2008 Eagles Free Agency Outlook

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 ·

Quarterback:

2007: For having such a heavily criticized season, Donovan McNabb had his 3rd best quarterback rating in his career with 89.9. His best play however came in between the 20s as he and the rest of the team struggled greatly inside the “Red Zone”. Inside the “Red Zone”, McNabb only completed 48% of his passes and threw only 12 touchdowns in 69 attempts. Donovan McNabb also did not have one rushing touchdown at all last year. Some would argue that McNabb did not have a premier red zone target, and while that was true, his decision making was definitely poorer in red zone situations. McNabb did finally look healthy in December and it led to the Eagles owning a 3-1 record during the month. The biggest question is whether or not McNabb will ever be or remain 100% healthy.

AJ Feeley has a little above average game against New England, but it tends to force throws. If McNabb goes down again you have to think that Kolb is going to get more of an opportunity to play rather than Feeley. You have to know what you’re going to have after McNabb’s either moved or his contract ends in 2010.

Draft or Free Agency: I would not expect the Eagles to address the quarterback position through the draft or free agency.

Running Back:

2007: Brian Westbrook proved that he is a top 5 back in the league with 1,333 yards rushing, 2,104 total yards, and 12 total TD’s. Westbrook also set a franchise record with 90 receptions. Correll Buckhalter backed him up with 313 yards and 4 TD’s. Tony Hunt was rarely used as the third back. I’d expect Westbrook to be used more often in 2008…or I at least hope so.

Draft or Free Agency: I think the Eagles still lack their short yardage back and hurt them in the red zone last year, specifically, in the game against Seattle where they failed to score at the end of the half. I’d expect them to grab a guy if he is there, but personally I’d like to give a more experienced guy another shot. I’d expect Ryan Moats to be released this year.

Wide Receiver:

2007: What an ironic season for this group of wide receivers? In a season where they were criticized so much, we saw Kevin Curtis put up one of the best single-seasons in recent Eagles history. Curtis finished the season with 77 receptions, 1,110 yards, and 6 touchdowns. The disappointment of last year was Reggie Brown who finished with 61 receptions, but only 780 yards and 4 TDs. The Eagles offense really suffered with the lack of a downfield threat. Kevin Curtis is a good route runner. Brown can get open, but neither has the ability to get separation downfield. The tight end position was virtually nonexistent this season for the Eagles and that put a lot more pressure on the wide receivers as teams could focus less on the normal over the middle routes for a West Coast Offense tight end. Jason Avant developed into a somewhat decent slot receiver, but he’d have some good games and not get a catch in another.

Draft or Free Agency: Personally, I expect the Eagles to address this position whether it is through the draft or free agency. Some rumored names have been Randy Moss (who is likely to re-sign with New England) and Javon Walker who is coming off an injury plagued year and is likely to be cut. If the Eagles miss out on these guys, they could look at Bernard Berrian (Bears) and Bryant Johnson (Cardinals), but I’d expect them to look hard at Andre Davis (Texans) who is a downfield threat, but also a near-premier kick-off returnman. In the draft, if the Eagles want to go for a WR early, I’d expect them to look at Limas Sweed (Texas) and Malcolm Kelly (Oklahoma) who are both guys with size. If they’re looking for a downfield threat/returnman, I’d expect them to look at Dexter Jackson from Appalachian State in a later round.

Offensive Line:

2007: The Offensive Line gave up far too many sacks (49) last season, but they did well in the rushing game (4.7 yards per carry). Against the Giants they allowed 12 sacks in one game, largely due to Winston Justice who replaced William Thomas for the game. The consistency of the line varied as they had some series where McNabb virtually had no time to throw at all.

Draft or Free Agency: I expect the Eagles first round pick to be another offensive lineman. Jeff Otah (Pittsburgh) and Chris Williams (Vanderbilt) are two guys the Eagles may look at if they fall to them. Both William Thomas and Jon Runyan are free agents after next season. Through free agency, the Eagles could go after guards Alan Faneca (Pittsburgh) or Jake Scott (Indianapolis) which would likely push Herremans or Andrews outside to tackle.

