As promised, here is a list of the improvements I think the Philadelphia Eagles need to make before they can be considered elite.
Before attacking this section of the article and wondering whether or not I had a pair of functioning eyes that were able to witness quarterback Nick Foles’ magical season, understand that this isn’t because of the starting quarterback spot. I’ll admit that about halfway through the season, I was thinking that the Eagles would definitely need to draft a quarterback in the first round. Fact is, Foles got the job done this season and passed his starting test with flying colors. In my opinion, there is no controversy for who the quarterback should be going forward. The problem with this position on the Birds is lack of depth. With backup Michael Vick most likely being in a different uniform next year, I’m concerned at who would take the helm if Foles were to go down. Third string quarterback Matt Barkley has thrown zero touchdowns to four interceptions with three fumbles, finishing his first NFL year with a 44.6 passer rating. Although I loved the acquisition of Barkley in the draft, I’d prefer a much more efficient and qualified backup picked up either in free agency or the draft. Wishful thinking this won’t be too important, but it’s the NFL, anything can happen.
I know there’s currently a lot of fuss as to whether the Eagles should resign wide receivers Riley Cooper or Jeremy Maclin, but I say bring back both. Cooper had a huge breakout year and Maclin was arguably the most reliable receiver before tearing his ACL due to his speed and size. Accompanied by receivers DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant, this group of players will give opposing defenses a lot to deal with. Only reason I say it needs improvement is if Maclin were a little slow getting back into the swing of things or if Cooper regressed. Also, if one of these four were to go down, I’d rather have someone better than Jeff Maehl and bigger than Damaris Johnson.
Cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher were two very important acquisitions for the Birds last offseason and I believe they are imperative to the future rise of the Eagles’ defense. Williams’ tenacity and in-your-face play is something that this team has needed for quite some time at the corner position. By playing with a chip on his shoulder, it allows him to matchup with all sorts of receivers as he won’t back down from any physical battle. One improvement I’d like to see is more discipline on his part. Too many times this season he was called for pass interference in crucial game time situations. Fletcher is a great compliment on the other side of Williams as a solid and consistent player. He’s very technically sound and is also very good at getting physical. Second year corner Brandon Boykin had a phenomenal year. Boykin was arguably the best of the three corners and he still has plenty of time to progress. He finished the year with six interceptions and is fast enough to cover any area of the field. Why does this unit need improvement? Beyond these three, there isn’t a solid enough corner to come into the game. Cornerback Roc Carmichael made a mental error almost every time he was on the field. There needs to be someone who can step in and be a playmaker if one of these goes down, needs a rest, or four corners must be out there.
Although kicker Alex Henery had a stellar rookie season, I feel like he hit somewhat of a sophomore slump. If Henery would have hit his first attempt at a field goal against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs, who knows how that game would have ended. I don’t know if they necessarily need a replacement, but Henery needs to improve a little more to be a solid offensive option.
Strong and Free Safety
Although safety Earl Wolff seems to be a promising up and coming player, the safety position on the Eagles seems to be lackluster at best. Ever since the retiring of Eagles legend Brian Dawkins, the Birds’ safeties have been awful. Either through free agency or the draft, this team desperately needs to bring in a no nonsense, hard hitting safety. All it takes is one guy to make a big hit and the entire defense will feed off that. I love the line backing squad of the Eagles, but none of them are going to be the hard hitter. They’re smart playmakers, but not bone crushing hitters. So if not a safety, then it must be a safety. On top of being able to make tackles, it’s imperative that the safeties brought in also are excellent in the coverage game. The Eagles’ safeties blew their coverage countless times and left their corners hanging. To make the jump to an elite defense, their need to be some playmaking leaders in this secondary.