Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Your 2007 NFC East Champions!

Sitting here, pondering- no deep feelings appear. Frankly? The Philadelphia Eagles just don’t feel like any sort of great mystery this year. The facts are straightforward. Late last season during the play-off stretch drive, Philadelphia played all three division opponents on the road- and defeated each in increasingly capable performances. Moreover, they defeated the Giants in a tough overtime play-off game. Taken together, it seems compelling evidence that the rebuilding project, off the 2005 disappointment, continues apace.

The play-off loss in New Orleans- on the road, six day week, with the back-up quarterback- was encouraging as well. Honestly, I am not sure if New Orleans or Chicago would have been favored in a play-off game in Philadelphia. Was there ultimately much difference between the top teams in the NFC last year?

And to be frank, I’m pretty sure that is true again this year. With the return of McNabb, I will take a lot of convincing to believe that any of the NFC East teams have closed the gap. The Eagles would likely be favored to win this division even if Feeley was the quarterback. I imagine the Eagles are square in the mix with what passes for an NFC power these days- and still a clear step behind the AFC elite.

But past that, essentially a sort of repeat of 2006- resounding division championship, in the NFC mix- I am less confident. Looking back at my post mortem for the 2005 campaign, I was struck at just how big the rebuilding job was. And it simply isn’t finished yet. Of the major areas of concern: defensive front, linebacker, wide receiver, kick returners and interior offensive line- only the offensive needs seems addressed in total (particularly the offensive line).

The defensive front is short a few productive bodies. Worse, some of the existing bodies are either injury prone or young and unproven. It probably is a bad unit. The linebackers are certainly better than 2005- but lack seasoning and are counting on some “hope” in both the injury and experience department- and are probably short a body here too. Add questions about Considine- particularly in the problematic run-stuffing effort- and it is hard to see the defense being a good unit. Teams won’t be able to generate big plays in the passing game regularly against the secondary- which will mitigate any real bad tendencies. But the defense’s upside is merely “okay-plus”- and more likely will be exposed some Sundays.

I just can’t shake the feeling that this merely is year two of the two year reconstruction- that this team is pointed toward runs in 2008 and 2009. I know certainty is an impossible thing is professional sports. But I also know that Reid is all about the plan- and Andy is quite capable of convincing himself and acting accordingly (perhaps correctly) that the “best” window is still a year or two ahead. The turnover in key nucleus talent only has had but one campaign in which to be evaluated and tweaked. Maybe this is a year to further establish the young corps at wide receiver, offensive line, figure exactly which of these guys on the defensive front seven can play- and who needs to be replaced by the impact free agent. The quarterback can still make one more run- let’s get to 2008 before we push all the chips, make the big signing.

I went into camp thinking 11-12 wins- but as Rich Hoffman says, August has not been too kind and special teams questions at punter, long snapper and the return game will cost them one, even two games, this season. So now, I am square on nine, maybe ten wins. Don’t get me wrong. The NFC isn’t strong- so the Eagles very real professional competence makes them a player in the conference picture- particularly if they get thirty starts from Westbrook and McNabb combined. But there isn’t enough here to dominate NFC or anything past that.

Labels: ,