|2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE|
Wide Receiver Terrell Owens of the Philadelphia Eagles wants a ring, and the ball.
Getty Images/Greg Fiume
Notable Additions: WR Terrell Owens, , San Francisco 49ers, LBD hani Jones, New York Giants, LB Jeremiah Trotter, Washington Redskins DE Jevon Kearse, Tennessee Titans
Notable Subtractions: RB Duce Staley, CB Troy Vincent, CB Bobby Taylor
Offensive Overview: Donovan McNabb's two biggest strengths have been his ability to avoid interceptions -- he's averaged one pick every 45.3 attempts over the last four seasons -- and his running ability. Completely healthy in 2004, those traits shouldn't change, although he'll be tempted with some new additions. With Duce Staley gone and Correll Buckhalter out for the year with a knee injury, the pressure is on Brian Westbrook to perform and stay healthy. The speedy Westbrook is an immense talent who the Eagles like to move around and create mismatches in the passing game. But he has had trouble staying healthy in his first two NFL seasons. Enter Terrell Owens, who has averaged more than 90 receptions per year the last four seasons. Owens' gives the Eagles the go-to guy they've lacked in their offense. The double-teams that Owens is going to require from defenses also is going to open things up for the club's other receivers, including Freddie Mitchell, who has developed into a very good slot receiver. Donovan McNabb has yet to have a season completion rate higher than 58.4, which is troubling for a quarterback in the West Coast offense. That could change this season with the talented arsenal of skill-position weapons that he'll have.
Defensive Overview: The Eagles are hoping the addition of DE Jevon Kearse and the return to health of fellow defensive end Derrick Burgess, along with hoped-for improvement from '03 first-rounder Jerome McDougle will ignite a pass rush that had just 38 quarterback sacks last season. The healthy return of Hollis Thomas and the continued development of Rayburn, who made the club last year as a rookie free agent and played a lot in the latter half of the season, will be big boosts to Simon and Walker, who wore down last year because of overuse. The Eagles let their dependable strong side linebacker, Carlos Emmons, walk, and are moving ex-Giant Dhani Jones from the weak side to the strong side to replace him. Jones brings a little more speed to the position, but was slow to pick up Jim Johnson's system in the spring mini-camps and has missed almost the entire preseason with a high ankle sprain. His backup, Ike Reese, also is uncertain for the start of the season because of a knee sprain. The addition of Jeremiah Trotter gives this unit much-needed depth in the middle and will allow Johnson the opportunity to reduce Mark Simoneau's snaps and keep him fresh. The Eagles let Pro Bowl corners Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor walk in the off-season are replacing them with third-year men Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown. The pair got a lot of valuable playing time last year when Vincent and Taylor missed a total of 12 games due to injury. Both are much smaller than Vincent and Taylor, but are aggressive. Brian Dawkins is one of the best safeties in the game and Michael Lewis is a potential Pro Bowler. Rod Hood will be the club's nickel corner.
Special Teams Overview: Brian Westbrook led the NFC in punt returns last year and took two back for touchdowns, including a game-, and maybe season-, saver against the Giants in October. But because he is susceptible to injury, and because his role in the offense will be increasing this year, he isn't going to be returning punts. That job will be shared between Reno Mahe and/or rookie Dexter Wynn. David Akers is one of the league's best kickers and dealt very well with the unpredictable wind currents at the Link. The 2004 rendition of the Philadelphia Eagles was built to do one thing: Win the Super Bowl. After three consecutive conference championship losses, the Eagles' are quickly becoming the NFC's version of the mid 90's Buffalo Bills – only without any big game appearances. Donovan McNabb has been handed his go-to-guy, the defense was given an incredible facelift, and the excuses have been excused. It's now time for the Eagles and head coach Andy Reid. Anything less would be an underachievement.
|TheInsiders.com 2004 NFL Football Preview|
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