Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Wrapping up a Season as the Eagles Drop the NFC Championship

First off, I'd like to thank the Eagles for giving us fans a few extra weeks of football when we all thought the season would over shortly after Christmas. If was a fun couple of weeks of playoff football, and way more uplifting than say another season of failure in Dallas, bitter disappointment in NY or god-forbid record-for-the-ages amount of futility in Detroit.

That said, the Eagles 2008 season can be summed up in two words: missed opportunities.

From the personnel miscues before the season ever started: NOT bringing in a big back, keeping the worthless LJ Smith around at TE (and paying him a megabucks 1year franchise amount - oh boy!), not finding a Fullback, and not having a decent blocking TE on the roster...hmmm, see a theme there? The Eagles biggest problems were in the running game this year, and an off-season that saw the Birds to next to nothing (or worse, consider the 4th rd pick for Lorenzo Booker deal with Miami) to address it came back to haunt them.

For every right move: bringing in Asante Samuel to shore up the defensive backfield, the picks of Quintin Demps and Desean Jackson who made instant contributions as rookies, a rarity in Andy Reid era, the Eagles had one of the debilitating counter-moves mentioned above. So instead of moves that put the Eagles over the top for the season, we fans got treated to a roller coaster ride of efficiency and futility.

That is was the Eagles Defense -- rock solid all season and truly exceptional down the stretch and into the post-season -- who gave up the NFC Championship last Sunday after Donovan McNabb engineered one of the greatest comebacks in NFC Championship game history is a story-line that has been (and will be) largely submerged by the McNabb-Reid era failure in 4 of the 5 NFC Championship games.

Does the Eagles offense need more weapons? Probably. Addressing the running game would go a long way to helping McNabb, and I do by the way believe he will be back in an Eagles uniform next year. I hope Andy Reid promotes someone within the organization to help with his front office duties, in order to let him concentrate more on the coaching aspect of things.

Offseason predictions:
Free agent wise: Dawkins in back, no question, as well as at least one of the Eagles veteran tackles. The Birds would be wise to get some youth at the position, and I think that as always the Birds will look to the draft for that. If Shawn Andrews returns from a season lost to depression and back pain, then the Birds will have options at Guard - Slot Herremans out to a OT spot, have MJG return from a broken ankle and may assume the other guard spot (or at least have a stiff competition with Nick Cole who filled in pretty well behind him).

Might the Eagles go for FA wide receiver? Perhaps...I am not sure who will be coming free this year, but that other Bengals WR (not Ocho Cinco, TJ who's-your-momma) could be available. Would the Cardinals part with a disgruntled Anquan Boldin? (who will be even more disgruntled if the Cards don't reward him with a new contract after he busted his ass to return to the team from essentially, a broken face) I don't know, and I don't want to guess. I don't see a huge free agent splash like last year. The Eagles FO likely sees a need to tweak the roster rather than overhaul the roster. So long as the tweaks mean more contributions from the both 1/3 and less instances of supposed contributors like Reggie Brown, Greg Lewis and/or Lorenzo Booker being deactivated...then I am ok with it.

Is Kyle Eckel the answer at FB? He could be, if the Eagles actually committed to getting a FB onto the field. I hope the Eagles concentrate of getting some actual contribution from the position next year.

As for the defense. It is a much easier scenario. The D-Line should remain strong. Expect the Birds to add another DL in the draft, but the 8-man rotation worked pretty well. FA addition Chris Clemons went from bust to bustin-ass in the second half of the season and should (keyword there) pick right up next year. Expect more from him as he enters his second year in the defense. (I guarantee there will be an article during training camp that mentions how much the D has slowed down for Clemons in his 2nd year under Jim Johnson).

At LB I can see the Eagles keep searching for depth. I mean, Gocong, Bradley and Jordan pretty much entrenched themselves as a solid 3-some of backstoppers. Omar Gaither (OG) provides decent depth in case of injury, but who else was on the roster at LB??? The guys who were seemed to be primarily ST guys and never really saw the field at LB. I guess that's a good thing though, mean few injuries and generally good play from the starters.

The DB present some interesting scenarios. Joselio Hanson went from afterthought to pretty goddamn solid nickel CB this year. The Birds should be able to keep him around. Lito is gone. Dunno how or when, but he needs a change of scenery, plain and simple. Its best for all parties involved if he's gone by the draft. The two "Q's" (Demps and Mikell) performed pretty well on the back-line. I wouldn't be surprised to see Sean Considine depart or get beat out for a position in training camp....he's could hang around for ST purposes and as injury insurance however. He is probably on the last year of his rookie contract, which means he's still relatively cheap. (I do not believe he was ever offered an extension). One question: remember that injured CB the Birds drafted last year Jake Iwannagohome (or whatever the fuck his name was, I'm too lazy to look in my own archive). Guys would've been a highly touted CB out of OU if not for the injury that cost him last year if I am not mistaken. I'm pretty sure yet another developmental CB or S is in the draft equation as well.

Oh, and in case you forgot...there is no question about Dawk. One of the greatest Eagles to ever put on the uniform deserves to come back. His leadership is irreplacable. Expect to see the missile numbered "20" flying around the Linc again next year.

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