In any defense, the tackles may be the most important part.
They are the first line, and they’re the tone-setters. Their play can determine the difficulty or ease of the linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties behind them.
If the line is playing well and keep the linebackers clean, odds are that team will be fairly successful. If they’re not, their respective team is looking at a very long day.
They’re the biggest guys on the field and their only intention is to make sure that the other big guys across from them don’t move them. They growl, they snot, and they snarl just to defend that six inches of ground.
The trenches. It’s the reason why we love football and what makes it such a man’s man of a sport. Giving up or keeping that six inches can be the difference between a win and a loss.
These are the guys who do it best.
5. Mike Patterson – Philadelphia Eagles
54 games started, 9.5 sacks, 1 INT, 3 forced fumbles, 1 TD, 154 tackles
Patterson has been solid since his first days in the NFL, but over the last two seasons he has really began to separate himself as one of the better tackles in all of football.
He’s grown into a brick wall. He’s not tall, and not all that big at only 5’11 and barely breaking 300 pounds, but he understands that leverage is all that counts when you’re a lineman, and he uses it better than most.
His shorter stature seems to help with this, as it’s much easier for a guy at 5’11 to get lower than a guy at around 6’4.
Look for Patterson in the Pro Bowl this year, and several times in seasons following. If this list is put together again in a few years, he may find himself much higher.
4. Marcus Stroud – Buffalo Bills
100 games started, 24.5 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 245 tackles, *3-time Pro Bowler
Stroud is an absolutely dominating force.
He’s highly underrated because of the small markets he’s played in (Jacksonville and Buffalo), but make no mistake there is not a single offensive coordinator in the league who doesn’t gamplan for a way around Marcus Stroud.
Even without the deserved media coverage, Stroud has still found his way to three Pro Bowls. One more than his former teammate, John Henderson.
Stroud is always going to command a double-team, and will make his teammates better because of it.
3. Tommie Harris – Chicago Bears
69 games started, 24.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 143 tackles, *3-time Pro Bowler
Tommie Harris may be the quickest man playing defensive tackle.
Unlike Patterson, Harris is much more of a pass-rush specialist. While he certainly doesn’t seem to lack against the run, his forte is getting pressure on the quarterback and creating havoc in the backfield.
Barring injuries, Harris may be considered the best tackle in all of football, regardless of the scheme. Unfortunately for Harris and the Bears, he has been injured throughout his career and unable to reach his full potential.
Even while he may not ever get to that point, he is still a force to be reckoned with and should be recognized as one of the most complete tackles playing the game today.
2. Albert Haynesworth – Washington Redskins
74 games started, 24 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 200 tackles, *2-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Albert Haynesworth. He seems to only be motivated by the money and the glory of playing professional football. I may be wrong, but the fact that he has only produced in contract years does nothing to temper the criticism.
As far as on-the-field goes, no one has been better than Haynesworth the past two years. He has been a disrupting force anywhere along the line. While he’s mainly a tackle, he has moved out to defensive end on occasion with great success.
He is a beast of a human being and is able to beat nearly any offensive lineman that the league can throw at him. Again, the only problem is that he has only produced in contract years.
If we throw out the past two seasons (both contract years), Haynesworth has a mere 9.5 sacks. He also has never finished out an entire season. This, in my mind, does not entitle him to the $100 million contract he received. He has his money, now will he be motivated to perform?
1. Kevin Williams – Minnesota Vikings
94 games started, 42.5 sacks, 4 INTs, 5 forced fumbles, 4 TDs, 223 tackles, *4-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro
Kevin Williams is without question the very best defensive tackle in the entire NFL.
He is incredibly reliable (having missed only two games in his career), and can rush the passer as well as stuff the run.
He’s an absolute wrecking ball on the line. Moving him is a nightmare for any offensive line. He consistently must be double-teamed if he is going to be taken out of a game, and even then he usually dominates.
His rare mix of being able to get to the quarterback and hold his own on the line is something the NFL hasn’t seen since back when Reggie White graced the football field with his presence.
The four career interceptions, two of which he’s returned for touchdowns, shows the rare athleticism he possesses for a man his size. He also has scooped up two fumbles for touchdowns.
Williams is a talent that only comes along once a generation. He’s a man who’s extremely underappreciated because of the position he plays, but should get serious Hall of Fame looks if his career holds up the way it is.
Getting a win in Week 1 is vital, but getting a win in Week 2 can start a roll that can last deep into the season. Every season at least one team does it, and both of these teams are prime candidates to get on such a roll.
The Saints come into Philadelphia toting possibly the most explosive offense in the entire NFL, against the Eagles who boast one of the most suffocating defenses in the league over the past 10 year. Even without the late, great Jim Johnson, the Eagles defense proved they could dominate last week against the Panthers.
Both teams have a shot at this game, but here at 2M2MG, we’re Eagles homers. So let’s look at the keys to the game for the Birds, shall we?
Health of Donovan McNabb
While I believe the Eagles could beat the Saints with or without McNabb, having him makes the task much easier.
There’s not much debate regarding McNabb’s status as an elite, top five quarterback, so it’s obvious that the Eagles are a much better team with him. On the other side of that, Kevin Kolb, who would start in his absense, is unproven and in fact has done nothing but show that he is incapable rather than making a push for McNabb’s job.
