Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Eagles Offseason 2007

obviously, the healthy return of donovan mcnabb is a top priority, but unlike last offseason, it may not be the single highest priority. having a capable backup in tow enabled the eagles to have much more success than i expected after donovan went down. this tells me a few things:

- the team is still very talented up and down the roster
- big red and staff can gameplan and "coach 'em up" with the best of them (though in-game decision-making is questionable)

however, to be a true championship contender again, they do need to upgrade the roster at key positions. let's run down the roster position by position.


QB - getting mcnabb healthy is important if we want to be a true championship contender again, but it's not critical for him to be ready by the start of the season. this team can win enough with garcia at the helm to stay in the race. they have another year left on feeley's contract, so if they are able to re-sign garcia (and all signs point to that happening sooner or later), going into next season with a mcnabb, garcia, feeley trio is terrific -- no roster moves needed here.

RB - brian certainly proved me (and any other westbrook doubters) wrong with the season he had. while he still can't move the pile in short yardage, his ability to stay productive for the entire season (even while fighting chronic knee problems) was really the key to the saving of the season. garcia played well in subbing for mcknee, but it's not like he was playing at all-pro level or anything. westbrook is the guy that carried the team with (shockingly) rushing yards. still, this position needs an upgrade both in terms of depth and style. behind westbrook the cupboard is bare. i like buckhalter and he's a great story, but if he's the primary backup to brian again next season, it is not a good thing. i'd like to see moats make some progress and get on the field sometime. is it the worst coast offense and its infernal terminology preventing him from getting on the field or is it that he just stinks? regardless, this position needs an overhaul. brining back westbrook is obvious. moats i assume is safe. mahe can go and if i'm the eagles i re-sign buck only for insurance. next season, i'd like to see westbrook, moats, draft pick, veteran tough runner (thomas jones caliber would be ideal, but i'll take anyone who can gain positive yards on third and short, heck leroy hoard caliber would look pretty good right now), and then possibly buckhalter.

FB - tapeh proved to be an upgrade over parry as thomas showed a bit of an athletic side, blocked more effectively, and caught the ball more naturally than parry did. i'm ok with going into next season with tapeh as the primary fullback. no roster moves needed unless a lorenzo neal happens to fall into big red's ample lap.

TE - an area of need. LJ is heading into his contract year, so expect him to play with some passion (finally). i'll be curious to see if bartrum can make it back from his injury. if not, will the eagles continue with dorenbos, who unlike bartrum is not listed on the depth chart anywhere other than LS? neither LJ nor schobel catch the ball consistently and both of them stink at blocking. can we get a true third TE on the team if bartrum retires? a real blocking TE? i expect bartrum to retire, so let's say the roster next season is going to be LJ, schobel, new guy.

WR - the big question here is whether the birds can re-sign donte stallworth (hello drew rosenhaus). i suspect they will. reggie brown looked terrific in his second year except for the small matter of CATCHING THE DAMN BALL. hank baskett looks like a future contributor. jason avant looks about as good as freddie mitchell ever did. greg lewis looks pretty good as a 5th WR. that's not too shabby. i'm pretty happy with the direction of the WR corps considering we were looking at going into this season with pinkston, brown, mcmullen, and greg lewis. assuming we get stallworth back to be the no. 1 wideout, all of these guys are signed to long term deals and there's no need for new blood here (barring injury or me-o like insanity). i like stallworth, brown, baskett, avant, and lewis.

OT - tra thomas looked better than he has in a couple of seasons. his pass protection was good and by the end of the year even his run blocking was improved. at a manageable cap number of 4.8 mil next season, i'd expect the eagles to bring him back unless they think justice is ready to start (i doubt it). runyan is still going strong. no need to mess with the guy who is still the leader of that group and still the nastiest guy on the team. justice is still the LT of the future and the birds seem to really like this pat mccoy. no need for any moves here. next season looks to be thomas, runyan, justice, and mccoy barring injury or retirement.

