Monday, December 12, 2005

Plans for Next Season

based on just two factors -- the healthy return of donovan mcnabb and the benefit of a last place schedule -- i firmly believe the eagles will win the division again next season. however, in order to become a true championship contender again, i think they need to upgrade the roster at key positions.

offense

QB - obviously the key here is getting don phyically and mentally prepared for the season. having 5 healthy and primed for successful season automatically makes them the favorite for the division. he's still the best player in the nfc east when he's healthy, and a difference maker. mcmahon and detmer have proven themselves to be incapable of carrying the load, but if the rest of the team were playing up to par these guys would be good enough to keep the seat warm. i go back and forth on the backup QB issue. sometimes i think they need to have a good backup just in case don goes down again, and sometimes i think that money spent on backup QBs is wasted money better spent on upgrading depth at positions that actually play. this team's not winning anything without don anyway, no matter who they bring in to back him up, so i'd like to see the focus on keeping 5 healthy by keeping him out of harm's way and upgrading the o-line rather that worrying about what to do if he goes down again. i'm ok with going into next season with mcnabb, koy, and mcmahon as the QBs.

RB - there are lots of opinions on the westbrook signing. for good or bad, he's going to be here for a while. i think it's clear that moats has some talent and is very much the same type of player that westbrook is. this probably provides big red some opportunities to play them at the same time next season and involve westbrook even more in the passing game. moats seems to be faster and a better runner, while westbrook has few peers as a pass catching back. with no true no. 1 receiver on the roster right now, i think big red actually sees brian as the number one receiver now. what the running back corps is lacking is someone to get them the tough yards. none of these guys can break tackles and get them any tough yards. lamar gordon isn't the answer and you all know how i feel about mahe. duce will likely be cut by the steelers this offseason. how would everyone feel about duce coming back to town? i know i'd welcome him and he would be a nice complement to moats and westbrook as the power back, and he could probably be had on the cheap at this point in his career. for next season, i'm looking for westbrook, moats, duce, and a draft pick with similar skills to buckhalter (it's possible the birds view tapeh as this type of player).

FB - this is a huge area of need. they *have* to upgrade this position. i don't know who will be available in free agency, but if they don't upgrade this position then mcnabb is going to get hurt again. i'd rather see warrick dunn playing fullback for the eagles than see josh parry again. at least i've never seen dunn get steamrolled on pass protection. parry spends too much time on his ass. maybe ritchie will be healthy by then? ritchie may have been the best blocking fullback the birds have had since i've been watching the team. give me a lorenzo neal type player. tony richardson may be a free agent. i'd take him in a heartbeat.

TE - this is also an area of need. despite his ball protection issues, LJ is a serviceable pass catching tight end. he drops too many balls, but he's good enough. what they are lacking is someone who can block. LJ is a horrible blocker. chad lewis had worked himself into a decent blocker by the end. stephen spach cannot block and cannot run. i have no idea what he's doing on this roster. next season, i'd like to see LJ, bartrum, and a jason dunn type player via free agency or the draft.

WR - i'm really starting to like reggie brown. i'm not convinced that he's number 1 wideout material, but i like his competitiveness and especially his blocking. he laid out a couple of guys on running plays yesterday. most people probably feel like the eagles need to bring in a top tier wideout, but i disagree. i think what they need is 4 wideouts who can all play. you don't *have* to have a number 1 wideout to win a superbowl. you just need to have guys who can all get open and catch the ball. i heard a stat a while back that said no team that had a receiver who finished in the top 3 in receptions or yards on the season has ever won a superbowl. logically, this makes sense to me. if you funnel too much of your offense through one player, the team becomes easier to gameplan against. this is the same in every sport, and is the lesson that michael jordan eventually learned before he started to win titles. reggie brown has proven to me that he can play. greg lewis may be fine as a 3rd or 4th wideout, but personally, i'd cut him just because he was so close to TO. getting pinky back will be big. as much crap as he's taken from eagles fans (me included), he's a professional wide receiver and he can play in this league. mcmullen hasn't shown me enough to warrant more than a 5th wideout spot. i'd be fine if they went into next season with brown, pinky, mcmullen, while adding one guy who has a track record of being a decent nfl wideout -- antwaan randle el, david givens, joe jurevicius, or someone similar -- as long as that guy has good hands. then add another young guy with some potential -- michael robinson would be interesting in that role. whatever you do, don't break the bank for reggie wayne, unless he's going to be fine with not getting 100 catches a season.

