As usual, the Philadelphia Eagles enter the season as serious title contenders but, as usual, they will have to overcome themselves if they hope to shed the "contender" label and adopt the "champion" tag.
Although the team lost mainstays, such as Brian Dawkins and Tra Thomas to free agency, their offseason acquisitions have strengthened the roster. The acquisition of Jason Peters gives the Eagles arguably the leagues best tackle. The signing of Stacy Andrews will not only give the team one of the leagues fiercest offensive lines, but also assist in the mental stability of his brother, Shawn Andrews.
Add to that the signing of Leonard Weaver (Andy signed a real fullback!) and the draft day additions of Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, and Cornelius Ingram, and Donovan has to be happy.
The defense returns almost the entire starting cast, minus Dawkins. Sean Jones was brought in to provide insurance for young safety Quentin Demps, and Ellis Hobbs was acquired via a draft-day trade to battle with Sheldon Brown.
Organizational disharmony has become status quo for this franchise, and 2009 looks to be no different. From the Terrell Owens saga to the Lito Sheppard drama, the Eagles never lack disgruntled employees. Sheldon Brown, the new leading man in the unhappy camper category, plays an important role this year.
Expected to become a leader for this defense after the offseason loss of Brian Dawkins, Brown has expressed displeasure with his contract and requested a trade. The Eagles, in a way only they can, not only publicly denied his request but also accused Brown of devaluing himself, while they were willing to explore trade opportunities.
How the Eagles play their hand, here, is very important. Brown has the potential to divide that locker room, which is something that can hinder any championship run. He has already drug the names of Trent Cole and Mike Patterson into his public spat with Eagles President Joe Banner.
Brown is no superstar, but he is a dependable and hard-hitting cornerback who has never missed a game in his career. Still, the Eagles would be wise to explore all avenues considering last season's Lito Sheppard experiment. A solid corner with a bad attitude does the team no good buried on the depth chart.
The other issue Andy Reid faces resides in the mirror. Reid’s stubbornness regarding the run becomes predictable, placing too much pressure on McNabb. The team cannot be successful throwing the ball 40 times each and every week.
It’s inevitable that, at some point, Brian Westbrook will be injured. The addition of McCoy allows the Eagles to run many of the same plays and formations, as McCoy serves as a “mini-Westbrook.” Again, that all hinges on Andy Reid’s mammoth...ego (were you expecting something else?).
Many people believe that Correll Buckhalter was grossly underutilized last season.
The Birds are a legitimate title contender, just check Asante Samuel’s twitter account. If Sheldon Brown can put the team first, and Andy Reid can be reminded that running the ball is legal as well as successfully petition Mr. Goodell to skip the conference championship game, you can book Philadelphia in Super Bowl XLIV.