There is no doubt that one of the key issues regarding the Eagles this off-season will be at wide receiver. Perhaps, if Todd Pinkston were healthy in 2005 and able to play, the Eagles would have an easier decision to make. The controversy is can Pinkston be the top receiver for the Eagles or do they need to add a free agent or a number one receiver through a trade. Had Pinkston - who is currently number one on the depth chart by default - played this season, he would have been able to show on the field whether or not he had the stuff to be the number one receiver. Instead, the Eagles must decide whether he can handle the job and must also determine how healthy he'll be coming into camp.
Pinkston, who is recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon that he suffered in training camp, said recently that he may not be able for mini-camp, but should be able to go when the Eagles report to Lehigh for their full camp. Although Pinkston is confident, there are no guarantees that he'll be ready and that he'll be 100%. That would cast a further doubt on whether or not he could rise to the occasion to be the Eagles featured receiver. Since right behind Pinkston is rookie Reggie Brown, the Eagles may look to add a top flight receiver who they are sure can handle the number one receiver duties and give the Eagles some semblance of what they had with Terrell Owens.
As for who will throw the ball to Pinkston, Donovan McNabb should be okay by training camp. Whether or not he'll be showing any ill effects of the surgery to repair a sports hernia remains to be seen, but McNabb should be able to return to form for next season. Even though he's set to return, his injury put a very bright spotlight on the fact that the Eagles need to find better alternatives than Mike McMahon and Koy Detmer. The name Kurt Warner has been thrown around, but Warner may look for a situation where he would be closer to being in a starting position. Of course, with various injuries throughout his career, there are some questions about McNabb's durability, so Warner may be interested.
Then, there's the running back spot. Brian Westbrook will be healthy for next season, so he returns to be their number one back. With the emergence of Bruce Perry and Ryan Moats, the Eagles may have some decisions to make and one will regard Correll Buckhalter. Does Buckhalter return from an injury to take over as the number two back or does Perry and/or Moats move up the depth chart. Buckhalter suffered his second major knee injury in the last three years in training camp and it's likely that the Eagles won't bring him back since they have other options. Keep in mind though that Andy Reid loves Buckhalter and may look to keep him in the mix.
How much did the Eagles miss Jerome McDougle? He would have been a huge part of the defensive line that struggled so much for the Eagles this past season. McDougle was shot in the abdomen just prior to training camp last summer and missed the entire season. The latest report is that he's putting some of the weight that he lost after the shooting and returning to shape. He hopes to be in mini-camp and if not, he figures to be ready to go with the full squad when training camp starts. Trent Cole and Mike Patterson emerged on the defensive line, but Jevon Kearse didn't show himself to be the dominant player that the Eagles are looking for him to be. Defensive End N.D. Kalu may exit the Eagles and there is likely to at least be some shifting and possibly the addition of a player or two to compete for spots on the defensive line.
In the defensive backfield, J.R. Reed missed the entire season after suffering nerve damage in his leg. Odds are that he won't return in '06 either. On Monday, Andy Reid called Reed's return a "struggle" and said that he didn't figure on him being able to help.
The Eagles know that most of their injured players should be able to return, but there are always question marks about how well those players will return. Injuries like a sports hernia, ruptured Achilles tendons and gunshot wounds can take a toll on a body and the Eagles must admit to having at least some questions about those players or at least about who will take over in their spot if they're not able to return to the level of play that the birds expected before their injuries.