Philadelphia Eagles: Jason Avant and 5 Players Ready for a Breakout Season
Here are five Eagles who should have surprisingly large impacts on just how successful Philadelphia will be in the 2011-12 season.
Jason Avant Ready to Fly with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin
Having such a deadly long-ball threat in fellow wide receiver DeSean Jackson, Avant should be able to capitalize on possessions now that most of the attention is focused on Jackson or quarterback Michael Vick.
Last season, Avant had 573 yards on 51 receptions—giving him an average of 11.2 yards per catch—and had just one touchdown.
Avant is known to be a sure-handed receiver, and he can be used when there is tight coverage around him, as he is not afraid to catch a ball in traffic when a big hit is possible.
Avant should be a part of what could become a three-headed monster, along with Jackson and other Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, that could spread out opposing defenses and create many big-play opportunities for each of the three wide receivers.
Look for Avant to continue his rise in offensive output again this season, catching for between 600-to-700 yards and scoring 3-to-6 touchdowns this coming season.
Leonard Weaver to Reclaim Pro-Bowl Form After Injury
Calling someone to have a breakout season after they already have been named to a Pro Bowl two years prior might seem like a stretch.
In Leonard Weaver's case, it is something that seems to fit just right. After his highly successful 2009 season, Weaver tore his ACL in the first game of the 2010 season and spent the rest of the season in the injured reserve.
Weaver's injury left the rushing load mostly on running back LeSean McCoy's and quarterback Michael Vick's shoulders—which the latter paid for with some big hits at times.
Having Weaver back and healthy in the backfield, McCoy and Vick won't have to rush as much and he could help keep the two healthier than the were in the 2010-2011 season—a season when Vick missed three games due to injury last season.
Look for Weaver to be back at his Pro Bowl level, rushing for around 250-to-325 yards and around 2-to-5 touchdowns, helping power the Eagles to a successful ground game in the 2011-12 season.
Riley Cooper Looks to Contribute to the Three-Headed Monster
As far as the Eagles wide receivers go, the usual targets for Michael Vick are Jackson, Avant and Jackson. Though that will continue to be the case in the coming season, Riley Cooper will have his share of moments when he can contribute to the offensive load as well.
Coming into his second season, Cooper totaled 116 yards on seven catches and one touchdown. Those numbers look pretty minuscule compared to that of the top-three Eagles wideouts, but Cooper rarely had the chance to display his talents last year.
Being that Cooper is bigger than any one of the top Eagles receivers—6'3", 222 pounds—using Cooper in red-zone situations could benefit the Eagles. Using Cooper's size when most of the attention will be paid to the other Eagles receivers and tight end Brent Celek as the main targets in the end zone, this could lead to more scoring opportunities for Cooper.
Look for Cooper to at least double his numbers from last season, which will be small in comparison to the main wide receiving core for Philadelphia, but his numbers will be just as appreciated come the end of the season.
Nate Allen Looks to Build on a Successful Rookie Season
Coming off a productive rookie season, Eagles safety Nate Allen will look to build on the experience he gained in his first season in the NFL.
Allen contributed 48 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and three interceptions last season, becoming a quality piece to the Eagles defense in just his first year. Allen became the first-and-only Eagle to amass at least two sacks and three interceptions in his rookie season.
Though Allen was placed on the injured-reserve list after having successful surgery on his ruptured right patella tendon, don't expect this setback to slow Allen down at all. Look for the South Florida product to be even more hungry and continue to grow and build on his success he had last year, which already made him one of the Eagles top defensive threats.
With having a year of experience under his belt and his drive to know the playbook inside-and-out, Allen will only build on the numbers he put up last season and could rival the defensive output of any player on the Eagles defense.
Antonio Dixon Looks to Become More Than Just a Regular Joe
Antonio Dixon, defensive tackle, went from an undrafted player who was barley contributing a year prior, to a full-on starter and key contributor in the 2010-11 season.
His numbers were decent, having 30 tackles and two sacks to his credit, and his gritty play did not go unnoticed.
Last season, Dixon was named to the USA Today's All-Joe Team—a list that honors players whose play doesn't garner the attention of the star players on a team, but are still vital to a team's success.
Already overcoming odds throughout his life and early football career, look for Dixon to be one of the most motivated returning players for the Eagles.
Now that Dixon has one year of being a starter put away and his confidence growing every game, Dixon should break out this season, becoming a regular name when you think of the key Eagles defensive play-makers.
Darryl Tapp Looks to Be Back on Top of His Game
Darryl Tapp, the Eagles sixth-year defensive end, was picked up by the Eagles in the 2010 offseason in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks.
He put up solid numbers last season, but low in comparison to what he is capable of producing.
Tapp registered 28 tackles, three interceptions and he was tied as the Eagles' leader with three fumble recoveries last season. His numbers, which are down across the board from the 2009 season—except for having a half sack more—can be attributed to him learning the Eagles' defense last season after being with the Seahawks for four years prior.
Expect Tapp to get back to his old self now that he is accustomed to the Eagles' style of defense, and has adjusted to his new surroundings.
Any improvement in the Eagles' defense will be welcomed, as they suffered a down year as far as Eagles' standards are concerned.
I would put Tapp's numbers in the 35-to-40 tackles range with 4-t-6 sacks being registered next season, and look for his continued success in fumble recoveries, hopefully hovering right around that three range that he had last year.