It was a rough and disappointing end to the season for the Eagles. No Eagles fan wants to face the fact that we lost to the Cowboys three times and our team is sitting at home with the rest of us watching the playoffs. However, winning 11 games was an impressive feat when one considers how much adversity this team had to face to get to this point.
The offseason witnessed Brian Dawkins, a longtime Eagles safety and emotional leader, leave in free agency to go to Denver. Also, Jim Johnson passed away before the season started, leaving a big pair of shoes to fill for Sean McDermott, the former secondary coach.
The main obstacle to the Eagles' success was injury issues. Stewart Bradley, Shawn Andrews, and potential rookie breakout Cornelius Ingram all went on injured reserve before the season even started. Omar Gaither and Ellis Hobbs went on injured reserve during the season, and Brian Westbrook was slowed by injuries all year long. Jamaal Jackson went on IR late in the season.
Stewart Bradley was a big absence in the defense. In an attempt to try to fill his spot, the Eagles started six different players at inside linebacker during the season, including having to trade for Will Witherspoon and sign Jeremiah Trotter off the street. Attempting to replace Brian Dawkins proved to be no easy task either, with the Eagles using a rotation of safeties to try and keep the defense flying high.
The offensive line issues were the biggest problem for the Eagles, especially in the double debacle in Dallas. The backup linemen couldn't establish themselves in the running game or protect Donovan McNabb long enough for him to find his receivers in those two games, and that cost the Eagles a shot at a Super Bowl run.
The other problem that the Eagles were dealing with was the lack of experience in the receiving corps. I'm not complaining about their abilities; Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson are an explosive duo, and two to three years down the line we could be talking about this group as the best in the NFL.
However, these guys are young. Maclin is 21. Jackson is 23. Shady McCoy is still 21. Brent Celek is 24. Jason Avant is the grizzled veteran of the group at age 26. Once they get more experience under their belt, this group has almost unlimited potential.
With all of this in mind, an 11-5 record is not a bad season, and there should be a lot of optimism going forward. Here's why:
1. All of the receivers will have an additional season in the offense. In addition, Cornelius Ingram will be back to join an already loaded group of talent.
2. The defense has shown that it is still capable of being an elite unit, and Stewart Bradley and Omar Gaither are returning to the unit.
3. The starting offensive line is a good unit, and will have a chance to get healthy and work together in the offseason.
4. The Eagles have been making good moves in both free agency and the draft, and will hopefully follow it up with another solid offseason.