Lets take a look at what needs to happen for the team to accomplish the ultimate goal.
Offensively, they need to make a few moves.
For one, they'll need to add a power back that can compliment running back Brian Westbrook. The Patriots showed they had a pretty solid 1-2 combination in Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk against the Eagles. That duo can give an opponent different looks in the running game. The Eagles need that diversification.
A power back like the Jets Lamont Jordan, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent, would be a perfect fit and would compliment Westbrook's speed. Would Jordan be willing to handle about 12-15 carries a game? The Eagles certainly have plenty of room under the salary cap to accommodate his potential salary demands.
While their offensive line struggled at times against New England, they still played well this season. They'll get back starting guard Shawn Andrews who missed his entire rookie season due to injury. They could lose veteran guard Jermane Mayberry to free agency but that wouldn't be a big deal. Artis Hicks certainly proved this season that he's capable of being a starter.
There has been some debate whether the Eagles need a top-flight fullback. Starter Jon Ritchie missed over half of the season with a knee injury and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next month. Once Ritchie is totally healthy (probably not until around July), the team is expected to give him a chance to work out to see where he's at physically. While the Eagles would have what would deemed to be a passing offense, a solid blocking fullback like Ritchie would be an asset in their run and pass blocking. Converted fullback Jason Parry (played linebacker earlier in his career) is a work in progress.
At receiver, they need someone to really step up and bring up the level at the no.2 position. Todd Pinkston at times showed that he was capable of doing the job but they need more consistency there as a starter. Pinkston only had 36 catches in the regular season (had the same total in the previous season) and third receiver Freddie Mitchell only had 22 (down 13 from the previous season). The draft doesn't look like it will offer them the immediate help that they need there so they may have to turn to free agency.
If you're looking for more help from within the current roster at receiver, Greg Lewis might help deliver an answer. Lewis had a very solid Super Bowl performance and has speed to burn. The team should look to increase his role for the 2005 season.
Defensively, the team has some issues up front. Starting tackle Corey Simon is set to become an unrestricted free agent next month and isn't coming off of a strong season. You could make a case for him as being one of the reasons why their run defense struggled at times this season. What the team needs is size at the position and more consistency out of that position.
At linebacker, it has been increasingly obvious that they need an impact player at either one of the outside positions. On the strongside, starter Dhani Jones took a while to grasp that position, one that he really hadn't played much at the pro level before signing with the Eagles. Jones is a more natural fit on the weakside. Veteran middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who played fairly well since taking over the starting job before around the mid way point of the regular season, is also set to become an unrestricted free agent next month. Early indications are that Trotter wants to return and the team would like to have him back. He just turned 28 years old and should have at least a few good years left. On the weakside, the team has a dilemma. They have projected starter Mark Simoneau who has yet to show enough consistency in his two seasons with the team. Former starter Nate Wayne has $6.7 million coming to him in the final two seasons of his contract. That's way too much to pay to a backup. Look for him to be released or to take a huge paycut. Either way, he proved he's not capable of being a starter. Reserve linebacker Keith Adams did a nice job when filling in for Simoneau when he was hurt late in the season. However, Adams is too small to be an every down player. With no real solid candidate to man the weakside position, the Eagles should give strong consideration to moving Jones to his more natural position there while looking to sign an impact free agent who could then fill the void at the strongside position.
In the secondary, the team is in good hands at both safety positions with Brian Dawkins and Michael Lewis. Both of their starting cornerbacks, Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard, will return for their second season in that role. They played quite well for most of the season and will only get better. Deep isn't bad at safety and at cornerback either.
As you can see, they need to sure up a few key positions on both sides of the ball but are in position to make whatever moves are necessary due to their solid cap standing. Looking at what the Eagles have done over the last few years in free agency and in the draft, there is no reason to think they won't knock on the door of the Super Bowl once again.
Eagles Postscript-Where do we go From Here?
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