Philadelphia Eagles 2011-2012: Predicting Individual Awards for the Eagles
The Eagles have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. Not only will they compete for a championship this year, they have a chance to remain an elite team for many years to come because of the elite, young talent.
If the Eagles defense improves, the team should be considered one of the favorites to go to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl.
Here's a look at my predictions of individual awards for the Eagles.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: OG Danny Watkins
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Probably the last team I expected to select Danny Watkins was the Philadelphia Eagles.
Andy Reid is obsessed in making the team even younger, so selecting a 26-year-old guard in the first round did not seem to be a Reid-esque move.
Watkins, though, has immense potential and dominated at Baylor even though he was only in his third year playing organized football.
Reid loves versatility and Watkins can play every position on the offensive line. Watkins fits the mold of a "Howard Mudd" type of offensive lineman, as he is an athletic lineman who is fluid pulling and moving around.
Maurkice Pouncey of the Steelers last season anchored the line and I expect the same type of results for Watkins.
He will solidify the guard position, helping out the embattled Winston Justice.
Look for Vick to take fewer shots because of the addition of Watkins.
RB Dion Lewis
Dion Lewis went from being in the same backfield in Pittsburgh with current starting running back LeSean McCoy to playing with him in Philadelphia. He should assume the backup role once Jerome Harrison leaves in free agency.
Lewis is a smaller back at 5'7'', 192 pounds, but he was a workhorse at Pittsburgh.
Though he does not have elite speed, he is more football fast and has great vision like McCoy. He sees the hole and hits it fast.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: SS Jaiquawn Jarrett
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Jarrett is a local product from Temple University. He is fast enough to cover slot receivers and tight ends but struggles in deep coverage. Though inconsistent, Jarrett is a big hitter in the run game and could be a physical presence in the secondary.
Jarrett could form a great tandem with the rangy Nate Allen. Allen has great speed for a safety and excels in coverage. Jarrett is more of a run-defending safety and has huge potential to develop.
He was a great blitzer for Temple and played faster than his 4.6 time.
He struggles with his technique and can get caught flat-footed, but those can be coachable.
The Eagles have lacked physicality at the safety position since Brian Dawkins, so Jarrett could make an impact for the back end of the defense, daring players to try to catch a pass near him.
LB Casey Matthews
While Matthews does not have the physical tools, he has a relentless motor and never stops working on and off the field.
Matthews can play all three linebacking spots, though he would excel in the middle, calling the plays out for the defense.
Matthews is only 6'1'', 232 pounds, but has the heart and is one of the best at reading and reacting quickly.
At worst, Matthews becomes a special teams star.
Special Teams Player of the Year: K Alex Henery
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People were calling Henery the best kicker to enter the draft in a while. He consistently hit bombs beyond 50 yards accurately.
He hit 18 of 19 of his field goals and 10 of 11 beyond 40 this past season at Nebraska, a notoriously bad-weather place. Playing at Nebraska should prepare Henery to kick in Philadelphia in the fall, when the wind howls in 20 different directions.
Henery has immense talent and Bobby April should be ecstatic about the draft pick. Henery hit a 57-yard field goal to win a game against Colorado, showing his poise and clutchness.
Sadly, though, look for the David Akers era to end in Philly.
S Colt Anderson
The signing of Colt Anderson midseason last year tremendously improved the Eagles poor kickoff coverage.
Anderson led the team in special team tackles and was a big hitter on kickoff returns
Assistant of the Year: Defensive Line Coach Jim Washburn
Washburn is considered a "get in your face" kind of guy. He is not scared to speak his mind and is a perfect motivator for a struggling defensive line. The Eagles have players with tons of potential on the line, but they need someone like Washburn to motivate them to play at their best.
Under Washburn, players such as Jevon Kearse, Jason Babin, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Kevin Carter and Albert Haynesworth all have gone to the Pro Bowl.
Haynesworth especially praised Washburn, saying that he was a teacher of the fundamentals of the game and was not afraid to make an example of you for the entire defensive line.
Haynesworth acknowledges Washburn's contribution to his career.
Jason Babin, who was a journeyman defensive end previously with the Eagles, especially blossomed under the guidance of Washburn.
The 61-year-old Washburn obviously can help the Eagles' underachieving line. Players such as Daniel Teo-Nesheim, Brandon Graham, Brodrick Bunkley and many others can use some real defensive coaching, unlike what former line coach Rory Segrest provided.
Under Segrest, there was not much progression from the younger defensive linemen, and veterans such as Cole and Juque Parker slowed down the second half of the year.
Washburn should transform the line into an above average one, thus improving the defense as a whole.
