By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Stuck in a highly competitive division, Philadelphia finished last in the NFC East with an 8-8 record last season. The Eagles were better than the .500 winning percentage indicates, as they were 5-3 on the road and outscored their opponents by 36 points on the year. The team also finished strong, ending the season riding a three-game winning streak against solid competition.
Last year's slow start can be partially blamed on Donovan McNabb's recovery from major knee surgery, but he slowly improved as he got healthier over the course of the season. While rumors swirled about McNabb and Philadelphia parting ways, he posted a 6:1 TD:INT ratio over the final four games last year and enters 2008 back with the Eagles and as the team's unquestioned starter. He's now 31 years old and will never have the mobility he once had, but with another full year removed from the knee surgery, he's expected to be more effective than he was last season and will play a big role in the team's chances of reaching the postseason.
The Eagles gained the sixth most yards per game on offense last season, but that translated to just 21 points per game, which ranked 17th in the league. Inefficiency in the red zone was part of the problem, as was the minus-eight turnover ratio. The passing game was average, with a 6.9 YPA and 24 touchdowns. A glaring problem was in pass protection, as the team's 49 sacks allowed were the fifth most in the league. The offensive line did excel in run blocking, however, as Philadelphia's 4.7 YPC was the second best mark in football. The defense was middling, as an aging secondary allowed 6.9 YPA and picked off an NFL-low 11 passes. The splashy Asante Samuel signing should help rectify some of those problems. The front seven played better, allowing just 3.8 YPC and recording 37 sacks.
Despite family troubles, Andy Reid returns as head coach along with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. Sometimes organizational change is needed, but in this case, continuity is a good thing, as the staff ranks among the best in football. A trip to the postseason won't be easy, as the Eagles' division sent three teams to the playoffs last year, including a Cowboys squad that had the best record in the conference and a Giants team that ended up winning the Super Bowl. Still, Philadelphia is built to win now and they weren't too far off last year. A contender that lost few key players over the offseason, the Eagles are ready to surprise in 2008. With a healthier McNabb combined with some key additions, the Eagles are primed to be in the playoff race until the very end.
Round, Overall, Player
2. (47) Trevor Laws, DE, Notre Dame
Should fit in well in Philadelphia's rotation-based system.
2. (49) DeSean Jackson, WR, California
Fastest receiver in draft should contribute on special teams immediately.
3. (80) Bryan Smith, LB, McNeese State
Played defensive end in college.
4. (109) Mike McGlynn, G, Pittsburgh
Can play guard or tackle.
4. (117) Quintin Demps, S, UTEP
Could be Brian Dawkins' heir apparent.
4. (131) Jack Ikegwuonu, CB, Wisconsin
Was first-round talent before suffering major knee injury.
6. (184) Mike Gibson, G, California
Provides depth on the interior.
6. (200) Joe Mays, LB, North Dakota State
Pro position is still to be determined.
6. (203) Andrew Studebaker, DE, Wheaton
Probably headed to the practice squad.
7. (230) King Dunlap, OT, Auburn
Physically talented but disappointed in senior year.
Asante Samuel, CB (Patriots)
Is he a truly elite DB or was he a product of the Patriots' system?
Chris Clemons, DE (Raiders)
Philadelphia's defense really improved this offseason.
Lorenzo Booker, RB (Dolphins)
Could see plenty of action if Brian Westbrook goes down.
Takeo Spikes, LB (FA)
Not the same player since tearing his Achilles' tendon.
Javon Kearse, DE (Titans)
Was released after disappointing 2007.
Will James, CB (Bills)
Lost his role in Philadelphia's secondary.
CAN Donovan McNabb RECAPTURE HIS OLD FORM?
After having his season end prematurely each of the previous two years, McNabb was able to complete the 2007 season. He did miss two games in the middle of the campaign, but it was still a step in the right direction, especially considering he was returning from major knee surgery. His mobility was clearly limited, and he'll never be as nimble as he once was, but he did improve in that area as the season progressed. McNabb's 7.0 YPA was average and he threw for multiple scores in just three contests, but he was picked off just seven times and ended the year with a 6:1 TD:INT ratio over the final four games. He recorded 8.0 YPA over the last two contests, so as he got healthier and more comfortable with his knee, his numbers really improved. The Eagles have to hope that carries over into 2008, as backup Kevin Kolb is untested, and this team is built to compete now. While it once seemed McNabb had one foot out of the door, Philadelphia is counting on him for at least one more season. His best days are probably behind him, but McNabb was already raving at minicamp about how much better he felt this season compared to last, so a bounce-back could be in store
CAN Brian Westbrook HOLD UP PHYSICALLY?
The Eagles have quietly become Westbrook's team over the last two seasons, as he's emerged as the most dynamic back in all of football. A nightmare to gameplan for, Westbrook is the NFL's best receiver out of the backfield and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. However, while he's managed to miss just one game in each of the past two seasons, he's never played a full 16-game schedule during his six-year career and still battles problems with his knee from time to time. Moreover, he's set new career-highs in touches during each of the last two campaigns, and the team has openly stated their plans to lessen his workload. He'll be 29 years old this season and if he were to go down, Philadelphia would be in big trouble.
ARE THE RECEIVERS GOOD ENOUGH?
Kevin Curtis emerged as the team's No. 1 receiver last year, and he was solid enough. Still, he makes for a better complementary weapon than a true No. 1, so a breakout on the part of the disappointing Reggie Brown is essential. Brown did score all of his touchdowns last season during the second half, so there's reason for optimism moving forward, but these wideouts are hardly Pro Bowl caliber. It's a pretty thin group after Curtis and Brown, as rookie DeSean Jackson figures to be a bigger help on special teams than as a receiver right away.
Rising: Brian Westbrook is now a consensus top-five fantasy back.
Declining: L.J. Smith bottomed out with just one touchdown last season.
Sleeper: Reggie Brown still has potential after scoring four times over the final eight games last year. Coach Andy Reid's system can be highly beneficial to passing stats.
Supersleeper: Correll Buckhalter is finally healthy and averaged 5.0 YPC last year. He could be a major fantasy asset if Brian Westbrook gets injured and he'll see some action at the goal line regardless.
Omar Gaither, LB
Racked up 102 tackles with an interception and eight passes defended.
Trent Cole, DE
Cole's 12.5 sacks tied for sixth in the league. He also forced four fumbles.
Asante Samuel, CB
Sixteen interceptions over the past two seasons.
RotoWire Rank: 15
Article first appeared 5/29/08
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