Ah, the smell of burgers on the grill and the sight of leaves changing colors. The familiar chant of E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLESSSS rising out of the Linc is about to deafen opposing teams again. Yes, people. It is September once more, and football season is finally here.
As we get prepared for another season filled with hopes of a Super Bowl for our Birds, it’s easy to look past all of the transformation this team has undergone over the past couple of years. It seems crazy now to think that Brian Westbrook, the mainstay of Eagles teams over the past decade is now RETIRING.
However, one man who has been here since 1999, and hasn’t changed (ok maybe his weight has) is Andy Reid, who will be entering his 14th season. In what will be perhaps his most pressure-filled season as Head Coach, Reid has already dealt with the pain of burying his son and the looming comments from owner Jeffrey Lurie that anything less than “substantially better than 8-8” will most likely result in his firing.
The “Dream Team” fiasco from last year, combined with the turbulent offseason the Eagles have endured hasn’t seemed to affect analysts, many of whom are predicting a Super Bowl run for these Eagles.
I hate to be a downer, but my opinion was last year and still is this year that the Eagles, while surely talented, are not a Super Bowl caliber team.
Blasphemy, you say?
Or have WE, as fans, overlooked the key deficiencies of this team? Lets explore together, shall we?
First of all, lets look at passing and third down conversions. The Eagles were 9th in passing last season, but the only team in the top ten who completed less than 61% of their passes (59.6%). They converted on third down 41.5% of the time, good enough for 9th in the league in that stat as well. I look for both of these numbers to remain around the same as last year, UNLESS Michael Vick suffers an injury.
The bottom-line with passing numbers? Keep Vick healthy, and the Eagles are unlikely to have as many turnovers as last season, and they won’t have to play a rookie backup quarterback who, while impressive in the preseason, probably won’t be able to win but maybe two of the four or five starts he might have to make if Vick gets sidelined.
The running game is the biggest area I expect the Eagles to decline in this year. Although I love Shady McCoy’s talents as a runner and receiver, the loss of Jason Peters will become very apparent early in the season. They should drop from 6th in the league to somewhere around 10th adding in Vick’s running ability. That may seem like an insignificant drop, but I believe that the ability of the receivers to stretch the field is going to be predicated on play action passing, which Andy Reid is quite fond of. Bottom-line? The inconsistency of the running game (and of calling running plays) will show up this year again and be an Achilles heel of the team.
The running, passing, and receiving game all go hand-in-hand with offensive line play, which is the other area I expect a lot of struggle this season. The lack of Jason Peters on the left side not only closes huge running lanes, but forces the Eagles to use young players at other positions, and although I am quite a fan of Jason Kelce’s beard, he (to me) is too small to be a center. This group will have great games and horrible games this season.
The ONE area that this team is going to improve a lot on is Defense. Not necessarily an improvement in talent (outside of Demeco Ryans) but in cohesiveness and in maturity. After a year of learning Juan Castillo’s system, they will still be undersized and a little slow in the middle, but hopefully won’t make as many bonehead miscues as last season, and should finish around the same spot in total defense, or at least in the top ten.
Overall, expectations are very high for this team. Are they merited? Absolutely. This is clearly the most talented roster in the NFL. However, I don’t believe they will win a Super Bowl.
Call me a typical negative Eagles fan, or call me crazy.
Whatever the case may be, I see them going 13-3, splitting with the Giants and losing to Pittsburgh and New Orleans. I see them getting to the Super Bowl, but sadly I think the season will end with another Super Bowl loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots.
I THINK that is what will happen. But who am I, and what do I REALLY know? Not a whole lot more than any other passionate fan. I’m hoping that this is the year. Only God knows what will happen. But not knowing is all the fun right? It’s a new season, and we are blessed to be fans of the greatest team playing the greatest game in the world.
So sit back, have a beer, and relax. Football is back.