The Eagles are primed for a bounce back year but title run is on Vick’s shoulders

Want one team that missed the playoffs last year but is bound to crack the postseason in 2012? Look no further than the Philadelphia Eagles.

After opening their checkbook last season for free agents Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and Ronnie Brown, a lot of pundits just assumed that the Eagles would win the NFC East. But the team lost four of its first five games and despite a strong second-half run that saw them win four straight, the Eagles missed the postseason after finishing 8-8.

But Asomugha is primed for a bounce back, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo will be more comfortable calling plays in his second year and the offense is still chockfull of playmakers.

Thus, there’s little doubt that Eagles will give opponents fits again in 2012.

Their biggest problem remains Michael Vick, who had a very average third season in Philadelphia. He threw for 3,303 yards, 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while compiling a QB rating of 84.9. He also only played in 13 games after starting just 12 in 2010.

The Eagles will only go as far as Vick takes them. As most have pointed ad nauseam, he’s immensely talented and capable of winning games with his feet or the rocket he calls for a left arm. But only once in his career has he ever played a full 16-game schedule (that was in 2006) and only once has he completed over 60 percent of his passes (2010, his second year with the Eagles).

If you look at last year’s numbers, seven quarterbacks who finished in the top 12 when it came to completion percentage made the playoffs. In 2010, eight of the top 12 most accurate signal callers led their teams to a postseason berth, including Vick, who finished 10th in that category.

Tim Tebow is the exception to the rule. Everyone saw what happened last year when the Broncos defense didn’t shut an opponent out for three and a half quarters. The majority of the time, quarterbacks have to be able to complete 60-percent of their passes to win in the NFL.

People become transfixed by Vick’s ability to beat teams with his legs but if he’s going to carry this talented Philadelphia team deep into the playoffs, then he has to be able to win with his arm. He did so in 2010 before he ran into the buzz saw that was the Green Bay Packers and he’ll need to do it again before Andy Reid starts looking at other quarterbacks to run his offense. Say what you will about Reid, but he knows when a player’s best days are behind him (just ask Donovan McNabb).

Granted, there are a lot of facets that play into whether or not a team will be successful. The offensive line has to protect Vick when he’s in the pocket, Jackson can’t disappear for games on end and the defense has to play like it did in the second half of last year – not the first half.

But there’s no question that this Eagles team is primed for a bounce back year and should make the playoffs in 2012. That said, they’ve met their ceiling. If Vick can’t stay healthy and accurate when he does play, then we won’t see this Philadelphia team in the Super Bowl. He’s only one man but Philly’s championship hopes rest on Vick.

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

The five biggest surprises through the NFL’s first quarter

Buffalo Bills’ head coach Chan Gailey looks on in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots in their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts September 26, 2010. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

The first quarter of the 2011 NFL season is in the books and as usual, there have been a handful of surprises thus far. Here are the five biggest.

5. Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers
Everyone knew the NFC West was going to be a crapshoot this season, just like it was a year ago. While many people thought that the Rams would emerge as division champs, it was easy to predict their horrid start given the difficulty of their schedule. The true surprise is the San Francisco 49ers, who are led by a head coach that was serving in the college ranks last year. What Jim Harbaugh has been able to do so far in San Francisco is impressive. The lockout should have caused teams like the 49ers to struggle early on because they didn’t have enough offseason preparation. But instead of floundering, the Niners have flourished. They’re one bad quarter against the Cowboys from being 4-0 and their come-from-behind victory against the Eagles last Sunday will give this team confidence heading forward. While the offensive line is still a major work in progress, the defense has really performed well thanks to guys like Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Patrick Willis and rookie Aldon Smith. With how poorly the rest of the division is, the Niners may finally claim the top spot in the NFC West again.

4. The high-flying Bills
I happen to think last week’s loss to the Bengals was an aberration and that the Bills will continue to be competitive all season. This team was due for a letdown. They were coming off an emotional win against a divisional opponent (the Patriots, no less) the week prior and had to go on the road to face a Cincinnati team that is better than people think. The loss will prove to be a valuable lesson for the Bills, who aren’t good enough yet to take any team for granted. This is still a squad that has practically done everything right to this point. Their passing attack is solid, their young offensive line is overachieving and their defense has been opportunistic and solid against the run. While they may not make the playoffs this season, Chan Gailey has this team headed in the right direction.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Philadelphia Eagles go for broke with major upgrades

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)

You can’t buy your way to a championship in the NFL. Just ask Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins. That said, free agency and shrewd trades can push a good team over the top, and everyone seems to think that the Philadelphia Eagles have made enough upgrades during this frenetic free agent period to make them a serious contender for the Super Bowl. The moves will definitely make this team better.

The acquisition of Nnamdi Asomugha was a shocker and rates as the most important addition. He’s a shut down corner and can elevate this defense. The Eagles added another talented corner in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as part of the ransom Arizona paid for Kevin Kolb. They also added pass rusher Jason Babin who’s coming off a breakout season. With stud corners and an improved pass rush, the Eagles defense could be dominant.