Just having McNabb on the field adds a new aspect to the offense that the Saints defense must worry about, which in itself makes him a vital piece of the game. Broken rib or not, he gives this offense the best opportunity to score points.
Disrupt Drew Brees’ Timing
If the Eagles defense is going to stop the Saints high-powered offense, they’re going to have to disrupt Brees’ timing. How do they do that? They do it by blitzing, blitzing, and when all else fails, just blitz some more.
It does, however, have to be precise and well-planned blitzing or Brees will pick the defense apart. By this I mean blitzing a corner from Brees’ blindside, stunting along the line, and just simply blitzing effectively. If the blitzers are getting stone-walled, then Brees will have an easy day.
If Brees has an easy day, the Eagles will lose.
Control the Clock — Keep Brees & Co. On the Sideline
This is the simplest key to achieve, as it should be easy for Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy to run behind Leonard Weaver and this athletic offensive line. The Saints defense is below average and should struggle mightily against the run if the Eagles will committ to it.
This will be a key for every team facing off against the Saints this season, as the defense is obviously nothing to be worried about, but the offense can win games all by itself. Teams will certainly rather have their offense playing the same squad that gave up 27 points to the Detroit Lions rather than the quarterback those nearly beat Dan Marino’s passing yards record last season.
Reid should have Eldra Buckley active this week, as a power back would certainly go a long way in wearing down this defense even further.
Week 1 can be the most important game of the entire year for a football team. For example, Eagles fans will remember Week 1 of the 2007 season as the game that doomed the Eagles for the year, but sent the Green Bay Packers to the NFC Championship game.
Many would question how the first game could possibly have such an impact, but really it’s simple. The confidence of a big win can help you through the entire year, and adversely the hurt of losing a game that you should have won can kill a season. Were the Packers the second-best team in the NFC that year? Probably not. They overachieved because of that confidence.
It may not be the same situation for the Eagles and Panthers because both are good teams, and it probably wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see either team pull it out (although most would agree the Eagles are the better team). In that instance, it’s just the fact of getting that first win to get on a roll, so either way, Week 1 is immensely important.
With that all said, let’s look at what the Eagles must do to win this game.
Jason Peters Must Win the Battle vs. Julius Peppers
Julius Peppers is quite simply a freak of nature. At first glance, he just looks like another lanky defensive end. However, at 6’6″ and 290 pounds he’s got an incredible combination of speed and strength that the NFL hasn’t seen since the Minister of Defense, Reggie White.
Jason Peters, like Peppers, is supposed to combine the athleticism and size usually unseen in a man at his position. At 6’4″ and 330 pounds, most would expect Peters to be slow and clumsy, but instead he’s got fantastic footwork and the athleticism of a man 100 pounds lighter.
To point out the obvious — this will be an incredible matchup.
If Peters can keep Peppers away from Donovan McNabb, he should be able to tear apart the Panthers’ secondary. They’re a patchwork of average players that will not be able to cover the Eagles’ receivers if McNabb is given time to find them. If he’s not, it will be a long and difficult game for the Eagles offense.
Peters’ footwork will be the difference in this matchup. If Peters can stay in front of Peppers, he should have no problem overpowering him and keeping him away from McNabb. However, if Peters remains to be slow off the ball, Peppers will eat him alive all day.
Make the Panthers Play from Behind
The best way to do this is to keep a good pass-run ratio for the first quarter (or so) of the game. By keeping it to about 55-45%, the Eagles can score some points while also tiring out the defense. This way, when the Panthers offense gets on the field, the won’t be able to rely as heavily on the running game.
Basically the plan here is to make Jake Delhomme and the receivers beat you. With Asante Samuel on Steve Smith, and Sheldon Brown on Mushin Muhammad, that should be an incredibly difficult feat for Delhomme. He’s been a pretty decent quarterback, but he has shown that if he’s forced to play from behind he’ll crumble and throw some picks.
With Samuel looking to double his production from last season, we should be able to see some big plays from him and the rest of the defense.
Once the Eagles have a lead of at least two touchdowns, then it’s time to pound the ball. Give all three running backs some reps so there’s always a fresh runner for the Carolina “D” to chase after. Give Brian Westbrook a pitch to the outside, give LeSean McCoy a carry off-tackle, then pound it up the middle with Leonard Weaver and Eldra Buckley.
The Carolina defense will be ready to roll over by the end of the third quarter.
Eliminate Mental Mistake on Both Side of the Ball
Mental mistakes were the biggest thing for the Eagles during the preseason as silly penalties would back them up and take points off the board. All penalties are mental mistakes, but the biggest ones are procedural penalties such as false start, offsides, delay of game, illegal formation, etc.
Mental mistakes would also include plays like the lateral against the Jaguars in the third preseason game. If the ball is throw backwards, it’s live. Don’t just watch it bounce around and give up an easy six points because you’re not paying attention.
If the Eagles make those kinds of mistakes repeatedly, it could mean the difference between a win and a loss to start off the season.
Execute; Do the Little Things Properly
As I said, most would consider the Eagles to be the better team in this game. Personally, that’s the ship I’m on at the moment. If you compare the offenses, it goes to the Eagles I believe because the Panthers don’t have much of a passing game. If you compare the defenses, it’s not even an argument that the Eagles take the cake there as well.
With that said, the Eagles just need to do the little things properly and they should be able to walk away with a victory. Little things such as making your blocks even if you’re backside, and always making sure the ball is moving forward. Even if it’s only one or two yards, it’s a positive play. If you spend time going backwards, it begins to add up.
