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2012 Team Report: Philadelphia Eagles

Quarterbacks

Starter: Michael Vick
Backup(s): Nick Foles [R], Trent Edwards

Starting QB: Michael Vick has defied expectations in recent years. After being a little used gimmick player in 2009 returning from his suspension, Vick shocked the world and overtook Kevin Kolb in 2010 to play at an MVP-caliber level. That earned Vick a $100 million long-term extension, and sent Kolb packing for Arizona. The 2011 season was supposed to be the year Vick carried the Eagles into Super Bowl contention, as he would finally be armed with a full offseason as the No. 1 and a deep arsenal of complementary players. Unfortunately, that never happened as Vick regressed meaningfully. His completion rate fell below 60%, his adjusted yards per attempt fell to 7.2 from 8.5, his interception rate doubled from 1.6% to 3.3%, and his TD% fell back to Earth (4.3%). Perhaps most notably, Vick scored just one touchdown on the ground after delivering nine rushing scores in 2010. He also missed games, although that's nothing new for the dynamic yet reckless signal caller. 2012 should offer something between the 2010 MVP-caliber heroics and last year's disappointment. Vick should benefit from a full offseason, particularly now that DeSean Jackson is content and re-focused while Jeremy Maclin is healthy after missing most of last preseason with a mysterious illness. While Vick may not be a 63% passer as he was two years ago, there's no question that he's adapted well to Andy Reid's tutelage and is now a true dual threat. On a per game basis, Vick will be among the league's most effective QBs, the question will be how many games he can stay on the field.

Backup QB: Andy Reid is from the Ron Wolf school of thought, and learned from his time in Green Bay that a team can never afford to stop drafting quarterbacks. After taking Kevin Kolb in the second round in 2008, he drafted Mike Kafka in the fourth round in 2010, and has now added Nick Foles to the mix with a third round selection in the April draft. Foles is huge (6'4", 243 pounds) and was a highly productive starter for the Arizona Wildcats in spite of what most considered a subpar supporting cast. Foles was expected to be the emergency third stringer this year, but preseason injuries to Vick and Mike Kafka opened the door for Foles to get reps and playing time with the first team, and he flourished. Foles showed composure and an understanding of the playbook that were enough to elevate the rookie to the #2 role. Trent Edwards was also far more impressive than expected, and he managed to secure the #3 job, forcing the Eagles to cut Mike Kafka -- someone many thought would be the starter in 2012 if Vick got hurt.

Running Backs

Starter: LeSean McCoy
Backup(s): Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown [R], Chris Polk [R]
Fullback(s): Stanley Havili

Starting RB: LeSean "Shady" McCoy proved in 2010 that he was a capable NFL starter. He proved last season that he's a rare, elite talent at the running back position. In an Eagles season defined by missed expectations, McCoy defied the odds and delivered arguably the best single season by an Eagles back in history: 273 carries for 1,309 yards rushing, 48 receptions for 315 yards receiving, and 20 touchdowns. McCoy led the NFL in both rushing touchdowns (17) and total touchdowns (20), and maintained a 4.8 yards per carry average in spite of a significant increase in touches. At just 23 years old, McCoy should be the offensive cornerstone for the Eagles for years to come. Coming out of the University of Pittsburgh, McCoy was sometimes criticized for being too impatient behind the line of scrimmage, but under the auspices of the Eagles coaches, he shed that reputation and now combines patience with power and the ability to blow past the second line of defense once he gets into the open field. Andy Reid believes he may have overworked McCoy last year and has promised to limit the back's touches a bit more where appropriate. That shouldn't scare off fantasy owners though, McCoy could easily push for 2,000 yards from scrimmage even with fewer carries, and he'll remain the main goal-line threat on an offense that will give him plenty of opportunities.

Backup RBs: Dion Lewis followed LeSean McCoy at the University of Pittsburgh and now follows him in the Eagles' running back rotation. Lewis is a bit smaller (5'7" and 193 pounds) than McCoy but has a similar running style. Like most rookies, Lewis struggled as a blocker - particularly in blitz pickups - and that limited his opportunities to contribute. There's no reason, however, to think he won't improve on his assignments with a full unimpeded offseason. If Lewis doesn't live up to coaches expectations, the Eagles may need to look for a veteran to add to the mix because the only other backups on the roster currently are rookies Bryce Brown (seventh round) and Chris Polk (undrafted free agent). Brown had an elite pedigree that never quite coalesced into elite collegiate production, while Polk was statistically productive but didn't pop on film and scared many scouts off by showing up to the combine out of shape.

