Friday, August 03, 2007

Biggest Questions for 2007 Season

here are what i see as the top concerns/questions/issues for 2007

1) health of donovan mcnabb

will he be at 100% at some point this season? has he really recovered from his blown ACL? can he stay healthy for a whole season? while don has proven that he's a warrior and will play through anything that is possible to play through, he does have a significant injury history. he's not "fragile" per se, but he has shown a willingness to push his body past the breaking point, which is just as bad. a number of pundits, fans, and columnists are popularizing the notion that westbrook is more "critical" to the team's success and i say that's hogwash. it is possible that westbrook is as critical as mcnabb for this team, but the bottom line is that teams very rarely win superbowls without good QB play.

2) health of jevon kearse

the freak's value to this team is greater than the sum of his stats. what his teammates say is definitely true -- you have to gameplan for kearse. losing kearse had a huge effect on the birds last season because it directly impacted their pass defense (the most important aspect of JJ's defensive scheme), which had a cascading effect on the rest of the defense (falling behind early, having to play run defense more often than usual). kearse has to play well for this defense to be dominant, and this defense has to be dominant if they are going to be a viable championship contender.

3) health of westbrook

westbrook proved all the doubters (including yours truly) wrong last year by staying healthy while carrying the load. can he do it again? is it possible to have both mcnabb and westbrook healthy heading into the playoffs? last time it happened, the season ended with a road trip to jacksonville. if westbrook does not play, this team is not a contender.

4) impact of takeo spikes

how far on the downside of his career is takeo spikes? he was once one of the top 3-4 linebackers in the game, imo, though he never got the publicity of some of the LBs playing on winning teams. he was fast. he was mean. he was instinctive. however, he's turning 31 in december, and he's an old 31, already having 10 years in the league and still recovering from an achilles tear. the eagles haven't had a playmaking weak side linebacker in years -- since willie t really -- so he can make a huge impact to this defense if he plays anywhere close to how he did with the bengals.

5) playcalling balance

will this team return to its ridiculously pass-heavy playcalling distribution or will it continue with last season's 55/45 mix? by all accounts, andy will continue to let marty mornhinweg run the show on offense, which is a good sign and something that i (among others) have been hoping/whining about for years.

6) development of brodrick bunkley

last season, run defense was a big problem. some of it can be attributed to injuries and falling behind in games, but a big chunk (probably the biggest chunk) of the responsibility can be planted directly on the fat guys. the middle of the d-line was downright awful last season. mike patterson was put in the position of having to play over the nose, a position that he is too small to play and does not enable him to make best use of his strengths. darwin walker played himself out of position or got blown off the ball often enough to get canned (igglesblog notes that pro football prospectus identifies walker, who igglesblog calls a "no-gap" tackle, as having a 59 percent stop rate on running plays at him, lowest among d-tackles with 25 or more plays). truck driver hasn't stopped drinking since he signed his big contract a few years back. bunkley showed up out of shape and never got into the flow. like it or not, bunkley is important to this defense. if he plays well, patterson can play 3-technique and scott and reagor can be rotation guys.

7) improvement in return game

the coverage teams bounced back and had a pretty good 2006, but we can't say the same about the return game. the return game was bad for both kickoffs and punts. poor return game means poor field position. poor field position means fewer points scored and more points given up. it's an important aspect of the game and the eagles haven't had a good return game since brian mitchell's next to last season.

8) development of sean considine

we all saw the missed tackles last season. he has to play better.

9) play of strong side linebacker

the birds haven't been able to stop the run to the strong side or cover tight ends (any tight ends, not just the good ones) since the departure of carlos emmons and the arrival the bow-tied one. i'm not asking for a whole lot. if we can just get average NFL caliber linebacker play from gocong or bradley, we'll be fine. there are enough playmakers on this defense. all i'm asking for is general competence.

10) can b-dawk still be b-dawk?

brian dawkins will be 34 this season, his 12th in the NFL. can he continue to play at the level we're accustomed to seeing him play? it's important to this team that he does. he's one of the true playmakers on this defense and if is no longer able to make game-changing plays or cover for others' mistakes, it will impact the defense. i'm sure dawk will be effective and takeo spikes may hopefully take some of the playmaking burden, but if he can't range like b-dawk or hit like b-dawk the secondary will be more vulnerable... and as ron jaworski likes to say, "points come from the passing game".



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good assessment TMG. I'm hung up on the #5or #36 debate and I think it is because they at least have capable backups in Feeley and Holcomb whereas they lack any backups at RB. Both guys being out hurts badly, but B Wes literally is the only scoring threat at RB.

I agree with all other areas of concern/interest. Wow fella, this early and we are on the same page.


10:17 PM EDT  
Blogger Big Dog said...

And no one is hurt, yet....

7:26 AM EDT  

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