Considering it’s a Week 1 game, there’s bound to be some mistakes in execution. However, if they can keep the mistakes at a minimum, they should be 1-0 for their home opener against the Saints in Week 2.
With the first round of cuts taking place today in about 15 minutes and the final round of cuts taking place on Saturday, it’s about the right time to take a look at how the Philadelphia Eagles roster will look for the 2009-2010 season.
Earlier in the year—about two months before training camp even began—I laid out my 53 guys to make the roster. Now that the preseason is just about over (the fourth game is looming, but it’s understood that if you didn’t produce in the first three games, you’re only holding a tryout for the other 31 teams in the fourth), it’s time to take a look at the roster again.
Note: this is more an article of how the roster should look, rather than what the roster will exactly look like. Reid’s moves will be taken into consideration, however, such as Kolb staying and A.J. Feeley most likely being moved.
QB 1 – Donovan McNabb
Despite the talk about Vick, this is an obvious choice. McNabb will not lose his job this year or the next. The only way McNabb is not the quarterback of this team is if his contract runs out, or he retires.
QB 2 – Michael Vick
No matter what Reid says, Vick is the second-best quarterback on this roster. Putting him as the third-string quarterback would kill the gameday rosters and really put the Eagles in a bind if McNabb was to go down.
QB 3 – Kevin Kolb
Even though I’m not a fan of Kolb and believe A.J. Feeley should still be the third-string guy for this team, it’s just not going to happen. Kolb will be an Eagle in 2009—next season is up in the air, but for this year, he’s the third guy.
Overall: A.J. Feeley will either be cut or traded, most likely traded. I think the Eagles will carry four quarterbacks for a short while if they’re unable to move Feeley by Saturday. Look for the Eagles to expect about a fifth or sixth-round pick for Feeley.
Running Back (3)
RB 1 – Brian Westbrook
Again, not exactly a surprising option as the No. 1 guy here. Westbrook appears to be heading into this season at 100 percent and could very well have a career year if he’s able to stay healthy throughout the entire season. Many expected him to become a member of the 1,000-1,000 club—perhaps this is the year.
RB 2 – LeSean McCoy
Personally, I believe that McCoy should probably be the No. 1 guy in terms of getting more carries and playing more snaps. Doing that will keep Westbrook fresh for the playoffs and get the rookie some incredibly valuable playing time, which will help when he takes over in two years or so. His blocking will prevent that, but he should be a playmaker.
RB 3 – Eldra Buckley
Buckley has significantly outperformed Lorenzo Booker on offense and contributed on special teams. Buckley is a good third running back and a wonderful option as the second guy were Westbrook to go down for a lengthy period of time.
Overall: Lorenzo Booker has not looked bad on offense, but Buckley has just looked better. Booker should find a team, however. If Westbrook can stay healthy, this may be the best year that the Reid era has ever seen in terms of effective rushing.
FB 1 – Leonard Weaver
Weaver is a very good blocker, runner, and can also catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s the first real fullback the Eagles have had since Jon Ritchie was roaming the backfield what seems like an eternity ago. Hopefully he can be the difference-maker the Eagles expect him to be.
Overall: Kyle Eckel is a good player who could—and should—find a starting job with a team desperate for a fullback. He’s a good run-blocker, and can run the ball. He’s not great catching the ball out of the backfield, but not many teams ask that of their fullback.
Wide Receiver (6)
WR 1 – DeSean Jackson
Earlier, I had Jackson listed as the second receiver but with the way he played in camp and the way he has played in the preseason, he’s obviously the best receiver on this team. He’s making the tough catches and showing his first season—with accompanying rookie mistakes—is far behind him.
WR 2 – Kevin Curtis
This could change if Curtis is unable to get healthy, but for now he gives the Eagles a great option either stretching the defense deep or getting some yards after the catch on a simple slant or dig pattern. Hopefully he can get to 100 percent before the season and get back to 2007 form.
WR 3 – Jason Avant
Avant is certainly coming into his own as the slot receiver. He is able to go up after the ball, and may have a pair of the strongest hands in the entire league. He’s very good at extending and snagging the ball out of the air and going across the middle, something you like to see in a slot receiver.
WR 4 – Jeremy Maclin
This will of course depend on how much of the playbook he has perfected by the time the season begins, but if he can get the plays down he will be the fourth receiver. Given the “receiver-by-committee” approach the Eagles use, the fourth receiver still sees plenty of playing time. Hopefully Maclin is up to it and moves up the depth chart throughout the season.
WR 5 – Reggie Brown
Yes, that’s right. Reggie Brown. Word is there’s not much interest for Brown as far as a trade goes, so he will be the guy to stay. The lack of interest is probably not as much about a perceived lack of talent as it is a fairly big contract for a fifth receiver, and the fact that he has been a bit injury-prone over the past couple of seasons.
WR 6 – Brandon Gibson
Gibson is a guy who I wished could stay since day one, and his training camp/preseason has done nothing to make me think otherwise. In fact, I like him even more. He’s a smart guy who uses his physical abilities to put himself in position to make the catch. He will be a playmaker in this league one day, hopefully very soon.
