Couldn't agree more. Berman is one of the top 10 (wait...let's double check ESPN's roster...), top 5 talents ESPN has. In fact, I propose a White House petition to bring back, back, back, back, back the Berman/Jackson NFL Primetime.
RB Lorenzo Booker, FB/TE Kris Wilson, FB Luke Lawton, DE Chris Clemons, DT Dan Klecko, OLB Rocky Boiman, CB Asante Samuel, P Richmond McGee.
WR/KR DeSean Jackson, OT King Dunlap, G/OT Mike McGlynn, G Mike Gibson, DT Trevor Laws, DE Andrew Studebaker, DE/OLB Bryan Smith, ILB Joe Mays, CB Jack Ikegwuonu, S Quintin Demps.
FB Thomas Tapeh, FB Luke Lawton, DE Jevon Kearse, DT LaJuan Ramsey, DT Kimo von Oelhoffen, OLB Takeo Spikes, CB William James-Peterson, KR Reno Mahe.
2008 Philadelphia Eagles Offense:
I'll never understand Andy Reid. He runs a pass-happy offense, yet refuses to obtain quality receivers. He seemingly respects the value of cornerbacks (based on how much money he gave Asante Samuel), yet disregards the position that corners are supposed to cover. The one year he had an elite wide out on the squad, his offense was its most efficient during his tenure in Philadelphia. Yet, Reid never did anything to give Donovan McNabb the second true No. 1 option of his nine-year career.
All Philadelphians can do is moan and complain at this point. But I think they're getting used to it. After Charles Johnson, Torrance Small, Na Brown, James Thrash, Todd Pinkston, Antonio Freeman, Freddie Mitchell and Billy McMullen, Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown don't seem that bad.
Curtis actually put up respectable numbers in 2007, as he recorded 1,110 yards and six touchdowns. However, the bulk of those numbers came in three games against the Lions, Jets and Seahawks. Take away those contests, and Curtis had just 657 yards and one score on the year. But my beef isn't with Curtis, as he's a solid No. 2 playing as a No. 1 for a man who hates receivers. The guy supposed to be the top wide out is Brown, who managed 61 catches, 780 yards and four touchdowns. Like Curtis, Brown was inconsistent; there were six games where he recorded two or less receptions.
So, what did the Eagles do to upgrade their receiving corps? Well, they say they tried to sign Randy Moss, and attempted to trade for Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Chad Johnson and Roy Williams. Call me a skeptic, but I don't really believe Reid put much effort into those avenues. Instead, he drafted DeSean Jackson in the second round of April's draft. Jackson is a lightning-quick wide out, but at a mere 168 pounds, he's going to have major problems staying healthy and getting off the line of scrimmage in press coverage. But Eagles fans should be used to that; Curtis and Brown both had the same issue last year. I really have no idea why Philadelphia didn't draft a larger receiver, but there is hope. If the Lions start out 1-4, Reid could package something together for Roy Williams.
That's one thing Eagles fans need to count on to have a playoff season in 2008. Another is McNabb's health. Coming off a torn ACL, McNabb really struggled during the early stages of the year, but finally looked sharp toward the end. In December, McNabb registered six touchdowns and one just interception, an average of 248.8 yards per game, and a completion percentage of 65.3 (much higher than his seasonal figure of 61.5).
Despite bogus shoulder tendinitis rumors, McNabb is completely healthy - for now. The fact remains that McNabb hasn't played a full season since 2004. He'll be celebrating his 32nd birthday on Nov. 25, so it's only natural that he'll become more brittle each passing year. That said, if Reid acquires someone like Roy Williams, and McNabb stays healthy the entire campaign, I could see the Eagles' long-time signal caller emulate Steve McNair's 2004 MVP season.
But Williams is nothing more than a pipe dream. Luckily, McNabb has Brian Westbrook, one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the entire league. In his sixth season, Westbrook totaled 1,333 rushing yards, 90 receptions, 771 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He literally carried the Eagles until McNabb finally recovered from his torn ACL in December. In fact, I argued that if Philadelphia qualified for the playoffs, Westbrook should have been named MVP.
Of course, Westbrook won't be carrying the ball 300 times. The power-back duties will be up to Correll Buckhalter or Tony Hunt. Buckhalter, who gained five yards per carry in 2007, currently has the edge because of Hunt's inability to pick up blitzes. If Hunt learns that art, it should be interesting to see who wins that battle. Newly acquired Lorenzo Booker is more of a scat back like Westbrook, so he figures to be on the roster no matter what happens.