OG - a real strength of the team. andrews is a flat out stud and herremans seems to have adjusted nicely to playing inside. this tandem can grade some road (something that we haven't had in a long time on the birds). behind them are max jean-gillies and, the goat of this year's playoffs, scott young. andrews, herremans, and jean-gillies aren't going anywhere, but i bet the birds draft someone to compete with young.

C - jamaal jackson, professional lineman. wow, after complaining for years about honeybuns ineffective play and lack of physicality, i am finally happy with the center position. jackson is just awesome. you can out-quick him on the pass rush, but the guy is a monster in run blocking. watching him work with andrews is bea-u-ti-ful. the eagles really like fat nick cole the merry old soul so i expect them to do nothing at center. jackson and cole next season.


DE - the injury to freak hurt this unit in many ways and certainly more than i expected. while we came into the season with this as possibly the deepest group on the team, kearse's injury pushed everyone up one spot on the depth chart and put them in a position they were not ready to play. howard was forced to play more than ideal and he ended up playing hurt most of the season. cole played really well, but was worn out by the end of the season. mcdougle cannot play. juqua thomas started off slow, but was their best pass rusher by the end of the year and is a free agent. ideally, kearse comes back and you re-sign thomas so your top 4 rotation is set: kearse, cole, howard, thomas... but that may be wishful thinking. personally, i'd cut mcdoodie now, but with 2 years left on his contract, he may be back. next season's roster will definitely have kearse, howard, and cole. i figure one of thomas and mcdookie are back, and they draft one DE. so let's call it kearse, howard, cole, thomas, new guy.

DT - another position of great promise coming into the season. unforuntately, these guys got pushed around like little girls all season. mike patterson regressed (i think they play him on the nose too often, he's more suited to playing 3 technique). darwin walker was highly inconsistent as usual, looking like an all-world player one week and jerome mcdougle the next. brodrick bunkley couldn't sniff the field and missed team flights. lajuan ramsey started off looking good then fell into a black hole. truck driver played ok but made no real impact. bunkley has to become a contributor if the birds are going to fix this unit. darwin walker has two more years left on his contract, but i'd rather see him come off the bench. bunkley becomes the nose and patterson shifts to his more natural 1-gap role. walker, ramsey, and rayburn are all signed for more than one more year, so expect only one of those guys to get replaced, if any. not great considering how poorly they played, but next season looks to be the same fivesome with an outside chance of getting a DT in the draft if one falls to them.

LB - trotter is just about done. mccoy was less than effective in his stint as starter. guess what? dhani still stinks. guess what else? he has at least three years left on his contract. egad. gaither looked pretty good in replacing mccoy, but was that him actually looking good or just in comparison to the awful mccoy? personally, i think gaither does not have the speed to play outside. i'd like to see him move back into the middle and ultimately replace trotter. gocong was lost to injury, but he's our SAM of the future, a huge SS LB who can jam TE and run with them. shawn barber is a free agent and probably won't be back considering his myriad health issues. this is a unit that needs help. considering how long it takes LB to catch onto JJ's system, do we dare to dream of help coming from the draft? here's what we know. trotter, gocong, gaither, jones, and mccoy will probably all be back, leaving room for 1 or 2 other guys. who are those guys? will they be the dedrick ropers and torrance daniels of the world or will they be potential playmakers? best case scenario is probably one of each. let's call it: trotter, gocong, gaither, jones, mccoy, roper, new MLB backup.

CB - comeback season for lito. down season for sheldon. hopefully they both put a good season together next year. concern here is that rod hood is probably gone as he'll get a starting job somewhere, pushing joselio hanson up to nickel smurf. william james may get a starting gig somewhere too so he may not re-sign. lots of turnover in this position. hopefully the eagles are able to draft a tall corner. outlook for next year is lito, sheldon, joselio, draft pick.

S - sean considine is not a SS. he's more suited to playing in coverage and i guess he'll take over for dawk if/when dawk retires. michael lewis is a free agent and is probably gone. quentin mikell is a free agent and i hope he comes back. use a draft pick to get a real SS and put considine where he belongs (backing up dawkins). next season, i hope for dawkins, new guy, considine, mikell

KR/PR - white flash! good-bye-ma-he. good-bye-ma-he. goood-byee-maaa-hee. you're going to leave us now.