Overall: Hank Baskett will more than likely wind up getting traded. Word is that their is some interest but that the offers have not “blown the Eagles away.” A fourth-round pick would probably blow them away, but they may have to settle for a conditional sixth, or at most a fifth-round pick for Baskett.
Tight End (3)
TE 1 – Brent Celek
By allowing L.J. Smith to leave via free agency, the Eagles were making Celek the No. 1 by default. He showed up huge in the NFC Championship game and should be able to continue that success into the 2009 season. Look for Celek to be a favorite target for McNabb in the redzone.
TE 2 – Rob Myers
The rookie free agent, who is only getting a shot on this team because of the injury to Cornelius Ingram, is certainly making the most of it by showing some speed and good hands. He proved a surprise this offseason, and hopefully can keep surprising into the season.
TE 3 – Matt Schobel
Much like you, the reader, I’m not a fan of Matt Schobel. He has good hands, but unfortunately he can’t get off the line or get open long enough to be able to use those hands. However, even with the signing of Tony Curtis, Schobel will probably be the choice here because he knows the offense and the Eagles would like a veteran presence around for a rookie and a first-year starter.
Overall: While Tony Curtis is the best choice for the third tight end position, he doesn’t know the Eagles’ offense and came in rather late. He could still make the team in place of Schobel—and my hope is he will—but at this point I don’t see it happening. Eugene Bright is still on the team, but he hasn’t shown enough to warrant a place on the final roster. Maybe a practice squad guy.
Offensive Line (9)
LT 1 – Jason Peters
The Eagles traded for Peters this offseason so he could come in and be the team’s starting left tackle, and that’s just what he’s going to do. He’s had some issues in the preseason with his speed off the line and picking up blitzes, so we’ll just have to wait and see how he does.
LG 1 – Todd Herremans
Herremans will be the guy when he returns from foot surgery. So, technically, he’s the No. 1 left guard heading into the season. He made some strides during training camp, so it was a real setback when he was hit with this injury. He should, however, be able to make a full recovery and be just fine after missing about two or three games.
C 1 – Jamaal Jackson
Many people have been calling for a demotion for Jackson, but the fact is he’s the best center on this roster by a long shot. He knows how to put his guys into position, and is a big reason why the Eagles can shuffle their offensive linemen in and out (because of injuries) and still be successful. In short, he does a whole lot more than you’d think.
RG 1 – Stacy Andrews
Stacy has been impressive when he’s been able to line up and play. He’s at 100 percent right now, and isn’t a health concern heading into the season. He won’t play this week, so he’ll have plenty of time to rest up and prepare for Week One against Carolina.
RT 1 – Shawn Andrews
To hear that Shawn was back at practice and feeling good may have been the best news of the entire preseason. With him on the field, the offensive line is just a different unit. He adds an attitude to the line that is incredible to watch. Let’s also not forget that as far as pure talent goes, he’s one of the best in the league.
LT 1 – King Dunlap
A seventh-round pick a year ago, Dunlap has stuck on with the Eagles because of his athleticism and potential. However, he won’t be an Eagle much longer if he can’t keep his weight under control, which—oddly enough for a linemen—is too low, and be able to use his feet better in pass protection. For now, he’s a project worth keeping.
LG 2 – Max Jean-Gilles
The former fourth-round pick has slimmed down a bit and increased his athleticism so he could become the linemen the Eagles wanted him to be. The loss of weight will help his ankle problems and should help him be a better pass protector. He’s a road-grater and a great guy to run behind, so that’s not a problem. He’ll probably get the start until Herremans is healthy.
C/RG 2 – Nick Cole
Cole, on most other teams in the NFL, is a borderline starter at right guard and a serviceable backup at center. Versatility is something that Andy Reid loves, and loves is so much he requires it of his linemen. Cole brings that and will keep a spot on this team because of it.
RT 2 – Winston Justice
Justice has picked up his play so much it’s really incredible to watch. Seeing him play during training camp was like watching a different guy. He’s not the same puppy he was when Hugh Douglas called him out a couple years back. This guy has realized it’s time to pick up his game, and could be a starter if Shawn Andrews is not ready for the season.
Overall: Mike Gibson, Mike McGlynn, and Fenuki Tupou are all guys the Eagles would like to keep, but unfortunately some of them are destined for the practice squad as they lose a numbers game.
Defensive Line (10)
RE 1 – Trent Cole
Cole is a top-flight NFL talent, so it’s obvious he would be the starter at right end. Hopefully, Cole can get some more help from the rotation at left end in order to get him some more sacks. Even without a whole lot of help, he’s put himself into the elite for defensive ends.
DT 1 – Brodrick Bunkley
Bunkley has become a dominant run-stuffing defensive tackle, but he can also get after the quarterback on occasion. He put on some weight in order to become the space-eater he is, but still has held on to the athleticism he had at Florida State that caused the Eagles to draft him with the 14th overall pick in 2006.
DT 2 – Mike Patterson
Another former first-round pick, Patterson has really stepped up his game. After being a good starter for a couple years, Patterson is now a guy who is expected to make the Pro Bowl this year after getting snubbed last year. Like Bunkley, he’s a space-eater with the ability to get to the quarterback.
LE 1 – Juqua Parker
The Eagles wanted the job to go to Victor Abiamiri, but with his injury it’s not going to happen this year. Parker will be the starter for Week One and beyond, but—if Abiamiri outplays him—Sean McDermott certainly wouldn’t hesitate to start Abiamiri. Parker has done well at starting fast, but then he disappears after Week Eight. If he can finish strong as well, the Eagles are in good shape.
