Philadelphia, PA. 2011 was a very difficult, challenging, and disappointing year for the Philadelphia Eagles. It ended up being a season that never lived up to expectations, and one that most of their fans would love to forget. Once the lockout was over, the Philadelphia Eagles quickly became a target, as the infamous label of “the Dream Team” was born. As the team then proceeded to sign Nnamdi Asomugha and Cullen Jenkins, they were suddenly an NFC favorite to get to the Super Bowl. The instant pressure never seemed to go away, and the team sputtered out of the gate with a 1-4 start. The Eagles never really recovered, dealt with some injuries and inconsistent play, and had to rattle off 4 straight victories at the end of the year to even finish at 8-8. So what do we make of this team one year later, with this sour experience behind them? From the looks of things, 2012 is shaping up to be the perfect storm for the Philadelphia Eagles, as all things now point directly to a division championship.
So who is to blame for the debacle that was 2011? Well, Michael Vick always seems to get his fair share. He is a very gifted, yet polarizing athlete in the world today, and for all sorts of reasons. Vick, because of his style of play, always seems at serious risk of getting hurt. In fact, in nine career NFL seasons, Michael Vick has played in all sixteen games just once. Last week, he dinged up his throwing hand in Philly’s first preseason game. He should be fine, but his detractors always point out how he can’t seem to stay on the field all year. When healthy, this guy is electric, and a game-changer. Michael Vick is one of the most unique, amazingly athletic QB’s in the history of the game. His talent level is off the charts, and the year where he puts it all together could very well be in 2012. The supporting cast of LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin are perfect fits for this offense. They are all “burners”, and when this offense is clicking, it is scary good. McCoy is possibly the most versatile back in the league right now, and he is a threat no matter where he lines up. Jackson finally got paid, and should be able to just focus on football now. There are very few players in all of the NFL who scare defenses like he does. Maclin is also an outstanding talent who does so many of the little things well. On defense, Jason Babin is simply one of the best rushers around. The addition of LB DeMeco Ryans should prove to be a huge improvement in the middle of the defense. Ryans went to two Pro Bowls as a Texan, and is still in his prime at just 28 years old. With a year under his belt as an Eagle, Nnamdi Asomugha should return to elite status and anchor the defensive backfield. This defense has all the ability to be a top 5 unit, but unlike last year, they will have to mesh and be on the same page this year. Head coach Andy Reid is entering his 14th season in Philadelphia, and is definitely on the hot seat. Some would say he has been for several years now, but the bottom line is, he truly is one of the best head coaches in the NFL.
So what about the rest of the NFC East? The defending Super Bowl champions reside here of course, as they are on everyone’s radar. Let’s not forget, the Giants finished at 9-7 in 2011, just one game ahead of Philly in the division. With all of the problems that the Eagles had last year, they still ended up at a respectable 8-8. I believe the Giants will struggle this season. They have a brutal schedule and will not find that hunger that they had at the end of last year. Then there is Dallas. The Cowboys still appear to be undisciplined, and although I think they will be better than last year, they still cannot be counted on. Washington is rebuilding, and they still need to fill several more holes before they can contend. 2012 is shaping up to finally be the year where the Philadelphia Eagles put it all together. After last year where everyone expected the world, it will prove to be a great learning experience for everyone involved. The team came together at the end of the season, as they looked like they all finally began to click. A finish of around 11-5 this season seems about right, and an NFC East division title. What do they then do in the playoffs? Health will be the key, as the talent is definitely there to end up in New Orleans in February.