ESPN recently released their pre-season NFL Power Rankings, which can serve as good fodder for discussion. There are aspects that most of us can agree with, and, as always when a list like this comes out, there are things that we like to dispute.
The number one team bracing the top of the list, according to ESPN, is the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
Not only is Green Bay coming off of a title year, but they are also getting players back from injury that can help them on their way to a repeat.
Running back Ryan Grant will be back in the fold after he suffered a season-ending foot injury in last season’s week one opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Grant isn’t the only upgrade to the offense, and may not even be the most significant. That potentially may belong to big-bodied tight end Jermichael Finley, who returns to the offensive rotation. Finley is recovering from his second knee injury in as many years, and looks to give stalwart quarterback Aaron Rodgers another weapon in his arsenal (as if Rodgers needs any more!).
Let’s take a look at ESPN’s third ranked team, which happens to be the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, the Eagles have had by far the loudest offseason acquiring the likes of Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Vince Young, Cullen Jenkins, and Ronnie Brown among others.
The team looks about as promising and glorious as the Titanic did when it was sitting at the dock before its excursion west nearly 100 years ago. However, as James Cameron reminded us back in his 1997 film, looks can be deceiving. The only thing that matters is results.
Philadelphia still needs to take their refurbished, polished product onto the field for 16 games and prove that they are worth the hype.
Do I personally think that the Eagles are the third best team in the league as of now?
Both of these teams are proven, inveterate playoff teams capable of making a deep push come January. As much as Eagles fans would like for that to be the case with their team, it’s simply nothing more than preseason excitement and anticipation.
The four teams that I view ahead of the Eagles are Green Bay, New York (Jets), New England and Pittsburgh. It’s not a surprise that three of those teams come from the AFC. Even though the NFC has won the past two Super Bowls, the AFC is a much deeper division.
Though the Eagles addressed their dire secondary needs with the acquisitions of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, there are indeed still holes on the team, specifically at linebacker.
For whatever reason, Andy Reid and company have neglected the heart of the defense for years. Having only spent one top two draft pick at linebacker over the past ten years (Matt McCoy in 2005), they simply view the position as expendable.
As of now in training camp, fourth-round rookie Casey Matthews is taking the starting reps at middle linebacker. Go take a look at Matthews’ scouting report, and the overall consensus is that he is undersized.
That’s not something you want to hear when the team will have to overcome running teams such as the Jets, Steelers, and Ravens if they wish to seek Lombardi glory.
The writing is on the wall that Philly’s defense is going to rely heavily on their front four and their back four assisting in the progress of their linebackers.
They had the opportunity to go after free agents such as Stephen Tulloch and Nick Barnett, but passed.
Highly touted second year player Jamar Chaney was assumed to be the team’s next middle linebacker after Stewart Bradley left for the valley of the sun. However, he will go into next season starting on the strong side.
Matthews will be taking on a large burden if he is indeed starting in the middle come week one. The Eagles really haven’t had a steady presence at middle linebacker since Jeremiah Trotter, and he helped lead the team to two NFC Championship appearances and a Super Bowl berth earlier in the decade.
Every team has their holes, but let’s just hope that the Eagles know how to cover theirs up with the surrounding talent that they have accrued throughout the past month.