As training camp starts, all fans think their team is going to the Super Bowl. The Eagles fans have a lot of help this year getting excited about their team because of a run to the NFC Championship in 2008 and because the national media is heaping a lot of expectations on this team.
However the 2009 Eagles are going to look quite different than the 2008 Eagles. Maybe the Eagles motto this year should mimic the successful Barak Obama motto in 2008, “Change we can believe in.” Most concerning is Jim Johnson recent passing, may he rest in peace. In addition… Brian Dawkins is gone. Tra Thomas is gone. Lito Sheppard is gone. Sean Considine is gone. Correll Buckhalter is gone. Yes, they drafted LeSean McCoy and traded for Ellis Hobbs as well as FINALLY drafting Donovan McNabb some help at WR, but will it be enough?
About this time last year I wrote an article about why the Cowboys were going to disappoint everyone and gave 5 reasons for that. Most have no idea I wrote it because I only sent it to some friends to review and never published it. That laziness cost me, because my reasons were sound and generally proven to be right.
So here I will do the same with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles will not go far 2009,although they may make the playoffs if the Giants don’t get their act together. The Cowboys and Redskins are just simply a mess and the Eagles could possibly fall into the division title with a terrible record. Here are my top 5 reasons why the Eagle will not live up the hype of the media and Eagles fans expectations.
Johnson has been the engine behind the Eagles success on defense for many years. His risky schemes and confusing formations have been creating havoc on the NFL, despite a lack of real talent in some stretches. It is unlikely that this can be continued without Johnson and without more talent. This is without a doubt the biggest question hanging over this team.
How do you replace Brian Dawkins? You don’t, and neither will the Eagles. The Eagles are hoping that Quintin Demps or Sean Jones will be starter quality at his position, but not even the Eagles could possibly think that you can replace Dawkins leadership and Pro-Bowl quality experience with either or both of them.
The Offensive Line.
Acquiring Jason Peters was a mistake. He’s not a very good LT and it will cost the Eagles dearly if Donovan McNabb gets hurt. An even larger concern about Peters is how he responded when asked about giving up 11.5 sacks in 2008, “If I give up 11.5 sacks, I’m only human.” Really? Scary. On top of that they picked up Stacey Andrews? This guy was on the Cincinnati Bengals O-line that allowed the slaughter of Carson Palmer and a few other QBs. Even more concerning is that he was a RG on that line and they want him to move to the tackle position. There is a theme here. Jason Peters gave up more sacks than any other LT in the league in 2008, and Andrews was on a Cinncy line that gave up 51 sacks in 2008. Yet, both of these linemen were highly regarded by fans and sportswriters… What’s the theme? They picked up two over-rated O-lineman.
To make things worse, Shawn Andrews (Stacey’s brother) and Jason Peters both started training camp on the sidelines. With three new starters on the O-line, you need timing to be down, it’s about working well together, not necessarily individual talent. In a part of the team that relies so heavily on practicing together, not a good sign.
Brian Westbrook will be 30 by the time the season starts. He didn’t play a full season last year and didn’t get a 1000 yards rushing or 500 yards receiving. He averaged just 2.9 yards per carry in the last six games of the season. He had a degenerative knee problem last year, and had surgery in the offseason to repair it, but Westbrook has been declining in health the last few years, missing a lot of games and it’s hard to imagine that this surgery fixed all the problems. He started training camp in the PUP list for his ankle, not a good sign.
When Westbrook is in the game, about a third (yes like 33%) of the of all offensive plays run through him. He’s not played a full season ever in his career (whether by injury or not being activated for a game) and Buckhalter was a good backup. Will LeSean McCoy be able to handle the load the way that will be needed? Doubtful.
I hate this. I really hate this. McNabb is one of my favorite guys because he has really toughed it out in an undeserved beating from the Philly fans. However, his O-line is not going to protect him (remember Peters? Andrews?) and without Westbrook (I think he’ll falter under the load remember?) he’s going to get crushed. It’s going to really hurt to watch him lose his opportunity to use DeSean Jackson and Maclin in a dynamic offense. If only the Eagles had given him some of that talent a few years ago…
Those two guys are the main concerns, but on top of that the Eagles started training camp with a list of players out already. Brian Westbrook, Shawn Andrews, Asante Samuel, Trevor Laws, Victor Abiamiri and Victor “Macho” Harris all started training camp on the PUP list. All but two should be starters in 2009. Usually you worry about new injuries in training camp and pre-season games, but if these guys don’t get healthy, the Eagles won’t be able to survive any more major injuries.
Expectations can play mind games with a team. There are a lot of expectations after a magical run from a 5-6 start to the season to the NFC Championship game. To make things worse, recently Eagles team president Joe Banner stated that their roster was the best in the NFL.
Last year the Eagles were able to make that late run and get some momentum, but can they do that when there is a whole lot of talk about a disappointing Eagles team. There will be a lot of that in 2009 if the Eagles aren’t leading the NFC East by mid-season. Can they do that when the O-line may be still trying to learn how to play together? When Westbrook and others might not be fully recovered from starting training camp on the sidelines?
Andy Reid is a good coach. He’s done a great job with the team and normally it could be assumed he could help the team weather through a rough start to the season. However, he’s been waning in the last few years as family pressures and outside influences have started to show in the Eagles performance. If he can put those aside, maybe it won’t be so bad, but it’s not been looking that way the last couple of years. Some even pontificate that maybe the Eagles success had more to do with Jim Johnson’s defense than with Reid’s coaching. Can he hold this team together as the pressure mounts?
So that’s it, that’s why there is a lot to be concerned about in Philly. There’s training camp and pre-season to get a glimpse of the future, but the real thing will start on Sept 13th.