After rewatching a few of the Eagles losses in ’09, one thing became abundantly clear. This team lacks a superstar defender.
Trent Cole is a smart, solid and hardworking end, but he’s not an elite player who dominates on a weekly basis. That fact that an aging Flozell Adams owned him for three games is disturbing.
Asante Samuel is a ball-hawking corner capable of taking over a game, but he’s not Deion Sanders. Hell, he’s not even Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson. I’ve watched Woodson for years; he doesn’t miss tackles and avoid contact the way Samuel does.
Those are the only two players worth mentioning in this discussion. Guys like Mikell, Bunk and Sheldon are good pros. That’s it. There’s a reason why none have earned a Pro Bowl (Mikell being an alternate doesn’t count). Sure, the Pro Bowl is a giant popularity contest, but none of the guys who go suck. They are, or at one time were, the cream of the crop.
This defense needs a difference maker. That moniker used to belong to Brian Dawkins. To use a tired cliche, he brought his A-game every week. When the D needed a stop or a big play, Dawk was either inspiring others to do so, or he was doing it himself.
Those days are long gone. A new Dawk must be found. Stewart Bradley was on his way to becoming that guy until he shredded his knee. Expecting him to transform into Superman a year after his injury would be unrealistic, to say the least.
DeSean Jackson‘s presence on special teams and offense turned those units into two of the most feared in the NFL. His penchant for being amazing not only helped offset the loss of Westbrook, but it also provided attitude to a team that was lacking. The little dude makes Eagles football fun to watch.
Now, players like DeSean and Dawkins don’t come along very often. The fact that both were second-round picks tells you that neither screamed “can’t miss superstar” or they would have been drafted much higher. Finding these types of talents can be difficult. With Tom Heckert gone, it will likely prove to be an even tougher task.
I don’t really care what position this nameless faceless mystery man plays. Defensive end, linebacker, safety… whatever works. Watching the Saints, Chargers and Cowboys toy with the Birds defense was alarming. They didn’t fear anyone. That’s a problem.
Open up the bank in free agency, trade up in the draft, stay put and kick ass. Whatever strategy the Birds brain trust employs needs to pay dividends. They have successfully drafted several pieces to rebuild the offense. It’s time to focus on the other side of the ball. It’s time to get a player offenses will fear all game, every game. Easier said than done, I know.