On The Edge Blog

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Will Eagles' offense look different next year?

It has been more than a week since the Eagles’ season ended with back-to-back losses at the hands of the hated Dallas Cowboys, and while it was tough to even watch football last weekend, it did make me feel good to see the Cowboys get crushed.

After Dallas lost to Minnesota, I realized that the Eagles are not as far away from being an elite team as I had thought after losing by a combined 58-14 to the Cowboys. I think Dallas, and its 3-4 defense, along with its rare combination of having Pro Bowlers at tight end and wide receiver, gave the Eagles fits, but there is no way the Birds are 50 points worse than the Vikings.

But, just because the Eagles aren’t as bad as I thought, it doesn’t mean they don’t need to make some roster adjustments in the next three months.

This week, I will look at the moves needed to make the Eagles’ offense, which put up a franchise-record 429 points in 2009, a unit that cannot be stopped by simply blitzing and then bracketing the wide receivers after playing press coverage.

Here are my predictions and thoughts on the Eagles’ offense by position:

Quarterback: This is obviously the most contentious part of the roster, but it is pretty simple actually. Both Donovan McNabb, who will be in the Pro Bowl because either Brett Favre or Drew Brees will be playing in Super Bowl, and Kevin Kolb each have one year remaining on their contracts. Because of the franchise tag, the Eagles should not be in a rush to extend either player, and simply let McNabb prove he deserves an extension, or hand the keys over to Kolb if McNabb gets injured or shows that the offense isn’t working with him at the helm.

Regardless of what people say about McNabb, the Eagles did score the most points in franchise history, so he couldn’t have been that bad!

Regarding Michael Vick, the roster bonus he is set to receive in March should not force the Birds to trade him before they get what they are hoping for, and I would expect to see either the Raiders or Rams give the Eagles a second round pick for taking the one-year public relations hit attached to signing Vick during the preseason.

Running Back: Despite a case of fumblitis in the first round of the playoffs, Leonard Weaver was the best offseason pickup for the Birds, and deservedly made the Pro Bowl this year. More importantly, his 85 touches showed the Eagles that a big back can really move the chains. With Brian Westbrook looking into retirement (and probably wouldn’t be back anyway at a cost of more than $7 million), the Eagles will have an opening in the backfield.

While very explosive, LeSean McCoy is not a running back who can handle 20 carries per game, but then again, only three running backs in the NFL topped 20 carries per game (320 carries) this season, and only 12 running backs even topped 240 carries (15 per game).

That means the Eagles, who finally saw the benefits of having a powerful running back, will use Westbrook’s roster spot to sign or draft their first 230-pounder since Duce Staley for the tailback position.

We all saw how effective Weaver was this season, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, which was better than McCoy or Westbrook, but all of those yards occurred without a fullback in front of him because he was the fullback. Now imagine what would happen if the Eagles drafted a certain Heisman candidate from Stanford, and then put him behind Weaver. The Eagles would finally have a true running game.

I don’t actually know where the Eagles are going to get this power back because of the uncertainty regarding an uncapped season in 2010, which would cause numerous players to become restricted free agents, instead of unrestricted, but I would bet they get one to run behind Weaver.

Wide Receiver: I like the Eagles’ group of receivers, and so does the front office. The only change that I could see being made is replacing the oft-injured Kevin Curtis with a bigger target.

I can’t remember the last time the Eagles had four pass catchers – DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant – who could top 100 yards in any game. That group combined for 10 100-yard games in 2009 and will only get better, as Avant is the old man of the group at just 26 years old.

Offensive Line: The offensive line was simply offensive this season. Last year, McNabb was sacked 23 times in 16 games, while this year, the “revamped” line allowed 38 sacks and was clearly a feast-or-famine unit.

It seemed like the line either played like garbage (see: Oakland, Dallas) or gave McNabb all the time in the world to throw a touchdown pass (see: New York, Atlanta, Tampa Bay).

In the offseason, the Eagles threw big-money deals at Stacy Andrews and Jason Peters, but neither player worked out. Both Andrews brothers saw about as much time as I did on the offensive line this year, and while Peters helped the ground game, he whiffed on defensive ends far too often to justify his mind-boggling Pro Bowl selection this season.

I don’t think the Eagles are going to cut either Andrews brother or Peters, but it was simply irresponsible to think that Stacy could be effective just nine months after tearing two ligaments in his knee. However, with another year of rehab and practice, Stacy could once again become the physical run blocker the Eagles hoped they were getting last February.

Now to the other Andrews. I can’t imagine the Eagles would cut Shawn after holding onto him all season, but they won’t count on him being one of the 10 linemen they plan to keep heading into the 2010 season. If he is healthy and wants to play, he could be an All-Pro tackle or guard on the right side, but anything they get out of him should be considered a bonus at this point.

It is obvious that improvements need to be made to the Eagles offensive line, but I would not expect the front office to make any moves except to bring in a few big bodies for depth purposes. My guess is that the front office hopes the rash of injuries that plagued the line will not occur in 2010, allowing the talented unit to develop some real chemistry.

Predictions for Sunday’s conference championship games: New Orleans erases years of “Aints” memories with a 37-24 win over the Vikings, while Peyton Manning continues to make his case for being called the greatest quarterback in NFL history as the Colts end the Jets’ Cinderella run with a 24-13 victory.

Like the “On the Edge” column? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show. This week we will break down the NFL’s conference title games, and further our discussion on what the Eagles need to do this spring to improve their roster.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that Donovan is a better than average QB, however he has proven that he can not win the big games. He is a choke artist, and it is time to trade him for something usable while he has some value. He consistently throws the ball low, behind or high. It was the receivers this year that made him look good. 11 years and what have the Eagles received for their investment in McNabb?

January 22, 2010 9:28 AM  

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