|by Ryan Messick
Win or lose, today’s game should not be an indictment of this Eagles franchise or its coaching staff. Many would have you believe that a loss today to the Packers means the Eagles are on the wrong track. Fewer wins than last year, another season without a playoff victory and another disappointing finish to the year.
What people don’t want to realize is that the Eagles are in the rare position to compete in a rebuilding year. Call it retooling, if you will. From the end of last season into training camp, the Eagles changed four starters on offense and six on defense. Gone were Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Sheldon Brown, Jeremiah Trotter and Will Witherspoon. Out of a starting job were Nick Cole, Max Jean-Gilles, Macho Harris, Moise Fokou and Juqua Parker.
From August until now, the Eagles have changed four starters on offense due to injury or performance and had four others miss time due to injury. Kevin Kolb was injured and lost his job. Jamaal Jackson and Leonard Weaver went down for the season. Nick Cole was injured and lost his starting right guard spot to Max Jean-Gilles, who later missed time due to injury. Jason Peters missed time at left tackle, DeSean Jackson missed time at wide receiver. Michael Vick, after taking over as starter, suffered an injury and missed time himself.
On defense, the Birds lost Ellis Hobbs, Nate Allen and Brandon Graham to season ending injuries. Brodrick Bunkley lost his starting job to Antonio Dixon. Juqua Parker missed time with a hip flexor, Asante Samuel missed games with a knee injury and a concussion. Akeem Jordan lost his job to Moise Fokou early in the season. Dimitri Patterson, who took over for Hobbs, lost his job for a half to Joselio Hanson. Stewart Bradley has missed time at middle linebacker. In all, five starting jobs have changed hands and two others have missed extensive time due to injury.
That’s 15 jobs that have changed hands or been filled in for due to injury since the start of the season. Quarterback, fullback, wide receiver, left tackle, center, right guard, right tackle, both cornerbacks, defensive end, defensive tackle, free safety, strongside linebacker and middle linebacker have all been affected.
Throw in the offseason changes and in one year’s time – from last year’s Wild Card loss to today, the Eagles have seen changes or been impacted by injuries at eight positions on offense and eight on defense. That’s 16 out of 22 starters, and yet the Birds are 10-6 and hosting a Wild Card game against the Packers.
Regardless of the outcome of today’s game, the Eagles managed to retool their roster and remain competitive. They’re younger, and while not without holes, they’re primed for the next five years. Philadelphia may need upgrades across from Asante Samuel and Trent Cole and on the inside of the offensive line, but this team still had the top scoring offense in the NFC and allowed the sixth-fewest yards in the conference.
Win or lose, the Eagles built for the future this year and know what they need for the future. They turned Michael Vick into a Pro Bowl quarterback who can pass as well as he can run. They saw LeSean McCoy grow into the role Brian Westbrook used to fill. They watched DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin grow into the best receiving duo in team history. They got younger on defense, and while there are health concerns heading into next year for Brandon Graham and Nate Allen, the Eagles are a couple of moves away from being a top contender next year.
Win or lose, they moved forward.