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Thursday, July 1, 2004
Updated: July 6, 9:35 AM ET
Eagles made big moves, also suffered losses

By Kieran Darcy
ESPN.com

2003 RECORD: 12-4
TEAM RANK (NFL): Defense (20th); Offense (18th)
ADDITIONS:
Free agents -- DE Jevon Kearse (Titans), LB Dhani Jones (Giants).
Acquired by trade -- WR Terrell Owens (49ers), QB Jeff Blake (Cardinals).
Draft picks -- 1. OT Shawn Andrews (Arkansas), 3. CB Matt Ware (UCLA), 4a. S J.R. Reed (South Florida), 4b. OG Trey Darilek (UTEP), 5. FB Thomas Tapeh (Minnesota), 6a. QB Andrew Hall (Delaware), 6b. CB Dexter Wynn (Colorado State), 7a. OG Adrien Clarke (Ohio State), 7b. RB Bruce Perry (Maryland), 7c. C Dominic Furio (UNLV).
SUBTRACTIONS:
LB Carlos Emmons (Giants), RB Duce Staley (Steelers), DE Marco Coleman (Broncos), CB Troy Vincent (Bills), CB Bobby Taylor (Seahawks), OG Bobbie Williams (Bengals), QB A.J. Feeley (Dolphins), QB Brandon Whiting (49ers), WR James Thrash (Redskins), OG John Welbourn (Chiefs).
Eagles 2004: 5 Qs | Team news | Roster | More on Eagles draft

Thu., July 1
Is Owens a good fit in Reid's system?
His brilliant individual playmaker skills aside, Terrell Owens on paper certainly looks like an incongruous fit for a design in which head coach Andy Reid and coordinator Brad Childress prefer to spread the wealth. Yeah, he gives the Eagles and QB Donovan McNabb a legitimate home run threat, but this is a team that has gotten to three straight conference championship games featuring a lineup of doubles hitters. The fact that Philly hasn't gotten beyond the NFC title game clearly was part of the rationale for adding Owens, but no one should expect radical changes from Reid and staff, not just to satisfy one man's ego. If the Eagles were going to cave, Owens would have been wearing his lycra tights around mini-camp without shorts on, right? Think about this: In Reid's first five seasons as head coach, the "lead" wide receiver for the Eagles averaged 55.4 catches, 697.2 yards and 5.4 touchdowns. Only once did the top wideout on the team have more than 60 receptions and never did he reach double-digit TDs. Over the eight years of his career, Owens has averaged 74 catches, 1,071.5 yards and 10 TDs. Just once, in his 1996 rookie campaign, did Owens have fewer than 60 catches and he has scored 10 or more TDs four times. Owens is a splendid receiver, and the Eagles will love his work ethic, plus he is as driven to win a Super Bowl ring as are all the holdovers on the Philadelphia roster. No doubt, Owens is going to be an explosive presence. The question is whether it will be with his words or with his deeds.

What they've added?
What's that age-old expression? If at first you don't succeed … Well, the Eagles keep trying and trying again to get over that hump and get to the Super Bowl. They've lost three consecutive NFC championship games, including the last two at home, but they're going to keep trying. And they've added some pieces for this upcoming season that might be enough to get them to the ultimate game. In fact, many would say the Eagles made the two biggest player acquisitions this past offseason.

On offense, the Eagles have desperately needed a big-time wide receiver for quarterback Donovan McNabb. They finally have that man -- perennial Pro Bowler Terrell Owens, who they acquired from the San Francisco 49ers after Owens' deal to Baltimore was rescinded. Owens will immediately become McNabb's go-to guy and the attention he receives from opposing defenses should also open things up for the Eagles' other wide receivers, like Todd Pinkston and Freddie Mitchell. Eagles wide receivers caught only five touchdown passes last year; Owens caught nine for the 49ers.

On defense, the Eagles have added The Freak -- defensive end Jevon Kearse, formerly of the Tennessee Titans. Kearse was once the most feared pass rusher in the NFL, but he's battled severe injuries the past two seasons. He did notch 9½ sacks a year ago and if he can stay healthy, he should provide a big lift to the Philadelphia defense.

While Owens and Kearse commanded the biggest headlines, they weren't the only key offseason additions for Philly. Former Giant Dhani Jones will now be one of their starting linebackers. Veteran quarterback Jeff Blake was brought in as competition for Koy Detmer to become McNabb's backup. The Eagles moved up in the first round of the draft to select offensive lineman Shawn Andrews from Arkansas. He's very big (6-foot-4, 373 pounds) and will probably slide into the starting lineup right away at guard and aid their run-blocking in particular. And third-round selection Matt Ware from UCLA is an excellent athlete who should help Philadelphia in the secondary.

What are they missing?
The Eagles have added a lot, but they've also lost some key veterans that have been a big part of their Super Bowl quest the past few years, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Their secondary has been their biggest strength, but both their starting cornerbacks defected in the offseason -- Troy Vincent to the Bills, and Bobby Taylor to the Seahawks. Third-year corners Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown will have a lot of pressure on their shoulders in replacing them. Strong-side linebacker Carlos Emmons is now with the Giants. The Eagles picked up Jones to replace him, but Emmons will still be missed -- he was the Eagles' defensive MVP in 2003. And the team gave up defensive end Brandon Whiting in the Owens trade -- but again, they added Kearse.


Gone are the days Terrell Owens will be considered a first-round pick in fantasy drafts. Owens is still a fine player, but his move to Philadelphia is not likely to help his stats. The Eagles will still throw to Owens more than their other options, and he should score 10 TDs, but he'll also face many double teams and need to hone his blocking skills, for this remains a running team. Draft Owens as your top receiver, but realize his numbers are likely to go down due to circumstance.
-- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com senior editor

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  • The losses on offense are less critical. Running back Duce Staley, who had some very productive years for Philadelphia, moved over to Pittsburgh, but the Eagles should be fine with the tag-team of Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter. The team was more than happy to ship out receiver James Thrash and replace him with Owens. Third-string quarterback A.J. Feeley is now in Miami, but Blake will take his spot on the roster. And offensive lineman John Welbourn was traded away after being critical of the team's front office, but Andrews should be able to fill his spot in the starting lineup.

    What it all means?
    It's clear from the offseason acquisitions they've made that the Eagles are really going to go for it this season. They are built to win now. This is their time and they're not going to be satisfied with winning 12 games, their division, or getting to the NFC championship game. Anything but a trip to the Super Bowl will be a bust.

    The great expectations place a lot of pressure on this team. However, so much has to go right for them just to get back to where they've gotten the past three seasons. Will Owens and McNabb mesh well together? Will The Freak stay injury-free? Will the young corners be able to fill the big shoes of their former mates?

    Every team has question marks -- even Super Bowl favorites. The Eagles are playing in a much-improved NFC East. It certainly won't be easy, but they have a good chance of playing in Jacksonville next February.

    Kieran Darcy writes for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com.