Last year's division winner, the Eagles seem to have felt their hand was fairly pat by the lack of real activity in the off-season. With more losses than gains in the free agent window, fans and experts wonder what the Eagles plan to do with the nearly 9 million dollars in free cap space they currently have.
Jeff Lurie is tighter with his money than old Scrooge. The Update wonders if the ghost of No Super Bowl Future will come to visit the owner again this year. From the looks of the off-season, it seems possible. Doing the math the Philadelphia team appears to have gotten softer after last seasons success.
To date Andy Reid's team has resigned 7 players from the 2001 roster and two free agents. One from Tennessee and the other from Washington. But they also lost four players to free agency.
The most noted defection was Jeremiah Trotter, the middle linebacker that seemed to perennially line up in the Dallas backfield. To replace his influence in the middle, Shawn Barber was brought in from Washington.
Barber, a player that missed most of the 2001 campaign and had injury problems in 2000 will be plugged in to the middle of the Eagles defense. They hope he can regain his 1999 season success with 148 tackles with 100 of those as solos. While Barber doesn't play the blitz as well as Trotter, he does bring a better run defense to the middle.
What seems curious about this "trade" with Washington is the fact that rumors abounded concerning Trotters knees. The Eagles essentially let him go because of his health, and then replace him with a player of questionable health. Barber's health could create the first real chink in the defense that ruled the East last year and aided the Philadelphians to their best season since 1980.
The players resigned by the Eagles were mostly back-ups except Sean Landeta, the 18-year veteran punter, Cecil Martin, the starting fullback and Hank Fraley, the starting center. Na Brown was re-inked as well, apparently for the fact that of the of his 7 receptions for the entire 2001 season, six were for first downs.
The draft brought in a crop of defensive backs with some depth at running back and linebacker. The battle plan thus far for Reid's team is to strengthen the defensive backfield for another shot at the Rams "Greatest Show On Turf."
Lito Sheppard, a cornerback out of Florida was perhaps the best athlete on the defense last season for the Gators. A smallish player at 5'10" with big-time potential, he is surely an insurance policy for next season when Bobby Taylor becomes a free agent. Taylor will command the type of free agent dollars that cause Lurie to curl up in the fetal position while whispering, "I am afraid of ghosts" as he sucks his thumb.
Brian Westbrook was drafted as a potential backup to Correll Buckhalter, the future starter for the Eagles. Duce Staley was destined to be replaced after the tremendous season Buckhalter had last year. But a season ending injury to the second year running back in this year's first mini-camp caused the team to rethink its position.
Westbrook is small and has limited potential, but will be required to get up to speed early with the injury history of Staley and the limited running game the Eagles have after quarterback Donovan McNabb. A heavy weight to place on a rookie with a short upside.
The Eagles would rather McNabb beat teams with his arm than his legs. The Buckhalter injury changed the 2002 season and will again force the team to utilize McNabb as a running threat. While a big player at 6'2" and 226 pounds, the law of averages has to weigh heavy on Andy Reid's mind. If McNabb goes down for any length of time the season is done for the Eagles.
All in all the team took no positive steps forward this year. The 49 yards short of a Super Bowl the team is leaning on was not shortened by any move thus far. Rumors abound concerning Sam Adams but the Eagles are so far removed from that acquisition that it isn't even worth dissecting.
While the wide receiver corps produced some numbers last year, there was no real #1 go-to receiver. James Thrash, the best of the lot, is filling that pair of shoes. His journeyman 833 yards and 8 TD's didn't keep defensive coordinators awake at night. This further adds pressure to McNabb as the shoulders the team will ride in 2002.
The prediction here is if healthy the Eagles will post a 10-6 record and win the East. This is a franchise that to date doesn't understand the Kenny Rogers song about knowing when to hold ‘em and knowing when to fold 'em. But maybe more importantly knowing when to get help at running back and wide receiver.
The Eagles will be the darlings of the press this season until they are bounced from the play-offs again in the second round by either the Packers or the Rams. And the 49 yards they are using as a rallying cry will be a distant memory of also-ran that Eagles fans seem to hold up as badges of honor. They venture forward in the 21st century as the only team in the NFC East without a Super Bowl victory. Nothing will change for them in 2002.
Resigned: Rashard Cook S, Sean Landeta P, Hank Fraley C, Cecil Martin FB, Doug Brzezinski G, Na Brown WR, Mike Bartum TE. Added: Blaine Bishop SS from Tennessee, Shawn Barber LB from Washington. Lost: Jeremiah Trotter LB to Washington, Damon Moore SS to Chicago, Bubba Miller C to New Orleans, Mike Caldwell LB to Chicago.
Drafted: Lito Sheppard CB Florida, Michael Lewis SS Colorado, Sheldon Brown CB South Carolina, Brian Westbrook RB Villanova, Scott Peters C Arizona State, Freddie Milons WR Alabama, Tyreo Harrison LB Notre Dame, Raheem Brock DE Temple.
A Feast On The East: The Philadelphia Eagles
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