K - akers and johnson.

my hope is that the eagles use their first three picks on: LB, SS, CB, won't happen, but that's what i'd like to see happen. then spend money to bring in a real backup running back and blocking tight end. i'd like to see them get another monster at DT, but i think we're all going to have to hope for bunkley to develop. at DE, getting kearse healthy is critical. if he's not progressing, they'll have to replace him somehow. i guess with the draft, but DE has one of the worst hit rates of any position in the draft (case in point - mcturdle).

this team is not far from being a real contender. the pain of this season aside, reid and heckert have done a great job of talent evaluation. this team is littered with draft picks (both high and low) who are playing and contributing. shore up a few areas and get reid some clock management help and i think we're ready for next season.

to close, i'd like to quote dan (who joined us for the carolina game tailgate), who says this about andy reid:
i hate reids game management, but he does everything else so well i have to stick with him
i think that about sums up how i feel about big red perfectly

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is when I enjoy your posts the most MG. You really hit a lot of areas that I agree with 100%. I think the O is fine, even if they don't bring back Garcia. AJ is a fine backup. O line is set, but Justice needs a shot to see the field. Ditto Gilles. I think it's time to see what those kids have. They need to develop somehow and game time really is the only way. That said, the Jackson 5 played well and can still play and I would bring it back intact.

Tapeh is fine. Not great but better than Parry. Not a top need.

TE is weak. Two guys who sometimes catch and never block. If a good TE is there when they pick in round 1, I might pull that trigger. That is a key position in this offense. Pick a guy who can learn and contribute in a year.

WR actually looks fine to me. I like their top 5. They must keep Stallworth, but I doubt they will as he stepped up in the playoffs. He could command a lot of money elsewhere and they won't pay that. If they do keep him, I think this could be one of the best corps of WR in the league provided they fix the dropsies. Brown, Stallworth, Hank, Avant, and Lewis can all make plays. This position no longer scares me provided Stallworth is there.

DL is an enigma. I agree losing Kearse killed them. Howard is a much better rusher from inside and he couldn't do that once Freak was gone. I think Juqua will command more money than they want to pay on the market and they will lose him as teams with money tend to overpay for people who can rush-see Burgess. They cannot, cannot keep McDog. He just cannot play. I actually don't think Howard can play either. I'd look for a run stuffer who can rush a bit either free agent or draft, but they again need to upgrade here. Why do we seem to say that every season?

Patterson looked awesome in the first 4 games then shriveled. I think the key, the number one key for this team for next year is better play from the DT. Bunkley and Patterson must completely retool their game and become the players they were drafted to be. I also think Ramsey can play. Trucker cannot play. I'd cut him. Walker is a backup as you say. They need to raise the level of competition at this position and we need to be patient and hope what they have was young and immature and ready to work hard and improve. Otherwise, it will be more of the same in 2007.

LB is a complete mess. They only have 2 decent ones on the roster right now. Trot is clearly in the twilight but has one more year of leadership and productivity left. McCoy cannot play, Jones must go, Gaither is still a baby. They must get 2-3 people worth of help here. Given their track record, I doubt they will. They just don't make plays at this position and that needs to change. I am not optimistic.

Secondary will lose a ton of depth as Lewis is gone, James is probably gone, Hood wants to start, Dawk has 1 left. Hanson and Considine are special teamers. I'd keep Mikell and look to get deeper in the draft here. This has been a strength, but they need to be careful as secondaries get weak quickly and teams go south when secondaries get weak. This scares me more than any other position.

Special teams. Akers had a sh*tty year and I am getting worried about his leg. he cannot and has n ot ever hit the end zone and his accuracy fell off. Let's hope this isn't the beginning of the end for him, but I would consider some competition for him. Dirk is OK, sometimes booms big kicks but often has dribblers in key situations. I'd look to upgrade. Dorenbos does neat magic tricks, but he's only an OK snapper and should be gone for an upgrade. Their return men blow. They must, must, must get someone who can bust one to the 30 on a consistent basis. Their field position sucked all year and that has to change.

