Will the Eagles do in 2011 what the Patriots could not in 2007?
Reid and owner Jeffrey Lurie have made monumental improvements to an already solid 2010 Eagles team. Philadelphia has completely renovated the offensive line and defensive secondary, and made strong additions to the passing game, defensive line and linebacker positions. And throughout all of the free-agent madness, they've retained all of their key producers from 2010.
So, what makes me think that the 2011 Eagles are in any way, shape or form more capable of perfection than the 2007 Patriots? Let's analyze.
The offensive weapons are back. Despite one of the weakest, most injury-plagued offensive lines in the NFL, the 2010 Eagles had one of the NFL’s most productive offenses, scoring 27.4 points per game (third in NFL) and averaging 389 yards per game (second in NFL) with an average of 154.2 of those yards coming on the ground (fifth in NFL). The Eagles' run game averaged 5.4 yards per carry, a whole half yard higher than any other team in the NFL.
While Michael Vick is the most dangerous running quarterback in the NFL and plays a major role in the Eagles’ run game, the 2010 Eagles’ ground attack was led by 22-year-old LeSean McCoy (1,080 yards; 5.2 avg.). The Eagles’ passing attack ranked ninth in the league in yards and eighth in scoring in 2010. With the additions of Steve Smith and Ronnie Brown, the 2011 Eagles will be even more dangerous through the air. Vick will have the option of throwing to any of six receivers who had more than 500 receiving yards in 2010.
The biggest concern for the Eagles’ offense coming into 2011 was the offensive line.
Vick was sacked 34 times in just 12 games, making him the fifth most sacked quarterback in 2010. The Eagles hired O-Line Coach Howard Mudd to manage Vick’s pocket this season. Mudd has coached the Colts O-Line for the past decade. In 1997, the year before Mudd took over, Colts QB Jim Harbaugh was sacked 41 times, making him, like Vick, the fifth most sacked quarterback in the NFL. The following year, under Mudd’s management, Peyton Manning was sacked only 22 times. During Mudd’s 12 years as the Colts’ Offensive Line Coach, Peyton Manning was sacked an average of 17.9 times per season.
The Eagles have also added tackle Ryan Harris, guard Evan Mathis and first-round draft pick Danny Watkins to their lineup. With the new coaching, key additions and an Eagles O-Line that has recovered from an injury-plagued 2010 season, the Eagles' offense that was already one of the NFL’s most dangerous in 2010 is better and deeper and will dominate in 2011, much like the Patriots did in 2007.
The 2010 Eagles defense fell far below the standards of the typical Andy Reid Eagles team. The Achilles' heel of the team was the pass defense, which gave up 31 touchdowns in 2010 (third most in NFL). The Eagles wasted no time this preseason in making monumental adjustments, signing two Pro Bowl DBs and a Pro Bowl defensive end. The Eagles' defensive backfield of 2011 has more talent than the Dawkins-Vincent-Taylor combination that dominated throughout the early 2000s and the '07 Pats' Samuel-Harrison-Hobbs combination. Pro-Bowler Asante Samuel, who ranked second in the NFL in INTs, will still be anchoring the secondary. Samuel will be accompanied by newly-signed free agent Nnamdi Asomugha (Pro Bowl ’09, ’10, ’11), a 6’2” 210-pound, hard-hitting shut-down corner from Oakland, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Pro Bowl ’10), the No. 16 overall draft pick in 2008 who runs a 4.33 40-yard dash and can keep up with any receiver in the NFL. Expect a lot of passes caught by assistant coaches and a lot of sacks due to a lack of open receivers.
This season’s pass rush will be led by DE/DLs Mike Patterson, Jaqua Parker, Trent Cole (Pro Bowl ’10) and newly acquired Jason Babin (Pro Bowl ’11) and Cullen Jenkins. In 2010, this combination of defensive lineman outsacked the '07 Pats D-line 37.5-17.
The only question marks for the Eagles are the safety and linebacker positions. Safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are both playing their second seasons in 2011 and linebackers Casey Matthews (rookie), Jamar Chanay (second season) and Moise Fokou (third season) all have the talent and skills to make great NFL linebackers, but have little NFL experience. Don’t expect the inexperience of these players to be a factor. With three Pro-Bowl DBs in the secondary, Coleman and Allen will have plenty of assistance. And with two Pro Bowl DEs in the lineup, expect a solid pass rush and run defense.
The depth and talent on the 2011 Eagles defense is by far the best in the NFL.
It's clear that something special is happening in Philadelphia in 2011. There's an eerily calm buzz in the air in Lehigh this August, and every Eagles fan who lives within a hundred miles of Philadelphia can sense it.
After nine playoff appearances with the Eagles, five NFC Championships, one Super Bowl and nothing to show, Andy Reid will not let another team hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of this season. This is his season, and he's created the perfect storm. This year's Eagles team is like no other team we've ever seen in the history of the NFL. Don't be surprised if a February Sports Illustrated cover reads "Perfection" on the front.
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