RE 2 – Jason Babin
Babin has gone from an outcast first-round pick to Trent Cole’s backup on the right side. Usually, a first-round pick being a backup isn’t a good thing. However, when you can pick that first-round pick up off the scrap heap and put him behind one the best ends in the league, you’ve got yourself a good deal.
DT 3 – Trevor Laws
The second-round pick from last year (picked two spots before DeSean Jackson) didn’t get a whole lot of playing time, so it’s difficult to judge where he’s at in his NFL career. He also spent a good portion of training camp with the training staff, so he may not be counted on too much this year either.
LE 2 – Victor Abiamiri
To this point, Abiamiri has been a disappointment. A second-round pick is supposed to contribute a lot more than what he has produced to this point. Injury after injury has hampered his progress, but even with the injuries he probably only has this season and the next to show he has what it takes to keep him around.
RE 3 – Bryan Smith
The former third-round pick probably doesn’t belong on this team. He didn’t suit up for a single game last season and hasn’t shown much progress this year, but given that he’s a third-round pick Reid will probably keep him on board one more season to see if he has any surprises.
LE 3 – Chris Clemons
To put Clemons on one side or the other—or to call him the third guy—is probably a bit deceiving. He will play much more than a normal third-string guy would, as he’ll be called upon in passing situations to get after the quarterback on whichever side McDermott needs him to play.
LE/RE/DT 4 – Darren Howard
It’s difficult to give Howard a position or a number depth-wise. He’s all over the line, literally playing everywhere. He would come in before guys like Clemons and Smith, but may also come in before Trevor Laws at defensive tackle. Howard is incredibly important to this team, and—no matter where you list him—he’s going to be an Eagle.
Overall: If the Eagles pull a surprise move and cut Bryan Smith, it will only be so that they can keep Dan Klecko as the fourth defensive tackle. However, because of Howard’s versatility, the fan-favorite Klecko could be on his way out.
SAM 1 – Chris Gocong
Personally, I don’t believe Gocong has progressed the way he should have at this point in his career. He still can’t cover a tight end to save his life and just doesn’t make enough big plays to be a starting linebacker for this team. He may never be any better than this, and if that’s the case then it’s time for the Eagles to look elsewhere. Let’s hope I’m wrong.
MIKE 1 – Omar Gaither
Gaither showed some ability in 2007, and it should lead to a successful stopgap for 2009 until Stewart Bradley can come back in 2010 from a torn ACL. Gaither isn’t the prototypical middle linebacker, but it’s the position he wants to play, and he’s certainly intelligent enough to do it. Players see him as a leader and he embraces the role.
WILL 1 – Akeem Jordan
Jordan is fast and good at shedding blocks. However, he needs to focus on tackling and reading an offense better in his first full season as a starter. If he can do that, he could quickly be in talks for a Pro Bowl bid. The physical ability is there, so if he can tie-in the mental aspect of it he should have a very bright NFL career.
SAM 2 – Moise Fukou
The seventh-round pick was an afterthought without much of a chance to make the team, but now is looking at becoming the primary backup at all three positions. He’s gotten some reps at MIKE and looked pretty good during them, but he’s young and not ready to “drive the car,” as Omar Gaither put it.
MIKE 2 – Joe Mays
Mays was supposed to be the starter entering the year, but a poor preseason has doomed him to backup yet again as Omar Gaither looks to take the starting role for the Birds. If he can pick up the defense a little better to the point he doesn’t need to think as much, he may be able to supplant Gaither at some point. It will be a continuing battle.
WILL 2 – Tracy White
White makes the team because of his contributions to special teams, but if Akeem Jordan were to go down there would probably be a shuffling of linebackers to take over the spot rather than making White the starter. Perhaps a move for Gaither to WILL and Mays would step in at MIKE.
Overall: Matt Wilhelm is the wild card here. If he can play WILL he might take White’s spot, but if he can’t then I don’t forsee him getting a spot on this roster. The Eagles are already cutting it close, so Wilhelm will have to really show something in the final preseason game.
Defensive Backs (9)
CB 1 – Asante Samuel
Outside of Nnamdi Asomugha and possibly Champ Bailey, Samuel is the best cornerback in the league. He’s a ballhawk and should be able to top his six interceptions (including postseason) from last year with another year in this defense under his belt.
CB 2 – Sheldon Brown
Brown may be unhappy with his contract, but he’s a professional and has acted as such. He’s not whining and crying like many other players will do, instead showing up to practice, do his job, and not let his personal issues with the front office affect his relationship with the players or in the lockerroom. He’s the obvious No. 2 option.
*SS 1 – Quintin Mikell
Mikell made some All-Pro teams last season, but got snubbed for the Pro Bowl. He’s shown that his time under Brian Dawkins has really paid off as he’s made his mark as one of the hardest hitters in the league at the safety position. He can also make some good plays in the passing game and should get his first Pro Bowl nod this season.
FS 1 – Sean Jones
Demps has been the starter, but Reid said the competition for the free safety spot will extend into the fourth preseason game. Jones just needs to make a couple plays and he’ll have the starting spot wrapped up. The Eagles obviously don’t have faith in Demps for this year any longer, so Jones should be able to step right in.
