Tuesday, September 08, 2009

2009 Eagles Preview

Currently, I am unavailable- camping in the mountains of New Hampshire. So, if you are reading this, I have properly utilized the scheduling option and consequently, here is my prediction for the Philadelphia Eagles!

I was watching ESPN last weekend- where they had a series of talking heads come on and pick the Philadelphia Eagles’ to win "more" than ten games. As a result, I feel like the resident crazy person- because I just don’t get all the optimism.

For the better part of a decade now, the Eagles have built a pretty good record of success on three main ideas. First, the McNabb/Westbrook axis has been as good a production versus cap dollars axis as there has been in the NFC. Second, the refusal to allocate cap dollars to thirtysomething loyal roster players and free agents has freed up monies to keep a very talented group of third, fourth year players in the second half of the roster to provide both depth and groomed prospects. Third, in a high turnover, capped League, the Eagles constancy of approach at quarterback, the offensive lines, defensive secondary and coaching staff have played great dividends- consistency of approach is the greatest intangible in a League where upheaval is common.

So, I’m worried. I don’t believe in the McNabb/Westbrook axis anymore. McNabb hasn’t been a Pro-Bowl level player since the Super Bowl (four years ago!) and, while I don’t know what they will get from Westbrook, I doubt it will be "eleven high quality games" worth. In the decade Runyan and Thomas acted as well above average OTs here, the regime unfortunately failed to develop adequate replacements- short of moving Andrews outside and thus creating yet another OL gap. So they’ve taken the Washington Redskins’ approach- pay money and first day draft picks for tackles and start moving people around. Both new OTs (or OT and OG) acquired this way are hurt already.

And contrary to league-wide opinion, I think they punked the draft- at least for this year. For a team that is all about now, I don’t see how Maclin contributes fifty catches. And as for McCoy, he slipped to the second round because of doubts about his blocking- and we all know how much RBs play in Philadelphia if they cannot block (see Ryan Moats). There is no third round pick. So no first day draft picks figure to start and contribute immediately- which is frankly dumb if your goal is Super Bowl and not a giant development project.

My view on Vick is also sort of “bleah”. In the pre-season he was as inclined to fall down over his own feet or throw an interception as he was to do something positive. And if he has to play quarterback in a pinch for real- well, I’m not encouraged. Hard to see him moving the win total much. Maybe he can rush for some third and shorts- cause culturally that seems to be a real issue for Philadelphia for like a decade.

I’m not down on the Eagles per se. I just don’t think they are much better than the crew that managed to win nine games last year: same troubled/hobbled McNabb and Westbrook show, no immediate reinforcements from the draft- and add in a serious blow to the stable offensive line. If they get the same kind of favorable play-off draw, they could move forward- but equally, they are a clear step behind the AFC powers.

I think they’ll get back to the play-offs though. The Giants still are troubled on offense- the Eagles exposed their passing game woes big time late last year and I don’t think you can win eleven games if you can’t throw effectively. Dallas seems to have a lot of key actors who have failed repeatedly in big spots being asked to try again. Honesly, only Washington seems marginally better- and with a little luck and leap forward from Campbell could be this year’s surprise, come from nowhere, division champion.

A fair over/under for the Eagles is right where last year’s team finished up: 9.5 wins. There is just a whole lot of status quo back from last year’s 9.5 win effort- and whatever improvements made are offset by the mess the offensive line figures to be for large patches of the season.