NFL: One Last Chance for Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles

Continuing with his preview of the NFC East, in Part 3 Ben Sathananthan examines what the Philadelphia Eagles need to happen to make the Playoffs in 2012

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Must See Games

Week 2 vs. Ravens
Week 4 vs. Giants
Week 6 vs. Lions
Week 10 vs. Cowboys
Week 13 @ Cowboys
Week 17 @ Giants

Preseason Games

W vs. Steelers 24-23
W @ Patriots 27-17
W @ Browns 27-10
W vs. Jets 28-10

Michael Vick must stay healthy for the Eagles to succeed in 2012 (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Last season won’t be one to store in the memory banks for the Philadelphia Eagles. After the signings of Star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and Defensive End Jason Babin to bolster the defence, Philadelphia trumpeted their cockiness to the world by labelling themselves ‘The Dreamteam’ and announcing that they would make the Superbowl. This star studded line-up failed to mesh together after the re-emergence of Quarterback Michael Vick in 2010 and the multiple coaching changes, slumping to 4-8 before winning their last four games to get back to parity. One thing they must correct this season is their poor home record after going 3-5, securing this will ensure an easier path to the Superbowl.

On paper, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the Eagles. They have a strong roster, even after losing Cornerback Asante Samuel in free agency and will continue to put up strong numbers on both offense and defence. Michael Vick, however injury prone he may be, is one of the most exciting quarterbacks to watch in the NFL currently and teamed up with receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Macklin will continue to be one of the stronger passing teams in the NFC. Combined with running back LeSean McCoy, who was arguably one of the most improved players in 2011, the Eagles offense is lethal, ranking 8th overall last season and has continued to put up the numbers into this season, ranking 3rd in points and 6th in yardage. However, the Eagles simply could not hang onto the ball last season, giving away the ball a whopping 38 times which was only topped by the Buccaneers’ 40. If the Eagles cannot protect the ball better this season, they will continue to give opponents easy points and will struggle to win games.

Covering for the almost inevitable Michael Vick injury should be high on the Eagles priority list after missing a total of 8 games since taking over from Donavan McNabb. Luckily last year, Vince Young performed admirably in Vick’s absence despite being prone to throwing interceptions. However after losing Young to Buffalo in the offseason (Young has subsequently been released,) the Eagles are rather light on behind Vick after trading away long term project Kevin Kolb to the Cardinals in 2011. This hasn’t stopped rookie QB Nick Foles and 4th year QB Trent Edwards firing up big numbers in the preseason in Vick’s absence. With Mike Kafka likely to be squeezed out of favour after fracturing his left hand during the preseason, it remains to be seen who will pick up the mantle if Vick should fall. Vick remains in doubt for the season opener against the Cleveland Browns after suffering a rib contusion in the first preseason game this season. He plans to wear a Kevlar vest to help protect and prevent any further injuries, which seems unlikely to happen due to his aggressive style of play.

The defence of the Eagles was strong again last season forcing an equal league high of 50 sacks due to their star defensive end Jason Babin, who led the charge with 18 sacks. Babin is in doubt for the season opener with a calf strain suffered in training camp and his leadership will be sorely missed on the defensive line if he doesn’t heal in time. However, players like Brandon Graham, Trent Cole and Phillip Hunt have all stood up in his stead, recording 20 sacks in the 4 preseason games. Numbers like these are making the Eagles look like a contender in 2012 and their record of 62 sacks in 1989 looks set to fall if this form continues.

The secondary still will be solid, even after losing Asante Samuel, who never really fit in with plans in Philly. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha are more than handy as cornerbacks after coming into their own when Samuel got injured with 4 games to go in the season. Safety is the only position where doubt lies for the Eagles. After long time safety Brian Dawkins left for the Denver Broncos in 2009, the Eagles have struggled to fill his shoes since. Nate Allen has been promising in his first two seasons, but remains a long term prospect. That being said, the secondary has been in top form through the preseason allowing only 125 yards per game, ranking first in the NFL. Don’t believe the stat line though, as the Eagles are yet to face an elite quarterback, their first real challenge will be Joe Flacco and the Ravens in Week 2.

Missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007 did not bode well with management, with coach Andy Reid put on his last chance. The Eagles should take heed of last season by not setting the bar to the same level; however I think the Eagles will not make playoffs again under Andy Reid and by all reports, Reid will be sacked if the Eagles do not make the playoffs. The change in direction is well overdue to the Eagles who have stuck by Reid for the last 14 years, who has been a terrific servant of the franchise, but it is high time to take a new direction. Quarterback depth will be an issue and the more games Vick misses, the more games the Eagles lose. Going back that logic, if Vick misses his usual 3 games per season and the Eagles are projected to go 11-5, look for the Eagles to match their 2011 record at 8-8.

Tomorrow – Washington Redskins. Read yesterday’s piece on the New York Giants here.

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