FS 2 – Quintin Demps
Demps is a good backup and will probably return kicks as well, but if you’re familiar with my writings, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of Demps as a starter—at least for right now, and perhaps ever. He’ll have to show that he’s not afraid of contact first.
FS 3 – Victor “Macho” Harris
Harris is a ‘tweener as either a safety or a corner, so the Eagles will probably utilize him as a backup as both positions. He should be a good safety one day, and the Eagles are excited at the prospect of seeing Harris grow into that role.
*Note: The reason that there is no backup for strong safety is because in the event Quintin Mikell were to go down, the Eagles would slide Sean Jones over to strong, and play Demps at free. Macho Harris would then become the backup at both spots.
CB 3 – Ellis Hobbs
Hobbs was traded from New England because he was unhappy about his contract, but now all he has is the same contract in a different city—and a demotion on top of everything else. I’m sure he’s not happy about his role as the team’s nickel corner, but as such he gives the Eagles the best nickel corner in the league.
CB 4 – Joselio Hanson
A shiny new 4-year $20 million contract for your dime corner? Well, it’s only because they don’t anticipate him being a dime corner past this season. Hobbs is more than likely going to walk after the season for a starting job, and Hanson will resume his duties as nickel corner. Until then, there’s not a fourth receiver in the league that Hanson can’t cover.
CB 5 — Dimitri Patterson
Patterson has been incredibly physical during his time with the Eagles, and has gone from long-shot to the probable fifth corner. He’s a guy who’s not afraid to hit anyone, whether it be a receiver, running back, quarterback, or even scrap with an offensive lineman. He’s oddly reminiscent of Al Harris during his time in Philadelphia.
Overall: Jack Ikegwuonu has just not shown enough to warrant a spot on this team. Once thought of as the steal of the draft, he has not been able to regain his speed after tearing his ACL, which is evident watching receviers run away from—and around—him all preseason and training camp. The Eagles may not keep a fifth corner if they decide to keep 10 offensive linemen.
K 1 – David Akers
P 1 – Sav Rocca
LS 1 – Jon Dorenbos
Overall: No surprises here. The only competition for the three was Ken Parrish as a kicker/punter, but he was cut in order to bring in Rob Myers.
As it stands, the Eagles may have one of the better receiving corps in the NFC. They don’t have that standout guy just yet, even though it appears DeSean Jackson may become that guy, but as far as talent and depth goes, they’re certainly at the very top.
If they had an opportunity to improve the receiving corp, however, it would be irresponsible not to take every advantage of that opportunity. Teams, regardless how they feel about their current roster, are always looking for ways to improve. For the Eagles, Brandon Marshall would certainly provide an improvement.
So, what would it take to get the deal done? Not a whole lot from where the Eagles are sitting, but they could get a whole lot in return.
Currently, the Broncos are not happy with their position at quarterback. Kyle Orton has not looked like the same quarterback that he was in Chicago, and Chris Simms is currently injured and watching from the bench, anyway. Add in the fact that now Orton is banged up and questionable for Week 1, and you’ve got a mess in Mile High.
Per Adam Schefter:
“Denver could have a problem if Kyle Orton‘s finger injury keeps him out of the regular-season opener against Cincinnati. Those who know Chris Simms, Denver’s backup quarterback, do not believe he will be ready to play the Broncos opener and think his high ankle sprain will sideline him closer to a month. At least.”
This is an area in which the Eagles can help.
Realistically, A.J. Feeley has been on the trading block since the day Vick was signed. McNabb is firmly entrenched as the starter, Kevin Kolb was a second round pick and isn’t going anywhere, and Michael Vick has no trade value. If the Broncos wanted him, they could have signed him.
Feeley has shown that he has the talent and the poise to lead a team, as he has done with the Eagles. Josh McDaniels got to see Feeley up close and personal in 2007 as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator when Feeley passed for nearly 350 yards and three touchdowns to come just three points shy of ending the Pats perfect run.
Word out of New England is that even Bill Belichick is interested in Feeley. If McDaniels is anything like Belichick, which years of tutelage would cause one to think that he is, then he must have an interest in Feeley too. In fact, the Broncos are a team that has been linked to interest in Feeley recently. Whether or not that’s because of McDaniels is neither here nor there.
The Broncos, who have said they won’t trade Marshall, have seemingly contradicted themselves by allowing it to be known that they are in fact looking for help at receiver. This would seem to indicate that they are anticipating a vacancy at the position and, again, the Eagles can help.
The Eagles would most likely be willing to part ways with Kevin Curtis, Hank Baskett, and Reggie Brown. Baskett and Brown are on the chop block, while Curtis may find himself on the trading block if they get an interesting offer. With Marshall’s spot becoming open and Jabar Gaffney’s broken thumb, the Broncos just may interested in two of those three.
If I’m the Eagles, it makes sense to call the Broncos and offer them A.J. Feeley, Kevin Curtis, and Reggie Brown for Marshall. If they don’t want to take that offer (which they probably wouldn’t), then simply throw in Hank Baskett and perhaps a late-round draft pick — maybe a conditional fourth depending on Marshall’s production and Baskett, Brown, and Curtis’ playing time.
All three receivers may be a bit steep, but considering that either Baskett or Brown will be gone sometime this week anyway, and the fact that Marshall would be stepping in, it looks a whole lot better from the Eagles’ perspective. If the trade were to go down, their receiving corps would look something like this:
1. Brandon Marshall
2. DeSean Jackson
3. Jason Avant
4. Jeremy Maclin
5. Brandon Gibson
Then, if they really wanted to, there are guys like Matt Jones floating around in free agency that could make for a fantastic sixth receiver.
