Five Reasons the Eagles Won’t Reach the Super Bowl
It’s June 22. We’re still over a month away from training camp. And yet I am somewhat surprised by the glut of positive forecasts being written for the 2009 Eagles. An overwhelming number of mainstream sports outlets are not shy about pegging the Birds as an early (waaaaayyyy early) Super Bowl favorite. WhatifSports even crowned them Champs! It’s all fun to read, but I’d like to settle the horses.
I’ve made it no secret that I am of the opinion that the Eagles are stacked for the upcoming campaign. I’m not thrilled with the linebackers, but by no means would I call them a weak link. The truth is, finding a position to pick apart isn’t easy. Certainly the health of key players – most notably #36 – must always be factored into the equation. No one can predict who will or won’t suffer significant, season-altering injuries that could derail a Championship train.
Looking up and down the roster, I see a perfect mix of youth, experience, speed, skill and untapped talent. All that is great, but if the Birds can’t get all their ducks in a row, things might go badly. Which leads me to the focus of this post: What will prevent this team from reaching the Big Game next February? Other than injuries, I’ve identified five potential bugaboos that could negatively impact the 2009 season.
1) Growing pains – Too many new faces can be tricky to balance: offensive tackle, right guard, free safety, cornerback, wide receiver, left defensive end, running back and tight end are all positions being shuffled. That’s a lot of guys competing for either starting spots or key reserve roles. If Shawn Andrews struggles at right tackle, or the free agent offensive lineman don’t adapt well, or the combo of Quintin Demps/Sean Jones can’t fill the free safety void, or if DeSean suffers a sophomore slump, or the linebackers don’t take their games to another level, or no consistent threat exists at left end, matters could head south quickly.
2) Reid gets too pass happy – We all bore witness to last year’s dreadful rush game. I cringed on every third and short and goal-to-goal situation. The additions of the younger Andrews, Peters and Weaver hopefully solves these woes. However, I am concerned Big Red might resort to the four receiver sets early and often if the run game stalls. Since the pass catchers appear to be a strength, frequent aerial shows could become the norm. Unbalanced is not the way to go.
3) A slow start – All the new faces will need time to gel. Training camp may not be enough. The “easy” part of the Birds schedule is in September. A fast start is imperative to set a proper tone. McNabb generally plays well in the opening month, but the team as a whole has a tendency to underachieve. Westbrook not being able to go for the early portion of the season will only compound the problem.
4) The defense takes a step back – As much as I hate to write this, I have to. Jim Johnson won’t be coaching this season. He’s in the battle of his life, for his life. Even if he were to make a miraculous recovery, I seriously doubt he would be strong enough to endure the rigors of coaching. That leaves unproven Sean McDermott in control. I think McDermott has an extremely bright future, but he has a young defense on his hands. Does he have the necessary knowledge to move the chess pieces into the right positions? It remains to be seen.
5) The ghost of Dawkins lingers – We all loved Dawk because he had the uncanny ability to will his team to victory on occasion. His pre-game speeches are legendary. His sideline pep talks effective. Thirteen seasons in midnight green carried with it a fair amount of respect among his peers. Guys listened to him and paid attention when he spoke. Who takes on that role, if anyone? Can the team self-motivate or will a player like Mikell or Bradley pick up the slack? Is either really capable of doing so? I’m not as concerned about this issue as I am the others, for the simple fact that I think there are quality leaders in the locker room who will morph into the voice of the defense.
Coda: I wonder which defender will represent the defense at press conferences? Sheldon would have been the logical choice, but Reid probably won’t want a disgruntled player in front of the media on a weekly basis. My guess would be Stew.
Lest you accuse me of being all doom and gloom, I’ll be back tomorrow with five reasons why the Eagles will reach the Super Bowl. Until then….