My first assignment was to write about the Eagles. I was extremely excited about this because I was going to be at training camp and thought that I would be able to actually write a story based upon my actual personal visual evaluation of the team in action at Lehigh University. That plan was unfortunately brought to a disastrous end when it seemed as though hurricane Katrina rolled through the campus and the afternoon practice session on Friday was cancelled due to the weather. Have no fear though, I can still provide my opinions on the off-season moves, draft results, the 3 biggest issues the team faces this season and ultimately my outlook for the Eagles this season.
Let’s talk about what the Eagles did and didn’t do in free agency. A key action they took was to beef up an aging offensive line by signing OT Jason Peters, a former pro-bowler, to a big $$ contract as well as inking a deal with Stacy Andrews, the brother of pro-bowler Shawn Andrews. I applaud both of these moves because football games are won mostly when your team wins in the trenches, and by adding Peters and Andrews, the team addressed a piece of the team that is an important key to winning football games.
When I listen to sports talk radio and talk to my buddies in regard to the offensive line I hear almost the same thing, which is that the Eagles have the best offensive line in the conference if not the entire league. For the most part I agree. I just have some concerns that should be relieved once I see the new and improved offensive line in action. Yes, this should be a great offensive line, but Peters did not have a pro-bowl season last year statistically although he was elected to the team and Stacy Andrews had some major surgery on his knee. It also remains to be seen if Shawn Andrews will be ready physically due to back surgery and mentally since revealing that he receives treatment for depression. I’m very optimistic that the Andrews brothers will be ready physically and now that Peters got the big $$ deal that he wanted to get, that he will return to true pro-bowl form and this will be one of the best if not the best offensive lines in the league.
The Eagles did not sign the best strong safety in team history to a new contract. Instead they allowed Brian Dawkins to sign a $7+ million contract with the Denver Broncos. I believe that Denver will be the losers of the deal. It pains me a lot to say that Dawkins is at the end of his career and is going to steal money this year and next year from the Broncos. With that said, I think that the Eagles were in the wrong in regard to B-Dawk.
The Eagles should have tagged him as the franchise player. You may say that it would have been an insult to a veteran player like Dawkins to be labeled as a franchise player, but I disagree. I believe Dawkins would have gladly accepted that tag because he would be paid $6.5 million this year by the Eagles and would not have to worry about re-locating his family and not finishing his career as an Eagle. Yes, $6.5 million is less than what Denver offered, but Denver would have never made an offer like that if Dawkins was a franchise player because they would have had to compensate the Eagles with two draft picks as well as pay Dawkins over $7 million. That would have been too much of a price to pay.
The bottom line is that Joe Banner is a robotic, cold, heartless, unemotional, statistic crunching, bean counting NERD who couldn’t get a date at a sex-aholics anonymous meeting. My apologies to any sex addicts out there. In the grand scheme of things I suppose it is good to have someone like Banner in the front office as opposed to a guy who might lose the team in order to pay-off a gambling debt, but that doesn’t mean I have to like the guy. Banner owed it to Dawkins to over pay him for one season, but didn’t in the end and tried to con fans like me into believing that the Broncos are to blame for Dawkins leaving and not the Eagles.
Hey Joe! We’re not stupid! The truth is that you didn’t want to pay more than $2 million for a strong safety that made the pro-bowl and may enter the hall of fame in the future sometime. Now, THAT is stupid. Banner’s aversion to offering contracts to aging, pro-bowlers/hall of famers is something I won’t ever understand, but I might get over things like this a little bit easier if he would just tell the truth; that Dawkins wasn’t worth $6.5 million, rather than lie to me and the rest of the Eagles faithful. We are smarter than that, Joe.
Dawkins is my second favorite Eagles player, so if I was in Banner’s shoes I would have slapped the franchise tag on Dawkins and thrown him the bone that I believe he more than earned through his service to the franchise. I believe that it is necessary for a person in Banner’s position to have the ability to eliminate emotion when making a decision in regard to a player’s worth, but Joe should have listened to his emotions in the case of Dawkins. Oh, wait, I’m sorry, he doesn’t have any. My mistake, I’m sorry.
Well, obviously Dawkins is a sensitive subject. Let’s move on to the draft, shall we? Believe it or not I don’t have a lot to say about the draft, so this will be short. I think it takes three years to make a final judgment on a draft class. My initial reaction was and still is that the Eagles drafted some great additions to special teams, because I believe that “Shady” McCoy” will see limited time in the offense with the presence of a healthy Brian Westbrook and that the same goes for Maclin as well. Actually, Maclin’s holdout compounds his fate as a return specialist more and more.
The only reason he makes the roster is because the Eagles traded up in the draft to get him and it would be insane to cut your first round pick. I would have loved the Ingram pick if he had played last season instead of rehabbing from major knee surgery and if he had played in an offense in which he blocked a little more.
The move I would have like to have been made on draft day would have been to trade our 2nd round pick in next year’s draft to Kansas City for pro-bowl, first ballot hall of famer, TE Tony Gonzalez, but for some reason Joe Banner doesn’t see any value in players like that. I just don’t get it. Never will. You can tell me that Gonzalez is over-the-hill, but I believe he has more than enough left in the tank that he would have solved the problem the Eagles have at the TE position and WR position which is that they have trouble scoring in the red zone. Gonzalez has proven that he can block and not only catch, but catch at a production level comparable to a WR. Oh well, he’s old though, no value in old farts except the stink that they have. My initial overall grade for the draft this year is…B.
