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After a Disastrous 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles Are Playoff Bound in 2012

Cody SwartzSenior Writer IDecember 19, 2011

After a Disastrous 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles Are Playoff Bound in 2012

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    The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles will likely miss the playoffs, but they will be playoff bound in 2012.  History will look back upon 2011 as simply a fluke year in a long string of success for the Eagles under Andy Reid.

    This year, the Eagles were picked by many to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl, or at least a team likely to challenge the Green Bay Packers for supremacy in the conference.

    But fourth quarter collapses, unforeseen injuries and a poor start to the season have plagued the Eagles, especially as a late-season run appears to be not enough for the Eagles to still qualify for the postseason.

    Changes are bound to happen in the offseason; the 2012 Eagles will begin the year with a chip on their shoulder. 

    That and the following reasons are why the Eagles will make the playoffs next season.

An Entire Offseason

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    The NFL lockout that lasted most of the summer had a great impact on the success of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. 

    Coach Reid had promoted Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator and brought in a slew of new free agents who essentially had to learn the new system on the run.

    Nnamdi Asomugha has struggled immensely, especially as the Eagles have used him in schemes that don’t fit his skill set. 

    Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has adjusted poorly, and many of the rookies who have received significant playing time—notably Casey Matthews—failed to pick up the system initially.

    A full offseason will be good for the Eagles. 

    Whether the team retains Castillo as the coordinator, or hires a new guy to lead the defense, it will give him months of OTAs (organized team activities) and training camp to work on and implement the defense.

Keeping Andy Reid

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    It appears likely the Philadelphia Eagles will retain Reid as the team’s head coach for the 2012 season.

    Reid has had 13 years of mostly success, winning six division titles; it’s still not out of the question that a seventh could happen this year, although it’s doubtful. 

    Owner Jeffrey Lurie is extremely loyal and committed to Reid.

    Bringing back Reid for 2012 will give the Eagles a head start over hiring a new coach.  The players believe in Reid.  He’s always been a players-first guy, taking all the blame for the losses and giving them the credit for the wins. 

    As much as his press conferences drive the media and fans crazy, it is reassuring to the 53 players on the team to know their coach won’t be calling them out after a loss.

    Reid knows this team inside and out.  He knows it strengths, its weaknesses and he knows winning. 

    Reid gets the most out of his teams on a consistent basis.  As proof, he’s built a team that has been an NFC East powerhouse for much of the last decade.

No Target on Their Back

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    The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles had a target on their back before they ever played one regular season game, courtesy of offseason acquisition Vince Young.

    Young—who it should be noted is the backup quarterback—had the audacity to declare the Eagles the NFL’s Dream Team.

    Whether the comment was taken out of context, or not (it was), Young gave all 31 other teams in the league a reason to hate the Eagles. 

    Every coach loves being the underdog—the team no one notices and no one expects to win.  But Young's comments made it impossible for the Eagles to be such a team that could fly below radar.

    A solid win over the St. Louis Rams in week one was a positive start to the 2011 season, but fourth-quarter collapses to the Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, and San Francisco 49ers, in succession, made the Eagles a national laughingstock.

    No one will be picking the Eagles to go to the Super Bowl in 2012.  But there will definitely be people who believe this team has a shot at the division title. 

    After all, the Dallas Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles have more or less rotated division titles since 2006, and any of the three could win it next year.

    But it will be nice not being expected to win 12 or 13 games easily.

The Talent Is There

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    It’s not as if the Philadelphia Eagles making the playoffs in 2012 is like the Washington Redskins doing so. 

    The Eagles were a playoff team in 2008, 2009, 2010 and they could still, technically, be a playoff team in 2011.

    The offense is explosive with Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin (whether DeSean Jackson returns is to be seen). 

    The defense is stocked with pass rushers in Trent Cole and Jason Babin, a very competent front four rounded out by Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and talented cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel.

    The Eagles have underachieved immensely this season, but they’re still just a few plays away from being 9-5, or better.

Signs of Improvement

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    The Philadelphia Eagles also seem to be getting better as the season goes on.  After starting 1-4, they are 5-4 since and coming off a commanding 45-19 win over the playoff hopeful New York Jets.

    The Eagles' defense was ranked 17th in total yards allowed following the awful loss to the Seattle Seahawks.  Now Castillo has the unit tied for eighth. 

    The offensive line was a weak spot in the first several weeks, but now it is a clear strength.

    It’s a shame the NFL never implemented the new 18-game schedule because the Eagles would almost certainly make the playoffs.

Most of the Team’s Free Agents Are Signed for 2012

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    DeSean Jackson is a big free agent for the Philadelphia Eagles, and what happens with him will have a big impact on the team in 2012.

    The good news is that other than Jackson, most of the key players are signed.  Vick, Maclin, Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Cole, Babin, Jenkins, Asomugha and Samuel are all locked up through at least 2013. 

    McCoy has just next year, but the way he is playing and after seeing what happened with Jackson, the Eagles will likely extend him before the season begins.

    Evan Mathis is a free agent but after his stellar season, the team should lock him up.  The loss of Jackson would be a big blow, but the Eagles will retain almost their entire core.

Howard Mudd Will Be Back for One More Year

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    This changes if offensive line coach Howard Mudd retires, but he is signed for the 2012 season.  Mudd did a phenomenal job in 2011, especially considering the limited time he had in the offseason.

    Peters has always been an All-Pro offensive tackle, but Mudd was able to coax superb years out of Mathis and Herremans. 

    Mathis was a journeyman who latched on with the Eagles in training camp and has rewarded Philly with a Pro Bowl season. 

    Herremans has always been a good lineman, whether he’s playing guard or tackle, but this year he became an extremely valuable part of the line.

    Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins have had growing pains, but both are rookies and should be sufficiently better in 2012. 

    Watkins was a first-round pick who projects to be a long-time starter in Philly, and they should each benefit from a full year of playing and a full offseason under Mudd.

The Giants and Cowboys Are Good Teams, but Not Great

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    The NFC East has been one of the most competitive divisions in the league for the past five years or so, but the Philadelphia Eagles are fortunate in that neither team is a bona-fide Super Bowl threat.

    The division will likely be won this year by a team with nine or fewer wins. 

    The Giants and Cowboys are built to be in the hunt again in 2012, but the Eagles are fortunate not to play in a division with New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, or Green Bay Packers-caliber teams.

    What also helps the Eagles is that anywhere from one to three of the other teams in the NFC East will have new coaches; Mike Shanahan, Jason Garrett, and Tom Coughlin have all underachieved in 2011.

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