One would think that the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterbacks would learn to keep their mouths shut by now.
Last year, after Philly added a handful of Pro Bowlers, backup quarterback Vince Young (himself a new addition), boasted about how the Eagles now had a “Dream Team” that couldn’t be beaten. Oddsmakers believed him as the Iggles were the Super Bowl favorites heading into the preseason.
Thus, no team was more disappointing a season ago after Philadelphia finished 8-8 to miss the playoffs. Things looked great after an opening blowout at St. Louis, but that was fool’s gold with how bad the Rams would turn out to be. Then the Eagles went on a four-game losing streak and the writing was on the wall.
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Coach Andy Reid’s job status looked tenuous after a loss in Seattle dropped the Eagles to 4-8, but the team did close on a four-game winning streak. That also was somewhat fool’s gold considering the four teams the Eagles beat -- Miami, the New York Jets, Dallas and Washington -- all missed the playoffs.
But the Eagles optimists believe that winning streak brings momentum into 2012 as well as having that star-laden roster together for one full year. Still, perhaps Michael Vick should have kept quiet about how optimistic the Eagles are. This week, Vick said he believed the Eagles “have a chance to develop a dynasty.” Now the bullseye is back.
It’s now evident that Vick’s running style won’t allow him to stay healthy for a full season. He missed three games a year ago and his completion percentage, touchdown passes and QB rating were all down from 2010, when he played 12 games and was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Vick also had a career-worst 14 interceptions a year ago.
He says he is determined to cut down on turnovers this season – Vick also had 10 total fumbles. He did average 7.8 yards per carry last year but toted the ball 24 times fewer than the year before. Look for that trend to continue as the team tries to keep him healthy.
The Eagles’ biggest moves on offense this offseason were in getting new contracts for star running back LeSean McCoy and receiver DeSean Jackson. The contract uncertainty seemed to weigh on Jackson last year as he had his worst season since his rookie year with 58 catches for 961 yards and four scores. McCoy had no such problems, ranking fourth in the NFL with 1,309 yards rushing and first with 17 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 48 passes for three scores and might be the best back in the NFL right now.
With McCoy, Jackson, WR Jeremy Maclin (63 catches, 859 yards, ive TDs) and tight end Brent Celek (62-811-five), Vick has some of the best skill-position talent at his disposal of any team in the NFL. Philly ranked fourth in the NFL in yards per game and eighth in points in 2011 and should easily be in the Top 10 in both again – if Vick can stay healthy because there’s no proven backup behind him (sorry, but Mike Kafka isn’t proven).
The offensive line suffered a huge blow this offseason when all-pro left tackle Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles’ tendon twice, and he won’t play this season. To replace him, the Eagles signed free agent Demetress Bell from Buffalo. But that’s a clear downgrade.
The defense was the big reason the Eagles got off to such a bad start, and clearly all the pressure heading into 2012 is on coordinator Juan Castillo. Many were surprised that Reid didn’t fire Castillo, who previously had been the team’s offensive line coach. And, in fact, the team did reach out to former Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo, and if he had accepted the job Castillo likely was gone. But Spagnuolo declined, and Reid eventually hired defensive backs Coach Todd Bowles to assist Castillo.
The big offseason move on this side of the ball, other than finally dumping unhappy cornerback Asante Samuel, was trading for Houston linebacker DeMeco Ryans. He is the Texans' all-time leader with 637 tackles, eight sacks, six forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries and two interceptions in his six-year career and was the 2006 Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowler in 2007 and ’09. Ryans did have his worst full season in 2011 with just 64 tackles and no sacks. Other than 2010, when he tore his Achilles’ tendon (he probably wasn’t 100 percent recovered until at least midway through last season), he has played all 16 games in each season.
Star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha didn’t live up to expectations a year ago but is expected to play more man coverage this season. Many believe the Eagles played too much zone coverage last season, and that went away from Asomugha's strengths in an effort to minimize Samuel's weakness. Yet Samuel was probably the team’s best corner in 2011.
2012 Philadelphia Eagles Schedule Analysis
Philly has the seventh-toughest strength of schedule this season going by opponents’ 2011 winning percentage. The Eagles have eight games vs. teams that finished over .500.
Philadelphia should be able to open with a win as it travels to Cleveland and is already installed as a nine-point favorite on 5Dimes. But then things get tough in a hurry with six of the next seven games against playoff teams, starting with the home opener in Week 2 vs. Baltimore. That’s followed by a long trip to Arizona, then home vs. the Super Bowl Champion Giants, at Pittsburgh, home to Detroit, a bye week, home to Atlanta and at New Orleans. Philly split with the G-Men last year (losing at home) and lost at the Falcons.
The schedule definitely appears to soften up after Week 9: vs. Dallas, at Washington, vs. Carolina, at Dallas, at Tampa Bay, vs. Cincinnati, vs. Washington and closing at the Giants. Philadelphia swept both the Cowboys and Skins a year ago. The Eagles have beaten the Giants in seven of their past eight tries, and they haven't lost at the Meadowlands since 2007.
Essentially, the Eagles should be in good playoff shape as long as they enter Week 10 no worse than 4-4.
2012 Philadelphia Eagles NFL Futures Odds
On 5Dimes, the Eagles are +140 favorites to win the NFC East, with the “field” option at -170. To win the NFC, Philly is a +550 second favorite and it is a +1200 co-third favorite to win the Super Bowl. The Eagles’ “over/under” wins total is set at 10, with the over a -135 favorite.
2012 Philadelphia Eagles Predictions
I am shocked that the Eagles didn’t sign a veteran quarterback to back up Vick – who has played all 16 games just once in his career -- after letting Young go. That is putting an awful lot of faith in Kafka or free-agent addition Trent Edwards, who is a veteran but isn’t any good and didn’t play in 2011. I think it’s fair to assume Vick misses at least three games with his bodyguard Peters out .
Can the team go 2-1, say, with Kafka under center? That could be the difference between winning the NFC East or finishing somewhere around 9-7 if it were to go 1-2 or 0-3.
I think the Eagles finish right on 10 wins, but would take the field prop on the division. If Peters were healthy, I’d be more optimistic. And if Vick goes down for an extended period, this team finishes .500 at best. An NFC or Super Bowl title will have to wait another year.
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