Rock, Eagles, Scissors: Cutting Through the Optimism of the '09 Eagles

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Rock, Eagles, Scissors: Cutting Through the Optimism of the '09 Eagles
(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

I have never been a big fan of Roshambo. Also known as Rock, Paper, Scissors, I have always had trouble with the fact that paper beats rock. Throw a rock hard enough and paper is no match.

The 2009 Philadelphia Eagles have a boulder flying through the air toward their 2009 season before it even starts.

This year's Eagles had a well received offseason with upgrades in free agency, trading and through the draft that have many calling this year's Eagles the best team in the NFC... on paper.

But there are many questions that are impossible to answer on that optimistic parchment that has anointed the Eagles as one of the teams (if not THE team) to beat in the NFC.

One of those questions becomes more complicated today as star running back Brian Westbrook goes under the knife for the second time this off-season.

There were already concerns on how Westbrook would bounce back from off-season knee surgery. Although on paper, the surgery was noted as a positive.

Instead, his already compromised conditioning was dealt a further blow when ankle surgery was deemed necessary. Now, Route 36 will be detoured from his training for at least six weeks and will need to avoid further setbacks to be ready for the regular season.

It shouldn't be a problem... on paper. But either was the soon-to-be 30-year-old's recovery from his first surgery.

Now, even more pressure falls on second round draft choice LeSean McCoy. On paper, it shouldn't be a problem. Tennessee's Chris Johnson, Chicago's Matt Forte, Houston's Steve Slaton, and Carolina's Jonathan Stewart were all 2008 draft picks thrust into key roles for their team who answered the call.

Johnson, Forte, and Slaton all ran for over 1,200 yards in their rookie season.

The paper typically never points out those rookie draft choices who look promising (Baltimore's Ray Rice, for example) but take a little longer to come around. There's also no mention of Kenny Irons, Cincinnati's second round selection in 2007 who tore his ACL four carries into his first preseason and was was waived in 2008.

Those who think LeSean is "The Real McCoy" cite his similarities to Westbrook. On paper, McCoy and Westbrook are similar in size and style. Well, with the exception that McCoy might be a pass blocking liability and has never experienced one NFL hit.

What happens if Westbrook's second surgery slows his return or limits his touches and McCoy can't block or is more Siran Stacy than Westbrook?

Does that start a chain reaction that ignites some other potential fires the Eagles might have to put out if they start out the season not as good as they look... on paper?

There's already dissension on the defensive side of the ball where Sheldon Brown is unhappy with his contract and has been ditching OTA's to emphasis his displeasure. What happens if the silent Donovan McNabb contract negotiations go south and these "Paper Champions" get off to a slow start?

Sure, the Eagles survived Lito Sheppard's similar situation last year and McNabb came through a benching in Baltimore with flying colors (even if it left some mental scars on Five). On paper, contract disputes can be overcome and teams can find success.

Ignore that 2005 season ripped apart by a Terrell Owens contract dispute, of course!

The point here is not that the Eagles are not good enough to win in 2009. Sometimes, what it looks like on paper matches the actual results.

Last Super Bowl, the Steelers were considered better on paper than the Cardinals. Indeed, paper covered rock and the Steelers won.

It's important to keep looking at possible pitfalls though. Plenty of teams that looked good on paper have taken a tumble.

Ask the 2008 Patriots if paper always covers rock. Even a team with a perfect regular season can lose on the field... even if they win on paper.

Sometimes rock goes right through paper.

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