State of the Franchise: Philadelphia Eagles

Last Season: 10-6 (1st NFC East, lost to Green Bay Packers in Wild Card Round)

Last season was something of a revelation for the Philadelphia Eagles. The team was viewed to be in a transitional phase, with having traded franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb to in-division rival Washington Redskins. With that move, coach Andy Reid anointed former second-round draft pick Kevin Kolb his starter, leaving former All-Pro quarterback Michael Vick as the only proven back-up on the team. Vick, jailed for running and financing a dog-fighting ring while playing for the Atlanta Falcons, was entering the season in only his second year back on the field. Every analyst in the NFL was curious to how the team would fair in Year One of the post-McNabb era.

Well, I believe the Eagles answered all the questions posed to them. Emphatically.

When Kevin Kolb fell to injury in the middle of the season opener, Michael Vick took over and refused to let go of his hold on the starting job after that. Though Vick missed the better part of four games in the middle of the season due to a rib injury, he regained his dynamic form he so often showed off while playing in Atlanta. For the season, Vick accumulated a passer rating of 100.2, threw for 3,018 yards, 21 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Vick also reminded defensive coordinators around the NFL that he still maintained some blazing speedy and crafty footwork, rushing for 676 yards and nine touchdowns. Vick was named the NFC’s starting quarterback in the Pro Bowl for his work.

In Kolb’s defense, it isn’t as if he played that poorly when he got the chance. He completed over 60% of his passes, while compiling 1,197 yards and seven touchdowns. With the Eagles placing the franchise tag on Vick, Kolb has emerged as a valuable trade chip the team now has at their disposal.

On the offensive side of the ball, if the team is looking to upgrade, it’s awfully hard to find a significant hole as to where to do it. Running back LeSean McCoy continues to develop into a powerhouse rusher, gaining 1,080 yards with an average of 5.2 yards-per-carry and seven touchdowns. The Eagles also boast one of the best wide receiver combos in the NFL. DeSean Jackson, who has the potential for a big play each time he touches the ball (ask Giants fans), led the team with 1,056 yards receiving. He also averaged 22.5 yards-per-reception, had 21 catches that went for 20+ yards and caught six touchdowns. On the other end, Jeremy Maclin provided Vick with a reliable check-down option, grabbing 70 receptions for 964 yards and 10 touchdowns. The offensive line is equally strong, with the likes of tackles Jason Peters and Winston Justice anchoring the group.

Defensively, the team may look to upgrade. By no means was the Eagles defense bad. But, it wasn’t spectacular either, finishing in the middle of the road both against the run and the pass. Defensive end Trent Cole had a good season for the Eagles, leading them with 10 sacks and was second on the team with his 65 tackles. When healthy, linebacker Stewart Bradley proved that he could be the leader of the defense. In the secondary, Quintin Mikell led all Eagles with 88 tackles, but at the age of 30, he is on the tail-end of his productive days as an every-down starter. Cornerback and Pro Bowler Asante Samuel had seven interceptions to lead the team, but he, too, is on the wrong side of 30.

I’d be surprised if the Eagles didn’t focus their drafting needs on the defensive end of the ball. This would be the perfect year to capitalize and bring in young players at key positions so that they can be eased into the system and learn under the likes of Samuel and Mikell. As the team stands today, they have enough pieces currently to compete in the deep NFC East.

But, in Philadelphia, its never a matter of competition. The team wants to win. With Vick leading the offense, they will. But, to get over the hump, they’ll need a younger, more dynamic defense.

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About Home Field Advantage
We are two senior Sports Communication majors at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. We have launched this blog as part of our senior year capping project, with the goal of creating a comparative analysis and multimedia approach to the differing sports cultures in America.

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