I don’t know about anyone else but I’m suffering from a severe case of the football blues. The 76′ers are killin’ me, the Flyers look to have righted their ship as they creep up in the standings. And while pitchers and catchers report today, is it too early for Phillies Phever? You don’t see a nice patch of green grass around here until May.
Which brings me back to the Eagles. Being swept in the regular season by the Dallas Cowboys is one thing -but to be totally undressed by the Pokes in the playoffs has led to more than the usual weeping and gnashing of teeth. On one side you have the majority that want Donovan McNabb run out of Philly on a rail. Then there are those that want Reid gone and a new philosophy brought in where McNabb and the Eagles may finally hit pay dirt. Finally you have the minority who want Reid and McNabb gone and are willing to start at the ground floor.
I have no answers, only questions – and a headache to boot.
- How will the front office approach free agency and the draft since 2010 is looking more like an uncapped year? This year’s free agency and draft pools are filled with players that can step right in and help this team. Are the Eagles willing to make aggressive personel moves via free agency and the draft?
- Is Brian Westbrook done in Philadelphia? It was obvious that running back Brian Westbrook was nowhere near himself when he returned late last season. Westbrook, who turns 31 prior to the season opener has suffered from concussions that shortened his season. Is it in the Birds best interest to roll the dice with Westbrook, who is due $7 million this season - more importantly, is he healthy enough to go full speed again. Westbrook has expressed his desire to play in Philadelphia – will he be welcomed back or shown the door?
- Star wide reciever outplays contract, wants more money, signs Drew Rosenhaus as his agent. Sound familiar? The handwriting was on the wall when All-Pro wide receiver DeSean Jackson announced that Drew Rosenhaus would be his agent halfway through the season. We know the history between Rosenhaus and the Eagles. If Drew is nothing else he’s smart – he’s dealing with a franchise at a crossroads whose lone star attraction plays the glamour position in the sport possibly going into an uncapped season. Did the Eagles learn from their first encounter or will the sequel be uglier than the first?
- Is there finally a sense of urgency to improve the defense? After the Birds lost to the Rams in the 2001 NFC Championship, they used their first three picks to draft Lito Sheppard, Michael Lewis and Sheldon Brown respectively. The goal was in Reid’s words to “Beat the St. Louis Rams” who were a high octane offense with options across the field. The reasoning this season is simple; the Eagles are too light in the cakes to bang in the trenches. Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson can’t draw a double-team and Trent Cole gets handcuffed when the Eagles don’t blitz. The Birds need a true stuffer in the middle – the likes of Grady Jackson or Gilbert Brown. Enter Dan Williams 6’2″ 330lbs. from Tennessee, Shaun Cody 6’4″ 370lbs. out of Alabama and Cam Thomas 6’4″ 330lbs. from North Carolina.These are impact players that could step right in and play. In the free agent market, you have the Patriots Vince Wilfork, Raiders DT Richard Seymour and Tennessee Titan Tony Brown. Carolina Panthers DE Julius Peppers may suddenly become available as the free agency period approaches. This unit lacks an identity. The late Jim Johnson’s defensive philosophy was “Bend but don’t break” after being exposed in Dallas alot needs to be fixed.
- Is there an insurance policy for MLB Stewart Bradley? I’m not looking for the Eagles to blow the doors off for this position, but there is room to improve here via free agency. Carlos Dansby (Arizona), Shawne Merriman (San Diego), Kirk Morrison (Oakland), D’Qwell Jackson (Cleveland) and the just released Antonio Pierce (Giants) are just a few names that could deepen and improve the position. I would grab one of these players and slide Bradley over to the WIL (weak side) spot. I hope the Eagles are keeping an eye on Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain, at 6’4″ 256lbs. he is a playmaker at the position and looks to be dropping further down the Eagles (24th pick). Do you stand pat, or package picks to move up to get him?
- Speaking of packaging picks, why not package picks for impact players instead of taking 8 or 9 shots in the dark? The New York Jets have packaged several draft picks in past drafts to select players like Leon Washington, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis and most recently Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene. The result is a great young nucleus that is going to be great for awhile. The Eagles have outsmarted no one but themselves when it comes to draft strategy. Time for a new approach; with the eleven, yes eleven draft picks in this year’s draft, package the later round picks with one of the two third round picks and one of the two fifth rounders to grab a late third or fourth round pick.
- Will the Eagles offensive line be stabilized in 2010? Make no mistake the Pro Bowl selection of Jason Peters was a mirage. That would be the best way to sum up the performance of a unit we thought had presumably jelled, only to wilt in the playoffs. For all intents and purposes the unit played well considering: stalwart bookends William Thomas and Jon Runyan were both jettisoned, they watched their best lineman Shawn Andrews bail on them - aside from the unit struggling with injuries all season. Truth is until Reid makes these guys the aggressors by running the ball you’re going to continue to see performances like the ones in Dallas. Will the Eagles invest in a young tackle ready to come in and play opposite Peters?
8. Will the Eagles pay Sheldon Brown? Sheldon Brown let his play do the talking for the new contract he’s seeking from the Eagles. Unlike Lito Sheppard, who talked his way out of town, Brown survived rookies gunning for his spot, the acquisition of Ellis Hobbs who was supposed to push him for time and the uncertainty of his future to play at a Pro-Bowl level last season. For all that Asante Samuel brings in the way of playmaking ability, Brown is the secondary’s most versitile and physically intimidating player as he lined up at safety several times last season. Making the decision not to sign Brown could have a crippling effect on an already fragile lockerroom.
9. Will the Eagles go out and get a back capable of moving the chains? What do Miami (Williams and Brown) Carolina (Williams and Stewart), New Orleans (Bush, Thomas and Bell) and Dallas (Jones and Barber) have in common? Each of these teams sports at least two potential 1,000 yard running backs. Shady McCoy played admirably as a rookie and who can say they weren’t pleased with fullback Leonard Weaver’s play throughout the season. But McCoy is still learning to handle the ball and Weaver is only good for 8-10 touches a game. Time to invest in a power back who is effective in short yardage and can absorb that first hit. Would Cadillac Williams, LenDale White or even Larry Johnson give a lift to a running attack in dire need of a spark?
10. Do you really want to move Michael Vick? At least one of the three quarterbacks will be gone next season possibly two. Why does one of them have to be Vick, say McNabb is traded, what’s wrong with Kolb and Vick competing for the starting job? If Kolb is traded, Vick has stated that he is open to being a backup for another season why not bring him back as a backup. I know the $5 million tag is a bit much, but it serves as a decent insurance policy.
I’m not sure if I’ve covered everything, so feel free to chime in with questions and answers of your own.