Taking the Heat off McNabb

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A few months ago, when Donovan McNabb allegedly complained about getting “more weapons” on offense, it was taken as a sign that he was fed up with the sub-par talent the Front Office has surrounded him with for the last decade. Whether he actually declared these thoughts makes little difference. It’s safe to assume, Donny Mac is tired of shouldering “all” the blame for Andy Reid‘s inconsistent offensive schemes.

Well, it takes more than a franchise quarterback to win a championship in the NFL. An elite quarterback will improve your chances year in and year out, but it truly takes a team effort. A dependable run game, dominant defense and dynamic special teams are all key components to building a contender. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff; every football fan with half a brain understands what is required to win in the NFL.

Donovan’s pointed comments appear to have been heard loud and clear by the Birds’ brain trust. Of course, they will never admit to it, even if they wanted to. Reid and Heckert must remain stalwart in their methods of constructing the Eagles. They are far from perfect, but to be fair, they’ve been right more than wrong over the years. This isn’t to say they don’t have room to improve. When they sat down together to evaluate the immediate future of the team after another crushing loss in the NFC Championship, it was clear change was in order.

McNabb is not a fool. He looks in the mirror and realizes at 32, his time in the NFL is nearing an end. He can no longer snap on his SuperMac cape and lead the Iggles to victory every week. He’s going to have an off day, every now and again. It comes with age. The reflexes slow and the legs don’t get off the ground as quick as they did back in 2000 and 2004. Multiple injuries don’t help his cause either. Other players have to give the aging, but still effective, signal caller a boost.

So, Reid and Heckert went out this off-season and added a lot of boost. Not just on offense, but on defense and special teams as well. They rebuilt the offensive line in front of McNabb by adding two young, mammoth tackles, who will be tasked with the responsibility of protecting their quarterback and opening holes for the runners. An efficient, reliable rush attack will limit the need for McNabb to “win it with his arm.” Jason Peters, Stacy Andrews and a healthy, rejuvenated Shawn Andrews gives the line a bigger more intimidating presence.

The logical interpretation of Donny’s plea for “weapons” would lead most to conclude he meant receivers and running backs. He wasn’t specific as far as names are concerned. He didn’t drop Boldin or Housh or anyone else. If he wanted “veteran” weapons, he should have clarified. The additions of Weaver, J-Mac, Shady and Ingram constitutes a major talent upgrade. These guys may not pay huge dividends right away, but each will be given the opportunity to do so.

An improved defense, one that forces more three-and-outs and turnovers, will also alleviate the strain on McNabb. Players like Sean Jones, Ellis Hobbs and to a lesser extent, rook “Macho” Harris, have a rep for getting their hands on the ball. Stopping the opposing offense or giving McNabb a short field to work with will definitely keep a smile on his face.

What about special teams? The Eagles have accumulated an endless supply of return specialists who should vastly improve field position over the next few seasons: DeSean, Demps, Maclin, Harris, Hobbs, Courtney Robinson and Marcus Thigpen can all return punts and kickoffs. Yet another way to lighten the load on 5.

All these moves, signings and trades have been done to improve the present and future of the franchise. It’s not like Reid and Heckert mapped out an entire off-season plan just to please their beleaguered quarterback. But you have to wonder if a few of their calculated maneuvers weren’t done with McNabb in mind. In four short months, they have  become a more complete team that has increased its chances of defeating an opponent in all three phases of the game.

Maybe, just maybe, Reid has successfully eased his most important player’s concerns, while adequately lessening the need for said important player to be near perfect on game days. McNabb’s weaknesses are well documented: accuracy, injuries, big game performances. A powerful offensive line, a host of explosive backs and receivers and more ballhawks in the secondary have equipped the 2009 Eagles to be better than they have ever been. Fingers crossed.

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