Thursday, May 3, 2012
Eagles: One big question
By Dan Graziano
Can we trust the Philadelphia Eagles this time?
The Eagles were, as you'll recall, the stars of the 2011 offseason. The lockout ended, and they started spending and signing. Coming off a 2010 division title season during which quarterback Michael Vick had emerged as one of the best players in the league, the Eagles believed they were going to be awesome. Instead, they were one of the league's biggest 2011 flops. Radical changes on the coaching staff and with defensive personnel failed to come together as quickly and effectively as the Eagles believed they would. They started out 1-4 and never recovered. This offseason, they've been more measured, expressing the belief that the 2011 roster was better than it played and deserves a mulligan. They added a great middle linebacker in DeMeco Ryans to address their biggest need, extended the contracts of some of their core players, and are coming off a draft that many have hailed as the best in the league. Once again, they believe they are going to be awesome.
But is it real this time? Will Nnamdi Asomugha play to his all-pro pedigree in his second Philadelphia season? Will former offensive-line coach Juan Castillo's second year as defensive coordinator be free from the growing pains of his first? Will the Eagles be tougher against the run? And perhaps most importantly, will Vick be more responsible with the ball? Because as much as the defensive lapses cost the Eagles in the early part of the 2011 season, the turnovers on offense might have been even costlier. The Eagles might not need the brilliant, electrified 2010 version of Vick, but they do need a version that's more careful and responsible -- with the ball and with his own body -- than the one who played for them in 2011.
Any and all of these things could happen. With all of their problems, the 2011 Eagles still finished 8-8, only one game out of first place in the NFC East. So it's not as though there's some huge mountain to climb to get into the playoffs. But owner Jeffrey Lurie was clearly upset about the way the high hopes of 2011 fizzled, and if the 2012 Eagles disappoint, this could be the first time in Andy Reid's tenure as head coach that his job is legitimately in jeopardy. There's a lot riding on this Eagles season for a lot of people. They didn't do much to correct last year's problems, having sold ownership and fans on the idea that they would correct themselves because of the talent on the roster. That's a big bet to make, and for the sake of Reid and the rest of the folks in charge in Philadelphia, it had better pay off.