Fullback: The Eagles are like many teams in that they no longer emphasize an every-down, blocking fullback. Owen Schmitt is no longer with the team, making second-year Stanley Havili the heir apparent. Havili is not a pure blocking back, but at 6'0" and 227 pounds, he has adequate size and is committed to the role. Unlike Schmitt, Havili can be a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield, something that would potentially interest Andy Reid and OC Marty Mornhinweg.

Wide Receivers

Starters: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin
Backups: Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Chad Hall, Damaris Johnson [R]

Starting WRs: Last year did not go according to plan for the Eagles wide receivers. DeSean Jackson, fresh off back-to-back Pro Bowl, 1,000-yard seasons, let discontent over his contract status hurt him on and off the field. Critics wondered whether Jackson had grown afraid of contact after dealing with concussions, or whether he was trying to preserve his health in hopes of more financial security. Either way, his play fell off particularly as a play-maker, scoring just four touchdowns, and earning a one-game suspension for his locker room behavior. In spite of a regrettable 2011 season, Jackson remains a rare talent in his prime. At just 25 years old, Jackson is one of the fastest deep threats playing in the NFL today, and last year's 16.6 yards per catch average shows that he still has the get up and go to dominate opposing defensive backs. Armed with a new long-term deal, Jackson is a prime candidate to bounce back to form. His receiving mate, Jeremy Maclin, had an entirely different ordeal in 2011 but it was no less frustrating to Eagles fans. Maclin dealt with an undisclosed illness that robbed him of the offseason. Maclin started the 2011 season at less than 200 pounds and dealt with a number of minor injuries that he attributed to not being at full strength. The great news is Maclin is 100% healthy and back to his ideal playing weight, and that means he should regain the ascent that put him among the better young receivers in the league coming off a 70-catch, 964-yard, 10-touchdown season in 2010.

Backup WRs: Jason Avant has been a constant for the Eagles for years, and it may surprise many to know that he's started 33 games for the team in spite of never being considered a starter on the depth chart. Avant has been the ultimate possession receiver, particularly in the last three seasons: 144 receptions for 1,839 yards and five TDs. He runs precise routes, doesn't shy away from big hits in traffic, and never complains about his role - whether it's the occasional start or merely special teams snaps depending on the week's game plan. Riley Cooper enters his third season ready to earn a larger role, although as long as Avant, Maclin and Jackson are healthy, it's unclear how many extra snaps there are for him. At 6'3" and 214 pounds, Cooper is an imposing presence, but that doesn't come at the expense of downfield speed - witness his 19.7 yards per reception a season ago. An early camp injury to Cooper has opened the door for rookie Damaris Johnson to show his stuff, and he's made the most of the opportunity. Johnson will be used primarily in the return game, but he looks talented enough running the route tree to suggest he has a future in the NFL as a pass catcher, too.

Tight Ends

Starters: Brent Celek
Backups: Clay Harbor

Brent Celek seemed like the odd man out when Michael Vick emerged as the Eagles new franchise quarterback. In 2010, in spite of Vick playing at an elite level and leading the Eagles to a prolific scoring offense, Celek struggled to find his place, netting just 42 receptions for 511 yards and four touchdowns. But fantasy owners who took a late round flier on Celek in spite of his falloff were rewarded last year as bounced back with 62 receptions for 811 yards and five touchdowns. There's no reason to think Celek won't continue to produce, particularly since he plays a key role as the short and intermediate outlet for Vick when the downfield routes are well covered. The backup tight end situation is tenuous, at best. For now, third-year pro Clay Harbor is the only viable alternative on the roster, and he has struggled to make an impact (22 receptions in two seasons). Harbor has been significantly more impressive this year in training camp, which bodes well not only for his prospects as a fill in but also for the Eagles willingness to use 2-TE sets.

