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News » Phil Sheridan: Eagles must be aggressive off field

Phil Sheridan: Eagles must be aggressive off field

Phil Sheridan: Eagles must be aggressive off field
It is one of Those Years for the Eagles, an off-season that is going to require a bit more than business as usual from the front office - whether that means Andy Reid in his guise as personnel czar or Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner from their spots at the top of the organizational chart.

In previous Those Years, the Eagles went hard after free-agent tackle Jon Runyan (that turned out pretty well) in 2000 and even harder after Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse in 2004. That spree produced a Super Bowl appearance.

It's one of Those Years.

As late as last week, when Donovan McNabb sounded upbeat and committed to being in Philadelphia, it seemed possible this might not be. But as days slide by, as everyone takes turns whacking the quarterback
If the Eagles are going to be serious Super Bowl contenders in 2009 - and really, what other standard can there be? - something has to happen to change the dynamic around this team. Another year with the same issues - McNabb's streakiness, the run
So what kind of changes are we talking about?

Here's a start. It will never happen, but it is something Lurie should seriously consider: Pay a respected personnel man, someone outside the NovaCare bubble, for an independent evaluation of every player on the roster as well as the way each is used in the Eagles' offensive and defensive schemes. I nominate Michael Lombardi, who does excellent commentary at nationalfootballpost.com - but who also has considerable experience in the NFL.

Lombardi actually worked for the Eagles briefly, running the 1998 off-season that produced Tra Thomas, Hugh Douglas, Jeremiah Trotter and Ike Reese, among others. That should give him credibility with Lurie, but it also makes such an occurrence very unlikely. Lombardi was swept out as Tom Modrak and then Reid moved on from the Ray Rhodes years.

If Lombardi would cause too much discomfort, well, that's the whole point. If not him, then get somebody who doesn't have a vested interest in recent drafts and free-agent moves and - this is the key - listen to what they say.

It is time for Reid to move on from a bunch of players whose expiration dates as Eagles have come and gone. They're not all bad players, but they should not be at Lehigh next summer: Lito Sheppard, L.J. Smith, Reggie Brown, Correll Buckhalter, Lorenzo Booker, Greg Lewis, Sean Considine, Matt Schobel and very possibly Shawn Andrews.

That last one is a tough call. Reid needs to sit down with his troubled right guard and get some kind of credible commitment from Andrews. If the big man doesn't want to play, then it would be foolish to waste a roster spot or any more energy on him.

Reid should take a look around the practice field in Honolulu today and try to figure out what the Pro Bowl offensive skill players have in common. Hint: It's the middle word of the phrase "offensive skill players." Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, Adrian Peterson and Clinton Portis, Jason Witten and Steve Smith all make plays that few if any Eagles of the Reid era could make.

The notable exception, of course, is Brian Westbrook. Reid should go into the off-season assuming that Westbrook's nagging injuries will not allow him to be the player he was in his prime. That approach would force Reid into addressing the running back position more aggressively than he has in the past, and that can only be a good thing.

If Westbrook is indeed damaged goods, then an alternative will be vital to the team's fortunes. The Eagles can't have a redo of the Darnell Autry era. Not under these conditions.

And if Westbrook returns to form, the Eagles will be vastly improved with a diversified running attack. Other teams do this to great effect. There's no reason the Eagles shouldn't. Buckhalter has been productive as an alternative, but Reid and his staff seem reluctant to use him to full effect. That's reason enough to shake up the position.

Under normal circumstances, you would look to tweak a team that went to the conference championship game. These are the Eagles. In Philadelphia. We're not talking about normal circumstances.

Reid will be back. McNabb will be back. Those things seem etched in stone.

That means the change will have to come from other places. And that's fine. The coach and the quarterback are constants for a franchise that has flirted with greatness for much of the last decade.

To get past the flirting, to close the deal, to win a Super Bowl - that's the agenda here. It's one of Those Years when being aggressive can make all the difference.

Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com.

Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 5, 2009

Tra Thomas Name: Tra Thomas
Position: OT
Age: 33
Experience: 11 years
College: Florida State
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