Philadelphia Eagles 2009 Preview

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Philadelphia Eagles 2009 Preview
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
2008 Summary:
The Philadelphia Eagles have consistently been one of the best teams in the NFC under Andy Reid and with Donovan McNabb under center, with several trips to the conference title game and one appearance in the Super Bowl this decade.

The 2008 season started off differently for the Eagles than it had in recent years though, and it eerily followed the path of the 2007 season which saw Philadelphia finish a disappointing 8-8 and miss the playoffs.

After demolishing the Rams to open up the season, the Eagles would drop three of their next four games including crushing blows to Dallas and Chicago—each games the Eagles could have easily come out on top had they not committed costly errors late in the game.

Following a victory over the 49ers, the Eagles entered the bye week with a 3-3 record. Following back to back victories over Atlanta and Seattle, the Eagles would encounter their first taste of adversity of the season as they would go winless in their next three games, losing to division rival New York, tying with the hapless Bengals, and getting blown out against the Ravens.

It was getting so bad for Philadelphia that at one point, Donovan McNabb was benched in favor of the untested backup Kevin Kolb. The benching would be short lived, as McNabb would be inserted back into the lineup in time for a Thanksgiving Night matchup against Arizona.

From there, the Eagles would take off. They would close out the 2008 season winning four of their last five games, including a 44-6 beatdown of Dallas with the final playoff spot in the NFC going to the victor.

As was usually the case, the Andy Reid led Eagles would pick up tremendous momentum and carry that into the postseason, the only question about this Eagles squad was just how far they would be able to carry that momentum. After their burst to close the season, the Eagles finished the year ranked in the Top Five in total defense and ranked 6th overall in points scored. It was a potent combination that made them your atypical 9-6-1 squad heading into the playoffs.

The red-hot Eagles would draw the 6th and final playoff spot, meaning their postseason would be on the road for as long as they kept winning. This didn't seem to bother the Eagles one bit as the team that struggled to win on the road in the regular season suddenly became road warriors in January. They began the postseason with a convincing 26-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings and then followed that up with another dominant performance in the Meadowlands against the top-seed Giants where they would win 23-11.

This would set up an unthinkable NFC Championship matchup with the Arizona Cardinals, and a rematch of a contest on Thanksgiving that saw the Eagles put up their best offensive performance of the season.

The title game would go slightly different however. A red-hot Cardinals team that was playing its best football in franchise history jumped out to a 24-3 lead, and while the Eagles rallied to take a 25-24 lead late in the 2nd half, the Cardinals offense and Eagles miscues would be too much to overcome and the season would finally come to a close as Donovan McNabb would see his record in the NFC Championship fall to 1-4.

2009 Free Agency Additions:
FB Leonard Weaver (Seattle)
S Sean Jones (Cleveland)
G/T Stacy Andrews (Cincinnati)
S Rashad Baker (Oakland)

2009 Trade Acquisitions:
CB Ellis Hobbs (New England)
T Jason Peters (Buffalo)

2009 Offseason Departures:
CB Lito Sheppard (Traded to NY Jets)
WR Greg Lewis (Traded to New England)
T Tra Thomas (Jacksonville)
S Brian Dawkins (Denver)
TE LJ Smith (Baltimore)
S Sean Considine (Jacksonville)
T Jon Runyan (Unsigned)

2009 NFL Draft:
1-19. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
2-53. LeSean McCoy, RB, Pittsburgh
5-153. Cornelius Ingram, TE, Florida
5-157. Victor Harris, CB/S, Virginia Tech
5-159. Fenuki Tupou, OT, Oregon
6-194. Brandon Gibson, WR, Washington State
7-213. Paul Fanaika, G, Arizona State
7-230. Moise Fokou, OLB, Maryland

2009 Outlook:
The Philadelphia Eagles will enter 2009 as favorites to contend for the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl, assuming the key players on the roster stay healthy.

Coach Andy Reid will enter his 10th season with the Eagles, and his seat may not be any warmer than it will be this year. That's because the offseason saw the Eagles add many key players to positions of need, and now the pressure will be on this team to finally get over the hump.

