The Philadelphia Eagles are still mathematically in the playoffs at 4-8. Realistically the Eagles are very much out of it. The Eagles have won in back-to-back weeks just once this season, which they followed it up with back-to-back home losses. They just have too many problems to somehow sneak into the playoffs.
The Eagles still have a bright future though, with plenty of talented veterans and young players with a lot of potential. Those players in their first or second season need to start getting bigger roles in the final four weeks to see what they can do and give them some valuable experience going forward.
We have seen what the veteran players can do for the Eagles and it isn't good. DeSean Jackson is afraid to catch the ball over the middle, neither safety has looked even halfway decent this season and let's not forget what a disaster middle linebacker has been in 2011. Let's hope Andy Reid gives these five players a chance to shine this week in South Beach.
We all know how important it is to have two capable running backs in the NFL. The Houston Texans have Ben Tate and Arian Foster. The San Francisco 49ers have Kendall Hunter and Frank Gore. Even the New Orleans Saints have Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles.
The Eagles have the second-leading rusher in the NFL, LeSean McCoy. McCoy has run for 1,134 yards this season and is starting to draw some serious Barry Sanders comparisons. The Eagles might have the best running back in football, but they have lacked that one-two punch that every offense craves.
Ronnie Brown ranks second among running backs on the Eagles roster with a whopping 67 yards. Dion Lewis is clearly the second-most talented back on the Eagles roster but has amassed just nine carries this season.
Lewis needs to start getting five to 10 touches a game from here on out. He has a good burst and surprisingly good power for a back of his size. He always seems to get an extra yard on every carry and makes good decisions with the football in the backfield.
Lewis had a solid preseason, racking up 148 rushing yards and a touchdown while fighting for carries against the likes of McCoy, Brown, Graig Cooper, Eldra Buckley and Derrick Locke. Lewis was the most impressive out of all of them and has a bright future here in Philly. So why are the coaches holding him back this season?
It's time to let him loose and pound the football.
Middle linebacker has been awful each and every week this season. Casey Matthews was forced in way too early in his career and he flopped big time. Jamar Chaney was moved back to middle linebacker but has struggled almost as much.
Greg Lloyd was one of the Eagles' draft picks in the seventh round of last year's NFL draft. Lloyd is exactly what the Eagles need at linebacker but not what they want. The Eagles have favored speedy and undersized linebackers since Jeremiah Trotter left.
Jamar Chaney is more of an outside linebacker. He can't anchor a team's rush defense. He misses too many tackles in the open field and is too easily blocked in the middle of the field. The Eagles clearly need a more physical presence at MIKE linebacker.
This is where Greg Lloyd comes in. Lloyd is a physical linebacker at 6'1", 249. The Eagles have lacked the physicality against the run. They have become one of the worst-tackling teams in the NFL and inserting a player that tackles well and punishes blockers as a linebacker can't hurt right now.
Lloyd would be just a two-down linebacker as the Eagles have already stated this week that Casey Matthews and Keenan Clayton will be their nickel linebackers. Worst-case scenario with starting Greg Lloyd is that the middle linebacker position is a major weakness. That wouldn't be much of a change from the previous 12 games.
Like Lloyd, Jaiquawn Jarrett is an excellent tackler. It was what impressed scouts the most coming out of Temple in last April's draft. Tackling has been the Eagles' biggest issue on defense this season. Every Eagles player that isn't a defensive lineman has looked like Asante Samuel in the open field. It's time to plug in some players that at least pretend to care about tackling.
Jarrett's biggest concern in the NFL has been his ability in coverage and has probably scared from getting him more starts when both Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are healthy. In Jarrett's defense, his struggles in coverage can be attributed more to Castillo allowing him to take Larry Fitzgerald on deep by himself more than his actual ability.
Jarrett will be a starting strong safety for the Eagles for years to come. Why not start him now?
Brandon Hughes has had an interesting start to his NFL career. He was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the fifth round in 2009. He was later released and signed by the New York Giants as a member of their practice squad until the Eagles signed him to their active roster in 2010.
Is Brandon Hughes the next Dimitri Patterson? Or is he something more? We haven't seen much of Hughes as a starting corner but he did get the start of Nnamdi Asomugha against the Patriots. The Eagles coaches obviously love his potential. He and Curtis Marsh both earned roster spots over their 2010 fourth-round draft pick, Trevard Lindley.
Hughes could be starting next to either Curtis Marsh or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie down the road in Philadelphia. He could be one of many training camp cuts next August. But right now, we really have no idea. Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha haven't shown enough effort tackling-wise. If the team continues to lose, you have to start plugging in younger players who will give you more effort. Hughes deserves to start a game or two down the stretch.
Nelson won't see much time in the secondary, much like Anderson, but he should see plenty of time on special teams. Nelson's speed should allow him to compete for a spot as a gunner in punt coverage, but it's his return ability that warrants him some attention.
Nelson finished his college career at Illinois State with 1,912 kickoff return yards and returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown as a senior.
Right now, any kickoff returned past the 20-yard line is a major accomplishment. Why not give this kid a change to return some kicks? Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said today that he doesn't think he'll be returning kicks. Dion Lewis has been unimpressive as a return man.
Expect Eagles special teams coach Bobby April to give Nelson a shot Sunday on kickoffs. If he gets past the 30-yard line, he probably gets a long-term deal by Tuesday.