OT - tra thomas hasn't been good in a couple of seasons, he's gone imo. however, i'd re-sign runyan. he's had one of his better seasons and shows no sign of slowing down. despite what everyone seems to think, i do not believe that shawn andrews can handle the right tackle position at this point. he's too heavy and he's getting out quicked by interior linemen right now, there's no telling what outside guys are going to do to him. i think herremans has potential and seems to be able to man left tackle competently. move artis back to tackle and have him back up the two tackle spots. artis is not physical enough to be an interior lineman. herremans, runyan, and hicks man the tackle spots.

OG - shawn andrews needs to lose some weight and become the player he was flashing last season. he was mauling people in the opening game last season before breaking his leg. maybe adrien clarke can play. i haven't seen enough of him to form an opinion one way or the other. personally, i'd like to see them bring in a vet to replace artis. they don't need to be a star, just a good, proven, nfl guard in the jeff hartings mold. i'd like to see andrews, new guy, and clarke as the guards.

C - jamaal jackson has proven to be an upgrade over fraley. i have no problems with them going into the season with jackson as the starting center. i don't think it's worthwhile to keep fraley as a backup because he's not physical enough to play guard. since center is his only viable position, it may make sense to replace him with someone a little more versatile.

defense

DE - this is the least productive set of ends the eagles have had in a long, long time. the year after hugh left via free agency was bad as well, but i remember them getting more pressure than this year's group. that group didn't get a lot of sacks, but they did get a lot of mamulas. the mcdougle shooting was a big hit as this was supposed to be his year. hopefully, he'll recover and be a productive player. he has plenty of time left on his contract so the eagles still have time to get some production out of this guy. then again, he is a rosenpuke client, he could ask for a renegotiation at any moment. cole looks like he can play, but isn't ready to carry the load at this point. he'll be fine as a backup. i hope they spend some money and upgrade kalu. darren howard and kyle vandenbosch are both supposed to be free agents this season, i'd *love* to see them pick one of those guys up. kearse, mcdougle, cole, howard, and a draft pick at the defensive end position. i don't want to see them break the bank and go after john abraham. he's the same type of high reputation, inconsistent production player as kearse. he's a turd just waiting to shut himself down.

DT - mike patterson is their best tackle right now and truck driver is good enough to be in the rotation. hollis and darwin haven't been very good. JJ benched them both to send a message last game, but i'm not sure if that's going to make them play any better. i'd be ok if we kept all of them as long as we added a young stud in the draft. spend the likely top ten pick on a tommie harris/marcus stroud type player to pair up with patterson. that would give them one of the better starting tackle tandems in the league with rayburn and walker spelling them and thomas as an extra body.

LB - trotter is an obvious keeper. mccoy will hopefully pan out better than barry gardner and quinton caver, but he hasn't had a chance yet. dhani jones is a serviceable player, but is not suited to playing the strong side. he's a much better fit on the weak side where he won't have to take on as many blockers, which he doesn't do very effectively. simoneau is a very good backup. as long as he doesn't have to play too many downs, he's very productive. bullet is a special teams player, i'd keep him for that role but not as a starter. they need to bring in someone in the emmons mold to play the strong side. there aren't too many of those guys around, but they haven't been able to effectively replace him and covering TEs has been a problem ever since carlos left. i don't know who will be available -- julian petersen is supposed to be a free agent but san fran is expected to tag him -- but they have to upgrade the strong side linebacker position. trotter, jones, simoneau, mccoy, adams, new guy will be fine as long as new guy can really play.

CB - last year at this time, this position looked pretty set with two up and coming stars (lito and sheldon), a solid nickel corner (hood), an athletic prospect (wynn), and a tall guy (ware). i haven't seen anything from ware that tells me he'll ever be a starter, but then again you could have said the same thing about lito before last season. i think they'll be ok here once they fix the pass rush issue. i'd think about replacing wynn with draft pick, but there really isn't much you can do at the corner position. lito and sheldon are your starters. hopefully ware can develop as someone who can cover the big wideouts in the league, because the rest of them are pretty damn short.

