After 11 seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles, the Donavan McNabb era has ended with him be traded to the hated rival Washington Redskins. The keys to ship have been handed over to Kevin Kolb, the Eagles 2007 second pick (36th overall) out of the University of Houston. The biggest question going into the 2010 season for the Birds is Kevin Kolb and how will he perform in his first season has a full time starter. In two starts last season for an injured McNabb, Kolb completed 55 out of 85 passes(64.7%), 718 yards, four touchdowns and 3 interceptions, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 yards in his first two starts. A combination of a first year starter at the quarterback position, a defense with holes in it, and Andy Reid’s stubbornness when it comes to running the ball, is going to make for an intriguing season of football in the city of brotherly love.
I will break down each side of the ball by position including special teams:
Offense- The Eagles scored a franchise record 429 points last season. The offense was a fast striking, big play offense but lacked the ability to convert critical 3rd and short situations. Let’s look at the different positions on offense to see where the Eagles stand going into training camp which starts on July 31st.
Quarterback- Being the most important position on a football team, the season pretty much lays in the hands of 4th year quarterback Kevin Kolb. We will see how he adjusts to the pounding a QB takes over a 16 game schedule, how he performs when teams get tape on him and sets a gameplan to stop him, and if he can play point blank. I believe after about 16 to 20 starts you have a pretty good idea if and guy can play. If he struggles, the Eagles have the best option at backup quarterback in football in Mike Vick. He’s not too popular in Philadelphia amongst other places, but he has put his legal troubles behind and is trying to become a starting QB in this league again. Depending on how Kolb performs and if he can stay healthy will be the deciding factors if Vick gets a chance at playing full time this season. Mike Kafka is a fourth round draft pick of the Birds (122nd overall) who should spend this season holding the clipboard barring injuries.
Running Back- The Brian Westbrook era is over, and it’s time for LeSean “Shady” McCoy to show if he’s a full time starting running back in this league. I was surprised with his willingness to run inside and his toughness while doing it. He has good hands out of the backfield, can take it the distance on any play, but needs to work on his pass protection if he plans on staying on the field for the Eagles. Fullback Leonard Weaver will get his fare share of carries and receptions and is the best all around fullback in football. Eldra Buckley should make the team as a special teams guy bearing another player coming in a taking his spot. Canadian Football League rookie of the year Martell Mallett and 6th round draft pick Charles Scott out of LSU will get there fair chances to make this team as short yardage backs. I was a real big fan of Scott during his college career, he reminds me of a poor man’s Jamal Lewis. The Birds also added J.J. Arrington recently via trade from the Denver Broncos. He brings the ability the catch the ball out of the backfield and return kicks.
Wide Receiver/Tight Ends- The Eagles are pretty much set at wideout barring any injuries. The threesome of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant give the Birds one of the best trios in football. Add in Tight Ends Brent Celek, and a hopefully healthy Cornelius Ingram and the Eagles passing game should be vicious. Hank Baskett was signed in the offseason, for what reason I don’t know why and the Birds drafted a sleeper in my eyes Riley Cooper from Florida. Riley Cooper has great size(6’3 222lbs), toughness, and good hands. Is a willing special teams player as well. Rookie draftee Clay Harbor and Free agent signee Martin Rucker will be fighting for the 3rd tight end spot. The Eagles also have sign free agent Kelley Washington during camp, bringing a bigger receiving threat and a willing special teams player into the mix. This could mean the end of Hank Baskett if you ask me.
Offensive Line-With Center Jamal Jackson recovering from a season ending knee injury that took place in the 15th game of last season, the Eagles have a big hole to fill until he’s back and ready to play in 2010. Nick Cole did the best he could filling in for Jackson, but he was easily exposed by the Dallas Cowboys Jay Ratliff in the season finale and in the playoff game. The release of Shawn Andrews means his brother Stacy, will have the Right Guard job handed to him. Hopefully he can stay healthy and have his technique together, because Max Jean-Giles can’t be a starter in this league. The left side of the line is solid and should be better this season with Jason Peters having a season under his belt learning Offensive Line coach Juan Castillo’s system and technique.