Offensive line coach Howard Mudd
Mudd constructed one of the best lines in Indianapolis under Tony Dungy, with a bunch of no-names. He can turn any below average lineman into a decent starter.
A player like Winston Justice should benefit from Mudd, who is considered the best offensive line coach in football, because he still has potential but has to work on his technique.
Michael Vick should be taking less hits because of the addition of Mudd.
Comeback Player of the Year: FS Nate Allen
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Allen is a rangy safety and my only question was if he could be a playmaker at the next level. He certainly proved that, recording three interceptions, before his season was cut short because of injury.
Though he does not offer much in the run game, Allen was a solid, dependable player in the third line of defense.
He was a smart defender and should be healthy for the start of the season.
With a physical presence in Jarrett playing next to him, Allen will have to assume the role of a cover safety, something he excels in.
DE Brandon Graham
Graham was the Eagles first-round pick last year and though he struggled early on in the season, he was a capable backup to Trent Cole.
In fact, Cole's best moments this season were when Graham was playing opposite of him.
After Graham tore his ACL in December, Cole was facing more double teams, limiting his production and slowing him down.
Graham may not be ready until midseason, but if he comes back with similar explosion we saw last season, he could make an impact across from Cole.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB LeSean McCoy
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LeSean McCoy ascended to stardom last year and should be the focal point of the offense.
I published an article a few days ago on why the Eagles will have the NFL's best offense, and McCoy was one of the reasons.
Here is what I said:
McCoy may not have elite speed, but he has good enough agility to break open huge gains. He can run with power and run over safeties. He may have some of the best hands for a running back in all of football.
McCoy caught 78 balls last season and was one of Vick's top targets when he was pressured.
When he came out of Pittsburgh, McCoy's blocking skills were poor, but last season the Eagles trusted him greatly, and he responded in a great way. McCoy was physical and smart enough to understand complex blitz schemes.
McCoy accounted for 1,672 of the total 6,230 yards, about 26.8 percent of the total offense.
That was only his first year starting, so he will improve entering his third season in the league.
Andy Reid depended on Vick too much to make the big play, so when he watches tape of the 2010 season, he will notice McCoy jump started the offense on numerous occasions.
McCoy will put up huge statistics, especially with the improved offensive line.
Honorable Mention: Michael Vick
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Jamar Chaney
In the list, this is the only pick that may be "shocking," especially over stars like Asante Samuel and Trent Cole.
Jamar Chaney, though, was one of the better middle linebackers, and he only started a few games.
He did make mistakes, like any rookie, but for the most part, he showed his immense potential. Chaney is a fundamentally sound tackler, who is aggressive around the ball. He can cover and has great speed and can even blitz.
In the run game, Chaney proved to be an above average tackler. He has to work on his coverage skills, but he made numerous plays in coverage.
Chaney could make the jump to being considered one of the best in the business if he continues with his great work ethic.
Jim Washburn's aggressive defensive line scheme will call for the linebackers to play the run well and Chaney fits the role.
CB Asante Samuel
Asante Samuel is the best playmaking corner in the league. He is a ball-hawk and can read the quarterback at ease. Samuel takes chances, but no one is as successful as him.
He was one of the least targeted corners in the league last season and understandably so. Samuel still struggles in tackling, but with the amount of interceptions Samuel has, the Eagles are content with him.
DE Trent Cole
Cole almost always starts off the season in great form. By midseason this season, people considered Cole a possible defensive player of the year candidate, that's how dominant he was rushing the passer and unlike most defensive ends, stuffing the run.
Trent Cole will have to condition better in the offseason because seemingly every year he cannot maintain his incredible first-half production.
Cole may be the most important star who has to improve because he is vital to the defense. Without him rushing the passer, the secondary and linebackers are exposed.
Most Valuable Player: QB Michael Vick
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Vick is the most explosive athlete at the quarterback position and will improve because he will enter the season knowing he is the leader and the "guy."
In the same article why the Eagles will have the best offense, here is what I said about the impact of Michael Vick:
Michael Vick made the jump to actually becoming a starting quarterback. With Atlanta, if the first option was not there for Vick, he automatically tried to gain yards with his legs. In Philadelphia, Vick finally learned to look at his second and third options.
Vick made the correct decisions on most plays and was particularly effective throwing on the run.
Vick will continue to improve as he will go into the season guaranteed the starter unlike last year, when he had to practice with the second teamers in training camp.
He is currently a top 10-quarterback in the league, but I would not be surprised if people start to call him an elite QB.
With the help of Howard Mudd improving his time of release, Vick will take less hits and be fresher the entire game.
Vick will continue his improvement and with a great work ethic, he will be an MVP candidate in the league.
Honorable Mention: RB LeSean McCoy