S - when jr reed went down last offseason to kick off the season of bad karma, the primary focus was on his loss as a return guy but the safety position took a big hit as well. reed had shown himself as a playmaker in the secondary and the heir apparent to dawkins. certainly he wasn't of dawkins caliber, but he was going to be a pretty good player i thought. since it's doubtful that he'll ever play again, the birds drafted sean considine to be the young free safety they're grooming to replace dawkins. ray didinger loves sean considine, so i'm hopeful that he'll become a productive player. michael lewis, who i think is a free agent after next season, had his worst season by far. he missed a lot of tackles and generally played a step too slow all season, however, since next season is his contract year i suspect he'll have a much better season. dawkins hasn't had his best season, but he's still been pretty good IMO. he's still an enforcer back there, is still among the best safeties in coverage, and is a pretty mean SOB to top it off. it's saying something about the standard he set in past seasons that people are looking at this season as an off year for him. i'd still take this year's dawkins over most safeties in the league. quinton mikell is a free agent. i wouldn't count on him coming back as he'll probably be looking for an opportunity to start. i'd look for them to draft another young safety to groom for the future. dawkins, lewis, considine, new guy... that's not a lot of experienced depth at the safety position. i'm concerned about that.

KR/PR - hood is decent at best as a kick returner. dexter wynn showed promise as a kick and punt returner before he got hurt in the preseason. maybe he's the answer, but i don't think he's at jr reed's level. upgrade needed here.

K - akers and johnson are good. hopefully johnson comes back healthy and ready to go.

according to BJ's eagles salary cap page, the birds are about 7 million under that cap and i heard they are planning to carry it over into next season. apparently, they figured out some loophole in the cap that allows them to add "unlikely to be earned incentives" into players' contracts that count against this year's cap, but when they aren't earned it gets "refunded" into next year's cap. this means they'll have more flexibility than most teams out there.

use the high first rounder on a stud d-tackle, spend money to bring in a stud defensive end, sign a decent wide receiver, tight end, fullback, strong side linebacker and offensive guard, re-sign duce staley, and consolidate their draft picks for next season into fewer but better picks.

11 Comments:

Blogger The Big Dog said...

That is the kind of stuff I need to see. Realistically tweaking is the answer. I think you are dead on with the QB situation. However, if they can get a serviceable seasoned back-up at veteran's minimum I take him and replace Koy. I think Koy makes more than McMahon anyway. Any QB costs money, though. We'll see.

Good analysis.

On a different note, interesting move by Gillick yesterday. They move Vinny Pads for a player to be named. I understand the rationale for the move...Vinny Pads is a Milo and he has bad make-up. And will likely make out in arbitration. But, Texas needed a starter desperately. I think Gillick could have held their hands to the fire more...the player to be named appears to be a pitcher....that is interesting coming from a team that has no pitching??!!

9:32 AM EST  
Anonymous Phil said...

Weaker schedule next year won't mean anything if they can't figure out a way to start winning division games again.

And I'd focus on adding good blocking TEs and upgraded OL as that can make up for not having a decent FB. Also reduces the need of better WR play if 5 has more time.

11:06 AM EST  
Blogger Behan said...

It sounds around town like DT is a consensus for the first round pick. This is a good draft for DT. Wroten from LSU is an Eagles type DT, good at penetrating gaps, on the small side at 290. Rod Wright from Texas would be a good fit. He's got a rep as an attitude problem, though, not an Andy type guy.
If they could somehow get Mathias Kiwanuka to line up at the other end, I'd be fired up to see offenses try and handle that line.

Good call on the S position. Mike Lewis needs to step up next year, and JR Reed left a huge gap in the Eagle's future plans. Maybe A Randel-El could fill in two gaps: veteran WR and kick returner.

Sigh, already thinking about the offseason.

Great post, meanguy.

11:49 AM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

Weaker schedule next year won't mean anything if they can't figure out a way to start winning division games again.

definitely true, and maybe i am overly optimistic, but i'm not that worried about division games once we get don back healthy.

despite their record, i am not impressed by the giants. i've posted what i think about manning, and i don't think coughlin is anything special. their defense is weak except for the defensive ends. the offense is dangerous right now because they have the best skill position players in the division, but tiki is aging and shockey is injury prone. they're going to start breaking down, further exposing manning.

the redskins are going to stink for pretty much as long as dan snyder owns them as they have too much of their salary cap devoted to a small handful of players.

of the division teams, the cowboys are the one that i think pose the biggest threat. they had a great draft last season, and parcells is a great coach.

