The degree to which even tiny misjudgments can have huge impacts in the NFL makes it even more impressive that the Eagles were able to stay on top for as long as they did.
Lots of people want to rip the organization for a couple bad drafts a few years ago, but consider just how strange it is that one position that the team clearly thinks is important -- the defensive line -- became such an area of weakness:
- Corey Simon, one of the best defensive tackles in the league, got fed up with his contract, then when he got his new contract from the Colts he got fed up in a different way and promptly ate his way out of the league. He's still only 31 and should still be playing. Have to say the Eagles won this gamble in letting him go.
- Jevon Kearse didn't ... exactly pan out as a free agent addition. Also 31 and should still be playing at a high level.
- Free agent signing Darren Howard also didn't work out the way they hoped. So much for guys who just need a change of scenery.
- Derrick Burgess had all the talent but couldn't stay healthy until he finally caught a lucky break in his contract year. The Eagles didn't want to gamble on his health issues. They lost that one.
- Raheem Brock was drafted by the Eagles in the 7th round of the 2002 draft. Everyone thinks the Eagles cut him, but what really happened is that his agent refused to accept the remaining bonus money the Eagles had in their rookie pool. Rather than dealing with a holdout from a guy who wasn't likely to make it anyway, the Eagles cut him loose.
- Sam Rayburn, a solid run-stopping DT, somewhat mysteriously lost the great strength that had been his biggest asset. He was ineffective after that happened.
That's a fair amount of talent they Eagles tried to stockpile. Throw young guys like Cole, JT and potentially Bunkley or Patterson into the mix -- and keep Darwin Walker in a position where he's just a pass rusher and not an every down player -- and in theory that's one heck of a defensive line.
Of course, as we now know, none of that worked out and the Eagles are still trying to find the right pieces to put together at that position. After the last three offseasons worth of solid drafting and free agent signing, they might finally be there.
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The defensive line was sort of a nightmare scenario, but I think Andy Reid made another miscalculation a few years ago in thinking he could bank on the character of the locker room to make sure everyone stayed hungry. Whether it's because of the players who left or getting too used to success or even the fractures caused by Owens, it seems pretty clear that this didn't work out.
Which is why the focus over the past couple offseasons for the Eagles seems to be all about competition. Other than the unquestioned supremacy of Brian Westbrook, there isn't another position on the team where guys can feel safe without looking over their shoulders.
And that's a good thing. Remember that article a few weeks ago about Jamaal Jackson's workouts? He wasn't hitting the gym twice a day because he wanted to win the Super Bowl -- although that's part of it -- he was doing it because he was worried some kid was going to come in an steal his job. And what do you know, the Eagles drafted a guy who can play his position this past weekend. Time to battle it out.
Heck, even DeSean Jackson, who damn well better be the guy we need at returner this season, has another rookie looking over his shoulder in the form of a 4.3X running safety who also returned kicks in college.
No one gets anything for free. And that's the way it should be.