Philadelphia Eagles: 8 Players That Can Fix the Dream Team
It's officially time to hit the panic button in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Dream Team (or the "Nightmare on Broad Street", whichever you prefer) is 1-3 after blowing their third-consecutive fourth-quarter lead, this time to the mediocre San Francisco 49ers.
Every preseason analysis of the team's weaknesses has been spot on through the first quarter of the NFL season: The linebackers have been dreadful, the safeties have been out of position and the offensive line has been porous.
But for all of the Eagles' struggles, hope remains.
Here are eight available players that can patch the Dream Team's holes and help the Eagles to get back on track.
As always, comments are welcome and appreciated.
Option No. 8: Julian Peterson, OLB
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Julian Peterson is no longer the all-world linebacker he once was. However, he showed last season that he can still provide some play-making ability from the linebacker spot, racking up 83 tackles, a few passes defended, one sack and 10 quarterback hits.
But Peterson brings more than raw physical tools to the table—he's one of the most intelligent players on the defensive side of the ball.
He understands the game, he can read the play better than any linebacker on the Eagles' roster, and he knows how to get into the backfield and cause mayhem.
With Jim Washburn's Wide 9 working to perfection in the first four games, there is no reason for the team to abandon it.
Instead, they need to find a linebacker (or linebackers) who understand how to play behind such a scheme—and Peterson is one.
Option No. 7: LenDale White, RB
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White has said he's recovered from a torn Achilles tendon that prevented him from playing at all during the 2010 season.
If that's the case, the Eagles should give him a call.
LenDale White is not an every-down back. He's not a guy that can make opponents miss in space. He's not a prolific pass-catcher. He's not a great blocker. He's not even a good all-around back.
LenDale White is a Brandon Jacobs clone, plain and simple. He's a big, mean truck of a back who can push the pile and get the tough yards on third-and-short or in the Red Zone.
He's the kind of back you can hand the ball to late in the fourth quarter with the confidence that he'll protect the rock and close out the game. (He has seven career fumbles on 672 touches.)
He's exactly what the Eagles' offense needs in the Red Zone.
Option No. 6: Lofa Tatupu, ILB
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Earlier in his career, Lofa Tatupu could be described as explosive, instinctive and extremely aggressive.
After a few knee injuries, that's no longer the case. Tatupu has certainly lost a step or two, which is especially evident in pass coverage.
But what he's lost in skill, he's gained in smarts. Lofa reads the play very well, he possesses phenomenal instincts and he still has great hands for a linebacker.
Tatupu will not be a viable long-term solution to the Eagles' problems at linebacker. However, he can be a stop-gap solution until the team is able to draft and develop a suitable replacement. At this point, that will have to do for the Eagles.
Option No. 5: Aaron Curry, LB
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Any time a former top-five draft pick is placed on the trading block two years after his selection, reg flags should go up.
When the Seahawks made Curry the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Entry Draft, many believed he was as close as it gets to a sure thing. Two years later, Curry looks like a bust.
There are a lot of things that could have gone wrong, but after watching Curry play, I'm still a believer in his ability. The raw talent is there. The speed, strength and explosiveness are there. The instincts are there.
I honestly believe Curry is a victim of the Seattle system. He's not a blitzing linebacker a la Terrell Suggs; he's a side line to side line playmaker and a solid, fundamental tackler.
He's a player that can (and should) be moved around the defensive front to force mismatches and coerce offensive audibles.
Put Aaron Curry behind the Eagles' front four and he'll find success. He's strong, he's a solid tackler and he understands how to break up plays on the outside.
As I said before: The talent that made Curry the fourth overall pick is still there. He just needs to be put in a situation that takes advantage of his unique skill set and allows him to play his brand of football.
Option No. 4: Max Starks, OL
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The idea of King Dunlap starting at LT for the Philadelphia Eagles against a pair of blitz-happy defenses is not one that inspires confidence or a positive outlook.
The Eagles need to avoid that situation by giving former Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks a call. While the massive (6-foot-8, 350 lbs) Starks has had some consistency and technique issues, those should quickly be rectified by offensive line genius Howard Mudd.
Beyond that, Starks is everything the Eagles look for in an offensive lineman: He's big, he's very quick, he's extremely mobile, he's mean and he's strong as an ox. Oh, and he can't be worse than King Dunlap.
If the Starks experiment works, the Eagles can move Todd Herremans back to guard, return Kyle Devan to the bench and solidify the offensive line for the rest of the season.
If it doesn't work, the Eagles can cut Starks and move on. They're already losing games, so that can't be a concern anymore.
Option No. 3: Darren Sharper, S
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The Eagles desperately need a safety with some veteran experience and savvy. They need a player who understands his responsibilities on the defense and who is comfortable playing the football at the break-neck pace of NFL action.
More than that, they need a vocal leader who can rally the defense and avoid catastrophic meltdowns before they happen.
A healthy Darren Sharper can do all of that and more.
At this stage in his career, Sharper won't be a Pro Bowl safety or a defensive playmaker. He'll be a steadying force, a consistent veteran presence on the back end who gets the job done. He won't make highlight-reel plays, but he won't give them up, either.
Sharper also knows how to mentor younger players, which should accelerate the development of Nate Allen and Jaiqwan Jarrett.
That's exactly what the Eagles need.
Option No. 2: Pat Williams, DT
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With Antonio Dixon done for the season thanks to a triceps injury, the Eagles have lost their best run-stopping defensive tackle.
The solution? Bring in Pat Williams.
While the older half of the Williams Wall is not the player he used to be, he's still a force to be reckoned with inside. Even at age 38, Pat Williams can collapse a pocket, bring down opposing running backs and cause all sorts of chaos in short-yardage situations.
Williams is not a long-term solution to the problem, but he's a capable old war horse that can provide some veteran leadership and get the job done.
He's not as talented as Cullen Jenkins, but he's a 350-pound bull in the trenches who knows how to stuff the run.
In short, he's exactly what the doctor ordered for the Eagles' run defense.
Option No. 1: Brian Dawkins, S
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Everyone knows the Broncos are going nowhere fast. They, like the Eagles, are 1-3. The only difference between the clubs is that Philadelphia still has hope for their season; the Broncos do not.
If the Eagles Week 4 collapse to the 49ers told us anything, it was that the team lacks heart and leadership on defense—two qualities that Brian Dawkins embodies as well as anyone in the NFL.
Dawkins is no longer the elite free safety he once was, but even at age 38 he can still deliver punishing hits, play well in coverage and lead a defense to victory.
With the Eagles' depth at cornerback, Dawkins' limitations in coverage won't matter.
Castillo can bring Dawkins into the box on running downs, which is tantamount to adding a fourth linebacker to help stop the run.
On passing downs, Dawkins can play a serviceable safety role in a Cover-2 scheme and still possesses the ability and savvy to cover a tight end one on one.
It's a perfect match.
It'll likely cost the Eagles a draft pick or two, but they already have 10 in the upcoming NFL Draft. Plus, with the way they've been drafting, Dawkins will be on the team longer than anyone they select in the fourth round.