Philadelphia Eagles 2010 Season Preview: New Crop of Talent Emerging
These aren't your older brother's Eagles.
Gone are offensive foundation pieces Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook, after the team had already jettisoned former defensive linchpins Brian Dawkins, Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown in the last few years. More importantly to the defense, it lost defensive guru Jim Johnson, who was diagnosed with melanoma and passed away in 2009.
In fact, the only key piece remaining from the Eagles mostly successful early-2000s run (as long as success isn't measured in this case by Super Bowl victories) is Andy Reid. The Eagles entered the new decade looking to get younger, and they have. Now, the young'uns will have to deliver.
Offense: Philadelphia has restocked its talent base, with former second-round pick Kevin Kolb rising to the top of the depth chart at quarterback, former second-round pick LeSean McCoy entering his second season, and starting receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin owning a combined three years' NFL experience. Most eyes will be on Kolb and his ability to run this pass-happy offense effectively, but Philadelphia's offensive capacity will rest on the offensive line. Jason Peters was a Pro Bowler in name only. Heat Index: 7
Defense: The Eagles' defensive strength during the Jim Johnson era, and successively in Sean McDermott's first year, has been quarterback pressure. Already sporting one of the best unheralded defensive ends in the league in Trent Cole, the Eagles drafted Brandon Graham in the first round while also trading for pass-rushing specialist Daryl Tapp, clearly reinforcing the team's defensive focus. The biggest addition to the unit in 2010 could well be the return of Stewart Bradley, sidelined for all of 2009. In the secondary, the Eagles will need Ellis Hobbs to step up his game across from Asante Samuel. Sure, this team will consistently get pressure, but will they be able to cover receivers should a quarterback have time to throw? Heat Index: 6
Special Teams: DeSean Jackson is back returning punts for the Eagles, who led the league by a wide margin in 2009 -- the Bengals' 11.9 punt return average was second to Philadelphia's 13.5 mark. Ellis Hobbs, who has always been a great kick return man, should help to improve the kickoff return game. The reliable David Akers and Sav Rocca are back kicking and punting the ball. Heat Index: 10
Coaching: While offensive and defensive players come and go, Andy Reid remains the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. With a 108-67-1 regular season record to his credit, Reid only suffered one losing season over the last decade with the team. Sean McDermott had a successful first season filling the large defensive coordinator shoes of Johnson. Marty Mornhinweg has spent the last seven years as the team's offensive coordinator. Reid's track record speaks for itself. Heat Index: 9
Intangibles: There are a lot of moving parts in Philqdelphia this year, including a leadership void on the offensive side of the ball. Of offensive players expected to make the team, only Michael Vick and Jamaal Jackson are even as old as 30. Clearly, the franchise wants the current nucleus to lead the team through the 2010s. All that's left is for the players in place to produce. Heat Index: 5
Total Heat Index: 37/50. This is a young team that should gel in a hurry. Kolb, McCoy, Jackson, Maclin, Cole, Graham, Bradley and Samuel give the Eagles an elite level of young talent, and if everything clicks immediately, this perennial winning team won't miss a step. Mark them down for 10 wins and a breakout performance from Kolb.