Place Kicker

Alex Henery : Last year, kicker Alex Henery succeeded in filling the proverbial shoes of David Akers. Henery picked up where he left off in college. The NCAA's most accurate kicker ever became the most accurate rookie in NFL history � making 24 of 27 (88.9%) field goals (along with 46 of 46 extra points). This year he'll be working again with the same co-specialists: magician / long snapper Jon Dorenbos and second-year punter/holder Chas Henry. After ranking either first or second in attempted kicking points for three years, the Eagles dropped to 20th last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Brandon Boykin [R], Dion Lewis, Mardy Gilyard, Damaris Johnson [R], Chris Polk

Heading into the NFL Draft, kickoff returns were a problem for Philadelphia as only the Colts were worse last season. The Eagles may have found their solution in Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin, whom special teams coordinator Bobby April ranked as the top combination return man in the draft. Head coach Andy Reid has indicated Boykin will get the opportunity to be the kick returner this season. Should that not work out, running back Dion Lewis could be an option, but after his 2011 results don't be surprised if new addition wide receiver Mardy Gilyard or rookie free agent wide receiver Damaris Johnson get a shot at it.

Punt Returners: DeSean Jackson, Brandon Boykin [R], Cliff Harris

With wide receiver DeSean Jackson signed to a long term contract the Eagles are super-solid at the punt return spot.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: T King Dunlap, LG Evan Mathis, C Jason Kelce, RG Danny Watkins, RT Todd Herremans
Key Backups: T Demetress Bell, T Nate Menkin, T Dennis Kelly [R], C Dallas Reynolds

UPDATE: King Dunlap has beaten out Demetress Bell for the left tackle job. Bell has not met expectations, and even though the better player is player, that's not great news for the Eagles. The Eagles had high hopes on Bell to compensate for the loss of Peters. Evan Mathis is also playing somewhat poorly after his contract extension, and has had several mistakes in preseason action that has put Michael Vick in harm's way. Overall, this line is currently ranked 18th in the league. PRESEASON OUTLOOK: Jason Peters suffered an Achilles tendon tear this spring and then re-tore it in rehab. This is a huge blow to the Eagles offensive line. With Jason Peters in the spreadsheet with his All Pro grade, the Eagles would be the second rated line in the league. While Demetress Bell is a good young player (and son of NBA great Karl Malone), Peters was considered the best tackle in the league. That's not to say all is gloom and doom for the Eagles. They return the other four starters in the same four positions, which is very good for cohesion. Also, they re-signed left guard Evan Mathis. Mathis is a player that merits grading as a Pro Bowl backup despite not receiving the honor. Mathis had a top-notch year in 2011 and will be looked upon to lead this line in 2012. Center Jason Kelce won the job as a rookie and could improve to be a very good center. Right guard Danny Watkins had an uneven year but showed flashes of his first-round pedigree. Right tackle Todd Herremans is also a good player and has the responsibility to protect his left-handed quarterback's blind side. Swing tackle King Dunlap is a big man but can be exploited in pass protection. Andy Reid lured line coach Howard Mudd out of retirement. Mudd is a living legend in offensive line circles and does great work developing young talent (such as Kelce). Interesting depth abounds in Philadelphia. Sixth-round pick Brandon Washington from Miami is in competition for backup guard spots. Seventh round pick Dennis Kelly from Purdue is in competition with D.J. Jones for backup right tackle.

Team Defense

The Eagles transitioned to a new defense last year, and it went so badly that the hue and cry for defensive coordinator Juan Castillo's head (who had spent the previous 13 seasons as the team's offensive line coach) was deafening. The team stayed with their inexperienced (at least on the defensive side of the ball) coach and gave him another year to straighten things out. Most baffling of all the moves last year was the acquisition of Nnamdi Asomugha for a ton of cash, only to shift him into positions which never utilized his skill-set correctly. The team needs to get him in the right role and also desperately needs to find a corner to pair with him long-term. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie doesn't seem to be the answer, and the team moved Asante Samuel to Atlanta. The secondary still has some holes to fill. The defensive line was solid last year, with Jason Babin and Trent Cole playing at a high level. The middle of the field was a disaster, however, especially at linebacker where Casey Matthews was horribly overmatched. The team traded for DeMeco Ryans, so he should finally solidify the position for them. Overall, the defense looked awful last year, but the Eagles have made some moves to fix it. If they cannot fix the secondary, however, they will struggle in a conference which throws the ball very well.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Trent Cole, DE Jason Babin, DT Cullen Jenkins, DT Mike Patterson
Backups: DE Darryl Tapp, DE Vinny Curry, DE Brandon Graham, DE Phillip Hunt, DT Maurice Fountain, DT Fletcher Cox [R], DT Derek Landri, DT Cedric Thornton

Starting DL: Outside of the Giants, the Eagles may have the league's best defensive line. Jason Babin proved that his 2010 season was no fluke by registering a whopping 18 sacks and six multi-sack games. Trent Cole missed four games due to injury but still finished the season with 11 sacks and remains a consensus top-5 pick at his position. Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson are solid run defenders in the trenches of the defensive line but don't offer much in terms of fantasy production.