I like the addition of Vince Young as well, but this is still a risky move. Getting a big-name quarterback as a backup to the brittle Micheal Vick makes a ton of sense, but I don’t see Vince Young as a West Coast offense quarterback. You could have said the same thing about Michael Vick, but Vick was always a better passer than Young. Also, while Vick had his own share of troubles, Young’s problems seem worse. There’s a real issue of whether he can handle the pressure. That said, he’s a real talent, and Andy Reid always gets the most out of his quarterbacks.

The Eagles have stunned the NFL with these upgrades, and now we’ll see if they have enough to topple the Packers in the NFC.

Upgrade today like the Eagles and Best Buy will buy it back when you’re ready for the next big thing

Quick-Hits: Like thieves in the night, the Eagles steal Nnamdi Asomugha

Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (L) breaks up a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks receiver Golden Tate during the first quarter of their NFL football game in Oakland, California October 31, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

In Saturday’s Quick-Hits, the Eagles shock the masses by signing Nnamdi Asomugha, the Phillies get more bang for their prospects than the Giants, and the Bears’ questionable decision regarding Greg Olsen.

– Where did that come from? Just when it looked like free agent Nnamdi Asomugha was headed to New York to team with Darrelle Revis to form the greatest cornerback duo known to man, the Eagles swoop in and pull off a stunner. Asomugha’s deal is for five years at $60 million, which also includes $25 million guaranteed. There were a lot of people who questioned Andy Reid’s decision to make former offensive line coach Juan Castillo the Eagles’ new defensive coordinator, but now it might not matter who’s calling the shots on that side of the ball. After acquiring Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie this offseason, the Eagles shouldn’t have as many problems in the red zone as they did in 2010.’s Mike Lombardi reports that Philly is willing to trade Asante Samuel, which would be a mistake in my eyes. The Eagles are legit Super Bowl contenders now. There’s no reason to part with any talent at this pointt.

– One of the reasons I was so conflicted on the Carlos Beltran trade was because of whom the Giants gave up (top prospect Zach Wheeler) in exchange for the former Met. Granted, Beltran is good and there’s no doubt they needed him. But look at what the Phillies just did in acquiring Hunter Pence from Houston. They parted with two good prospects but landed a 28-year-old outfielder that remains under team control through 2013 – not a 34-year-old outfielder who might not be around in three months when he becomes a free agent. I think the Giants deserve credit for “going for it.” But when the Phillies “go for it” by giving up their top prospects, they land Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Pence – players whom they knew were going to be around a while (or thought they knew when it came to Lee, who was traded in order to acquire Halladay). It seems like the front office philosophy of the Giants is to get a player it likes no matter what the cost. Seeing as how they’re currently defending a World Series title, it’s hard to knock said philosophy. But after reviewing the trades that the two teams made this past week, I can’t help but to think the Phillies made the better overall deal.

– The fact that the Bears traded former first round pick Greg Olsen this offseason is hardly surprising. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz doesn’t use tight ends in his passing game, so the fact that Olsen racked up 41 catches last year was pretty impressive. But giving up a young talent just because your offensive coordinator doesn’t have much need for the player’s position is a risky proposition. For starters, what if Martz isn’t around in a year? Then what do the Bears have to show for Olsen besides a third round pick? It cost them a first round pick to draft him in the first place, so GM Jerry Angelo didn’t get good value here. (After all, it’s not like Olsen can’t play and the Bears were looking to get anything in exchange for him.) Granted, that third rounder could turn out to be a Pro Bowler someday (Angelo is good at finding gems in the middle rounds), but presently the deal doesn’t make sense when you get past Martz’s desire to exclude tight ends. Seeing as how he’s a receiver in a tight end’s body, if I were Angelo I would have rather seen my offensive coordinator try to work with Olsen instead of shipping him to Carolina for a third round pick.

– One player that continues to lose money by the hour is free agent defensive end Cullen Jenkins. The former Packer is a solid player, who that is scheme-versatile in that he can play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3. But after the Panthers re-signed Charles Johnson, the Eagles landed Jason Babin, the Patriots acquired Albert Haynesworth, the Cowboys inked Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears, and the Falcons got a steal in Ray Edwards, there aren’t a lot of teams that are a fit for Jenkins. Granted, teams always need pass-rushers, but my guess is that Jenkins will wind up back in Green Bay on the cheap.

– The Rams made two moves on Friday that I really liked. The first was signing nasty offensive guard Harvey Dahl away from the Falcons. I keep reading how Sam Bradford will love the addition of Dahl, which is true. But he might not love it as much as running back Steven Jackson. Dahl is an absolute mauler in the run game and brings a much-needed nasty demeanor to St. Louis’ offensive line. The other signing I like was Mike Sims-Walker, who only received a one-year deal because the Rams want to make him prove himself. When healthy and motivated, he’s the big receiver that Bradford sorely needs. But if he winds up being a free agent bust, hey, no problem: he’ll be gone in a year.

Related Posts