The Eagles were able to be so successful on the ground because of an offensive line that run blocks extremely well. The star on the front is right guard Shawn Andrews, one of the most dominant players at his position in the entire league. Right tackle Jon Runyan is also great at creating running lanes.
Unfortunately, while the group did wonders with the ground game, it struggled to pass protect, surrendering a whopping 49 sacks in 2007. The problem? Both tackles are just too old to deal with quicker pass rushers. William Tra Thomas turns 34 in November. Runyan becomes 35 the same month. If either gets hurt, Andrews may have to move outside because Winston Justice is just not NFL material.
That'll be a problem because the Eagles don't have much at guard beyond Andrews either. Reid criticized the play of left guard Todd Herremans, so Scott Young and Max Jean-Gilles will get a chance to start. Meanwhile, center Jamaal Jackson is adequate, but definitely not a strength. It was apparent that Reid was ready to select Jeff Otah with the 19th overall selection in April's draft before accepting a blockbuster offer from Carolina. The Eagles will definitely be hunting for a top-tier tackle in the 2009 NFL Draft, as both Thomas and Runyan become free agents next spring.
Despite pass-blocking issues on the offensive line, the Eagles can become a top-10 offense with a legitimate No. 1 receiver. Given Reid's history, getting one doesn't seem like a realistic possibility.
2008 Philadelphia Eagles Defense:
Much to the chagrin of Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, the Eagles made headlines this offseason by signing All-Pro corner Asante Samuel to a 6-year, $57.1 million deal. On the surface, the acquisition seems a bit confusing, given that Sheppard and Brown are regarded by many as Pro Bowl-caliber corners. However, Sheppard is too injury-prone and unreliable to be a starter. He has missed 14 games the past three seasons and was limited in other contests.
With the move, Sheppard is on the bench. As you can imagine, he's not too happy. First, he declared that he's displeased with his contract. Next, he skipped out on some workouts. Now, he's telling the coaching staff he wants to play receiver. I don't see him holding out, so he'll have to play nickel the whole year unless he gets traded to someone like the Lions in a previously mentioned scenario.
When Samuel signed with the Eagles, I actually assumed Sheppard would remain the starter and Brown would move to free safety. That would be the logical move, but Brown apparently doesn't want to play that position. Looks like Philadelphia has two disgruntled corners to deal with.
Brown would be a good fit at free safety because incumbent Brian Dawkins turns 35 in October. A future Hall-of-Famer and fan-favorite, Dawkins is unfortunately past his prime. He missed six games with a neck injury in 2007. As for strong safety, Quintin Mikell took over for the ineffective Sean Considine late in the year. Mikell was an improvement, but this is a position that should have been upgraded this offseason.
Luckily, the Eagles' front seven will be able to make up for some of the inadequate play from the the safety slots. There's no doubt the team will be able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Trent Cole, a relentless right end, notched 12 sacks last year. Philadelphia signed Chris Clemons as a situation pass-rusher this offseason. Clemons had eight sacks in 2007, but will only see action on long-yardage situations. The same goes for Juqua Parker-Thomas, who has 11 sacks the past two years.
Victor Abiamiri will be the starting left end in Philadelphia's base formation. Abiamiri saw limited action in six contests last season, but the fact remains that he's the only true left end on the Eagles' roster. I felt Andy Reid should have pulled the trigger on Jared Allen (the same trade the Vikings made) because his squad lacks a legitimate every-down defensive end. The Eagles will be able to get away with their deep rotation, but they could have been so much more dominant with Allen starting across from Cole.
Philadelphia's defensive forte was stopping the run last season, as it was ranked seventh in that department. Eagles fans can thank their two stout defensive tackles, Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson. Bunkley is a dominant force versus the run, but can also get to the quarterback (three sacks). Patterson chipped in with four sacks of his own, though he had to deal with reckless driving charges this offseason. Rookie Trevor Laws will be in the mix as a rotational player, even though Reid seldom utilizes first-year athletes.
Bunkley, Patterson and Laws offer solid protection for Philadelphia's solid linebacking corps. Manning the middle is Stewart Bradley, who barely saw action as a rookie until very late in the year. That said, Bradley was amazing when he got the chance, as he looked like a superstar in the making. He'll be an every-down player as a first-year starter. Meanwhile, Chris Gocong found a home at strongside linebacker in 2007. I still say Gocong is a better fit for a 3-4 defense, but he played well last season. Omar Gaither, who was in the middle of the corps last year, will be at the weakside position in 2008. He's very good at getting to the quarterback, and will be asked to blitz often.
