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News » Philadelphia Eagles Strategy and Personnel 2009-02-09


Philadelphia Eagles Strategy and Personnel 2009-02-09


Philadelphia Eagles Strategy and Personnel 2009-02-09
The Eagles carried guard Shawn Andrews on their roster the entire season, even though he didn't play again after injuring his back in the second game of the season. He had surgery to repair a herniated disc in mid-October, and the Eagles left him on the 53-man roster because they were told he might be able to play as soon as six or seven weeks after the surgery. But he didn't even get medical clearance to practice until late December. He had been practicing on a limited basis, but even if the Eagles had made the Super Bowl, it's unlikely they would've activated him. If the Eagles don't re-sign right tackle Jon Runyan, there's a good possibility that Andrews will move outside.


UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACK: Starter - Donovan McNabb. Backups - Kevin Kolb, A.J. Feeley.

At 32, McNabb is one of the league's top seven or eight passers. He was benched at one point during the season, but rebounded and finished strong. He is expected to return as their starter, with Kolb apparently destined to spend his third year just as he did the first and second -- as a backup.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters - Brian Westbrook, Dan Klecko (FB). Backups - Correll Buckhalter, Lorenzo Booker.

Westbrook, who led the league in yards from scrimmage in 2007, spent much of '08 battling knee and ankle injuries. His numbers dropped dramatically. He will be 30 by the start of next season, so the Eagles need to find somebody who can ease his load. Buckhalter has played well when he has been given opportunities. But they've been few and far between. Booker, who cost the Eagles' a third-round pick in a trade last year, was a disappointment.

TIGHT END: Starter - Brent Celek. Backups - Matt Schobel, L.J. Smith.

The Eagles franchised Smith, but he was a major disappointment, catching just 37 passes and averaging 8.1 yards per catch. Celek had 10 catches in the NFC Championship Game and is a good yards-after-the-catch runner. But he doesn't have great speed and isn't a very good blocker. The Eagles probably will look for a tight end in the draft to complement Celek.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Kevin Curtis, DeSean Jackson. Backups - Jason Avant, Hank Baskett, Reggie Brown, Greg Lewis.

Jackson developed a lot faster than the Eagles thought he would and ended up leading the team in receptions. He and Curtis give the Eagles a solid pair of outside receivers, and Avant has developed into a dependable slot receiver. The 6-4 Baskett was underused, particularly down in the red zone. Brown, a former second-round pick, slid down the depth chart and probably won't be back.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LT Tra Thomas, LG Todd Herremans, C Jamaal Jackson, RG Shawn Andrews, RT Jon Runyan. Backups - Max Jean-Gilles, Nick Cole, Winston Justice, Mike McGlynn, Mike Gibson, King Dunlap, Chris Patrick.

Thomas and Runyan anchored a line that gave up the fewest sacks by an Eagles team in 27 years. But both are in their mid-30s and both will be free agents. One probably won't be back, and that probably will be Runyan, who played most of the season with a knee injury. If they don't re-sign Runyan, they may move Andrews, who missed most of the season with a back injury, outside. Herremans had his best season.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LE Victor Abiamiri, LT Mike Patterson, RT Brodrick Bunkley, RE Trent Cole. Backups - Juqua Parker, Darren Howard, Chris Clemons, Trevor Laws, Bryan Smith.

Former first-round picks Bunkley and Patterson have developed into a solid pair of tackles who were instrumental in the Eagles' success against the run in '08. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson used them strictly on first and second down, then went with a four-end front on passing downs that included Cole and Clemons on the outside and Howard and Abiamiri inside.

LINEBACKERS: Starters - SLB Chris Gocong, MLB Stewart Bradley, WLB Akeem Jordan. Backups - Omar Gaither, Joe Mays, Tank Daniels, Tracy White.

At 6-3 and 255 pounds, Bradley brings physicality and athleticism to the MIKE position. Gocong, a former college defensive end, has developed into an excellent run defender. Jordan replaced Gaither at WILL in the second half of the season and strengthened this unit's coverage ability and gave them another playmaker.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Asante Samuel, RCB Sheldon Brown, FS Brian Dawkins, SS Quintin Mikell. Backups - Joselio Hanson, Lito Sheppard, Sean Considine, Quintin Demps.

Samuel was everything the Eagles hoped he'd be when they signed him. He led the team in interceptions and also had two in the playoffs. Brown, a smart, physical corner, had perhaps his best season. Quintin Mikell has developed into a Pro Bowl-caliber safety. Future Hall of Famer Dawkins is 35 and will be a free agent. But he wants to return and the Eagles seem to want him back after a strong second half of the season

SPECIAL TEAMS: K - David Akers. P - Sav Rocca. LS -Jon Dorenbos, KOR - Quintin Demps, PR DeSean Jackson.

Demps and Jackson give the Eagles something they haven't had in a while - dangerous returners with home run ability. Both had returns for touchdowns as rookies in '08. Akers had a solid season and his leg appeared to be as strong as ever. Rocca struggled in cold weather, but averaged 43.3 yards per attempt and had just four touchbacks in 77 attempts.

COACHING CAROUSEL: The Eagles lost quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur. Former Eagles assistant Steve Spagnuolo, who was hired as the St. Louis Rams' new head coach last week, hired Shurmur as his offensive coordinator. Shurmur is the son of the late Fritz Shurmur, who was regarded as one of the best defensive coaches in the game.

FREE AGENT UPDATE: The Eagles have seven unrestricted free agents: offensive tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas, safeties Brian Dawkins and Sean Considine, running back Correll Buckhalter, tight end L.J. Smith and cornerback Joselio Hanson. Wide receiver Hank Baskett and guard Nick Cole are restricted free agents. The guess right now is that the Eagles probably will try to re-sign Thomas, Dawkins, Considine and Hanson. Smith is definitely history, while Runyan and Buckhalter are up in the air. Runyan is 35 and has played the last two seasons with major injuries (a fractured tailbone in '07, a sprained knee in '08). He's a warrior and maintained a high level of play. But the Eagles seem inclined to move Shawn Andrews outside next year. Buckhalter has done an outstanding job as Brian Westbrook's backup, but he would like more work than the 102 touches he got this season. The Eagles are expected to draft a running back fairly high in April.

FEELING A DRAFT: The Eagles have two first-round picks this year - the 22nd and 28th overall selections. The 22nd pick is their own. The 28th they got from the Carolina Panthers in exchange for their first-round pick last year, which was the 19th overall.

TEAM NEEDS: Offensive tackle, running back, tight end.

--Offensive tackle: Right tackle Jon Runyan is 35. Left tackle Tra Thomas is 34. Both will be free agents. At least one of them isn't expected back.

--Running back: Brian Westbrook will be 30 before the start of next season and has a degenerative knee problem. He had the lowest rushing and receiving averages of his career this season and seldom was able to practice. He still has some tread left on his tires, but he can't be a 25-touch-a-game guy anymore.

--Tight end: The Eagles won't try to re-sign L.J. Smith. Brent Celek, who caught 10 passes in the NFC Championship Game, is a dependable receiver but can't block very well.

MEDICAL WATCH: RT Jon Runyan, who will be a free agent, probably will have to have surgery on his knee, which bothered him most of the season. ... RB Brian Westbrook again played much of the season with a sore left knee that prevented him from practicing much the second half of the season. He could need surgery.



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 9, 2009

Chris Gocong Name: Chris Gocong
#57
Position: LB
Age: 24
Experience: 3 years
College: Cal Poly
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