I'd like the draft to yield a TE, FS, CB, LB, LB, DL, 230 lb RB.

9:28 PM EST  
Blogger The Big Dog said...

TMG, I really think that you are on to something with your assessments....this is truly an off-season, in my estimation, for tweaking and providing depth, not overhauling...I think Jones is probably gone to be honest and I think that the Birds realize they need to upgrade at LB (outside Gocong who I hope contributes next year)....maybe they will convince McCoy to gain 25 lbs this off-season, but I would at least like to see a playmaker added to this team....I would like a heavy body in the middle of the D Line, but I think Bunkley, Ramsey and Patterson will be fine....definitely a blocking TE and SS...and depth at corner...here's a name I would like to throw out there....if I had the Birds pick, I would steal Brian Leonard from Rutgers...he has Andy all over him....
1. He can catch
2. He can block
3. He can be used as a RB in short yardage situations.
4. He is a real smart guy who doesn't party and spends his free time pumping iron
...thereby aleviating the need for another "big back" and freeing up a roster spot....I truly think big back is not what they need per se, they need a pile mover or a back that can consistently get you tough yards...if the said person is 200 lbs, fine....plus Moats CAN NOT play...cut him.

9:11 AM EST  
Anonymous Phil said...

Spot on. Need to upgrade the secondary and the LBs. TE would be a help, but not a need as of yet considering quality at RB and WR.

Akers might not be able to reach the end zone consistently, but FO still has him ranked as among the best kick-off guys in the league. Not a concern yet and still easily a top 10 kicker.

I'm not as worried about the need for a "big back". Buck plays that role well and is very consistent according to FO stats at consistantly picking up 2-3 yards per rush. And frankly, shouldn't the large road graders on the line minimize the need for a big back?

9:29 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian Leonard would be great. They might be able to convert him to a TE, he has all the skills, and like big dog said, he's a character guy.

I don't know about Gocong, he's got to adjust to a new position and make the leap from 1-AA. He's a project and he already missed a year of development. I hope they don't talk themselves out of taking a shot at Lance Briggs or Paul Pos because Gocong is hanging around.

- Behan

11:12 AM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

i have to be honest, i've never seen leonard play so i'll have to trust your judgement on that.

if they do go the draft route for a backup RB, i was kind of thinking a guy like tony hunt would be perfect -- not flashy, doesn't demand the ball, always moving forward. i've seen hunt projected as a late first day, early second day kind of guy, so the birds may be able to nab him late.

re: pos, i'm a huge penn state fan, but i'm kind of conflicted about paul. just based on what i've seen, i don't think paul is going to be a standout pro linebacker. his frame is small and he's instinctive but doesn't have pro speed. now, jack ham and shane conlan both think that pos is going to be a stud, so that means something, but really, i'm still a bit skeptical.

re: gocong, what we know is the guy is super smart (based on his graduating early with an engineering degree from a non-football factory school) and has a great motor (based on his ability to rush the passer in college). can he make the switch to LB? i hope so. the one thing that makes me optimistic is that the guy who coached him in college also coached tedy brushi and had gocong playing the same position that tedy played in college. i forget his name, but that guy thinks gocong compares very favorably to bruschi.

11:48 AM EST  
Anonymous Matt T. said...

Not sure about all the LJ bashing. He improved as a blocker and he's a big-play tight end (a rarity in the NFL).

Offense is fine

Draft the best LB available (regardless of position) in the first round.

Add a strong safety in the 2nd.

Sign a veteran CB.

Sign a veteran RB backup.

12:53 PM EST  
Anonymous Phil said...

I'm not saying they should or would do it, but SD's Turner is a free agent. That would be a nice complement to 36. Only problem is that he's going to want to be paid like a #1 and the only position Reid hates paying for more than RBs, is WRs.

12:58 PM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

wouldn't mind that at all, but you're probably right. the birds already broke their RB budget in signing westbrook. doubtful they'd throw more money at it.

1:02 PM EST  
Anonymous Phil said...

Anyone else a little depressed that we're 8.5 months away from the next meaningful Eagles game?

2:06 PM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

i wasn't until you put it that way...

2:19 PM EST  

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