Defensive Line:

2007: The Eagles were tied for 9th in sacks last season with 37, largely due to Trent Cole’s career best 12.5. Against the rush, the Eagles were 8th in the league only allowing 3.8 yards per carry. Mike Patterson had 4 sacks and led all defensive tackles in tackles. Broderick Bunkley may very well turn into that stud we expected on draft day, but he has yet to become that sack-hungry defensive tackle he was at Florida State. The biggest disappointments on the line were high-priced Jevon Kearse and Darren Howard. Howard had 1 sack on the season and only 8 total tackles. Kearse will likely be cut and it is rumored that Howard will likely see a lot of time at defensive tackle.

Draft or Free Agency: I expect the Eagles to address the defensive end position once again. One guy they may look at is Justin Smith (Bengals) who had a down year last year, but he makes a lot of tackles and averages around 7.5 sacks a season. After drafting Abiamiri last year, I would not expect the Eagles to draft another defensive end.

Linebacker:

2007: The linebacker corps was a huge surprise last year. Omar Gaither proved that letting Jeremiah Trotter was not that bad of a choice, as he tried his best to become that defensive leader the Eagles lacked without Trotter and oft-injured Dawkins. He led the team with 102 tackles. I think Gaither’s future with the team will likely be at weak-side linebacker, however. Takeo Spikes was second with 86 and proved to be a good acquisition. Chris Gocong was solid, but he needs to his ability to cover tight ends. When Stewart Bradley was given a shot, he did very well. Bradley could wind up being the middle linebacker of the future.

Draft or Free Agency: I do not expect the Eagles to address this position at all because they like back-up Akeem Jordan. They may add a veteran for depth, but I would not expect anything to change the starting line-backer look.

Defensive Backs:

2007: Let’s face it, they didn’t cause turnovers. It didn’t help with Lito Sheppard, Sean Considine, Brian Dawkins, and Will James all missing games at points. Sheldon Brown and Quinten Mikell led the secondary in tackles with 68 and 74 respectively. Lito Sheppard failed to be the shut down corner he is supposed to be, as he would often be off the field, even if he started the game, because of injury. Brown had only 3 interceptions while Sheppard had 2. A lot of the secondary’s inefficiencies were due to the lack of consistent defensive pressure from the front seven, but the Eagles overall were 10th in passing yards allowed, which isn’t too bad.

Draft or Free Agency: The Eagles are rumored to be looking to sign Asante Samuel (Patriots), but there has been recent talk that he’ll sign with New Orleans. If the Eagles don’t sign Samuel, they’re expected to make a run a Safety Gibril Wilson (Giants) to play safety and take over for Dawkins as this is likely his final season. As far as the draft goes, if the Eagles look to go defensive back in the first round, they should look at corner Aqib Talib (Kansas), Mike Jenkins (South Florida), and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie (Tennessee St.). A few mock drafts predict them to select Rogers-Cromartie. If they want to reach on a safety in the first round, they can look at Kenny Phillips (Miami).

Special Teams:

2007: The Eagles Kick-off coverage has been horrible over the last few years as they often give their opponent great starting field position. Some of that can be attributed to David Akers less powerful foot, but most of it can be attributed to the special team talent they have lacked over the years. With regard to punt coverage, the Eagles net punt average was 36.4 yards, which stood as 28th ranked in the league. Some of it had to do with Rocca only averaging 42 yards a punt, but the other half of it had to do with their poor coverage. As far as Akers goes, I hate to break it to Eagles fans, but I think his time as a kicker is starting to come to an end. Akers made only 75% of his kicks last season and was 2-10 from 40 yards or more. As far as the return game goes, it is nonexistent for the Eagles in both kickoffs and punt returns.

Draft or Free Agency: You have to expect that the Eagles will address the return game with a non-project type player in either free agency or the draft. I mean, they have to right? It has become a damn shame that the Eagles coaching staff undervalues the return game so much. I’m not sure if Rocca is exactly the answer as the punter and I’d expect the Eagles will bring someone in to compete for a job. If the Eagles are done with Akers, they could look at Josh Brown (Seattle) or Rod Bironas (Tennessee) who is a restricted free-agent.

Overall, the Eagles definitely have some holes to fill, but they were ranked top ten in both team offense and defense. A lot of bounces did not go their way last season and you hope those things change.

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We Hate to Lose began in October 2007. The initial purpose of the website was to provide news updates and commentary on all four major sports teams in Philadelphia. Because of time-constraints, in April of 2009, I decided to post only on my first-love, the Philadelphia Phillies.

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