Defense-Last Season was the Eagles first in 11 years without Jim Johnson at the helm due to his passing away. Sean McDermott was given the job and it was his first time making the calls and running a defense as a coach. There were holes in the Eagles defense last year and they are still in question this season. There inability to generate a pass rush with there front four left them open to big plays on the regular. If they think they can just blitz and blitz QB’s in this league and not get gashed for big plays then they are in for a rude awakening.
Defensive Line- Trent Cole is coming off an Pro Bowl season where he racked up 90 tackles(55 solo) and 12.5 sacks. The fact of the matter is Cole needs some help getting to the QB, he should receive some from the Eagles 2010 first round draft pick Brandon Graham. A lot of people in the Philly media along with fans were upset with the Eagles selection of Graham(13th overall), but the fact of the matter is you can have Champ Bailey and Deion Sanders in their prime playing for you, the name of the game is getting to the quarterback. If you get no pressure on the QB in this league you have no chance on defense. After watching Graham in the one on one workouts during practice at the Senior Bowl, I fell in love instantly with his ability to rush off the edge. He uses a combo of speed, strength, and leverage to beat offensive tackles. Jaqua Parker and Victor Abiarimi will be a part of the rotation at end and will have the opportunity to start at left end but will feel pressure from Graham if he signs before camp starts. At Defensive Tackle the Birds have the steady but not spectacular duo of Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson. They are stout against the run, but 2.5 sacks between the two of them isn’t going to get it done against the pass. The Eagles spent a 2008 2nd round pick on Trevor Laws and he can’t even get on the field. Antonio Dixon seen a good amount of playing time last season in short yardage situations and should push Laws for a roster spot.
Linebackers- To me is one of the holes on this team, Stewart Bradley is coming off an torn ACL suffered during the 1st annual “Flight Night” the team held last season. How fast he returns to form from the knee surgery is going to be big for the 2010 Eagles defensive unit. I’m looking forward to seeing how he is moving, cutting, and changing direction during camp. The addition of Ernie Sims from the Detroit Lions should solidify the Will linebacker and Akeem Jordan has been given the starting job at the Sam linebacker spot. Jordan had his moments last season, but was often caught out of position and missed a lot of tackles. He’s very undersized for the position and the defense could get exposed at the point of attack on the edge. Moise Fokou seen time there last season after Chris Gocong fell out of favor with the Eagles coaching staff. Joe Mays was traded to the Denver Broncos, ending a stint with the Birds where he showed promise but couldn’t get a hold of the system. Omar Gaither is the swing linebacker filling in at all three positions and in coverage on 3rd downs.
Cornerbacks/Safeties-Sheldon Brown was a rock in the defensive backfield for the Eagles during his eight seasons here and his play and presence will be sorely missed. Asante Samuel picked off nine passes last season for the Birds, but his refusal to tackle, play press coverage when asked, and play the run, overshadow his playmaking ability at times. He had been burned on the regular gambling and jumping routes during critcal points in games. Ellis Hobbs is returning from a season ending neck surgery in 09′ and the starting cornerback job opposite Samuels is in his sights. Joselio Hanson should continue to be the nickel corner and Macho Harris has been moved back to his natural position at CB this season. At the safety position it will be year two without Future Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins, the play at safety last season was nothing to brag about. Quetin Mikell was exposed playing without Dawkins, Quetin Demps was given the starting job at free safety but lost it to Macho Harris, who played corner in college. The tackling was subpar last season as well as the playmaking ability. The Eagles drafted Free Safety Nate Allen from University of South Florida in the second round(37th overall), hoping he can come right in and start from day one. Allen has good size(6’1′ 210lbs), ball skills, and playmaking ability. When seeing him play in college, he was never out of position and was always around the ball making plays. Time will tell how fast he can pick up the Eagles scheme and adapt to the pro game. Marlin Jackson was thought to be in contention for the starting spot at FS, but he tore his Achillies Tendon during mini camp and will miss his 3rd straight season due to injury.
Special Teams-David Akers is back for his 12th season as the kicker for the Eagles. The team has brought in Ken Parrish to challenge Sav Rocca for the punter spot during camp. Rocca has been inconsistent during his tenure and I believe his time should have been up during last season.
My Prediction: Barring any major injuries, the Eagles will finish the season 9-7 and miss the playoffs. Kolb will have his ups and downs during his first year as a starter and the defense has too many holes for this team to make the playoffs and be a contender.