Vick and Kolb look to fill the shoes of Donovan McNabb for the Birds
The 2010 Philadelphia Eagles will take the field Sunday looking quite different from any Eagles team in recent history. This version of the Eagles will be young, fast and energetic, but will they be able to turn those attributes into victories.
Any assessment of the 2010 Eagles has to start on the offensive side of the ball. The offense has clearly been the brainchild of head coach Andy Reid since he arrived in Philly and for the first time he will not have Donovan McNabb on his roster. This means the tide has turned when in comes to the quarterback position.
The Kevin Kolb era is underway. Although a ton of Eagles fans have expressed a great deal of pleasure when it comes to McNabb being gone and Kolb being in, now the honeymoon is over. It's time for Kolb to deliver. Of course it is a work in progress, but Philly fans are not necessarily the most forgiving or patient fans in sports.
I'm not saying that Kolb cannot deliver right away, but I think it is very clear by looking at his sub par preseason that it may not come as quickly as most people would like. I do believe that Reid will do his best to mold this offense around Kolb's strengths, but that can only take him so far because only he can perform on the field.
The next assessment has to be of the skill positions, RB, WR, and TE. Lesean McCoy will have big shoes to fill with the departure of Brian Westbrook. Of course the Eagles are not a run happy team, but at the same time, Westbrook always seemed to make the most of the touches he got. McCoy will have to strive to do the same.
He showed some flashes this preseason carrying the ball, including an impressive 18 yard touchdown run early in the game against Kansas City. The biggest question will be whether or not he can have the same effect in the passing game thus making the opposing LB's and/or safeties worry about him.
McCoy will of course have the help of FB Leonard Weaver and RB Mike Bell.
As far as the receivers are concerned, it's all about Celek, Jackson, and Maclin. Celek is clearly poised to have a breakout season if he and Kolb can get on the same page. Celek had a pro bowl caliber season last year and became a favorite receiver of Donovan McNabb. However, the first couple of preseason games clearly showed that he and Kolb do not have the same chemistry.
Desean Jackson has all of the makings of a star WR. He clearly needs to continue his positive progression. He is becoming a national name, appearing in several commercials over the off season and it is time for him to validate that attention. He made the pro bowl team last season and there is no reason to believe he will not be back this year.
The major question for Jackson will be can he be as effective without Donovan's deep ball. Jackson is not big and that deep ball was a huge part of why he rarely ever took big hits, but with Kolb, Jackson will have to go across the middle thus meaning more big hits like the one he took against Kansas City which knocked him out of the game.
Maclin's only focus will be to avoid a sophomore slump and to become more aggressive across the middle. He may have to take pointers from Jason Avant when it comes to toughness.
And you cannot forget about Mike Vick. The jury is out on what role he will exactly play, but I expect to see Vick playing a major role because the Eagles are quite frugal and there is no way they are going to pay a backup QB 5 million dollars. I think Reid will implement Vick on third down and in the Red Zone quite effectively.
Finally you have to assess the offensive line. As it stands, it looks like the line will be LT Jason Peters LG Todd Herremanns C Jamaal Jackson RG Nick Cole and RT Winston Justice. By ending the "Andrews Experiment", I expect the offensive line to be much more focused and if healthy not quite the issue that some expect them to be.
When assessing the schedule, I expect to see the Eagles finish 9-7 which would be on the high end considering their tough schedule. I think the bulk of their success lies with the offense, because I like what I'm seeing from the defense. I think Cole and Graham are going to be a force on the line. Stewart Bradley and Ernie Sims are going to be fearless in the middle. And if Nate Allen can play somewhat better than Macho Harris (which shouldn't be too hard), I expect to see a much improved Eagles defense.