For the Broncos, this may seem like a raw deal, but they’re in a tough spot, and would be filling some needs.
A.J. Feeley could come in and start for them until Orton was ready, or even start for the entire year if he plays well, which isn’t stretch. Even if Orton supplants Feeley at some point, Feeley gives you one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league.
Then, their receiving corps would look a little something like this:
1. Eddie Royal
2. Kevin Curtis
3. Brandon Stokley
4. Reggie Brown
5. Hank Baskett
6. Chad Jackson/Brandon Lloyd
With Feeley gunning it around to that group of guys, the offense could see some success. Especially taking into account the fact that they should see great production out of Knowshon Moreno and former Eagle Correll Buckhalter in the running game.
Not only that, but it would appear as though Marshall has worn out his welcome in Denver, and that the fanbase as well as management are tired of hearing from him.
Some may say they don’t want Marshall because of his off-the-field problems, but I feel with a change of scenery and a new contract that the Eagles could certainly afford, he would be a model citizen knowing he’s with a team considered a Super Bowl contender, and in an offense that would give him a lot of opportunities to make big plays.
For the Eagles, they have the firepower, but do they want Marshall? It wouldn’t make much sense not to want Marshall, considering this is the same team that brought Michael Vick in with open arms.
For the Broncos, the trade offer may be attractive, but do they really want to trade a Pro Bowl quarterback and wide receiver all in the same offseason? Probably not, but is it really worth holding on to a receiver that doesn’t want to be there and has shown he’ll do whatever it takes to get out of town?
It would be difficult for both teams, and by no means am I saying this will happen, but the possibility is certainly there. If the Broncos management and coaching staff see Feeley as a starter until they can draft a guy, this deal could get done and done more quickly than you’d think.
When the New England Patriots cut former third-round pick, quarterback Kevin O’Connell, no one in Philadelphia paid much attention. However, that may have been a mistake.
According to Jason La Canfora of NFL Network, the Patriots are “among the many teams” interested in acquiring the services of A.J. Feeley. Back in 2007, Feeley ran the then-undefeated Patriots to the wire in a three-point loss in which he passed for nearly 350 yards, but a late interception to current teammate Asante Samuel sealed the deal.
Belichick is always looking to bring in players who have played well against his team, as evidenced by the trade for Greg Lewis earlier in the offseason. For the record, Lewis has eight touchdowns against the Patriots, including one in the Super Bowl.
As expected, La Canfora also states the obvious by saying that the Eagles will not consider moving Feeley until Vick is officially reinstated. Considering Vick will, at the very latest, be reinstated before the trading deadline, it appears as though Feeley will indeed be moving at some point in the year.
Unless a team outbids them (which is unlikely because when Belichick wants a guy, he gets a guy), Feeley will most likely be a New England Patriot.
Feeley has started in this league, and in the right system, has played very well. Personally, I’d prefer that the Eagles keep him instead of Kolb, but seeing as how Kolb was a second-round pick, he won’t be going anywhere this offseason.
There’s a pleasant surprise in the midst of all the question marks floating around the Eagles’ tight end dilemma, and that’s the emergence of rookie Rob Myers out of Utah State.
Myers was brought in the day after it was confirmed that Cornelius Ingram had a torn ACL and would not be available for the entire 2009 season, and he’s impressed since day one. The first impression was that he was very fast, and that impression has not faded in the least. He’s got more speed than your average tight end, which could create a lot of problems for covering linebackers.
At 6’4 and 240 pounds, he’s the same size as Ingram minus about five pounds, but is much faster for that missing five pounds. Myers seems to have good hands as well, hauling in four receptions in the Eagles most recent preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts.
What’s really working in Myers’ favor is the fact that the Eagles are incredibly thin at tight end at the moment, which will give him the chance to show that they should give him a shot. The feeling is that they’re tired of Schobel’s lack of production, and no one is really convinced that Eugene Bright is an NFL tight end.
There was talk of the Eagles bringing in former Cowboys tight end Tony Curtis, but nothing has happened with that. A minor move like that would probably have been done by now if the Eagles were really intent on bringing him in. This could signal that Curtis is delusional and making some demands, or that the Eagles are ready to give Myers a shot to prove himself.
Even if (Tony) Curtis does find his way onto this roster, it may still be as the third tight end behind Brent Celek and Myers, which would mean an end to the Matt Schobel era in Philadelphia. Schobel seems like a good enough guy, but I’m not sure that many in Philly would shed a tear upon hearing of his departure.
Myers is about the same player as Ingram, and could be used in much of the same ways, including putting him in the slot or using him as a redzone target. The Eagles are always a mystery, but don’t be surprised if Myers gets his first NFL job with the Eagles.
In a heavily-publicized move, the Eagles signed “quarterback” Michael Vick to a two-year contract just a couple of weeks ago. Now they’re dealing with the ripples that the move has caused in the hopes that the on-field production outweighs the headache they’re enduring at the moment.
The idea is that Vick will be a utility, or gadget type of player. He might line up anywhere on the field including quarterback, wide receiver, or running back. The plan is that his presence alone will cause a panic and confusion for the defense, allowing the Eagles’ offense to take advantage of said confusion and create a big play.
