The Eagles somehow found themselves at the bottom of the NFC East last season. But don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re not a good team.
They fell into a situation very similar to the Houston Texans. Their division, especially by NFC standards, was a buzzsaw last season.
The best team in the NFC, the Cowboys, won the division. The second-best team in the division ended up winning the Super Bowl. The third-best team in the division got hot late and snuck into the playoffs.
That left the Eagles, the team that spent the better part of this decade on top of the NFC East, as the only team left out of the playoffs.
This season, they hope to get back to the top of the NFC East.
They do have one thing going for them. Andy Reid is the best head coach in the NFC East, by a large margin. Match him up to the favorite, the Cowboys and Wade Phillips, and it’s a mismatch the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Tyson-Spinks.
You know, if Spinks were an oversized puppet with an meddling owner and his future replacement already on his staff.
Donovan McNabb is at a crossroads. He needs to prove he can stay healthy and lead this team back to the playoffs. There have been grumblings that his time could be coming to an end in Philadelphia. This season will go a long way towards deciding whether or not those rumors are destined to come true.
Correll Buckhalter is a decent backup and provides the power game Westbrook doesn’t. At this point, I’ve given up on my past prediction that he’s going to turn into a great NFL running back.
But he’s a serviceable backup and a decent change-of-pace that allows Westbrook to rest every now and again.
The offensive line is what makes this offense go. Jon Runyan is a steady veteran. Todd Herremans is serviceable, but is an injury concern. Jamaal Jackson is huge for a center, but he gets the job done. Shawn Andrews had issues with depression this offseason, but if he can put them behind him, he’s one of the best at what he does. Tra Thomas is old, but he can still do the job.
L.J. Smith is an underrated tight end. He’ll help McNabb, as he’s as good a security blanket as they come.
The problem with this offense is the wide receivers. Both starters, Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis, are broken. Jason Avant and Hank Basket are OK, but neither will light the world on fire.
DeSean Jackson is a dynamic talent, a guy I had rated as the best wide receiver in the draft. He’ll be thrust into the spotlight early, and the success of the passing game may have a lot to do with how well he handles the spotlight.
I don’t usually like rookie wide receivers, but I think the Eagles have something in Jackson.
On the defensive side, the Eagles look pretty good.
Their secondary is tremendous. Lito Sheppard, Asante Samuel, and Sheldon Brown are all good enough to be a feature cornerback anywhere else. Brian Dawkins is the glue that holds the secondary together. Quintin Mikell is at least average at the strong-safety spot.
The linebackers are going to be decent. Stewart Bradley looked good last season when given the chance to start. Omar Gaither is decent, even if he gets eaten up by blockers on occasion. Chris Cocong has all the tools to become a superstar.
On the defensive line, Trent Cole is a sack machine. Brodrick Bunkley is a quality starter on the inside. Mike Patterson is one of the more underrated defensive lineman in football. Juqua Parker (is Thomas his maiden name? What happened here?) may be the only soft spot on the defensive line. But all around, the defensive line is a strength, not a weakness.
The Eagles are not that far removed from being the best team in the NFC East. I’m not sure they can beat out the Cowboys in the regular season, but they’re a heck of a lot closer than some people realize.
He’s fast, he can catch, he gets open, and he makes plays after he gets the ball. Yes, he’s a rookie. Yes, you usually stay away from rookie wide receivers.
But given the injury situation, he’s going to be a big part of this offense.
Fighting for draft picks, fighting for the playoffs, or contending for the Super Bowl.
The Eagles, in this writer’s humble opinion, are contending for the Super Bowl.
They’ll finish below the Cowboys, somewhere between nine and 11 wins. But if the Eagles face the Cowboys in the playoffs, is anyone worried that they’ll lose?
Sean Crowe is a Senior Writer and an NFL Community Leader at Bleacher Report. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His archive can be found here. You can find everything he writes, including articles for other publications, here.