The Philadelphia Eagles will enter the 2009 NFL season with some new players, as well as new positions for some players. How will those changes and acquisitions affect the Eagles in 2009?
There's no change here. Donovan McNabb has been the leader of the Eagles for the last decade, and that continues in 2009.
McNabb will have the most weapons he has had since Terrell Owens' short stint in Philly a few years back. The key for the Eagles' Super Bowl hopes will be if McNabb can stay healthy for the entire season once again.
Brian Westbrook is the key to the Eagles offense. Like McNabb, Westbrook is aging and has had his share of injury problems in his career.
Sure, the Eagles drafted Pitt running back LeSean McCoy in the second round of the 2009 Draft, but Westbrook is so important to this team that an injury would be tough to overcome.
One position the Eagles haven't been efficient at the last few years is fullback. Finally, they made the position a priority, signing former Seattle Seahawk Leonard Weaver in the off-season to help protect McNabb and open more holes for Westbrook.
DeSean Jackson was phenomenal as a rookie last season, and he enters the 2009 season as the Eagles' No. 1 wide receiver. Jason Avant and Hank Baskett were both quite serviceable when they were used last season, so the two of them give the Eagles some depth, along with Reggie Brown. Kevin Curtis was injured and missed the beginning of the 2008 season, but he was McNabb's main target in 2007.
The big addition at wide receiver is rookie Jeremy Maclin, who the Eagles selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Like Jackson, Maclin is a burner. He will be able to beat most defensive backs with his speed, making him a terrific downfield option for McNabb, as well as a great option for screen passes.
The Eagles have had a need at tight end ever since they realized L.J. Smith wasn't what they had hoped he would be. Now that Smith is gone, they have two young options at tight end. Brent Celek was very solid in his second season, especially in the playoffs. He is a great pass-catcher, but needs to improve on his blocking.
In the NFL Draft, the Eagles added Cornelius Ingram, a tight end out of Florida. Like Celek, Ingram is more of a pass-catching tight end, but needs to work on his blocking. With Ingram, Celek, Westbrook, Jackson, Maclin and Curtis, McNabb will have more reliable options to throw to, especially in the red zone.
The Eagles lost the anchors of their offensive line in Jon Runyan, who meant much more to the Eagles than just a quality offensive tackle, and Tra Thomas. But the Eagles added an All-Pro tackle and some depth in the off-season.
At left tackle, the Eagles will start former Buffalo Bills All-Pro Jason Peters. Shawn Andrews, who previously was one of the best right guards in the NFL, will slide over to right tackle. His brother, Stacy, who the Eagles signed in the off-season, will be the starting right tackle.
There will be no change at left tackle and center, as Todd Herremans and Jamaal Jackson will start at those positions, respectively. Max Jean-Giles will back up Herremans at left guard, but can also be used if necessary at other offensive lineman positions.
Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley both did a nice job as the defensive tackles last season for the Eagles. They will both occupy the middle of the defensive line once again.
At right defensive end, Trent Cole has been one of the best in the NFL for the past two years. The left side is where the Eagles have been weak. Between Juqua Parker, Victor Abiamiri, Chris Clemons, Darren Howard and Bryan Smith, will one of them step up and become an effective left defensive end?
The Eagles' linebackers were very young an inexperienced last season. Given that, they did a decent job, but there is a lot of room for improvement as far as the linebackers are concerned.
Chris Gocong is a natural pass-rushing defensive end, but is playing outside linebacker for the Eagles. He is not the best cover guy in the world, so it wasn't shocking that Gocong struggled at times last season.
Stewart Bradley anchors the defense at the middle linebacker position. He recorded 151 tackles, one interception and one sack. While Bradley wasn't terrible, his 2008 statistics are nothing to brag about.
The weak-side linebacker position was originally occupied by Omar Gaither last season, but Akeem Jordan took over late in the season. Between the two of them, Eagles fans can only hope there is an improvement at that position.
If an Eagles fan went into a coma in 2007 and woke up in 2009, they would have no idea what's going on with the Eagles defensive backfield. The starting cornerbacks and safeties are entirely different than they were just two years ago.
The acquisition last off-season of Asante Samuel excited many Eagles fans. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in his first season in Philadelphia, but Samuel wasn't as spectacular in 2008 as his contract.
Because of the Samuel signing and a contract dispute, Lito Sheppard barely even played in 2008, virtually cancelling out the signing of Samuel. Sheppard was traded before the NFL Draft to the New York Jets.
During the NFL Draft, the Eagles shipped a pair of fifth round picks to the Patriots for promising young cornerback Ellis Hobbs. While this trade was a no-brainer for the Eagles, it was preceded by an angry Sheldon Brown, who wants a new contract.
Is Sheldon Brown the 2009 version of the Lito Sheppard saga? This routine is so tired to Eagles fans. If Brown is still on the roster but doesn't see the field much in 2009, like the case with Sheppard in 2008, at least the Eagles have Samuel and Hobbs, along with Joselio Hanson.
At safety, the Eagles released one of the great Philadelphia athletes of this era when they parted ways with Brian Dawkins, who was signed by the Denver Broncos. To replace him, the Eagles signed former Cleveland Browns safety Sean Jones, who will now start as the strong safety. Quintin Mikell will likely silde over to free safety, while Quintin Demps and newly acquired Rashad Baker will provide depth.
At kicker, David Akers is getting old, as is his left leg. His leg strength isn't quite the same anymore, but he's still an above average starting kicker in the NFL. At punter, Sav Rocca had a much improved season in 2008, and his leg strength is certainly nothing to worry about.
One of the Eagles' top strengths in 2009 will be their special teams returners, something that was a major weakness just two seasons ago. DeSean Jackson was one of the best punt returners in the NFL as a rookie last season. He is capable of taking one to the house at any time.
Quintin Demps was very effective at kick returner last season, as he usually returned kicks past the 30-yard line. The newly acquired Ellis Hobbs is known as one of the top kick returners in the NFL, so the combination of Hobbs and Demps will be dangerous on kick returns. Rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was quite the special teams returner in college last season, so adding him into the mix will give the Eagles some exciting options on special teams.
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