Nnamdi Asomugha to Eagles: 5 Reasons Why the Eagles Are Now the Team to Beat
The Philadelphia Eagles have sent a message to the rest of the league in the last 72 hours of free agency. That message is the Eagles are swinging for the fences. It's Superbowl or bust. Under Andy Reid, the Eagles have fallen a game short of the Superbowl four times, while also losing Superbowl XXXIX.
It's clear the time to win is now. The fanbase in Philadelphia is getting impatient, and for good reason. The Eagles have never won a Superbowl and haven't won a league title since 1960. Obviously, the Eagles are going all in this offseason.
For those keeping track at home, so far the Eagles have signed one the best corners, one of the best pass rushers from 2010, another top notch corner, a former Pro Bowl quarterback to backup Michael Vick, and one of the best defensive tackles on the open market.
The Eagles have positioned themselves as the team to beat. Other contenders have made a nice move or two, but no one else has put as many Pro Bowl caliber players on an already really good football team.
The Offense Will Be Even Better
The Eagles' offense last year was fast and explosive, capable of scoring on any given play. The offense overcame a mediocre defense and a couple slow starts, which led to four fourth quarter comebacks in a span of five weeks.
The offense finished second in total yards and third in total points. Not bad for an offense that had a change at quarterback early in the season, a second year running back, a star receiver who suffered a serious concussion and an offensive line that was dreadful on the right side.
There is no reason why the Eagles offense can't get even better in 2011. Michael Vick is going into the season as the starting quarterback. Vick has an entire season under his belt, gaining a connection and chemistry with his receivers and a better feel for the offense.
The biggest fear with the Eagles' offense going into 2011 was that Vick couldn't survive an entire season. To combat that the Eagles have signed Vince Young, who has a 30-18 career record. Young has a similar skills set as Vick. Young runs like a running back but has a rocket for an arm to boot.
The Eagles offense looks poised to set some records and make last year's offense look unmemorable.
The Secondary Is Scary Good
The Eagles' secondary was looking pretty solid after trading for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the Kevin Kolb deal. They had solved their right cornerback dilemma, as so we thought. Then the Eagles shocked the football world by also signing the top prize in free agency, Nnamdi Asomugha.
In the same conference with teams absolutely loaded at wide receiver like the Giants, Saints, Packers and Falcons, the Eagles signing of Asomugha was huge. Asante Samuel has stated he doesn't want to be traded, while Rodgers-Cromartie has said he would be willing to cover the slot and learn from two of the best corners in the game.
Samuel is the best in the game at jumping routes, Asomugha physically dominates receivers for four quarters and Rodgers-Cromartie's speed and length combo make him impossible to beat deep.
If you were to compile a list of the 10 best cornerbacks in the game, all three of these guys would be on that list. In a pass-happy league, having three studs at corner makes the Eagles defense very scary.
Jim Washburn Has a Ton of Talent to Work with
Jim Washburn is the best defensive line coach in the game. He gets the most out of his players. Just ask Jason Babin, who never had more than five sacks in a season, and in one season under Washburn he had 12.5 sacks.
Jim Washburn gets the most out of his players but has never had more than one or two good players to work with on his line. This season, however, Washburn has loaded group of linemen, with about 15 different players that could make the team.
The Eagles signed former Packers defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins and traded away Brodrick Bunkley to the Cleveland Browns. The Eagles now have three Pro Bowl caliber players at defensive tackle with Mike Patterson, Jenkins and Antonio Dixon along with a very good inside pass rusher in Trevor Laws.
Patterson, Dixon and Jenkins will be battling for the two starting defensive tackle spots, but Washburn plans to rotate his line a lot so all four guys will get a ton of reps.
The Eagles have a really good but really tough problem at defensive end. They have eight or nine guys that could make the team depending on how healthy Brandon Graham will be this season.
Trent Cole and Jason Babin are the obvious starters, but several players will be fighting for a spot on the team as part of the defensive line rotation. Darryl Tapp and Juqua Parker had decent numbers in 2010 but will be challenged by younger guys like Phillip Hunt and Ricky Sapp who are built perfectly for the wide nine scheme that Washburn uses.
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim is another player to watch in camp and through preseason. A 2010 third-round pick, Te'o-Nesheim had a pretty pedestrian season only playing in six games with two total tackles and one sack. He has shown a ton of growth so far in training camp, but his play in preseason will determine if he earns a spot on the team and a bigger role in 2011.
Victor Abiamiri finally looks healthy, for now. He is starting to look like the player the Eagles drafted in the second-round back in 2007 and push someone out before preseason is up. Brandon Graham is the wildcard in all the position battles at defensive end. If he is put on IR, someone else will make the team who would otherwise be cut.
Bottom line, the cupboard is certainly not bare and the miracle worker of defensive linemen known as Jim Washburn is in a position to make a lot of players into elite, quarterback hunting machines.
The Offensive Line Will Protect Michael Vick
The Eagles offensive line is going through a major change in 2011, despite not adding any major additions outside of first-round draft pick Danny Watkins.
In years past, the Eagles have sought after slow and overweight linemen like Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles. Those days are gone now, as the Eagles have brought in coaching legend Howard Mudd to improve the pass protection.
Howard Mudd prefers more athletic linemen who move well. Mudd's line is more suited to block against teams that run the 3-4, which the Eagles will play against nine times in 2011.
Danny Watkins will take over for departed Jean-Gilles at right guard, while a healthier Winston Justice will be back protecting Michael Vick's blindside in 2011 unless King Dunlap can impress Mudd enough during preseason while Justice will still be recovering from his knee surgery.
Jamaal Jackson is also back at center and is expected to be the starting center once again with last year's starter Mike McGlynn as his backup in case he has a third straight season ending injury.
Last year the Eagles gave up 49 sacks, which led to a very beaten down Vick at the end of the season, which lead to some mediocre performances in his final two starts.
With a much better pass protection, a very explosive offense will have even more time to pick apart defenses and create even more big 80-yard-plus plays in 2011.
The Eagles Were a Contender Last Season
The one things people seem to forget about the Eagles is that they were the closest team to beating the Packers in the playoffs last year. They were driving late for the go ahead score until Michael Vick under threw Riley Cooper in the end zone and was picked off by Tramon Williams.
The Eagles were a contender last year despite having a number of serious weaknesses. The Eagles had a major liability at right corner, no pass protection on the right side of the line, a faded pass rush, the worst red zone team on both sides of the ball and they missed two field goals against the Packers in that Wildcard Playoff game.
The Eagles have clearly upgraded all the areas of need. They brought in a clutch college kicker named Alex Henery to replace the fading David Akers. They certainly fixed their corner problem with the additions of Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. They fixed the right side of the line by drafting Danny Watkins and the hiring of the best offensive line coach in the game in Howard Mudd.
The Eagles looked poise to win now. The hiring of two major assistant coaches, the five former Pro Bowl additions they have made so far in the off-season and along with the fact that the they have kept a very talented offense intact have made this team the team to beat.
Nobody has done more to improve their team that made the playoffs last year, and nobody wants to play this team once the season gets underway on September 11th.