Lewis.
Really? I mean, come on. Michael Irvin flat out questioned the manhood of Thrash and Pinkston (calling them "Trash and Stinkston") before the 2004 NFC Championship game. They proved him right.
This year, the Eagles have a healthy Kevin Curtis, fully recovered from the sports hernia that cost him the first half of last year. They have the electrifying DeSean "Fraction" Jackson, a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball. And they have first round pick Jeremy Maclin, who has speed to burn and great hands. Those three are lightning fast and virtually interchangeable, although Maclin may be the toughest of the three. You have a group now in which a guy nicknamed "White Lightning" is probably the third fastest.
That's speed. You can't teach speed.
Oh, and they have Reggie Brown, too.
This is the best group of receivers that McNabb has had outside of 2004. It fits perfectly with the Eagles' philosophy of not having one receiver that the defense can key on. The difference this time is that they actually have talent.The sixth receiver right now is Hank Baskett, who is deservedly the sixth receiver, but he is not exactly terrible. Not always, anyway.
Donovan McNabb reportedly asked for more weapons. He got them. This team, talent-wise, is better than the team that walked off the field at University of Phoenix Stadium as the Cardinals celebrated last year. Is this the year McNabb and the Eagles put it all together and bring the Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia?
Stone Cold Lead Pipe Lock(tm).
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