Sometimes you need to manage expectations and that's exactly what the Eagles and Eagles fans need to do this season. For so long Eagles fans have been spoiled year after year with teams who's goal it was to win the Superbowl. Under the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia the Eagles have gone to the playoffs 9 times. It is now expected that the Eagles are a team that WILL make the playoffs. Alas the last time that happened was in the 2010 season when the Eagles won the NFC East and we knocked out of the wildcard round by the Greenbay Packers (who went on to win the Superbowl).
2010 was a significant year for the Eagles because it SHOULD have been the transition into a new era of prosperity. Brian Westbrook was released, Donovan McNabb was traded, and Kevin Kolb was supposed to take the reigns as starting quarterback. The only thing that panned out for the team was the release of Westbrook, and LeSean McCoy taking over as the franchise half back. The McNabb traded netted the team a second round pick which was used on Nate Allen. Allen has since never lived up to the expectations placed on him as long awaited replacement for Brian Dawkins. Kolb as we all know lost his job when he was injured and Mike Vick took over and dazzled everyone. Since then the team has been steadily going downhill posting an 8-8 record in 2011 and a dismal 4-12 this past season.
This is why I say tear it all down so that we can build it back up. Now before everyone goes crazy thinking that I mean we should throw away every ounce of talent we have on the roster and start from scratch let me explain. The way I see it right now on the offensive side of the ball we have one big problem and one smaller one. The smaller problem is that our offensive line seems to have a hole in it a right guard. Danny Watkins, while not as young as most of the guys in his draft class, is still young to the NFL but has not yet proved he is a starting caliber guard. Luckily there should be a number of ample offensive linemen available via free agency or the draft. The other upside in solving this issue is that right tackle Todd Herremans has proven that he can play both the guard and tackle position, so the Eagles don't NEED to look for just a guard. If there are better tackles available then there are guards then the Eagles can grab him and slide Herremens to right guard to solidify the starting offensive line.
Now the bigger question what to do with the starting quarterback spot? Dennis Dixon has been brought in to compete, Mike Vick has restructured his deal to stay in Philadelphia for another year, and Nick Foles is still on the roster despite trade rumors. Unlike the offensive line problem, the quarterback dilemma does not have as easy a solution. The free agent pool will likely dry up quick WHEN Baltimore gets Joe Flacco taken care of with a new huge deal. After Flaco however the pickings are slim. Someone like Tarvaris Jackson might be an interesting signing given Chip Kelly's offensive system but then again Dixon and Vick are both on the roster. So the next logical place to look is the draft! Kelly is the new head coach obviously he would be looking for a young quarterback to lead his team into the future much like Andy Reid did back when he drafted Donovan McNabb in his first year right? Well, despite his soaring up everyone's mock drafts, Geno Smith isn't really being graded at a top five pick level, and much like free agency, the quarterback draft pool falls off after him for quarterbacks expected to be picked in the first round. With the number four pick this year the Eagles are going to want a guy who is going to be a lock as a starter or even a future Pro-bowler. If the Eagles don't see him as that then they should use the pick on someone worth it. All that being said, barring a draft pick blowing everyone socks off, I see the starter already on the roster. right now it seems to be Mike Vick's job to loose and Dennis Dixon's job to earn.
Now you're probably saying "Wait wasn't this supposed to be all about rebuilding Adding an offensive linemen and thinking about drafting a quarterback isn't rebuilding, that's just a normal off-season " We'll yes it is, however the defensive side of the ball is where the actual rebuilding takes place. The Eagles defensive unit hasn't been the same since the passing of Jim Johnson in 2009 and the attempts made after his passing to field a top defensive unit have failed and any positive notes like how the Eagles were tied for first in the league in 2011 for sacks with 50 are erroneous because the wide 9 gimmick failed, we've had personnel turnover along the defensive line, and now our coaching staff is completely different. The way I see it four of the starters from last year NEED to be on the team this upcoming season Trent Cole, DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, and Fletcher Cox. Cole and Ryans are two Pro-Bowl caliber players who should be the leaders of this offensive unit. Cox and Kendricks are to talented young guys who should only continue to progress this off-season. After them I would say defensive end Brandon Graham deserves a shot, injuries have kept him off the field but he had 5.5 sacks last season and could be finally able to prove he isn't a first round bust.
After that no one else on the roster who started last year really deserves a starting spot. The secondary was horrific despite the supposed elite corner backs on the roster. Our safeties have been consistent disappointments, and the strong side linebacker is a position that still needed to be addressed. First of all Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should be allowed to leave via free agency and Nnamdi Asomugha should be cut from the team. Both "elite corner backs" have been anything but for the past two seasons and while the argument could be make for DRC that he is very talented his performance on the field doesn't reflect that. With those moves made and the issues laid out I'd say Jamar Chaney, Nate Allen, and Kurt Coleman should all be demoted to backups. Doing this will do one of two things, either motivate them to work hard, play better and prove the deserve it, or they will continue to play like backups and be exactly where they should be. The last guy that should be talked about is Cullen Jenkins, some people seem to think he needs to be cut, I tend to disagree I think he's a solid player and moving forward I think there are much bigger issues to be addressed.
By my count now that leaves 5 starting holes on the defensive side of the ball. Finding five quality starting guys in the NFL can be a daunting task but I think it can be done. Obviously, remaining hopefully about last years rookies and even the ones from the previous season stepping up and making an impact is all well and good. I just don't see anyone who I can point to and say "that guy should be starting!" So first we look to free agency. There are three guys out there that I think the Eagles need to target early and grab at least one of. Linebacker Paul Kruger, corner back Charles Woodson, and safety Jairus Byrd. Kruger and Byrd could be hard for the Eagles to get their hands on as both their teams should be making a strong effort to retain their services. Kruger has been outstanding for the Ravens and has brought the pass rush opposite Terrell Suggs. Byrd reestablished his game this year and even improved on it. Buffalo won't let him walk easily and could even slap him with the franchise tag. However, with other safeties like Ed Reed, William Moore, and Dashon Goldson also set to become free agents the Eagles shouldn't have trouble upgrading at least one stop on their last line of defense. The Eagles could make a strong case to Woodson and get him to play in midnight green. He's already at the end of his career and wants to play for a team where he's going to have a shot at another ring. If the Eagles can convince him that they are only maybe a year out of that goal Woodson could provide veteran leadership as well as a physical presence in the secondary. Him coupled with a new safety and some young talent via the draft could just turn the secondary and possibly the entire defense around this year.