Sunday, August 21, 2011

NFL Preseason Spotlight - NFC Edition: Philadelphia Eagles

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Like most other die hard football fans, I was overjoyed when NFL Commish Roger Goodell announced an end to the League's five month-long lockout, thereby saving the upcoming season. Since that time, teams have been making myriads of free-agent signings and trades in an effort to dethrone the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, and claim the Vince Lombardi Trophy for themselves.  In today's spotlight, we'll take a look at an NFC team that has caught my attention with some shrewd off-season signings and personnel moves: The Philadelphia Eagles.

Last season, Philly completed the regular season with a 10-6 record, and were lead by the surprisingly resurgent play of quarterback Michael Vick.  Eagles fans are hoping that Vick can replicate last year's performance, and help the team get back to the playoffs.

The Eagles will bring back all the pieces to their stellar receiving corps, which will once again provide Vick with plenty of targets. Desean "Fraction" Jackson and Jeremy Maclin will once again give Philly the speedy down field threats they'll use to stretch the field and keep defenses honest. Also trusty tight end Brent Celek hopes to bounce back from a sub-par season last year. In 2009, Celek led the team with 76 receptions, but was held to only 42 catches last year, as he was used more as a blocker to shore up a suspect offensive line.

Speaking of which, the offensive line was a huge concern for Philly last season, so the club is hoping for a full, healthy season from Right Tackle Reggie Wells, who will protect Michael Vick's blindside.  Winston Justice will also get considerable playing time, but is recovering from knee surgery, which is never a good thing for an offensive lineman.  King Dunlop will see time at the right tackle position as well.

In the backfield, LeSean McCoy will return and is poised to follow up his breakout season last year, and QB Vince Young will get a chance at redeeming his troubled career and will serve as Vick's backup.

The defensive side of the ball is where the Eagles made the most noise, starting with the acquisition of prized free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (pronounced "nahm-dee Aw-some-wah"), and they also acquired cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals for valuable back-up quarterback Kevin Kolb.  Defensive End Jason Babin, who previously played for the Eagles in 2009, returns to the team after spending last year with the Tennessee Titans.  Last year with the Titans, Babin had the finest season of his career in which he made the Pro Bowl.

Overall, the Philadelphia Eagles made the sort of off-season moves that will have them as pre-season favourites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.  Of course, acquiring talent on paper doesn't necessarily translate into on-field success, but if this team can develop chemistry, have all their talented pieces fall into place, and if they can overcome inevitable injuries, they will certainly be a force during the regular season.

The road to the World Championship may still travel through Green Bay, Wisconsin, but the Philadelphia Eagles have shown by their off-season maneuvering that they mean serious business.



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