Most people don't realize the Eagles ranked ninth defensively in 2007. With the signing of Samuel, and the maturation of young players like Cole, Bunkley, Bradley, Gaither and Gocong, a top-five standing is attainable. The safety position remains the team's lone defensive liability.
2008 Philadelphia Eagles Schedule and Intangibles:
Philadelphia's special-teams unit was an abomination last season. That includes David Akers, who was just 2-of-10 from 40-plus. Age is an issue, as Akers turns 34 in December.
Save Rocca was just OK and very far from spectacular; he maintained a punting average of 42 and hit just 24-of-73 attempts inside the opposing 20.
Meanwhile, the return game was dismal. In fact, the only reason the Eagles lost to the Packers in the season opener was because the Eagles muffed about half a dozen punts. They signed Reno Mahe the following week, who was safe but never a threat to go the distance. DeSean Jackson is. The lightning-quick rookie from Cal will give Philadelphia a dimension it has lacked since Brian Mitchell was on the roster.
Eagles fans should thank the schedule-maker. While the six NFC East games will be tough, the team should be able to beat up on St. Louis, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Arizona.
2008 Philadelphia Eagles Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2008 Philadelphia Eagles Analysis: With a healthy Donovan McNabb, an improved defense and a very manageable schedule, the Eagles have a good shot at making the playoffs. However, they won't become a Super Bowl contender until they acquire a legitimate No. 1 receiver. It's that simple.
Projection: 9-7 (3rd in NFC East)
2008 Fantasy Football Rankings:
Donovan McNabb: Give Donovan McNabb an elite No. 1 receiver, and he can throw for about 3,900 yards and 32 touchdowns. The problem is McNabb doesn't have anyone like Terrell Owens or Roy Williams by his side. He doesn't even have a Donte' Stallworth. Excluding that 2004 campaign, McNabb's career seasonal highs are 3,365 yards and 25 touchdowns. Not exactly anything to get excited about - especially from an injury-prone quarterback.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 3,200 passing yards. 21 passing TDs. 225 rushing yards. 2 rushing TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 320.
Brian Westbrook: If I have the No. 2 pick in my fantasy leagues, I'm taking Brian Westbrook. No questions asked. (See the Adrian Peterson write-up as to why I'm avoiding him). I was in five leagues last year. I qualified for the semi-finals in three and the championship in two. I won one of those. Guess who carried that squad? Westbrook totaled 2,104 total yards and 12 touchdowns. As for the injury-prone tags? Ignore them. Every single top-tier runner has injury issues, and Westbrook has missed just two games the previous two seasons.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 1,225 rushing yards. 700 receiving yards. 11 total TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 258.
L.J. Smith: One of the most overrated players in the NFL, the oft-injured L.J. Smith often disappears and usually can't catch a cold. I have no idea why the Eagles franchised him.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 500 receiving yards. 3 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 68.
Kevin Curtis: Sure, Kevin Curtis tallied 1,110 receiving yards and six touchdowns, but most of that production came in just three games. Take away strong performances against the Jets, Lions and Seahawks, and Curtis had just 657 yards and one score on the year. That type of inconsistency is pretty scary if Curtis is on your fantasy roster. If you do have him, make sure to sit him against defenses playing press-man coverage. Curtis is small and can't get off the line of scrimmage.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 875 receiving yards. 4 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 111.
Reggie Brown: The Eagles love to spread the ball around, so I wouldn't expect monstrous numbers from Reggie Brown, even though Andy Reid insists that he's the No. 1 receiver. Like Kevin Curtis, Brown is a small-framed wide out who struggles against press-man coverage.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 800 receiving yards. 5 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 110.
DeSean Jackson: Another small Eagles receiver. What else is new? DeSean Jackson won't have much success as a receiver in his rookie campaign.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 250 receiving yards. 1 TD.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 31.
David Akers: So much for being one of the top kickers in football. David Akers hasn't hit 80 percent of his field goals since 2004. Even worse, he was 2-of-10 from 40-plus last season. Ouch.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 21-29 FG (1-4 50+). 39 XP.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 115.
Philadelphia Defense: The Eagles lack talent at safety, but other than that, they have one of the top defenses in football. They can pressure the quarterback, which will allow Asante Samuel, Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard to accumulate tons of picks.
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Top 10 Defense.