However, is it possible that there was a better option available? Namely, Matt Jones.
From the football side of things, Jones was actually progressing quite well in Jacksonville before his most recent run-in with the law for possession of cocaine. He was a gadget guy coming out of college, and was eventually stuck in as a wide receiver though there was talk of him playing tight and end and, his college position, quarterback.
He’s not the athlete that Vick is, but then again that could be said of any player. However, Jones is also more versatile than Vick. While Vick probably has the athleticism to play running back, or even line up at wide receiver, Jones has shown that he can catch and is a viable option at wide receiver, and is probably big enough to play tight end at 6’6″ and 242 pounds.
While Jones has not played tight end in the NFL, he would certainly be better than the Eagles’ options behind Brent Celek (Eugene Bright, Rob Myers, and Matt Schobel). On top of that, he’s a great redzone target and could operate the wildcat just as well as Vick with his prior experience playing quarterback, which as I said is in fact his natural position.
As a quarterback, Jones may even stack up with Vick. Jones wasn’t a terrific quarterback in terms of his mechanics and when it came down to the little details, but he had a fairly strong arm and could get the job done. Vick’s troubles as a quarterback are well-documented, and it’s unclear if he’ll ever be able to really get all of the nuances of being an NFL quarterback.
From a PR standpoint, it makes even more sense.
Bringing in Michael Vick has not been good for the Eagles’ reputation as a company outside of NFL circles, and while the move has been praised by a few who believe Vick deserved a second chance, it has mostly been met with harsh criticism and confusion.
Signing Jones would have probably been the opposite. Outside of the Philadelphia scene, the move to bring Jones in probably would have gone unnoticed and blown off as just another signing. There quite certainly wouldn’t be anyone at the NovaCare complex to protest the signing of Jones.
Yes, defensive coordinators and opposing teams will worry about Vick much more than they would have worried about Jones, but after running the wildcat a few times, or catching a few fades in the corner of the endzone, teams would have certainly started to take notice to Jones’ presence on the field.
Let’s also not forget that Jones is a guy that Eagles were interested in, and some thought he may have even fallen to the Eagles with the 31st overall pick that year. It’s unclear whether the Eagles would have actually taken Jones, as it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see him passed up for Mike Patterson anyway, but they were definitely kicking around the idea.
At this point, it’s nothing more than a “what-if” scenario, but it’s something worth considering. Vick may turn out to be a fantastic signing, and he may bring it all together and really work for the Eagles this season, but it’s hard to think that maybe, just maybe, there was and still is a better option available.
According to Sam Wyche of NFL.com, the Philadelphia Eagles are one of many teams to make exploratory calls to free agent running back Warrick Dunn. Apparently, talks with the Eagles never got serious because they were so far apart on a dollar amount.
The Seattle Seahawks were the only other confirmed team to have spoken to Dunn, which makes sense considering their running backs are less-than-stellar and Mora, jr. was Dunn’s coach in Atlanta, where he spent his time between stints in Tampa Bay.
The 34-year old running back has not been drawing the attention that was first anticipated, and a move to the Eagles doesn’t make sense for either party. The Eagles now know that they will be getting Westbrook back for Week 1, and LeSean McCoy is cemented in as the number two running back.
Dunn is clearly better than Eldra Buckley or Lorenzo Booker, but Dunn does not want to return as a third back when there are teams who could use him as a number two change-of-pace back. The Eagles probably wouldn’t guarantee him playing time, and tried to give him third-back money. Dunn rejecting that offer isn’t exactly a shock.
Dunn is probably going to wait it out for someone to call him after the preseason if a team decides they’re not happy with their current stock of running backs, but with a pretty good crop of veteran free agent running backs (Edgerrin James, Shaun Alexander, Deuce McAllister, etc.) Dunn better make sure he’s not being too picky. If he won’t sign, someone else will.
When Jason Babin was signed by the Eagles, it wasn’t a move that get much publicity. A small blurb was placed here or there beneath a more important story or mentioned a passing sidenote. He was considered a camp body without much of a shot at making this team. Well, that may all be changing.
Babin impressed a lot of people last night when the Eagles went into Indianapolis to play Peyton Manning and the Colts. Babin was getting very good pressure, and looked extremely quick off the ball. A couple times he caused Manning to rush, which caused a bad throw.
This is exactly what the Eagles are looking for out of their defensive ends, and it’s something that they have not been getting — outside of Trent Cole. Darren Howard was able to get pressure last year, but a lot of his sacks came from playing the tackle position in the nickel on obvious passing situations.
Babin was a first-round pick back in 2004, so the potential is there and the talent has been showcased on some level, it just needs to translate onto a professional football field.
I was there for Babin’s introductory press conference, which few members of the media actually stuck around for, and he said that he felt like the Eagles defense was a perfect fit for him. He said that he loves getting around the edge and getting after the quarterback, which is what the Eagles do. He may have been right, and in only a couple weeks with the team is moving up quickly.
He played right end on Thursday night in place of an injured Cole, and he’s got a huge task in front of him if he’s intent on playing right end. Left end, however, is more of an open position with Juqua Parker’s arrest, and Abiamiri’s injury. Not to mention that Abiamiri was less than impressive last night.
If Babin can show something while playing at the other end position, he may have overcome his difficult odds to make this team’s final roster.