Three factors that could derail the Eagles in 2011

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick leaves the field after the team lost to the Green Bay Packers in their NFC Wild Card NFL playoff football game in Philadelphia, January 9, 2011. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Word has it that the Eagles loaded up this offseason. BIG TIME.

They added Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, Ronnie Brown, Anthony Hargrove and Vince Young to a roster that already included Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and Asante Samuel. In other words: CHAMPIONSHIP!

Following their huge offseason, there’s no doubt that the Eagles should be favored to win the NFC East, but let’s pump the breaks for a second and play devil’s advocate. Just like any team at this point of the year, they have question marks. Below are three factors I believe could make Philly fail to live up to the hype.

(For those wondering why I didn’t include DeSean Jackson’s contract situation: I fully believe that the Eagles will pay D-JAX at some point, which is why I chose to focus on other factors.)

1. Michael Vick
Last season, Vick compiled career-highs in completion percentage, touchdowns and QB-rating, while posting a career-low in interceptions and interception percentage. Now let’s see if he can do it again. Talent has never been the issue with Vick – consistency has. When he set a then career-high for completion percentage in ‘04 with Atlanta, he regressed as a passer in ‘05 and ‘06. He’s also injury-prone and has a habit of forcing the action when his team is trailing in the fourth quarter and counting on him to make a play. (One example of this came in last year’s playoffs against the Packers in which he was picked off in the end zone on the Eagles’ final drive.)

There’s no doubt Vick has matured as a player and a person. Prison and not being coddled by an owner (Arthur Blank) and head coach (Jim Mora) will do that for an athlete. But let’s see if Vick can put together back-to-back successful seasons before we anoint him a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback. He has a habit of getting complacent in his situation, especially when he has nobody behind him to push him. Granted, Andy Reid is 10-times the coach Mora was, but it remains to be seen whether or not Vick will stay hungry for 16-plus games. Remember, he’s 2-3 as a starter in the playoffs and 0-3 in postseason games in Philly.

2. Juan Castillo
Juan Castillo is a fine coach and I believe in his abilities Monday through Saturday. I’m pro-Andy Reid and despite what many people believe, I don’t think his hiring of Castillo was simply one of his “I’m smarter than everyone and I’ll prove it” decisions.

But the fact remains that Castillo has zero experience as a defensive coordinator. When you look at his resume, the only experience he has on the defensive side of the ball came at Texas A&M University-Kingsville in the early 80s, where he was a defensive line/linebackers coach, and at Kingsville High School in the late 80s when he was a linebackers coach/defensive coordinator. Thus, it’ll be interesting to see how Castillo performs in-game. Thanks to his personnel and the fact that the Eagles will probably be playing with the lead more times than not, he should be fine. But what happens when his unit is playing from behind? What happens when it gives up a big-play or conversely, when it needs to make something happen?

Again, it’s not a matter of if Castillo can put together a game plan, react to what an offense is doing, or get his players to buy into his philosophy. It’s whether or not he can make the right decisions on Sunday. No matter how you slice it, he’s a big question mark heading into the season.

3. Lofty Expectations
Expectations are a bitch. They’re a bitch in any profession, especially in those that garner as much media attention as sports do. How will this team react going into the season as the favorites to win the NFC East and potentially even the Super Bowl? Nobody knew what to expect from the Eagles last year with Kevin Kolb taking over for Donovan McNabb and they wound up winning 10 games thanks in large part to Vick. But heading into this year, Andy Reid and Co. will have a massive bulls-eye on their backs. Opponents will want to down the “Dream Team” and it’s not like the Giants and Cowboys are going to just hand the division over either. Dallas should be much improved with the return of Tony Romo and the Giants won’t be pushovers thanks to Tom Coughlin.

Thanks to their offseason additions, the Eagles should be favored. There’s no argument there. But how will they play when every single one of their opponents will see them coming?

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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