(Originally Posted: Wednesday May 05, 2010)
There are two things that the Couch hates: change and mustard. Unfortunately Mrs. Couch is a fan of mustard, so I’ve learned to adapt. Just as unfortunate, change is a part of all aspects of life, even my beloved Eagles. Now for more than a decade, the changes with the Eagles have not been that massive. We’ve seen some players move on, but none of it has been as seismic as the shifts that we have witnessed over the last 15 months. Ever since Brian Dawkins has left, our team has been changing, and when the season opens against the Packers on September 12th, it will be virtually unrecognizable for the first time in a long, long time.
I know I’m stating the obvious here today, but bear with me for a few moments and hear me out. Every year in the last decade when someone would ask me how many games the Eagles were going to win after the draft I would answer confidentially. And it would usually be somewhere around 10 or 11. When Nerds Fantasy Football League Champion Booyah asked me yesterday, I honestly had no idea. It could be 5 wins, could be 11 wins. Why? Practically half of this team has been made over since it meekly crawled off the field in Dallas four months ago. (But don’t you dare call it a rebuilding year.)
I’ll start with the obvious, because it doesn’t seem like enough people are taking this seriously. We’re starting the season with a quarterback who was 10 quarters of NFL experience under his belt. (I’m not counting garbage time.) Now, don’t get me wrong, I love everything I’ve heard Kolb say, the little I’ve seen him play, and how much the organization loves him, but what if they are wrong? He could be the next Aaron Rodgers or Phillip Rivers but he could also be the next Ryan Leaf or Bobby Hoying (This summer’s official drinking game: Anytime some mentions Hoying while talking about Kolb, you gotta drink. Prepare for drunkenness.)
I want to be very clear here. I think Kolb will be the real deal. When I put my head down on my Eagles pillow at night, I pray that he’s the real deal. But even if he is, what levels of his potential will he going achieve in his first year? Especially if he doesn’t have any time to get rid of the ball, which leads me to my next concern:
How many of the starting offensive lineman can you name?
Okay, that question may be a little unfair, because only a handful of lunatics, like the Couch, can really do that on a regular basis. For the first time in an Andy Reid draft, I was looking forward to him taking his standard two or three offensive lineman to help sure up this dilapidated line. After all those years of boring picks wasted on the offensive line, Reid threw a curve ball at me and selected nary a one. Seriously? Thirteen picks in the draft and you couldn’t find one Big MAN better than King Dunlap? (I only pick on him, because I love his name.)
After the release of stalwarts Tra and Runyan last year, the offensive line became a liability for the first time in Reid’s tenure. The organization have done nothing this off-season to sure it up except to release Shawn Andrews and reduce Stacy Andrews’s salary. That’s not going to help.
The biggest reason for last year’s end of the season collapse was the injury to center Jamaal Jackson. It is still unclear as to whether or not he will be fully recovered by the time the season starts. The Birds have a couple of guys to compete for the center job, but are the any good? Beats me. Why not take a flier on Kevin Mawae? I know he’s over 30 and all, but it might not be the end of the world to get a veteran on that offensive line.
Between Jackson’s injury, and the uncertainty with most of the rest of the line, it is shocking that protecting their young quarterback was not a bigger priority this off-season. If you had told me anytime last decade that our receivers were the strength of the offense and our quarterback and line were the question marks, I would have asked you when Andy Reid had retired.
Now if you think the offensive side of the ball is unsettling, lets take a gander at the other side of the ball. By my count, more than half the starters on defense will be different than the ones who ended the season. And a majority of them weren’t even on the team last year. Except for ¾ of the defensive line, all other aspects of this defense will look different. All with areas of concern.
Let’s start with the key piece. Everybody and I mean everybody is expecting a monster season out of Stewart Bradley. Just like we did last year. We all know he tore his ACL early in camp last year and was lost for the season. Now ACL’s aren’t the career ending injuries they once were, but a great deal of the potential of this defense is banked not only on Bradley returning healthy, but returning healthy and becoming a Pro Bowler. Pop quiz, when’s the last time a linebacker drafted by the Eagles turned was a Pro Bowler? (Hint: Andy didn’t draft him.)
Apparently, the Eagles aren’t afraid of ACL injuries (or any injuries for that matter); because they also acquired defensive back Marlin Jackson who went down with an ACL last year and linebacker Ernie Sims who battled a shoulder injury last year. If Sims, Jackson and Bradley have all recovered fully and can return to their full potential, then this defense will really be something to see. But if I were a betting man, I’d say one of the three doesn’t make it out of camp healthy.
On top of the key defensive players coming off injuries, there was the draft, which I would label as odd. It was very heavy on the defense. The Birds kept drafting these undersized speed hybrid rushers that seemed more suited for a 3-4 defense. They reminded me too much of Chris Gocong, who I hope will finally reach his potential in Cleveland. I like the Brandon Graham pick in the first round, which made a lot more sense once we learned about Victor Abiamiri’s injury. But why did we draft so many small defensive ends? Are they going to be playing end and linebacker? Couch doesn’t understand.
I also don’t get what’s going on with our defensive backfield. All I can tell you for sure right now is that Samuel is a starting cornerback and Mikell is a safety. Other than that, we have a lot of guys who could be playing either corner, safety, nickel or dime, but none of them fill me with any confidence. We drafted some guys who can contribute, but nobody seems to want to tell us at which position. If Ellis Hobbs is our starting cornerback, we’re in a lot of trouble. I’ll tell you this, it Dawkins and Brown were still on this team, I’d fell a hundred times better about this defense then I do today.
Now I know this comes off a typical negative Philadelphia fan, but that not what I’m trying to do at all. It’s more of an uneasy fan. There’s been dozens of times over the years that I’ve questioned decisions made by Andy that I have been dead wrong. “We should have kept Duce Staley”; “We shouldn’t have let Taylor and Vincent go”; “We should have kept Trotter” (the first time.) And I’ve been proven wrong each time. (Except Dawk.)
This is just the first time in a really long time that I haven’t been able to see the full picture of what this team is going to look like. But I trust Andy Reid. There’s one thing I know about that man (besides his love for ribs and bad Hawaiian shirts) and that he always has a plan. This team knows what they are doing. And just because this Couch can’t see the whole 3D space ship yet, doesn’t mean it’s not there. We got a long time until the season starts, and hopefully, I’ll be able to unfocus my eyes by then. I just need to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
Answer to the pop quiz: Trotter and Ike Resse are the last two Eagles linebackers to go to the Pro Bowl. They were both drafted in 1998, the year before Andy Reid came to town