As has been the case since Reid took over, Donovan McNabb will be the man under center for the Eagles offense. He will be joined by one of the most explosive players in football in the backfield in Brian Westbrook. Westbrook however had surgery on his ankle that could cause him to miss some time early in the season, so his backup, rookie LeSean McCoy out of Pittsburgh, may be pressed into action a little faster than originally expected.

Nonetheless, McNabb will have no shortage of weapons in the passing game, with playmakers DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis slated as the starting wide receivers and first round pick Jeremy Maclin likely to see lots of playing time playing in and out of the slot. After watching L.J. Smith leave in free agency to Baltimore, tight end Brent Celek will become the starter with rookie Cornelius Ingram and Matt Schobel playing behind him.

Perhaps the one unit that was overhauled the most was the Eagles offensive line. Philadelphia used one of their extra first round picks in the 2009 draft to acquire Jason Peters from the Buffalo Bills and signed Stacy Andrews, a free agent from the Cincinnati Bengals to fill holes on their line. Stacy will play with his brother Shawn Andrews, who will line up next to him at right tackle. Rounding out the Eagles line are center Jamaal Jackson and left guard Todd Herremans.

Defensively, the Eagles will return most of the same guys that produced the third overall best defense in football a season ago. One noticeable departure will be that of Brian Dawkins, long said to be the heart and soul of the team. Dawkins departed in free agency to join the Denver Broncos and will be replaced in the secondary by free agent acquisition Sean Jones.

The rest of the Eagles secondary is very good, the Eagles finished 2008 ranked third against the pass and a large reason for that was the play of their marquee free agent signing from a year ago, cornerback Asante Samuel. Samuel will have a familiar teammate lining up alongside him as the Eagles also acquired cornerback Ellis Hobbs during the draft. Hobbs will figure to replace Sheldon Brown at some point in time, who is demanding a trade and refusing to report to the Eagles. Should Brown and the Eagles reconcile their differences for a season however, the Eagles secondary will become that much better.

On the Eagles defensive line, Philadelphia will deploy rush ends Darren Howard and Trent Cole from the right side and Juqua Parker from the left side. In 2008, the three pass rushing ends combined for 24 sacks and will need to do that again if the Eagles defense is to remain a force in the NFC. Defensive tackles Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson will be called upon to slow down the running game and free up the Eagles linebackers.

In the Eagles linebacking corps, a very young unit will be headlined by inside linebacker Stewart Bradley. Bradley will be flanked by Chris Gocong and Akeem Jordan with Omar Gaither also playing extensively.

2009 Schedule:
Sun 9/13 at Carolina
Sun 9/20 New Orleans
Sun 9/27 Kansas City
  bye
Sun 10/11 Tampa Bay
Sun 10/18 at Oakland
Mon 10/26 at Washington
Sun 11/1 NY Giants
Sun 11/8 Dallas
Sun 11/15 at San Diego
Sun 11/22 at Chicago
Sun 11/29 Washington
Sun 12/6 at Atlanta
Sun 12/13 at NY Giants
Sun 12/20 San Francisco
Sun 12/27 Denver
Sun 1/3 at Dallas

2009 Prediction:
In 2008 the Eagles played much better than their 9-6-1 record would indicate. While it took them a little while to get things going, the Eagles let games slip away from them against Dallas, Chicago, and Cincinnati early on in the season.

Finally though, after a blowout at the hands of Baltimore, the Eagles woke up. They would win six of their last seven games before falling to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship game, and even then Philadelphia had several chances to pull off the come from behind victory.

There may have not been another team in football that had as productive an offseason as the Philadelphia Eagles, and if Brian Westbrook and other key components can stay healthy—the Eagles weapons up and down the roster will carry them to another division title and possibly the best record in the NFC.

Predicted Finish: 12-4, 1st Place NFC East
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Hassellbeck - VSN Writer
www.virtualsportsnetwork.com
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