For the first time in Andy Reid's tenure as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, the playoffs passed without one chorus of "fly, Eagles fly, on the road to victory."
The Eagles were one-and-done, over-and-out after one playoff game.
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Not winning in the postseason makes for a long offseason in Philadelphia, with a tsunami of criticism engulfing Reid and his quarterback, Donovan McNabb. What those people fail to tell you, though, is that the Reid-McNabb combination produced five conference championship games in eight years and eight playoff appearances in 11.
Basically, Eagles fans have become spoiled. Reid and McNabb raised the bar so high that winning no longer is good enough for some of them. Super Bowls are all that matters, and if you can't make it there -- and the Eagles did in 2004 -- then maybe you should move on.
Yeah, sure. The Eagles are one of the NFL's most consistently successful franchises, and look no further than Reid and McNabb for an explanation. Now the question: Can they ever please those unhappy fans? Here's what they have to offer. You make the call:
QB: The Eagles have three quarterbacks, and any of them could start in this league. For the moment, it's Donovan McNabb who calls the plays, but reports are beginning to circulate that McNabb may be on the trade market. All I know is that he and Reid have been joined at the hip, and Reid steadfastly has stood behind McNabb -- saying earlier this year that McNabb is his starter for 2010. If a trade were to happen, Kevin Kolb is the likely replacement -- though his name has been thrown around in trade talks, too. Kolb is ready to make the move up, but he won't as long as McNabb is here. Neither will Michael Vick, who the Eagles retained and who could be acquired by anyone willing to offer a first- or second-round draft pick. The club is deep at the position, with McNabb followed by two more-than-adequate backups.
RB: With the release of Brian Westbrook, the Eagles officially enter the Help Wanted pages at this position. LeSean McCoy is the starter and showed sufficient promise as a rookie that the Eagles aren't all that concerned about challenging him. And why should they? He might not look like Westbrook, but he plays like him -- and that is nothing but good. But the Eagles continue to need a hammer between the tackles. Unless something happens, fullback Leonard Weaver is that guy -- but it's high time something happens. The club must find a short-yardage back through the draft. At the very least, the departure of Westbrook means the Eagles need to pad this position.
WR: A year ago McNabb complained about the lack of playmakers, but those concerns evaporated the minute Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson stepped on the field. Jackson was a big-time playmaker, with eight touchdowns of 50 or more yards and a whopping average of 18.5 yards per catch. Maclin isn't there yet, but his rookie numbers were so solid you can't help but think these two will be the best 1-2 punch in Philadelphia this side of Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels. Slot receiver Jason Avant is a solid third choice -- a guy who improved his numbers in each of his four seasons, just picked up a five-year deal and convinced the team to move on without Reggie Brown. No wonder Reid has trouble resisting the temptation to pass opponents to death.
|After letting him go, the Eagles couldn't fill Brian Dawkins' leadership role. (US Presswire)|
OL: The concerns Reid had with his offensive line were supposed to be allayed by the acquisitions of Jason Peters and Stacy Andrews, but the Eagles never were all that comfortable with what they had up front. For one, Peters didn't play all that well. He was good at times, not so good at others. In short, he was not a Pro Bowl player. Andrews wasn't much of a factor. Neither was his brother Shawn, and there is concern that Shawn -- who missed all of last season -- may have no future with the team. Center Jamaal Jackson is steady, with his value underscored by an injury late in the season. Without Jackson, the Eagles moved Nick Cole from right guard to center and had Max Jean-Gilles at guard -- and they lost both games. Winston Justice was a surprise at right tackle and Todd Herremans solid at left guard.
DL: The Eagles' top seven in sacks were defensive linemen, and that should tell you how active these guys are in the pass rush. Right end Trent Cole is an underrated star, with a team-high 12.5 sacks last season and 34 the past three years. He draws constant double teams, which means somebody else must step forward. So far, nobody has. Juqua Parker is OK as the other bookend, but the Eagles need to get more pressure from that spot. Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson are pluggers in the middle of the line and tough to move, while Darren Howard is a solid pass rusher off the bench. Still, the Eagles could use a young body off the edge.
LB: This was the biggest area of concern in 2009, with the Eagles never overcoming the training-camp loss of middle linebacker Stewart Bradley. Joe Mays was supposed to take his place. Then it was Omar Gaither. Then Will Witherspoon. Jeremiah Trotter. And finally Akeem Jordan. I think you get the idea. They even tried Chris Gocong for one game. Nobody really fit, with Witherspoon released earlier this month. Gaither and Jordan are best suited outside and, along with Moise Foiku and Gocong, offer adequate play at the position. Having Bradley back should solidify things in the middle and keep people like Gaither and Jordan in positions where they can help most. But you can never have enough playmakers. Philadelphia learned the hard way.
DB: The loss of Brian Dawkins hurt more than the Eagles expected. Dawkins was one of the team's toughest and most reliable veterans, but it was his leadership on and off the field that was missed most. When he went to Denver, the Eagles plugged in Sean Jones and Macho Harris at his position, and neither lived up to Dawkins' lofty standards. There was nothing wrong with the other safety, Quintin Mikell, who led the club in tackles. Cornerback Asante Samuel continues to be a ball hawk, with a club-best nine interceptions, but he takes chances and can get burned. Cornerback Sheldon Brown was steadier, though less noticeable, and played at a Pro Bowl level until collapsing down the stretch against Dallas. Joselio Hanson is solid as the team's nickel back.