Why the Philadelphia Eagles Will Bounce Back to Win Super Bowl XLV
As Tony Romo knelt down for the third time to seal the Dallas Cowboys' 24-0 shellacking over Philadelphia to end the regular to season, Eagles fans began to map out the quickest route to either the Betsy Ross, Commodore Barry, Ben Franklin, Girard Point, or Platt Bridge.
When the Cowboys finally ended the Eagles' season the next week in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs with a 34-14 beatdown, Eagles fans began the march to the bridge of their choice.
And when Andy Reid said Donovan McNabb was going to return to the Eagles next season, the fans started jumping.
Local bridges appeared more like your local deli as fans were asked to take a number before they plunged into the Schuylkill or Delaware River.
In a word, things were bleak.
The 2009-10 season ended so badly it's understandable why Eagles fans gave up all hope.
Not only did the Eagles lose to the Cowboys twice to end the season, but they did it in an incredibly horrific fashion.
The defense could not get off the field, the offense could not find the end zone, and the coaches did not have an answer.
With all of that in mind, Eagles fans need to take a deep breath and realize they are going to win Super Bowl XLV.
For those who are Roman numerically inept, that stands for 45, as in one after 44. And in case you live under a rock, we are currently waiting to give out the 44th Vince Lombardi trophy this year.
Yes, Eagles fans. This means next year you will be planning out the parade route down Broad Street instead of planning your best Greg Louganis impersonation.
I'm not going to waive my pom-poms and tell you the Eagles have the best coach, quarterback, offense or defense right now. And I'm not going to tell you either of those units, players, or coaches are going to be the best.
But I am going to tell you when the Eagles put it all together they will have the best team, and here is why:
The Eagles linebackers were awful this year.
It may have all been different if the third-year player didn't blow out his knee during a training camp event a Lincoln Financial Field called "Flight Night."
One player does not make or break a defense, but Bradley comes close. With a healthy Bradley back in the middle, the Eagles will immediately become a top-10 defense, which is where they were in 2007 and 2008. And it will become a defense that does not allow 20 or more points per game.
The Eagles never went after big-name middle linebackers, but the position is critical to the success of their defense.
Bradley, whom many considered a Pro-Bowl caliber player, allows the Eagles to do so much on defense and covers up some of their weaknesses.
With Bradley in the middle, the Eagles have someone who can focus on stopping the run and pass, which is a luxury they did not have this season. There was a revolving door at the starting middle linebacker position because no one had the ability to stop both phases of the opposition's offense.
Omar Gaither was asked to start, Joe Mays was called upon to help out, Will Witherspoon needed to step in, and then things got comical when Jeremiah Trotter was asked to fill in. Each player had one strength to rely upon, but they lacked a complete game. Coaches found ways to exploit them and it became painfully obvious how much Bradley meant to the Eagles.
Bradley has the speed and ability to cover the middle of the field during passing downs and the strength and toughness to shed blocks and fill the holes on run plays.
All of this means the Eagles will have the ability to mix up when they blitz and use more elaborate blitzing schemes. With a middle linebacker that can cover tight ends, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is not going to have to worry about players like Zach Miller rumbling down the field 86 yards because Trotter can't cover me, you, or your neighbor.
A return from an ACL injury is difficult, but if Bradley has a healthy return, the Eagles immediately improve against the pass and run. Who knows? Maybe something crazy happens and the Eagles can actually force a three and out every now and then.
Shawn and Stacy Andrews
If Shawn isn't clinically insane, then the Eagles are if they bring back this flip-flopping freak.
I would respect Shawn if he told the Eagles he needed to take care of his mental health and that football was not right for him at this point in his life. Instead, he milked the Eagles for every penny he could get, strung along the coaches, players, and fans, and made everyone believe he wanted to be here.
When you play with people like that, you deserve to get ripped no matter what your personal issue is. There comes a time when Shawn needs to step up and best honest with everyone.
Since he appears to be incapable of such a thing, the Eagles will more than likely do the right thing and give the "Big Kid" the pink slip, which immediately improves the offensive line.
Very few of us played O-line so we don't really know the intricacies of the position. The one thing we know is that continuity is key and somehow the Andrews brothers messed it all up.
Shawn was slated to start at right tackle, but when he went goofy, Winston Justice had to step in.
Stacy signed a six-year, $38.9 million contract, and yet he could not find his way onto the field even when he was healthy.
When training camp rolls around this year, the Eagles will know exactly what direction they are going in and it can do nothing but help everyone on the line gel as one unit.
And if you don't think cohesion is critical to an offensive line, then look at how poorly the Birds played when starting center Jamaal Jackson went down in Week 16. Nick Cole was asked to step in as center and Max Jean-Gillies got the nod at right guard.
It is one thing to ask players to play in a new position at the start of the season. But when you are in your final game of the regular season, you do not want to make a change like that.
McNabb looked pretty bad against the Cowboys and he deserves some blame. But since it appears he may be back next year, Reid better get him an offensive line that can give him time in the pocket.
The additional time will also allow McNabb to find DeSean Jackson downfield. Those types of plays are hard to come by in the playoffs, but a more cohesive offensive line may offer the perfect remedy for Jackson's struggles against the Cowboys and other elite teams of the NFL.
There is no denying the Eagles need a safety and a defensive end opposite Trent Cole.
The good news is that free agency is littered with safeties and defensive ends.
Whether or not there is a salary cap in 2010, the Eagles ability to be financial sound over the years would allow them to spend big money to lure in some big names if they chose to do so.
Highlighting the safety position is Antoine Bethea of the Indianapolis Colts and Roman Harper of the New Orleans Saints. Both players are ideal for the Eagles as they have the ability to crowd the line of scrimmage in running downs and offer great run support, which was a staple of ex-Eagle Brian Dawkins.
Bethea is a little weak in coverage and it could be the deterrent in bringing him to Philly.
Julius Peppers and Elvis Dumervil are at the top of the list for defensive ends and give the Eagles exactly what they need: A pass rusher.
It seems a little nuts to think Denver would let someone like that get away. But since he is an unrestricted free agent, the Eagles can get him if the price is right.
It seems like the only way the Eagles record a sack this year was through the blitz. The Eagles have the cornerbacks in Sheldon Brown and Asante Samuel to play an overly aggressive defense, but it would be refreshing to see the Eagles get pressure on the quarterback with only four down linemen.
Obtaining two of those players is unlikely, but the addition of any one of those players, coupled with the return of Bradley, and the Eagles defense can matchup with any offense in the league.
And don't scoff at the money it would cost to bring in players of that ability. The cash may be available if the Eagles move Michael Vick and Brian Westbrook in the offseason, even though they may have to take a cap hit.
The dreaded franchise tag may get slapped on any one of those players and then the whole thing goes to hell in a hand basket. But with proper money management the Eagles have an excellent shot at landing a player to fill any voids on the defensive line and secondary.
It's the NFL
The NFL is filled with mediocre teams that stumbled through the regular season and then get hot at the right time.
You don't need to have a team that is free of weaknesses. You only need a team that can cover up those weaknesses and can get hot at the end of the year.
Throughout Reid's tenure the Eagles have proven to play well at the end of the season, minus this year. So all they need to do is patch up some of the holes and get back to playing winning football.
The deficiencies are plentiful, but the remedies are easy to come by. With everything in mind, there is reason to believe the Eagles will win Super Bowl XLV, which oh by the way is in Cowboys stadium.
So back off the ledge, my Eagle friends. Because next year is going to be one helluva ride.
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