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Let me begin by stating that I am not the most avid Donovan McNabb supporter. I appreciate what he has done for the franchise, and I have enjoyed watching him play football in Philadelphia for the majority of my adult life (most of the time). That being said, I believe that it is undoubtedly time for Donovan to move on. I think it would truly be the best-case scenario for both him and the entire city of Philadelphia.
The Eagles need to take advantage of what Donovan brings to the trade market this offseason, try and leverage what he’s worth and simply pull the trigger. We all know that Andy and Donovan are attached at the hip, but like every bad breakup, it just has to happen at some point. Trade Donovan, get a draft pick (whether it be a second rounder or multiple late round picks), and hand the torch over to the new guy, Kevin “Please for the love of God, make our dreams come true” Kolb.
I see promise in Kolb, and how can you not after watching him toss for over 300 yards in his first two career starts, the first QB to ever achieve that feat. I’m not saying he’s going to step behind center and pull a Tom Brady, but again, I see promise in the guy. While he may lack the big arm Donovan has spoiled us with, I guarantee you that Kolb’s accuracy and precision will make us rest easy when he actually throws to receiver’s upper bodies on short to mid range passes—an accomplishment which we forget is even feasible. No more dirt balls, my friends.
However, if we do rid ourselves of McNabb prior to the start of the season part of me will always want to ask “what if”? What if we gave Donovan just one more opportunity to work with the young and extremely talented offense that he has suddenly been immersed in? What if he just needs one more shot to get the job done (a la John Elway)? The bottom line is whoever leads the Eagles offense in this upcoming season will have a plethora of talent to work with, and without further adieu, lets examine the pros and cons of the 2010/11 Eagles team, or as I like to call them, “the High Fives”, and “the Solemn Head Shakes”.
Pros (The High Fives):
The Young Offense. The Eagles have a very young and very, very talented offense. We all know what DeSean Jackson is capable of, but this season, look for Jeremy Maclin to truly breakout. Wide receiver is one of the most difficult positions for college players to transition into the pro game, a fact especially true for Maclin (though his numbers certainly didn’t reflect it) as he played in a non-pro style, spread offensive at Missouri. The more experience Maclin gains, the more skills he will possess, and the better his production will be. To support this wild hypothesis, why not look at some stats. Below is a comparison of receiver’s numbers (whose were similar to that of Maclin’s) between their rookie and sophomore seasons:
Pretty impressive, and pretty good company to be in, no? Now, assuming that Maclin is going to put up Larry Fitzgerald, Torry Holt, or Andre Johnson-type numbers is a little ambitious, but when you have you’re QB throwing 93 passes a game, why not dream big? Just take a look at our friend DJax.
Brent Celek is another reason not to reach for the anti-freeze quite yet. Celek has established himself as one of the leagues most sure-handed tight ends, and a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the field. 76 receptions for 971 yards and 8 TD ain’t too shabby, and there’s no reason to think Celek will not exceed those numbers this upcoming season. Considering the attention DeSean and Maclin will draw, look for #87 to be roaming free through the hashes all season long.
Leonard Weaver & Jason Avant. Weaver is a beast. ‘Nuff said. We have him locked up for another 3 years, and whether he is used as a rusher, in pass protection, or as a lead blocker, count on Weaver to get the job done.
Avant has the best hands on the team, runs impeccable routes, and is a third down magician. Guys like Avant are so undervalued, yet absolutely necessary to pass-happy offenses such as the Eagles’. Inking Weaver and Avant to multi-year deals was incredibly important to stability and success of this offense as the Eagles have successfully maintained two unsung heroes and respected team leaders.
Improved offensive line play. Akin to Maclin, the more experience the offensive line gains playing with one another, the more comfortable and confident they will ultimately be when taking the battlefield every Sunday. I think this group has the potential to be very good as it currently stands, and inserting a healthy and productive Stacy Andrews at RG will hopefully add even more strength to the stable of behemoths. Losing Jamaal Jackson for an extended period certainly hurts, though with the ample time Nick Cole has been given to assume the position, I think he will be more than prepared to fill Jamaal’s shoes. It’s no secret that continuity is perhaps the most important factor in reliable offensive line play, and provided the Eagles maintain continuity, there is no reason to believe this group cannot be one of the team’s biggest strengths as it was for the better part of the decade.
Bobby April and improved special teams. I don’t know much about Bobby April other than the fact that he is a great coach and a seemingly, a consummate processional. As long as he performs his job better than Ted Daisher (which I contest my 12 year old sister could do), then we can only remain optimistic. Last year, Football Outsider’s had Bobby April’s Buffalo Bills ranked number 1 in special teams ratings, while the Eagles were number 13. This year, FO has the Bird’s at number 2 all thanks to Mr. April.
