Eagles fans, before you start to contemplate diving off of the Walt Whitman or Ben Franklin, let's take a close look at things.
I'll admit. Watching the Eagles get totally manhandled on both sides of the ball two times vs. the hated Dallas Cowboys, I, at one point, threw my hands up in the air, and said to myself, "This is it. It's going to be three years before we are true contenders again."
Not so fast.
As crushing and demoralizing as that was to watch, when you step back and look at the big picture, it's not all that bad. When you take a look at our major needs, and there are a lot of them I'll admit, the answers are out there whether from within or via the draft or free agency.
The Defense: Bear in mind, all free agents mentioned have their status totally up in the air until the CBA is finalized.
Trent Cole has proven to be a very solid player. A bit undersized (which is the Eagles style) but still very productive. Mike Patterson and Broderick Bunkley are a very solid combo at the DT position.
Our left ends have been an issue, with guys like Jauqua Parker and Darren Howard showing flashes of ability, but this side need to be revamped. The Eagles, aside from the infamous Javon Kearse signing, typically prefer to go with a rotation as opposed to going out and getting a big time end.
However, the hot names being tossed around are Julius Peppers, Aaron Kampman, Richard Seymour, and Ray Edwards. If past history holds true, they will not go after Peppers, Kampman, or Seymour, due to their age, unless one comes at a slight bargain. Edwards I'm sure will not be let go by the Vikings.
The best player of these? Peppers. The most likely, however, would be Kampman. His recent surgery will make him more affordable. The other option is using a first round pick on a big, pass rushing DE, which this draft seems to be loaded with. My opinion? The Eagles use the draft to fill this need.
As all Eagle fans know, this is a position where, in the Andy Reid era, they have never devoted a lot of money to. And as bad as they were here last season, this might just be the case again this year.
Injuries were the biggest cause of our issues here. Stewart Bradley was injured and Omar Gaither going down did not help. Bradley will be back, as will Will Witherspoon. This leaves one opening. Do the Eagles use some of the aforementioned extra cash to sign someone? Gut feeling, YES.
Keith Bullock, Ryans from Houston, Karlos Dansby, and Derrick Johnson are names being tossed about. Bullock, while he'd be a nice addition, is 33. Ryans, who in my opinion is the best option, will more than likely get franchised by the Texans. This leaves Dansby and Johnson.
Both would be reasonably affordable. Dansby is a tackling machine for Arizona, and we all know Arizona doesn't like tossing around money. Johnson would also be a nice addition, and since the Chiefs have gone to a 3-4, his talents haven't been utilized by them, and would be almost surely available. And his age makes him very attractive.
Yikes, was that hard to watch. These guys ran around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to figure out how to cover Miles Austin and the "great" Patrick Crayton. Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown looked absolutely lost out there.
But, let's remember one thing. They had virtually no help from our depleted safeties. With the expected return of Ellis Hobbs, and the backups we have there, we should be fine...IF we fix the Safety position. Which in my opinion, without question, is our biggest off season priority.
The name that intrigues me the most is Oshiomogho Atogwe of St. Louis. At his age, and with his ability, the Eagles need to go get this guy. He is known as a ball hawk and is still retatively young. His season ending injury this year should make him a little more affordable assuming he doesn't get franchised.
Some other names are Darren Sharper of the Saints. At 34, I'll pass. Nick Collins from Green Bay is another option, but he's a little to inconsistent for me. Danieal Manning of the Bears and Antoine Bethea of the Colts are two other's I'd be very interested in if I were the Eagles. Both are solid playmakers and cover guys. And Manning at 27-years-old and Bethea at 25-years-old make them very attractive.
If we land any of Atogwe, Manning or Bethea, we are immediately better at the safety position.
As a whole, the defense could be improved dramatically with the drafting of a DE, the signing of Dansby or Jonhson, and also the signing Manning, Bethea or Atogwe. None would totally break the bank, and they all fall into the Eagles style of signing guys at a young age.
Which leads us to the offense.
Alot will depend on what we do with Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and Mike Vick. But assuming McNabb and Kevin Kolb are still here:
The Offensive line
Our left side, with Jason Peters and Todd Herremans, along with the presumed return of Jamaal Jackson at center, is solid, if not spectacular. Winston Justice has filled in nicely at RT, and as much I'd rather have Jon Runyan back, appears to be a short term answer at least.
This leaves RG. One would figure that either of the Andrews brothers, the former Pro Bowler Shawn, or his brother Staci, would be the eventual answer. But, neither has shown they can be counted on. This position will more than likely be filled in the draft, along with much needed depth along the rest of the line.
No major issues here, but definitely room for some improvement. One thing that Andy Reid has always put a high priority on is the offensive line. So I have no doubt this will be resolved.
No major need here, at least nothing that can't be easily fixed with some under the radar signings. We could certainly use a veteran WR with some size, preferably a possession type guy. He doesn't have to be a big name. Without tossing out names of marginal WR's who are free agents, this problem will be solved, you can bank on that.
With Westbrook's departure, we will need a complement to McCoy. A solid, pass catching third down back, who can also pick up a blitz. Toss in a short yardage guy like a LenDale White, or someone along these lines, and we're good to go.
Leonard Weaver fits the goal line type of guy, but I think his services would be better utilized as a true blocking fullback, assuming Reid ever decides to run the ball on a semi-consistent basis.
I'd like to see a new punter but I wouldn't exactly call it a pressing need. Our coverage teams are decent, but we could obviously use a kick return specialist. Jeremy Maclin and Deshaun Jackson are good options, but do we really want our two WR studs returning kicks?
Here's a vote for going out and getting Josh Cribbs via trade. He's one of, if not the best KR in the league, and, presuming Vick is not around next year, would make a great wildcat QB.
So, as astronomical as our needs seem, they are all very fixable. The drafting of a DE, the signing of an above average LB and safety(s), which we can afford, and plugging a few minor and affordable holes on offense, and we're right back to being a Super Bowl contender.
The answers to our problems are all out there and obtainable. It's up to Joe Banner, Andy Reid, and company to make it happen.
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