Coming off of a serious knee injury he suffered the year before, many people wondered if Donovan McNabb would be the Eagles starting quarterback at the beginning of the season and his seemingly fast recovery was encouraging at first. But after a few tough losses and a few lackluster performances, it was obvious that number five was not at 100%. Through the first half of the season, the Eagles were 3-5 and in those five losses McNabb threw more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (3), something he has rarely done in his career. He also failed to rush for more than 20 yards in any of those games and looked nothing like the multi-dimensional Pro Bowler he had been in the past. In week ten against the Redskins, a more familiar player lined up under center for Philadelphia, as McNabb finished the game completing 71% of his passes and throwing for four touchdowns, while also looking agile on seven rushes that went for 37 yards. The following game against Miami was a reality check for the Eagles, as their franchise quarterback was back to throwing passes off the mark and hanging in the pocket for much too long. McNabb completed only 3 out of 11 passes for 34 yards and threw two interceptions against the Dolphins before leaving the game with ankle and thumb injuries.
A.J. Feely, who had not seen action since last year in a meaningless week 17 game against Atlanta, replaced McNabb in the contest and the veteran back up came in and managed the game efficiently to lead the Eagles to a needed win. Feely started the next game against the Patriots and almost led Philadelphia to an upset, throwing for 345 yards and three touchdowns, but also threw three costly interceptions in the game. It did not take long for the A.J. Feely-hype to die down afterwards though, as Feely threw four more interceptions the following week in a loss to Seattle, raising his interception total to 8 in just three games played.
McNabb was back in the line up the next week and the time off he got due to injury seemed to pay dividends for the nine-year veteran signal caller. In the final four games of the season, McNabb was mobile in the pocket, accurate with his passes, and efficient when his team needed him to be, and the Eagles finished that stretch with a record of 3-1. In a gutsy week 15 win against a division leading Dallas team, McNabb rushed for 53 yards on nine attempts, both season highs. Against a Saints team fighting for a playoff spot, number five was on point with almost all of his throws the next week, completing close to 70% of his passes and throwing for three touchdowns. In the last game of the season, McNabb again completed a high percentage of his passes (70.7) and also threw for 345 yards, his second highest yardage total of the season.
Although the Eagles were once again hurt by injuries to their star quarterback this year, their franchise quarterback showed flashes of his old self and the team’s strong finish is something to be optimistic about. Trade talks involving McNabb have died down for the most part and it seems like he will be running the offense again in 2008. Feely showed that he can still be an adequate backup, but the team should not look for much more out of him. Kevin Kolb, the former Houston star who was Philadelphia’s first pick of the 2007 draft, is still a big question mark as the rookie only saw action in one game all year and did not attempt a pass.
Final Grade: C+
Andrew Pluta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.