Tuesday, September 07, 2010

2010 Philadelphia Eagles Pick

The Philadelphia Eagles won eleven regular season games last year before being crushed by Dallas two successive weeks to end their season: here and then, the play-offs.

So despite some regular season success, there were major questions, particularly on defense. And these three major areas of off-season concern were surely addressed. First round pick pass rusher extraordinaire Brandon Graham looks like he might actually start- and not just provided needed situational edge pressure. Second round pick Nate Allen is also an immediate upgrade at the disastrous safety spot. And the return of MLB Stewart Bradley, and the addition of good coverage LB Ernie Sims, should mean opposing RBs and TEs won’t roam free everywhere.

In short, the defense ought to be a whole step better- and reputationally, the Eagles are good every year. Yet, pessimism is rampant. The Vegas over/under is eight- and to many in Philadelphia, that seems generous.

The pessimism is two parts. First, for the first time since the Jeff Garcia led run to a division title in 2006, the Eagles are in clear rebuilding mode. The old core of McNabb, Westbrook, Runyan, Thomas, etc.- has been completely moved out. The roster has average age of 25. They stockpiled and kept a ton of draft picks. A team about to embark on a Super Bowl run does not look to deal its starting OG the week before the season in a salary dump. There is one guy on the offense who was key to the NFC Championship game run two years ago. Clear rebuilding mode rarely equals lots of winning.

Second, and perhaps part and parcel of the first point, it is the offense that worries folks. Ultimately, most were okay with dealing an aging, battling nagging injuries, McNabb indirectly for the aforementioned safety help. Sure, there is consternation about replacing a borderline Hall of Fame quarterback. But, part of drafting and grooming a young quarterback is the willingness to actually give him the keys. Kolb has shown enough to merit a shot. I actually think he’ll be okay.

But the book on playing a young quarterback is that you need to help him with quality line play and a running game. And the Eagles are hurting there.

The offensive line is probably the weakest collection since Reid’s first season as head coach. LT Jason Peters is good for 95% of the snaps. He is unfortunately playing the position where the consequences for occasional inattention are the highest: gruesome sacks, turnovers, penalties. Guard Todd Herremanns was the worst player on the line two years ago- now he is probably the best. He is probably better suited to RT- has good feet but not a road grader type- but the Eagles are so hurting for interior linemen. Further, Philadelphia still does not know who is going to play for certain the other two interior line spots- and RT Winston Justice defines serviceable. That is three average guys and and two mysteries… trouble.

Unfortunately, the only worse position is the running back collective. Last year’s second round pick Shady McCoy might be a better player than the last first day draft pick: Tony Hunt. But honestly, he projects at best to “sort of okay”. He might provide decent numbers behind a good o-line, but the Eagles can’t provide that. Worse, of the immediate candidates for help, the six RBs/TEs- only one can block a lick. With this line and RB combination, I don’t know how they are going to move the ball an inch in the red zone on the ground- an area where a young quarterback could really use some assistance.

The skill perimeter players- Celek, Jackson, Maclin- are excellent.

So, figure the offense is just south of average, the defense just north. The division seems to be a hard place to win more than three, but also lose more than three too... put it together, and you have .500.

That being said, I am a believer in the the Eagles’ approach- there is something to be said for continuity, they are well-coached (make kicks, cover kicks, they have depth). Philadelphia manages the in-season roster as well as anyone- dressing and playing a disproportionate number of first- and second-year players which helps in December. They do get real juice playing in their building- so move’em up a little. So I’ll take the over, say 9-7, in the mix for the Wild Card.

Bonus Super Bowl Pick: Atlanta over Pittsburgh