12:30 PM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

Rod Wright from Texas would be a good fit. He's got a rep as an attitude problem, though, not an Andy type guy.

after the me-o fiasco, i suspect andy is going to recommitted to getting only "character" guys on this team.

such a fine balance to that though. many guys with attitudes have attitudes because they're just that good, and sometimes it's worth the gamble (e.g. patriots with corey dillon, cowboys with charles haley). i know a few teams passed on shawne merriman because he was supposed to be such a turd, but i bet those teams are kicking themselves now. he looks like he's going to be a star.


If they could somehow get Mathias Kiwanuka to line up at the other end, I'd be fired up to see offenses try and handle that line.

i haven't seen him play so i can't really comment, but i do think that tamba hali would look pretty good coming off the corner for the birds.

didn't the birds draft a hyped defensive end from BC before? you know, the guy who flashed some chick at a bar and dumped a beer on her :)

12:39 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed, the Big Tuna is a danger for next year. It's his 3rd year in and we should start to see what his vision is.

I'm suprised you want to keep Lito. I don't. He gets beat all the time. He's only good when used in the blitz. He can't handle a double move.

We definitely need to find someone to step into the place we had for J.R.
Maybe it'll be Wynn. He had some bright spots but.....

- Joe

12:45 PM EST  
Blogger The Big Dog said...

In an unrelated event, did anyone see the Sixers game last night? I caught the last 5 minutes. C Web went off...I've never seen him play like that. Iverson was a non-factor, it was C Web....hitting jumpers, getting boards (he had 27 points and over 20 boards) and he was playing great defense on Garnett. He blocked a couple of Garnett's shots down the stretch and was just playing amazing. If he can give us 80% of that effort last night, I can't see how we can't win the horrible Eastern Division. Unfortunately Detroit, Indiana, and Cleveland are in this conference.

12:57 PM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

On a different note, interesting move by Gillick yesterday. They move Vinny Pads for a player to be named. I understand the rationale for the move...Vinny Pads is a Milo and he has bad make-up. And will likely make out in arbitration. But, Texas needed a starter desperately. I think Gillick could have held their hands to the fire more...the player to be named appears to be a pitcher....that is interesting coming from a team that has no pitching??!!

i can understand why gillick moved him as well. he's trying to build a team with heart, and you can't do that with guys like padilla around who go in the sh*tter every time someone gets a hit off him. in thinking more about your comment though, it occurs to me that we now have nothing left from the schilling trade. well, except for this player to be named later.

1:40 PM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

In an unrelated event, did anyone see the Sixers game last night? I caught the last 5 minutes. C Web went off...I've never seen him play like that. Iverson was a non-factor, it was C Web....hitting jumpers, getting boards (he had 27 points and over 20 boards) and he was playing great defense on Garnett. He blocked a couple of Garnett's shots down the stretch and was just playing amazing. If he can give us 80% of that effort last night, I can't see how we can't win the horrible Eastern Division. Unfortunately Detroit, Indiana, and Cleveland are in this conference.

i watched the whole game and he was unbelieveable. it was like turning back the clock 10 years. he had at least 3 jams in traffic and one over a michael olowokandi block attempt. i've been reserving judgement on billy king partly because AI and c-webb haven't had enough time to really get acclimated to each other yet. i think we're starting to see that they can, in fact, not only co-exist but thrive.

the key to exactly how competitive they can be will really depend on the other guys. they can definitely win the east, but whether or not they can be a real factor will depend on two guys: dalembert and korver.

if dalembert can put up 10 points, 10 boards, and 3 blocks a night and korver shoots well and isn't a defensive liability, then they can be competitive.

during AI's entire career, they haven't had another guy on the roster who could will the team to victory. c-webb showed that he has some of that left in him. hopefully this is just the start of a bea-uuuu-tiful friendship.

2:14 PM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

I'm suprised you want to keep Lito. I don't. He gets beat all the time. He's only good when used in the blitz. He can't handle a double move.

before even considering whether we want to keep lito or not, we have to recognize that the birds just signed him to a long contract extension. for good or bad, he's going to be a corner here for a long time.

on top of that, lito made the pro bowl last year. was that an aberration or was this year the aberration? hopefully the real lito is closer to last season than this season.

2:24 PM EST  
Anonymous Phil said...

It's incredibly tough to judge corner play in the NFL (especially given what we can see on TV). Half the time what looks like a corner getting beat is really the safety being out of position in zone coverage.

2:52 PM EST  

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