2008 NFL Draft Grade:
Any time you can get a future No. 1 pick from an average or terrible team, you have to pull the trigger. The Eagles could be drafting in the top 10 next year ... Trevor Laws and DeSean Jackson are talented second-rounders, but I have issues with both selections (more on that in the next section) ... Philadelphia drafted well in the middle of Day 2, acquiring Mike McGlynn, who can play multiple positions on the front, and Quintin Demps, who is talented enough to take over for Brian Dawkins soon ... Jack Ikegwuonu is a second-round talent who dropped to 131 because he allegedly stole an XBOX. A tip for all Philadelphians: If you go to one of his autograph sessions, don't bring your Game Boy ... Andrew Studebaker could be a major steal at No. 203. More importantly, he'll spell the end for the anemic Darren Howard.
Trevor Laws is a talented player, but why didn't the Eagles draft for need in the second round? Where is Laws going to play with Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson in front of him? As for DeSean Jackson, the Eagles finally found a talented kick returner, but at what cost? Jackson is 5-9, 168. If you thought Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown had problems getting off the line of scrimmage, you haven't seen anything yet. A large receiver like Limas Sweed would have been a much better fit. Instead Andy Reid took his chances with another small Pac-10 wideout ... Did the Eagles announce Bryan Smith as a defensive end? He's only 225 pounds. If not, where does he fit into the linebacking corps? He seemed like a reach at No. 80 ... Why did Andy Reid take 5000 offensive linemen on Day 2?
Grade give on 4/28/08: B+
2008 NFL Draft Picks:
47. Trevor Laws, DT, Notre Dame
I like Trevor Laws a lot, but where's he going to play? Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson are pretty solid. Why draft Laws? This doesn't seem to make sense. I'm making this a B, however, because Philadelphia acquired Carolina's 2009 first-round pick, which could be in the top 10. Also, look for the Eagles to trade one of their first-rounders and Lito Sheppard for a receiver once we're past the June 1 deadline. (Pick Grade: B)
49. DeSean Jackson, WR, California
How many small receivers do you need? Seriously. The biggest problem Philadelphia's offense had last year was that Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown couldn't get off the line of scrimmage against press coverage. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the 168-pound DeSean Jackson will have the same problem. Limas Sweed would have been the better pick. Jackson only makes sense as a kick returner. (Pick Grade: C)
80. Bryan Smith, OLB, McNeese State
A reach, and not really a need. Still, Bryan Smith isn't a terrible choice. (Pick Grade: C)
109. Mike McGlynn, G/OT, Pittsburgh
I knew the Eagles were going to take an offensive lineman early on Sunday. Mike McGlynn is a solid blocker who can play multiple positions. Good move. (Pick Grade: A)
117. Quintin Demps, FS, UTEP
Major steal - Quintin Demps was a second-round prospect on some boards. The Eagles addressed a position of need, as Brian Dawkins doesn't have much left in the tank. (Pick Grade: A)
131. Jack Ikegwuonu, CB, Wisconsin
Guard your Super Nintendos and Ataris closely, Philadelphians! Jack Ikegwuonu is on the prowl! Ikegwuonu, once a first-round prospect, got in trouble for allegedly stealing an XBOX. Not an XBOX 360; a simple XBOX. What a dumb (alleged) thief. If he took a 360, he would have been drafted in the second round. (Pick Grade: B)
184. Mike Gibson, G, California
Another lineman for Andy Reid. No surprise here. Eric Young would have been a better choice, but I have no problem with Mike Gibson. (Pick Grade: B)
200. Joe Mays, ILB, North Dakota State
No issues here - the Eagles have no depth at middle linebacker. I had Joe Mays in the seventh round, so this isn't a reach. (Pick Grade: B)
203. Andrew Studebaker, DE, Wheaton
A potential late-round gem. This probably spells the end for Darren Howard in Philadelphia. (Pick Grade: A)
230. King Dunlap, OT, Auburn
And yet another buddy for Reid to go on cheesesteak runs with. King Dunlap is a bargain though; I had him pegged as a fifth-round prospect. (Pick Grade: A)
The Eagles were a real-life soap opera in 2007. From Donovan McNabb blogging about the lack of weapons at his disposal to Andy Reid's spoiled brats getting arrested in the suburbs for dealing drugs and pointing guns at old women amid playing tennis and golf tournaments, Philadelphia was mired in controversy the entire season. Well, at least Terrell Owens didn't park in Reid's parking spot again.
