The Eagles are still the team to beat in the east. It's been an up and down off-season for the beloved birds. They have parted ways with some popular veterans such as Hugh Douglass and Brian Mitchell, but have brought in some exciting new talents such as Jerome McDougle, L.J. Smith and Billy McMullen, to name a few.
The defense has been one of the most feared in the league for a long time. It remains to be seen how quickly this new defensive talent will adjust and catch on to Jim Johnson's scheme. The return of veterans such as newly re-signed Brian Dawkins, Bobby Taylor, Troy Vincent and Corey Simon along with sophomores Lito Sheppard and Michael Lewis and the possible emergence of Sheldon Brown this season, will help ensure the maturing of the new players and keep the chemistry this team needs to stay competitive. The addition of linebackers Nate Wayne (Green bay) and Mark Simoneau (Atlanta) will help sure up the middle assuming Simoneau stays healthy, and fill the void left by Shawn Barber at the WIL spot. This defense will be quicker than recent unites and with Jim Johnson's scheme in full effect it will once again be one of the most frightening defenses in the NFL.
For the first time in a long time Eagles Fans can be excited about what the offense will bring to the table entering a new season. With Donovan McNabb fresh from his ankle injury last year; he will be more determined then ever to take this team to the next level, starting with avenging last year's championship game loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This year he will have more developed weapons to take with him on his way to Houston in January. He's working with an offense that returns 10 starters from last year, a solid offensive line, one of the deepest backfields in the league and a promising young core of big fast wide receivers. The Eagles drafted tight end L.J. Smith, from Rutgers, to offset New York's Jeremy Shockey. Wide Receiver Billy McMullen has the ability to beat any defensive back with his size and strength, not to mention he has the hands to bring in any pass thrown his way. It's just a matter of time for these young players to develop, mature, learn the offense and work their way into helping this team on what many hope to be run to Super Bowl XXXVIII.
The Eagles upcoming schedule is one of the toughest in the NFL. Out of the 16 games, they face the Super Bowl Champions to open the season, have six games against teams that made the playoffs last year and four games against teams that were in the playoff race until the last weekend of the 2002. I unfortunately only see the Eagles going 11-5; possibly 12-4 with an upset win to open Lincoln Financial Field. However, I think they will win the East again, and finally bring a championship to a city that has been long overdue.