So, the Eagles have many issues facing them this season. In order to keep this short, I narrowed my list down to just three and I’m going to cover these issues in reverse order of importance. I guess you could call it Demps’ Top 3 Countdown.
Number 3 on the countdown this week comes from one of the scariest reality T.V. couples thus far. Move over Jon and Kate…here comes somethin’ creepier. Yes, I’m talking about none other than Kendra Wilkinson and Hank “The Tank” Baskett people. I’ve done a lot of worthless things in my spare time, but watching the reality show “Kendra” on E! might have taken over the top spot on my list. I mean it is so worthless that I think my spare time would be better spent watching snails mate.
If you have not had a chance to see this show, I’ll save you the time of having to tune in and watch by providing you with a quick summary of the entire season. It starts with the newly engaged couple of Kendra and Hank buying a house together and Kendra installs a stripper pole in the kitchen without Hank’s knowledge. Hank looks like a deer in headlights or even better, an opossum in headlights when he sees it. He was speechless. In another episode Kendra invites a rapper named Too Short over for the weekend. At least she told Hank about this and he didn’t seem to have much of a problem with it since they just finished putting the guest room together. Problem is that I don’t think they were prepared for Too Short to bring his barber and a stripper. Needless to say everyone proceeds to get drunk while Too Short gets a haircut in the kitchen and the stripper shows Kendra and Hank how a professional uses the pole. Later on we find out that Kendra is now pregnant out of wedlock and the season finale in which they finally get married is this week I think. I haven’t decided if I’m going to tune in to watch it yet.
I could go on about this show, but it is a waste of time. I feel sorry for Hank because I don’t see this ending happily. After all, he was an undrafted WR that was traded to the Eagles because the Vikings never really wanted him. So far his career numbers are not mind blowing, but neither are Reggie Brown’s. Hank needs to make a big jump this pre-season to make the team because I think this reality show is going to have more of a negative impact on him. Luckily for Hank’s sake and the sake of his new wife and unborn child, Reggie Brown might be more of the odd man out. I predicted that if there is a second season for this show that in the season finale that Hank will be an unemployed NFL WR getting served divorce papers from his estranged wife, but since Maclin has continued his hold-out Hank “The Tank” may have bought himself another season in an Eagles uniform.
Number 2 on the countdown this week comes to us from Brian Westbrook. Brian is recovering from off-season surgery and his rehab is ahead of schedule. This is great news but Brian will celebrate his 30th birthday in October. History tells us that the performance of most running backs severely suffers after the age of 30. Hopefully Brian can buck the trend. If he can’t, a lot will have to rest on the shoulders of #5, and the new slimmer “Big Red”. If you didn’t notice Coach Reid has lost about 80lbs. This is about 30 lbs. short of his goal. Anyway, a healthy Westbrook will be paramount to the success of this offense this year and I don’t think I need to go into anymore detail on why he needs to be healthy and be able to start a minimum of 15 games.
Number 1 on the countdown is brought to you by cancer. The dreadful disease managed to claim the life of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson this week. I had a feeling that Jim’s coaching career was over when the Eagles announced that Sean McDermott would be the coordinator this season and was given a two year contract. I never thought that the announcement was a signal to the end of his life though.
The loss of Jim Johnson is tragic. He was a genius at adjusting his defense to the strengths of the players he was given unlike his red-headed counterpart who insists upon forcing players to conform to his system rather than mold his offense around his players when they might not be the best fit for his system. The impact of Jim Johnson on this team last year was so great that if it wasn’t for him they would not have made the playoffs and Brian Dawkins would not have made it to another pro-bowl. The Eagles were one of the top 3 or 5 defenses in the entire NFL during the span of time that Jim Johnson was with the team. That is a remarkable feat when you consider the amount of player turnover on the defensive side compared to the offensive side. Johnson was always able to maintain a high powered defense regardless of the talent he was given.
Sure, his defense was susceptible to big plays, but you show me an aggressive, blitzing, play making defense that isn’t susceptible to the big play. A defense that quickly comes to mind is the “46” defense of the great James David “Buddy” Ryan. That was an aggressive, punishing defense that was susceptible to big plays too. Both defenses were more dominant than they were inferior though. It helps if you have an offense that is able to make plays when they need to make them which appears to be an eerie commonality between Ryan’s Eagles and the Eagles teams Johnson was a part of. I think the loss of Jim Johnson has the potential to cost this team 2-3 wins, which is a lot since I subscribe to the belief that a good defense can win 9-10 games with an average offense.
Professional football players shouldn’t need to be inspired to play every game as if it was their last, but I wouldn’t think it could hurt if ‘Ol Big Red were to borrow a line from Maximus and make it their mantra for the season and that line would be…”Brothers, what we do in life…echoes in eternity.” Tell me that doesn’t give you goose bumps?
My outlook for the Eagles this year as usual is a positive one. Even after considering and accounting for the loss of Jim Johnson I have a positive outlook. I felt like this team should win 11 games this season when the schedule came out in April. Now, I believe that 10 wins, second place in the division, and a wildcard berth in the playoffs is a little more likely.
Here is how I see the season shaking out…
@ Panthers – L
SAINTS – W
CHIEFS – W
BUCCANEERS – W
@ Raiders – W
@ Redskins – L
GIANTS – L
COWBOYS – W
@ Chargers – W
@ Bears – W
REDSKINS – W
@ Falcons – L
@ Giants – L
49ERS – W
BRONCOS – W
@ Cowboys – L