Those Cowboys losses are really lingering.
Reading some of the comments around here, the Eagles sound like a total teardown project. They need to revamp the linebacker corps and the offensive line. Their corners all stink or won't tackle. No one but Trent Cole can get to the quarterback.
Why even bother with the 2010 season? They could save everyone the time and trouble if they just went out and shot themselves. That would clear the cap and they could make a big splash in next year's deep free agency pool.
Man. You guys are depressing.
I'm not saying there aren't some holes, but let's look at things a bit more closely while I channel my inner Dave Spadaro.
Offensive line -- The problems last year were two-fold: injuries early and injuries late. The early injuries including Todd Herremans, a darn good guard who might have been our best lineman in 2008. If we learned anything last year, it's that you don't really want to put MJG or Nick Cole on the field for an extended period of time. When Herr-dog got hurt, we had to play them both.
Once Herremans came back, it looked like things were rounding into shape. The right guard spot was still the weak link, but with everyone else healthy and getting reps playing together, the line was doing OK, at least in pass protection. Then came the injury to Jamaal Jackson and it all went to hell.
Reasons for concern -- JJ won't be 100 percent until the 2011 season, so center is a big old question mark. Will Stacy Andrews be any good?
Reasons for optimism -- Three-fifths of the line is really solid:
- Jason Peters -- An elite talent who's like a pitcher that gives up too many gopher balls. Fortunately, it's a lot easier to fix lineman technique issues than it is to stop being a high-ball pitcher.
- Todd Herremans -- Unsung, very solid performer. Should be healthy this year and not trying to fight through an injury all season. Also has a sweet van.
- Winston Justice -- Winston playing well last year wasn't a dog walking on its hind legs; it was a dog flawlessly banging out the Rach 3 while blindfolded. I don't know how we got here, but let's just enjoy the view.
So what about the other two spots? Center is going to be tough. I don't know if we have the season-opening starter on the roster yet. And I'm terrified that we're going to try to play patch-together while we wait for Jamaal to be "ready" to come back in November.
But it's not like there aren't options. Right now, the Eagles have Nick Cole, Mike McGlynn, A.Q. Shipley and Dallas Reynolds as guys who can all play center. If we can't get one of those four guys to step up, we're going to have to put Juan Castillo on a round-the-clock suicide watch.
It's a similar story at right guard, and in fact, even a couple of names are the same. I expect Stacy Andrews to be much improved over last year, not just because he's finally healthy, but because he's had another year to work on his technique and he's got fewer distractions this time around.
Now, he's going to have to be very good to still be on the roster in 2011 with that contract he has, but that just tells you the Eagles are already going to be thinking about his replacement in this year's draft.
The biggest thing next year is finding five guys and then letting them play together for a few months. If we can do that and slide in a QB with a different sack/big play calculus, we should be fine.
Linebackers -- Cracks me up that a year ago there were actually people calling this position a strength. Anyway, you don't have to go that far to see that two of the positions are going to be fine this year. Akeem Jordan is better than people realize and Stewart Bradley will be back. And I know players are "never" full strength the first year back from an ACL, but a lot of those comparisons are apples and oranges. Bradley got hurt really early, he's a younger guy and his injury was of the clean, one-ligament variety.
SAM is no doubt a scary position. But with Bradley making a difference on run plays and with the amount of nickel we play, we really just need Fokou to be able to cover tight ends better than we have for a few years. If he can't, this year's draft pick will be given every opportunity to do so.
Secondary -- The Asante Samuel thing is getting a little ridiculous. Yes, he's a lousy tackler and yes, he needs to stop being such a wuss so people can't just run WR screens at him all day. But all corners get beaten sometimes and Asante makes a lot of plays. The people wanting to give him away to whatever team offers us a decent LB need to take a deep breath.
The other CB position is a massive concern. Either they have some super top secret plan to turn Marlin Jackson or Macho Harris into the RCB, or else we're going to have to draft someone to play that position. That's going to be a tough one. Fortunately, it should be hard for the FS position to be any worse. So hopefully those will balance out.
And, well, that's it. All the other positions are either fine or way more than fine.
A few readers jumped on the tables I posted yesterday by saying they were insufficient to define a playmaker. Well no kidding. You didn't see Leonard Weaver's name anywhere on those lists, but would anyone argue that he's not a serious playmaker at the FB position? For what this offense does, is there a better fullback in the league? The dude's a super stud.
Anyone bummed about Jeremy Maclin being the number two receiver? Not just a little intrigued by Cornelius Ingram as the #2 tight end?
Seven words: Spread the field. DeSean Jackson. Slant route.
Are the Eagles going to win the Super Bowl next year? No, probably not. You don't just shed players like McNabb, Westbrook and Sheldon -- or going back a year to Dawk, Tra and Runyan -- and carry on without skipping a beat. For all the "energy" and "excitement" youth brings, you also get "inexperience" and "boneheaded mistakes."
So if you're one of those fans who thinks any season that ends without a ring is an abysmal failure, you might just want to sit the next 11 months out. This team is probably at least a year away and the playoff loss is going to be gut-wrenching, as usual.
For the rest of us, we'll just pretend it's 2001 all over again, with a young, up-and-coming team captained by a fresh new QB. The climb may be a bit too steep this year, but it's looking like a nice, long window is opening up before us.