Remaining Holes On The Philadelphia Eagles

Derek MooreCorrespondent IMay 13, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Donovan McNabb #5 of the Philadelphia Eagles walks off the field with his team during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field on November 27, 2008 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by: Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The Eagles have been widely applauded for their off season moves.

They added talent, youth, and filled several needs on offense. 

However several holes still exist- just like any other NFL team, the Eagles have weaknesses.  A lot of questions will have to be answered between now and February if the Eagles are to live up to their Super Bowl potential.


Leadership on defense—who replaces Brian Dawkins?

Talent-wise, the Eagles didn't lose much when Brian Dawkins signed with Denver.  Despite a pro bowl season, Brian's age was starting to show and he was becoming a bit of a liability in pass coverage.

Signing Sean Jones means they won't lose any production on the field.  And if Sean Jones doesn't play free safety, second year man Quintin Demps should be ready to come in and start.

What they did lose was a legend and an icon that will be forever remembered as an all time great in Philadelphia. 

His game day stats can be matched, and even beaten.  But his leadership, both in the community and in the locker room, can not be replaced. 

Dawkins was a finalist last year for the Walter Payton man of the year award, and was well respected for his character and class. 

Dawkins also possessed a great ability to motivate.  Despite being soft spoken off the field, he was the undisputed leader on defense.

Right before the start of games, his teammates would always circle around him as he barked out yet another pre-game pep talk.

Someone has to step up and assume this leadership role.  The Eagles are Donovan McNabb's team now, but a leader on defense may be needed as well, especially since they are a very young unit.

The most likely candidates are Stewart Bradley, Trent Cole, Brodrick Bunkley, or perhaps Quintin Mikell.  One of those four will probably take the torch from Dawkins.


Lack of Depth at Running Back

After losing Correll Buckhalter in free agency, the Eagles needed an immediate backup to Brian Westbrook.

They addressed this in the draft by taking LeSean McCoy, and he should be a fine compliment to Westbrook as they both have similar skill sets.

But as of right now, Lorenzo Booker is third on the depth chart behind McCoy and Westbrook. 

He was a huge disappointment last year and rarely saw the field because he could not pass block- something a running back has to do a lot of in Andy Reid's offense.

If he can't get on the field this year, then that would leave a gaping hole on the depth chart. 

This could cause issues for the eagles, as Westbrook is injury prone and has never played a 16 game season, while Lesean McCoy is just a rookie. 

McCoy has big potential, but the Eagles might want to get another back just in case.  Behind McCoy and Westbrook the Eagles have several unknown players- namely Eldra Buckley, and Kyle Eckle (who currently is listed as a fullback). 

Those players can't be counted on if both Westbrook and McCoy go down, making depth at running back a big need.

If the worst case scenario happens, and Westbrook and McCoy both go down for an extended period, then the Eagles will have serious problems at running back. 

Perhaps Leonard Weaver would step up to play running back, as he did several times in Seattle.  Other than that, the Eagles wouldn't have very many options.


Blocking from the Tight End Position

L.J. Smith is gone, and Brent Celek figures to be the starter. 

Celek showed huge potential in the NFC championship by catching 10 passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns.  He also caught a touchdown in the previous playoff game against New York.

Celek has earned high praise as a pass catching tight end, but he didn't do a very good job blocking last year.  Over the off season he has worked hard to improve his blocking- something he hopes will carry over to the field.

Cornelius Ingram is currently the number 2 tight end, and he is also considered a weak blocker. 

He is coming from a spread offense, which meant he often lined up in the slot instead of the trenches.  Not only does he have to learn how to get off of the line, but he also has to block better.

Before he injured his knee last year, he devoted a majority of his practice time to improving his blocking.  He even sent tapes of these practices to NFL coaches for the draft so that they could evaluate his improvement, as he did not play in a single game last year.

While he was injured, he added weight and did everything he could to gain upper body strength.  If he continues his hard work, then he should be able to block on an NFL level.

Matt Schobel, the third tight end, rarely sees the field and probably won't contribute as a pass catcher or a blocker. 

The Eagles need Celek and Ingram to improve their blocking.  If they don't then the Eagles might suffer a little bit on offense, as tight ends sometimes assist offensive lineman in blocking pass rushers. 

This may not be a huge problem, as the Eagles have a very good offensive line.  But Celek and Ingram still need to block well in the running game. 


A True No. 1 Receiver

Most teams don't have a guy like Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss, or Terrell Owens.  But those three can make a pass happy offense (like the Eagles often have) unstoppable.

Eagles fans begged for Anquan Boldin, the disgruntled Cardinals receiver.  But in the end the Eagles drafted Jeremy Maclin, an exciting prospect from Missouri.

If DeSean Jackson improves on his stellar rookie season, then he could very well be a "true number one receiver".  Maclin also has that potential, though he doesn't figure to reach it for a few years.

Rounding out the Eagles starting receivers is Kevin Curtis, who was injured last season but in his first season as a starter recorded 1100 yards- making him a solid number two.

In short, a top level receiver might not necessarily be a need, but more of a work in progress.  Guys like Anquan Boldin would just make a more immediate impact.


A Short Yardage Running Back

This is more of a "want" than a need, but considering how badly the Eagles struggled in short yardage situations last year, a big back would be helpful.

Last season the Birds were notorious for coming up one yard short.

At Chicago, they were stuffed three straight times at the one yard line, which cost them the game.

Against New York, a late comeback was thwarted when Brian Westbrook was stopped on a 4th and 1.

Part of this was the result of inadequate run blocking. 

Offensive tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas were in their mid thirties and could no longer create holes for the running game.  Dan Klecko also played poorly at fullback, and tight ends L.J. Smith and Brent Celek didn't block very well either.

This was addressed by adding Jason Peters, Stacey Andrews, Leonard Weaver, and getting Shawn Andrews back healthy.

But a bigger back would still help in short yardage situations.

The humiliating struggles in short yardage might provide motivation for next year, as the Eagles are on a mission to win their first Super Bowl.


None of these weaknesses are glaring ones.  The Eagles are a very complete team and should do well even if they run into a few bumps in the road.  If everyone plays up to their potential, the Super Bowl is not just a possibility- but an expectation.


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