Andy Reid finally has all of the tools to roll out a complete West Coast playbook with a few tricks and stunts to catch opposing defenses off guard and off balance. Don't expect a new power running offense in 2009, just expect a more efficient and dynamic version of last season.
New acquisitions, Stacey Andrews, Jason Peters and Leonard Weaver intend on making an impact in the short yardage game.
Backs Walter Mendenhall, Kyle Eckel and Marcus Mailei will compete for a position in the backfield to add more size and strength to an opportunistic power running attack.
Ends Cornelius Ingram, Eugene Bright and Jason Peters will bolster the robust red zone and short yardage possibilities.
Interestingly, Jason Peters was originally a tight end and still has the skill set. Don't be surprised to see Andy bring in one of his reserve offensive lineman to play left tackle as he stacks the right side of the line with the Andrews brothers and Shawn Andrews' college room mate, Jason Peters. That is a scary image.
Justifying this concept is simple. The depth chart is full of players that would carry starting roles in other franchises. Nick Cole is a more than capable guard and Todd Herremans is equally able in holding down a tackle position. King Dunlap has been impressive in his reserve role as a tackle, adding more opportunity to see Peters as a short yardage tight end.
I am prognosticating at least one receiving touchdown for Peters this season.
Converted defensive end, Eugene Bright, was impressive in mini-camp and could play the role of the mauling tight end in short yardage. At 6'4" and 268 pounds, Bright is the most powerful of the young skilled group that includes the returning and emerging Brent Celek and impressive newcomer Cornelius Ingram.
Ingram also provides more red zone opportunity at tight end with fade routes and jump balls. Baskett had limited success as the fade route specialist in 2008. Ingram is a collegiate basketball player who can impose the Tony Gonzales type of tight end presence in the end zone. At 6'4" and an official 33" vertical leap, Ingram can position his body as many former basketball players, like Gonzales, have been able to do, snagging jump balls and fade routes.
As I turn my attention to the backs, I can imagine a power backfield on short yardage plays that includes Weaver at Fullback and of course, Westbrook, following his lead. I can also imagine Weaver running behind or blocking for Kyle Eckel in short yardage.
Eckel still has to prove he will deserve his roster spot and rookie free agents Marcus Mailei and Walter Mendenhall offer exciting possibilities in short yardage.
With a bruising fullback like Marcus Mailei, the Eagles will have an opportunity to run with speed and power, utilizing Weaver and Mailei.
Walter Mendenhall is a slightly bigger back who runs hard and low. Mendenhall could provide a power back option behind Weaver if he can tantalize the coaching staff in camp with more of what he did at Illinois State.
Both Mendenhall and Weaver are backs who can play the role of receiver out of the backfield. The versatility of Peters, Weaver and Mendenhall could provide over 800 pounds worth of athletic talent looking for a pass in the end zone.
Considering the depth of talent at other positions, it is nearly impossible to imagine pass happy Andy Reid keeping more than four backs on the 53 man roster. With Westbrook, McCoy and Weaver assured a position and Eckel or Booker most likely being the front runner for the fourth spot, the rookie free agents will have to outperform the veterans by a significant margin if they are to avoid practice squad candidacy with the Eagles. Eldra Buckly also merits consideration in the mix.
Since we are mentioning backfield components, I cannot allow myself to fail in acknowledging the excitement that Lesean McCoy brings to the field. Quick and versatile, McCoy will be a dangerous feature for opposing defenses. I liken McCoy to a Westbrook clone. Although, I don't see McCoy bringing much new to the game plan, he will provide a continuity of game play when spelling Westbrook.
That being said, let's approach our elation regarding a power set offense with measured emotion. Andy Reid is not going to change his hybridized West Coast Offense and the birds have done a great job adding characters to moreover support this playbook along with bolstering our short yardage offense.
What else can we expect from this bigger, younger group of backs, lineman and tight ends?
Think back to the fantastic 49ers of the 80's. The originators and epitome of the West Coast offense utilized big backs like Tom Rathman as receivers out of the backfield very productively. Weaver is perhaps his most productive as he hauls in short passes and turns them into big plays with a running compound of elusiveness and power.
Although I am sure we will not see a conversion to a power running game plan, we will see more I-Form sets and I-form with three wide.
Enhancements to short yardage efficiency and possibilities aside, expect more plays involving full back lead blocking, rushing and receiving in 2009. This more imposing running attack will bring defenses forward and open up speedsters Desean Jackson, Kevin Curtis and Jeremy MacLin on their down field and slant routes.
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