Philadelphia Eagles: Top 5 Non-Pro Bowl Talents: Offense Edition
Over the next couple of days I'm going to go over some players currently on the Philadelphia Eagles who are already key players on offense and defense who did not make it into the 2009 Pro Bowl.
Players like Donovan McNabb and DeSean Jackson will not be mentioned in this piece, nor will any other player that made the Pro Bowl last season.
We will take a look at their 2009 stats, if applicable, and also discuss how they can continue to grow in the Eagles' West Coast offense. Every player is a vital player but there are just some pieces more important to have production out of than others.
RB LeSean McCoy
Coming into only his second NFL season, LeSean McCoy has some of the biggest pressures on his shoulders in 2010.
After Brian Westbrook missed a big portion of the 2009 season due to injury, LeSean stepped in and played very well for a rookie. He set multiple franchise records for rookies and sits at the top of one of those categories. Here are those records:
He ranks first in Eagles history in rookie rushing yards with 637.
He ranks second in rookie yards from scrimmage with 945 yards.
He finished third among every NFL rookie in rushing yards (637) in 2009.
With the release of veteran Brian Westbrook, McCoy is the key holder to be the starting RB for the Eagles; while its important for him remember who he is replacing, it's even more important that he just be himself.
It is historically unusual for such a young player to become a starter for the Eagles, but the emergence of DeSean Jackson might be opening some eyes. It all started when the Eagles drafted WR Reggie Brown (later traded to the Bucs) when he had a very promising year, and it happened again with DeSean.
Is McCoy ready to make the most of this opportunity and become a legitimate threat in the backfield?
TE Brent Celek
TE Brent Celek had a breakout type of year, emerging as one of Donovan McNabb's top receivers alongside DeSean Jackson.
Many experts believed midway through the season that Celek was a shoo-in for the Pro Bowl.
Brent definitely did his part in 2009. He amassed 971 yards on 76 receptions while posting eight touchdowns in the regular season. He started all 16 games as the TE for the Eagles and averaged 12.8 yards per reception.
It will be tough for Celek to put up those same numbers in 2010 with other skill players like WRs DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant and backs LeSean McCoy, Mike Bell, and Leonard Weaver all in the mix.
I still think think that if Brent can continue to use his ability to get open and break tackles, he can still have a chance to be named to his first Pro Bowl in 2010.
WR Jeremy Maclin
Jeremy Maclin somehow slipped to the 19th selection in the 2009 draft and the Eagles moved up to get him.
Maclin was a premier wideout at Missouri and many experts had him being drafted in the top ten of the first round, some even as early as the top five.
It was only when Oakland Raiders owner Al "need for speed" Davis selected WR Darrius Heyward-Bay with their first overall selection that Maclin dropped in the draft for the Eagles to grab.
Although Maclin did not put up the same numbers as DeSean Jackson did as a rookie, he still contributed nicely in the 2009 season.
Maclin notched 56 catches for 773 yards, which both rank fourth among Eagles rookies all-time.
Jeremy also had a phenomenal postseason debut.
In the Wild Card game against the Dallas Cowboys, he notched another touchdown catch and added 146 yards to his season total.
Another accomplishment of Maclin's is that he is the only rookie wideout who posted two touchdowns in a game, which came in the win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 11, 2009.
Both of those touchdowns were 40-plus-yard receptions which is promising, knowing he is only going to become a more consistent deep threat for the Eagles.
With the expectation that Maclin will improve with a full season under his belt, the Eagles could prove to have one of the best receiving tandems in the league.
T Winston Justice
What a 180 Winston Justice did after that awful display in 2008 during the Eagles - Giants game, allowing QB Donovan McNabb to get sacked six times.
But 2009 was a different chapter in Winston's NFL story.
Justice was served when he came out in 2009 and became a very stable RT for the Eagles. This after many (including myself) figured him to be a offseason release last year.
It was in the 2009 preseason that he really opened the eyes of the Eagles' front office and also got him the starting job at RT in 2009. It was also that same showing that told the Eagles it would be smart to extend him to a four-year deal, keeping him in Philly until 2013.
When Winston was asked why he loved playing on the offensive line he stated, "I love working hard and that's the reputation that O-linemen have. I also like the competition every single play."
With the departure of Shawn Andrews, who was thought to be the Eagles' starting RT at the beginning of 2009, it looks as if the starting RT job is Winston's to lose.
Is he up to the task to continue to work extremely hard and become one of the more prominent tackles in the league? Or was 2009 just a fluke?
WR Jason Avant
WR Jason Avant simply came out of nowhere in 2009 and emerged as the Eagles' third receiving option.
Jason is not the fastest man on the Eagles squad, but it is debatable whether or not he has the best hands on the team—if not in the entire league.
In 2009 Avant was in the mix to get some real playing time and he made the most out of it. He is a fearless receiver who will make spectacular diving catches, and who will bobble the ball after it bounces off of a defender only to notch a touchdown (as seen in the picture).
Not only that, but if it's 3rd-and-long, opposing defenses better know where Avant is, because even if he catches the ball before the first down marker, you better believe he has a better chance of getting that first than they do stopping him.
Out of 37 career third-down catches, Avant has converted 32 of them for first downs, which include a 3rd-and-24 against the Giants in 2009, when Jason caught the ball for about a 17-yard gain and then fought for the remaining yards.
When Avant was asked about his ability to make plays in the slot he had this to say:
"Its called taxing. You go over the middle, you're going to have to pay a tax. You can do business there, but you are going to get taxed. That tax is getting hit. You get used to it"
I did say he was a fearless receiver, right? He knows he is going to get "taxed" by some of the leagues best defensive backs and it doesn't phase him a bit. Having Avant as the Eagles' third receiving option gives the Eagles the best trio in the league hands down.
In 2009 Avant posted 41 catches for 587 yards and three touchdowns as the third receiver. Those are promising numbers for a guy who isn't a starter, and Avant is clearly the best option in the slot for the Eagles, which is why they extended him.