Eagles cut FB Luke Lawton
Eagles cut DT LaJuan Ramsey
Eagles receive FB Luke Lawton from the Colts for a conditional 2009 pick
Eagles receive RB Lorenzo Booker from the Dolphins for a 4th-round pick
Eagles sign P Richmond McGee
Eagles re-sign TE L.J. Smith
Eagles re-sign CB Joselio Hanson
Eagles sign FB/TE Kris Wilson
Eagles sign OLB Rocky Boiman
Eagles sign DT Dan Klecko
Eagles cut OLB Takeo Spikes
Eagles sign DE Chris Clemons
Eagles sign CB Asante Samuel
Eagles re-sign S J.R. Reed (1 year)
Eagles cut DE Jevon Kearse
Possession Wide Receiver: Kevin Curtis did a great job for the Eagles, catching 77 passes for 1,110 yards last season. However, he and Reggie Brown are small receivers (both weigh less than 200 pounds), and thus had problems getting off the line of scrimmage in press coverage. Donovan McNabb talked about needing another weapon, so Reid should supply him with a massive wide out. Unless Malcolm Kelly falls to them at No. 19, there should be one available in the third or fourth round (Jordy Nelson).
Offensive Tackle: Osi Umenyiora completely humiliated Winston Justice, as the Giants garnered 12 sacks on McNabb in a Week 4 tilt. Justice clearly isn't left tackle material, so the Eagles have to look for one in the upcoming draft. It's possible that Chris Williams could be theirs at No. 19 overall. Drafted Mike McGlynn and King Dunlap
Defensive End: The Eagles need a pass rusher across from Trent Cole, who had 12 sacks in 2007. With Jevon Kearse and Darren Howard likely to be cut, another end would help with Philadelphia's depth issues at the position. Signed Chris Clemons; drafted Bryan Smith and Andrew Studebaker
Tight End: I have no idea why Philadelphia franchised L.J. "Hands of Stone" Smith. A bust, Smith is only good at getting injured and dropping easy passes. The Eagles should be completely embarrassed that they drafted Smith instead of Jason Witten a few years ago, and have not yet rid themselves of the Rutgers alumnus. I was disappointed in their franchising of Smith because that means they will probably not pursue Fred Davis, Martin Rucker or another rookie tight end in April. Re-signed L.J. Smith; signed Kris Wilson
Two Cornerbacks: What the Eagles actually need to fix is the free safety position, but acquiring a starting corner would allow Jim Johnson to move Sheldon Brown to free safety. The Eagles also must acquire another corner for depth purposes. Luckily, this draft class is deep at that position. Going after Nnamdi Asomugha wouldn't be a bad idea either. Signed CB Asante Samuel; drafted Quintin Demps and Jack Ikegwuonu; re-signed Joselio Hanson
Strong Safety: Sean Considine is fine as a reserve, but that's all he is. As a starter, he's one of the worst the NFL has to offer. Craig Steltz will be available in Round 3.
Kick Returner: The only reason Philadelphia lost to the Green Bay Packers the first week of the season was because the team fumbled two punt returns. Had the Eagles won that game, they probably would have qualified for the "Doggone Playoff." They signed Reno Mahe off the street, but he's not a scoring threat. Drafted DeSean Jackson
The Eagles may franchise the King of the Dropped Pass, which would be a huge mistake. The injury-prone L.J. Smith is nothing more than a backup tight end in this league.
Takeo Spikes, OLB. Age: 31. Signed with 49ers
Can't say I understand why the Eagles cut Takeo Spikes. He wasn't a great player by any means, but he could have been a solid reserve in 2008.
Jevon Kearse, DE. Age: 32. Signed by Titans (2 years, $6 million)
Jevon Kearse could be a solid pass-rusher in a deep rotation, but his days as a starter are clearly finished.
Thomas Tapeh (RFA), FB. Age: 28. - Signed with Vikings
LaJuan Ramsey, DT. Age: 24. - Signed with 49ers
Reno Mahe, KR. Age: 28.
William James-Peterson, CB. Age: 29. - Signed with Bills (2 years)
Luke Lawton, FB. Age: 28. - Signed with Raiders
Kimo von Oelhoffen, Eagles. Age: 37.
Divisional Rival History: Dallas Cowboys: The Eagles usually dominate their divisional opponents. They've won 12 of the past
16 matchups against the Cowboys, including a sweep in 2006 and a stunning upset late in the 2007 season. New York Giants: The Giants swept the Eagles last season, probably because their defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, used to work with Philadelphia and was very familiar with its offensive and defensive schemes. Washington Redskins: Pure domination. The Eagles have claimed nine of the past 11 battles.