Philadephia Eagles: 5 Players Who Will Break Out in 2011
LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin broke out in a big way in 2010.
McCoy rushed for over 1,000 yards and had over 500 more receiving yards, while Maclin hauled in 10 touchdown passes. Both players had solid rookie seasons but came back with even better numbers in their second seasons.
Which players will have a McCoy or Maclin-like breakout season in 2011?
The Philadelphia Eagles seem to be just a couple of players away from being legitimate Superbowl contenders. Those couple players don't necessarily have to come via free agency. It might come from players already on the roster taking their game to the next level.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
King Dunlap isn't the ideal breakout candidate for the Eagles. He is the backup to right tackle Winston Justice.
King Dunlap has been an interesting case. He was one of the top linemen going into 2007 and was thought to be an early round draft pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. He eventually lost his starting left tackle spot to a freshman while at Auburn.
He was a seventh-round draft pick and had to fight his way onto the team as a rookie. Dunlap has never been a full time starter in the NFL, but he did look outstanding in a start in 2010.
He started in place for injured Jason Peters in Week 6 against the Falcons. He was matched up against John Abraham. Dunlap held Abraham to just one tackle and no sacks. Dunlap proved he has starter potential.
In 2010, starting right tackle Winston Justice had a very down year. He suffered through a knee injury and continued to commit penalties consistently throughout the season. He was pulled from the playoff game versus the Packers.
With the hiring of offensive line coach Howard Mudd, it's an excellent opportunity for Dunlap to impress and earn a starting job.
Al Bello/Getty Images
Riley Cooper has all the physical tools to be everything that Hank Baskett was supposed to be. At 6'3, 220 pounds, Riley Cooper is a strong, possession receiver. Six of his seven catches in 2010 went for either a touchdown or a first down.
Cooper didn't have a magical rookie season by any stretch, but he didn't show enough to prove he can be a solid possession wide out in a very fast offense. Another season gaining a connection with Michael Vick should result in a huge boost in Cooper's numbers going into 2011.
The biggest obstacle for Cooper might not be getting touches or beating man coverage, but it may be the potential signing of Plaxico Burress. Burress would make Cooper obsolete and maybe even expendable. The Eagles could use both players in short yardage and red zone packages, but Burress would take Cooper out of several plays.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Pretty obvious choice here.
After Stewart Bradley dislocated his elbow in Week 14 against the Cowboys, Jamar Chaney thrived at his middle linebacker spot. Chaney made seven tackles in relief of Chaney and followed that performance with 16 tackles in his first career start in week 15.
Stewart Bradley is currently a free agent, and whether or not he will be re-signed is still unknown. What is known however, Jamar Chaney is already an outstanding linebacker. He played outside and inside linebacker at college. If Bradley was brought back in 2011, Chaney could move to the weak or strong side if needed.
Bottom line, Chaney will be a starting linebacker for the Eagles in 2011.
Chaney has the speed to cover the entire field and doesn't shy away from blockers. He doesn't seem to have a major weakness in his game.
He is a lock to breakout in 2011, wherever he plays.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The pass rush for the Eagles in 2010 fizzled out when they needed them the most. A new defensive line coach and defensive coordinator should help. Trent Cole and Antonio Dixon had solid seasons, but they need more help from the rest of the line.
Somebody is going to have a breakout performance playing for Jim Washburn's defensive line scheme. Darryl Tapp is an ideal choice to thrive for coach Washburn. Tapp is very similar to 2010 breakout star, Jason Babin.
Babin played just one year under Washburn at Tennessee and finished 2010 with 13 sacks. Both players were both early round draft picks, had disappointing numbers in previous years and are both similar physically.
Tapp will have to take a starting job away from 33-year-old Juqua Parker. Parker is expected to make $4.3 million in 2010. Parker could be a "cap casualty" meaning that Tapp won't have to beat him out. With Brandon Graham coming off a ACL tear last December, someone will have to step up at defensive end besides Trent Cole.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The weak side linebacker position for the Eagles appears to be wide open.
Almost every linebacker on the Eagles has been rumored to be a potential starter, from rookies Casey Matthews and Brian Rolle to last year's middle linebackers Stewart Bradley and Jamar Chaney. But the guy who makes the most sense at that spot is Keenan Clayton.
Clayton made just one start in 2010, in the week 17 backups game against the Cowboys. Clayton showed a lot of ability covering Pro Bowl tight end Jason Whitten. Clayton has decent size for an outside linebacker at 230 pounds but has the speed and coverage skills of a safety.
Juan Castillo and his defensive coach already know how good Clayton is in pass coverage. What they don't know is how he will hold up against the run on a consistent basis.
Moise Fokou and Jamar Chaney have proven their worth against the run, and Clayton will have to show enough in training camp and preseason to earn a starting role.
Clayton has the experience, albeit very limited, at the position over the other candidates for the WILL job.
If Clayton can earn a starting role, the Eagles will finally have a linebacker who can actually cover tight ends.