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Season preview: 2011 Eagles

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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Offense: Michael Vick was so improved, so effective, so downright electric last season that the Eagles not only re-signed him, they threw away reliable backup Kevin Kolb. Vick made huge strides as a quarterback, with a career-best 100.2 passer rating, and he has targets galore in DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, Steve Smith, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper. People in Philadelphia always complain that the Eagles should be more balanced, and look for more caterwauling if LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown aren't more involved. They will be -- especially McCoy, a younger version of Brian Westbrook. Bottom line: These guys will score points ... lots of them. If there's a question, it's the offensive line, where free-agent pickup Ryan Harris, ticketed for right tackle, already has been sidelined. The good news: The Eagles hired Howard Mudd, former offensive line coach in Indianapolis, to figure things out. He will.

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Defense: This was a headache a year ago, which is why Philadelphia changed coordinators. Juan Castillo moves over after years as the team's offensive line coach, and if you think that's a gutsy move ... you're right. Coach Andy Reid will gamble on Castillo's simpler approach, but he's not letting him fly without a safety net. If there's a problem, defensive line coach Jim Washburn is there to help. There are upgrades everywhere, including Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins on the defensive line and Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at cornerback. Linebacker is an issue, with the Eagles vulnerable in the middle where rookie Casey Matthews stands ... for now. The Eagles want to improve a pass defense that wilted down the stretch, and they will. Babin and Jenkins will help pressure the pocket, and Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel shore up a secondary that allowed a franchise-worst 31 passing TDs.

Coaching and schemes: Only Bill Belichick has a better record the past decade than Reid. Not only does the guy win; he usually goes deep into the playoffs. Only not lately. He has lost his past three playoff starts, including the past two in the opening rounds, and that won't fly in Philadelphia. That's why the Eagles imported half the league's available talent.

Outlook: This team is loaded, and expectations are high. Nobody has more high-maintenance fans than Philadelphia, so all the offseason moves only guarantee that Reid steps into the line of fire ... again.

Predicted finish: 12-4, first in NFC East.

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