The Xs and Os of Football: Philadelpha Eagles Edition
There's only one term that can best describe the Philadelphia Eagles' offense in recent years:
That may change this year, with strong, young bodies on the O-line and double the firepower in the backfield.
Don't get me wrong, there will be passing. DeSean Jackson and rookie Jeremy Maclin will provide speed on the outside. Kevin Curtis and Jason Avant will give McNabb sure hands in the slots. Brian Westbrook or LeSean McCoy coming out of the backfield will act as a safety blanket should everyone be covered.
With that receiving corps, plus Reggie Brown and Hank Baskett waiting on the sidelines, I would expect a lot of four or five wide-out formations on second and third down. All of those receivers can get open and make the catch. The only real worry is if they drop the ball before getting all the way into the end-zone.
All of those receiving weapons will make draw plays much more effective. If McNabb can spread the ball out, making the defense guess who's getting the ball every time, then the occasional draw play will give Westbrook or McCoy all the room in the world to run.
Expect to see more screens this year. Would you want to see Jason Peters running at you protecting Westbrook or McCoy? I'd have enough to worry about with whose carrying the ball, but Peters out there too? The potential is through the roof.
The new faces on the offensive line add youth and versatility to an already talented front. Peters might turn out to be the best free agent signing of the '09 offseason. Stacy Andrews adds talent, but more importantly, emotional support to his brother Shawn, who has battled depression.
Although I love Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas as much as the next Eagles fan, and don't think I forgot about them, their age was becoming a factor.
That new O-line will bring success to the running game also. Don't be surprised if McCoy becomes to Correll Buckhalter for the Eagles what Raul Ibanez is to Pat Burrell for the Phillies: Correll who?
Buckhalter was solid, but I see something watching McCoy in college that makes me feel a whole lot better about him. He is a play-maker, plain and simple, and putting him with Westbrook, one of the best play-makers in the game, will be fun to watch.
With the speed of the backfield, look for counters and tosses on first down. Leonard Weaver and Kyle Eckel at fullback will provide the third-and-short yardage the Eagles so desperately needed last season.
Defensively, coordinator Jim Johnson's presence may be in jeopardy due to illness, but his defense will can be described in one term as well:
The difference is that the defense won't change as much. Why fix what isn't broken? Johnson's blitzing packages have been terrorizing opposing offenses since he was signed to the team in 1999. Each year that defense has been a major key of the team's success.
The first and second string defensive lines can become sack machines. Trent Cole, Broderick Bunkley, Juqua Parker, Victor Abiamiri, the list goes on and on for solid D lineman on this team. Opposing running games will need to be sharp.
Linebacker and safety blitzes will be more than familiar territory with this defense, although I felt a lot better with Brian Dawkins blitzing than I do about Quintin Mikell. Perhaps I'll be surprised.
In the backfield, Asante Samuel is always a interception threat, as is Sheldon Brown. The question that lingers is: will they play together this year? If not, look for Ellis Hobbs to be a major contributor in his stead.
Most of the playbook changes you'll see this year will be on the offensive side of the ball. More weapons equal more play possibilities. The defense will be as effective as ever, even without Brian Dawkins leading the charge.
This team can make it to the Super Bowl. Let's hope we'll be talking about defending the title this time next year.
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