Philadelphia Eagles – (2006 record = 10-6) – Projected Record – 11-5
It is well known that Philadelphia fans are very hard to win over. Even Santa wasn’t successful. But where Santa failed, Donovan McNabb succeed. At least initially. After hearing a chorus as he was drafted, McNabb played at a consistently high level winning over Eagles by leading the team to the conference championship in four straight years. But ever since the departure of Terrell Owens, McNabb has struggled mightily - not so much with his play - but with a string of devastating injuries that have hindered his almost sure fire path to the hall of fame.
McNabb was fine and then last year happened. He was once again in Pro Bowl form throwing to the likes of Donte Stallworth, Reggie Brown, LJ Smith, and Brian Westbrook, looking like McNabb might once again take the Eagles to their fifth NFC conference championship game in six years when McNabb rolls out and ruptures his ACL against Tennessee. This seemed like a huge blow at the time with the Eagles’ leader and best player out for the rest of the year. With Jeff Garcia taking over the reigns from McNabb, the Philadelphia Eagles seemed doomed.
But Garcia exceeded all expectations, and he lead the Eagles to the NFC East division title. Added to the division title, Garcia even won his first playoff game in Philadelphia. Suddenly, McNabb seemed expendable. Even though Garcia left in the offseason, McNabb once again had reason to feel uneasy in his role as the starting Philadelphia quarterback when Andy Reid drafted quarterback Kevin Kolb with Philadephia’s first overall pick.
Throughout the offseason Donovan McNabb has stated that he has felt extremely slighted this offseason, and this is why I expect McNabb to go out and have one of his best seasons to date. With weapons like Westbrook, Smith, Brown, emerging wide receiver Hank Baskett, and newly signed Kevin Curtis, McNabb has the tools at his expense. But the biggest challenge that he will face is simply staying healthy. I foresee McNabb having a huge season and backing up Drew Brees for the NFC in the Pro Bowl, and satisfying Eagles fans by leading the Eagles deep into the NFC playoffs.
Star to Watch – While most of the offseason focus has been placed on the Donovan McNabb saga, the Eagles most valuable player – and the player that deserves the most attention - is running back Brian Westbrook. Westbrook has made great strides in the past two years improving his running between the tackles – and while that is great - the thing that sets Westbrook apart is his pass catching ability. With 77 catches for a 9.1 yard average Westbrook led the team in receiving last year, giving linebackers fits all over the league. I expect great things from Westbrook this year with around the same amount of receptions but less wear and tear on his body with backup running back Correll Buckhalter finally healthy after a bevy of knee injuries taking more of the inside rushes for the Eagles.
Players to Watch – The Eagles have many big names on defense. Jevon Kearse, Brian Dawkins, new acquisition Takeo Spikes, and Lito Sheppard are all very important to the success of the defense. While the superstars on the Eagles are important, lesser known names such as Sean Considine and Broderick Bunckley will need to be extremely effective in order for the Eagles to have a successful 2007-08 campaign. Bunckley, the second-year former first round pick has – as has been reported from Philadelphia training camp – has been extremely impressive in the offseason and is taking on a space eating role similar to that of Tommie Harris and Vince Wilfork. I look for Bunckley to improve the Eagles’ defense against the rush, which will be especially important with the release of Jeremiah Trotter earlier in the preseason. The other player that will need to step into the starting lineup and perform well is strong safety Sean Considine. Considine will have many instances where he is up in the box to support the run, left in single coverage because of the aggressive blitzing nature of defensive coordinator Jim Johnston, and in regular pass coverage. Most safeties in the league do not excel in all three of these categories and only time will tell if Considine can be one of the rare exceptions. Both Bunckley and Considine will need to play up to the level of the Eagles star defensive players in order for the team’s defense to return to their solid form, and I think they will.
2007 Preview of the Philadelphia Eagles:
- Donovan McNabb will have a bounce back season and he will be great. Brian Westbrook will also be great this season and will be fresher in the playoffs this season compared to last. Along with these two players, the Eagles offensive line will be one of the three best in the NFC this year.
- Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown will prove to be one of the best cornerback tandems in the league this year, and will team with safeties Considine and Brian Dawkins to form one of the best secondary’s in the NFL.
- Takeo Spikes will play great, but the linebacking core will be very inconsistent against the run and against the pass with first time, full season linebackers Omar Gaither and Chris Gocong.
- Jevon Kearse will bounce back and have at least ten sacks this year.
- A breakout player in the Eagles offense will be Hank Baskett, who seems to fit in greatly with the type of receiver the Eagles like to utilize.
- Finally, Andy Reid will seriously consider leaving the Eagles to deal with the troubles of his sons who are having a very tough time staying sober. I think he will end up staying, but do not be surprised if Reid decides to put his family before his profession.
How the Philadelphia Eagles’ will fare in the 2007-08 season: In a talented but overrated division, the Eagles will be the best team in the NFC East and the third best team in the NFC. I see the Eagles losing to the New Orleans Saints in the second round of the playoffs, but they could easily beat the Saints and reach the Super Bowl if the defense plays well.