2006 NFL Preview: The Philadelphia Eagles

Quarterback- Donovan McNabb had a horrible season in 2005, with injuries and poor performances casting doubt on his ability to take the Eagles to Super Bowl contention again. McNabb may have missed his best opportunity over the last three years to get Philadelphia back to the championship game and McNabb has been taking a pounding in the press and on the field. Look for McNabb to continue sinking into mediocrity in 2006 and for the Eagles to struggle on offense because of this development. Behind McNabb is veteran Koy Detmer, whose familiarity with Philadelphia and knowledge of Andy Reid’s system makes him an ideal reserve quarterback behind McNabb. To round out the quarterback position, the Eagles picked up Jeff Garcia to compete with Detmer and at the very least hold down the third string quarterback position. Garcia is still a good quarterback who can provide solid service in case McNabb and Detmer are injured
2006 NFL Grade: C+

Running back/ Full back- The Eagles had running back problems last year, most notably with the loss of reserve running back Correll Buckhalter in the preseason. Bryan Westbrook is a talented back but he is not capable of carrying the load for Philadelphia over an entire season. With Buckhalter back and Westbrook ready to prove himself a starting NFL running back, the Eagles should have a renewed vigor in their rushing game. However, they will get little help from the quarterback position and an injury to either one of them ruins the precarious balancing act that Andy Reid is hoping to maintain over the 2006 season.
2006 NFL Grade: B

Wide Receiver/Tight End- The tight end position is a problem for the Eagles this season, with their best options journeyman Mike Bartrum and average tight end Matt Schobel. Without a solid tight end, the rush game may falter and McNabb may not have the short route options that he will need to get out of trouble in 2006. The receiving corps is also lacking any standout players, with bit players like Greg Lewis, Reggie Brown, and Todd Pinkston attempting to play the role of play maker and rookie Jason Avant joining the squad in an attempt to provide a committee of receiving options. However, McNabb would trade all four of these guys for one Terrell Owens without the team-killing attitude.
2006 NFL Grade: C+

Offensive Line- Jon Runyan and Hank Fraley are solid offensive leaders for the Eagles but their efforts may go to waste in 2006. Along with Runyan and Fraley, Jamaal Jackson, Scott Young, and Adrien Clark will begin to develop into a cohesive unit, though the parts may not be sufficient enough to give McNabb an easy ride in 2006 nor provide whoever ends up at running back with an avenue to run. This part of the team may show the most improvement in 2006 but it may not appear that way with the poor performance of the rest of the offense.
2006 NFL Grade: B

Defensive Line- The defensive line of the Eagles will be fairly strong in 2006 as long as everyone stays healthy. Jevon Kearse will try to get back to his Tennessee Titans form in 2006 and expect a decent season from Kearse, though nothing near what his potential would indicate. To help out Kearse and Jerome McDougal, the Eagles picked up former New Orleans Saints lineman Darren Howard. Howard should provide a strong presence on the defensive line and help get in the quarterback’s face in the pass rush. But this group will not perform up to the high standards that their potentials as pro players would indicate and in 2006, this group may be the most disappointing.
2006 NFL Grade: B

Linebacker- The linebacker corps for the Eagles will probably be one of its best parts in 2006, with talented backers like Dhani Jones, Shawn Barber, Jeremiah Trotter, and Mark Simoneau all able to pass rush and stuff the run. In particular, Jones and Barber should be fairly successful this season in making plays for the Eagles defense in 2006. Trotter and Simoneau are good defensive leaders and will keep the linebacker group in line an on track but they need help from the defensive line and defensive backfield to maximize their potential.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

Defensive Back- The Eagles’ defensive backfield in 2006 should be adequate though they won’t be consistent enough to stop teams from picking them apart with short and intermediate routes. Safety Michael Lewis has developed into one of the better safeties in the NFL and will put a hard hit on receivers over the middle, but their corner back play is lacking the type of shut down ability to help Lewis with his job. Corners Lito Sheppard, Dexter Wynn, and Roderick Hood have some talent but the Eagles need a terrific performance from this group in 2006 to have any chance of winning on the defensive side of the ball. Don’t hold your breath on this group becoming prolific enough to help Andy Reid stop teams from going deep.
2006 NFL Grade: C

Kicker/Punter- Kicker David Akers will have a solid season, like usual, and give the Eagles a chance in some games to keep it close and have an opportunity to win. Akers is a reliable specialist and is one of the team leaders in Philadelphia. Punter Dirk Johnson has been a steady contributor for the Eagles and like Akers should have a good season. Johnson particularly needs to do well to get the offense out of bad field position and shift the game towards Philadelphia with deep kicks and accurate placement.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

2006 NFL Projection- The Philadelphia Eagles do not improve much over their 2005 performance, due to continued underachieving and injury. They will finish at the bottom of the NFC East division with a 5-11 or 6-10 record.

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