Backup DL: First round pick Fletcher Cox will get a ton of snaps for a rookie and should thrive in Jim Washburn's wide-9 defensive scheme. The Eagles plan to primarily play him as a 3-technique tackle but will occasionally move him to defensive end. He's a sneaky value play in DT-required leagues and has a good chance to put up DT2+ numbers as early as this season. Vinny Curry was one of the more underrated prospects to come out of this draft, but he fell into a bad short-term landing spot. Darryl Tapp, a once heralded fantasy prospect, will battle it out for a roster spot with youngster Phillip Hunt. Brandon Graham, the 13th overall selection in the 2010 draft, has had a string of injuries that have derailed his short career. He's dropped 20 pounds this offseason in an attempt to regain his explosiveness. If he were on pretty much any other team, he'd be sleeper material, but the Eagles have too much depth to consider Graham as anything more than waiver wire fodder at this point.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB DeMeco Ryans, OLB Jamar Chaney, OLB Mychal Kendricks [R]
Backups: OLB Brian Rolle, OLB Akeem Jordan, OLB Casey Matthews, OLB Moise Fokou

Starting LBs: The Eagles linebacking core has been one of the weaker units in the league over the last several seasons. However, the Eagles made a great move this offseason in acquiring DeMeco Ryans from the Texans; he will finally bring stability to the middle of Philadelphia's defense. Expect LB3+ numbers from at the very minimum. Brian Rolle is currently slotted in as the weak side linebacker, with 2012 second-round draft pick Mychal Kendricks announced as the starter on the strong side. Kendricks was one of the fastest linebackers to come out of this year's draft and has the type of attacking skills that could make him a valuable IDP prospect. The strong side ultimately limits his value in the short term but he's worth a selection in the middle- to late-third round of rookie drafts. Jamar Chaney will vie for playing time with Brian Rolle on the weak side once he returns from injury.

Backup LBs: Casey Matthews was a popular sleeper pick heading into last season. He had both the pedigree and opportunity to be a viable fantasy contributor from Week 1. However, the speed of the NFL game proved too much for an overwhelmed Matthews, and he quickly lost his job. There's always a chance that he could re-enter the starting lineup now that he's had a full year of experience in the NFL, but it's not likely. He's not someone to focus a ton of attention to, but if you have the time, keep an eye on him. Akeem Jordan and Moise Fokou will provide depth the Eagles as they have for the past couple of seasons.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Nnamdi Asomugha, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, FS Nate Allen, SS Jaiquawn Jarrett
Backups: CB Brandon Boykin [R], CB Curtis Marsh, CB Brandon Hughes, CB Dominique Johnson, S Kurt Coleman, S Colt Anderson, S Tom Nelson

Starting DBs: Philadelphia has one of the better cornerback tandems in the league with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie which is great for their team, but not for fantasy owners. Being a shutdown corner may be good for your career, but it's typically not good for your fantasy production as quarterbacks tend not to throw your way often. The cornerback position in Philly may be a fantasy wasteland, but the safety position is a different story. Jaiquawn Jarrett has the DB1 fantasy potential, but the coaching staff has been hesitant to commit to him as the starter. Kurt Coleman will likely be the starting strong safety come Week 1, but keep a close eye on Jarrett as he's likely to get a shot at some point during the season. Nate Allen has some nice fantasy potential himself but more from a big-play perspective.

Backup DBs: The Eagles traded away Pro Bowl corner Asante Samuel in the offseason leaving their cornerback depth a little thinner. Joselio Hanson will likely serve as the team's nickel corner with Boykin, Marsh, and company fighting for the fourth and fifth cornerback positions. Kurt Coleman put up some up some very nice fantasy numbers when given a chance last season and is worth watching in deeper leagues in case Jarrett or Allen gets injured.

Last modified: 2012-09-02 20:22:06

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