Also, newly acquired Air Force Lieutenant/Wide Receiver Chad Hall seems like a speedster worthy of returning some kicks (in 2007, his last year in football, he rushed for 1478 yards for 15 touchdowns, and registered another 524 yards and 1 touchdown as a receiver). Why not let him fly and see what he can do…pun intended.
Cons (The Solemn Head Shakes):
Linebackers. I honestly have no idea what the front office thinks they’re doing here. Releasing the ever-athletic Will Witherspoon, depleting their already depleted staff in an uncapped year makes about as much sense to me as consuming fast food: yes, it’s cheaper, but in no way does it improve your health, make you feel good, or cover tight ends. There is no guarantee that Stewart Bradley is going to be 100% healthy this year and as far as I’m concerned, stock piling linebackers just in case can only be a good thing. Considering the fact that the Eagles place a very low emphasis on selecting linebackers early in the draft, I’m not sure where the much needed support will come from. My bet is on the Bird’s converting another well-establish pass rushing tweener who we select in the third or fourth round of the draft – I like Virginia Tech’s Jason Worilds. Sigh.
Safety. While I have no real qualm with signing Marlin Jackson, you have to ponder; does his presence really solve anything? The guy who is presumably going to make a bid for the starting FS role is coming off two knee surgeries—a dream of an insurance policy. All I can picture is Jackson going up in the air, grabbing the ball out of nowhere, and coming down on his frail knees only to hear them suddenly snap in half like Kyle Broflovski following his plastic surgery mishaps. At least Macho Harris can only improve, than again, look at Quintin Demps. Sigh.
LDE. No Julius Peppers, no Aaron Kampman, no Kyle Vanden Bosch, no Ray Edwards (presumably), welcome back Juqua Parker. Juqua typically registers respectable numbers and is solid against the run (24 sacks, 175 TOT over the last 4 years), but there’s no denying the lack of pocket pressure he, and the rest of the defensive line brings against opposing quarterbacks. Trent Cole can’t do it all folks. Rest assured the Eagles will certainly address this problem when they select Maurkice Pouncey, Florida’s star Center with the 24th pick of the upcoming draft. Victor “A beer ya bought me…I think you should give it to Trent Cole” Abiamiri might as well be a corpse at this point.
The Chris Clemons/Darryl Tapp trade is sort of intriguing, I guess. All of the scouting reports I’ve read on Tapp are positive: not the best athlete but a hard worker, two things which could hardly be said about Clemons. Tommy Lawlor provides a succinct perspective regarding the move. However the D-Line situation ultimately plays out, at least were blessed with another half-season out of Darren Howard. Sigh.
Overall, it looks pretty cut and dry. Offense: good, Defense: bad. Obviously, though, it’s not that simple, and don’t for a second think that everything will go as expected on either side of the ball. I anticipate that with another year under his belt, Sean McDermott will be able to improve greatly over last season. He just needs to slow things down, get a little less fancy and have more trust in his staff. It’s never easy to loose a coach like Jim Johnson, and his passing surely left the organization with a gapping whole, one which McDermott did a solid, not spectacular, job of filling. As I have reiterated throughout this rant, the longer a team plays as a team, the better chance they have of succeeding. Last season was a first for many things, and I do actually think that the defense is much more prepared at this point than they were last year.
As for the draft, predicting what the Eagles will do is nothing short of supernatural. They constantly trade up and down, select for the future and not for need, and each year generally provide us with a couple of real head-scratchers. Though by and large, the Eagles draft team is an extremely capable group who certainly knows what they’re doing. I have a lot of confidence in our draft picks despite what I may think about them in the short term.
Round 1: The Eagles trade down to select Nate Allen, FS, South Florida in the top of the second round. With this trade they acquire an additional fourth and seventh round pick.
Round 2 (original pick): Jared Veldheer, OT, Hillsdale–a very large and talented small school guy.
Round 3: Jason Worilds, DE/OLB, Virginia Tech. See above.
Rounds 4 and beyond: Who knows? I say they take a quarterback, a running back, and a corner, though I’m praying for 6’4”, 235 lb. punter Zoltan Mesko from Michigan. I’m going to be severely disappointed if Sav Rocca is wearing Midnight Green come September.
I think the Eagles will go 10-6, secure a wild card spot, and as we all know, once you’re in the playoffs anything can happen. With or without Donovan McNabb, this team has the capability to put up a lot of points, enough even to allow the defense to falter at times and still be successful. Despite their rather strenuous schedule, the Eagles are indeed a good team, a team that certainly has a shot at the playoffs, and one which always provides an exciting and heart-attack educing season. GO BIRDS!!!!
About the Author: Jake Tulsky is a native Philadelphian, an avid sports fan, a food blogger (thefoodinsulter.com), and a lover of all things Philadelphia. Having lived in Vermont for the past 5 years, Jake has developed a unique and hardened Philly fandom which often leads to passionate and heated conversations with New England supporters, who inevitably, always concede. Jake plans on moving home in the fall to attend graduate school.