By: Nick Popyack
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With the offseason coming to a close and training camp right around the corner, it seems only natural to start talking about which players will start and which players will sit. The Eagles have plenty of new faces with all the trades, cuts and drafting the Eagles have done this offseason. Here are the speculated starters for the 2010 season:
2010 Projected Starters:
[*- New starter]
QB- Kevin Kolb*
The most talked about change for the Eagles this offseason has been at the quarterback position. With Donovan McNabb gone after 11 seasons, the burden of executing the offense falls on the shoulders of Kevin Kolb. Kolb will have difficulty reproducing the low interceptions totals Eagles fans grew accustomed to with McNabb [McNabb never threw more than 13 interceptions in a season], but he has something McNabb almost never had: A great supporting cast. Kolb has returning Pro Bowlers such as DeSean Jackson and Jason Peters, and an All-Pro fullback in Leonard Weaver. Other Eagles that made a significant impact last year are Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and Winston Justice. These players are high on talent but short on experience, which seems to be the theme for the 2010 Eagles team.
HB- LeSean McCoy*
Brian Westbrook also left the Eagles this offseason, a departure that was unpleasant but anticipated by most fans. Westbrook was often injured, but when he played [and was used], he was quite a weapon. As far as skill set, McCoy seems to be the same type of back that Westbrook was, just [as mentioned above] inexperienced. Running and catching the ball doesn’t seem like it’ll be an issue; the biggest thing that separates McCoy from Westbrook is blocking. Westbrook was a fantastic pass blocker, and with a new quarterback, McCoy is going to have to learn quickly how to block that blitzing linebacker. The other step towards replacing Westbrook is playing football-smart. Because the previous sentence is a grammatical nightmare, I’ll elaborate. I think every Eagles fan remembers the 2007 game against the Cowboys in which Westbrook gained league-wide respect for his intelligence and team-first spirit. Late in the game, with the Cowboys out of time outs
and the Eagles leading by four points, Brian Westbrook broke the defense and easily could have scored a touchdown with no defenders in front of him. However, the last thing the Eagles wanted to do was give the Cowboys another chance, so Westbrook famously fell down at the one yard line to allow the Eagles to run out the clock. It was an intelligent, selfless play that will be remembered for a long time, and it’s the type of behavior McCoy has to replicate. It won’t be easy.
FB- Leonard Weaver
Last year, the Eagles went out and got arguably the best fullback in the league in Leonard Weaver. After an All-Pro season, they signed him for three more years and made him the highest paid fullback in NFL history. Weaver did a great job blocking, running and receiving last year, so there’s no reason to think he won’t do just as well this year.
TE- Brent Celek
Brent Celek really emerged last year as one of the top tight ends in the league. In fact, I could have easily seen him going to the Pro Bowl if it wasn’t for a similar statistical explosion in San Fransisco’s Vernon Davis. Regardless, Celek, much like Weaver, looks like he’ll only improve. The real issue at tight end is: Who will be the second tight end? The Eagles are hoping Cornelius Ingram can bounce back from injury, but he hasn’t played football since 2007. If he doesn’t work out, they’ll likely try their luck with Clay Harbor, the rookie.
WR- DeSean Jackson
This one is pretty simple. DeSean Jackson is arguably the most explosive receiver in the league today, and he’s only entering his third year. Of course, with all the recognition he’s gotten around the league, teams are sure to guard against him more, so how he adjusts to being in the spotlight will dictate how well he does in ’10.
WR- Jeremy Maclin
Jeremy Maclin entered the 2009 with many other talented rookie wide receivers. Still, he managed to put himself as one of the best new receivers last year by logging top-3 numbers in receptions and receiving yards for rookie wide outs. He’ll continue to improve by being a full-time starter in the Eagles’ offense this year. For the third wide receiver, the Eagles will likely stay with Jason Avant, while giving Hank Baskett reps as well.
LT- Jason Peters
Jason Peters had a productive year, but can certainly improve in many areas. Philly fans will recall many a false start penalty and a few too many holding calls went his way. While he earned the only Pro Bowl honors of all the Eagles offensive linemen, he didn’t deserve it in my opinion. He’s good, but he has a lot of improving to do.
LG- Todd Herremans
Todd Herremans’ injury last year forced the Eagles to have an odd offensive line rotation. The guard position didn’t start to stabilize until Herremans returned to action. Herremans has been a great starter for the Eagles and will likely have another great season.
C- Nick Cole*
Much of the reason for the Eagles’ decline at the end of last season was due to the injury to Jamaal Jackson. Nick Cole was then thrust into quite an undesirable position and had to defend against Dallas’s Jay Ratliff, one of the most feared nose tackles in the league. The Eagles’ season ended on one of the lowest notes under Andy Reid. With Jackson likely out for the majority of the [if not entire] 2010 season, center duties will likely fall on Nick Cole. While Cole didn’t have a good end of the season, I think he will do better with a training camp’s worth of preparation. However, if he can’t get the job done, the Eagles have few other options. Definitely the area of most concern on their offense other than quarterback.
RG- Max Jean-Gilles*
The right guard position is the most unclear position on the entire Eagles’ offense. Stacy Andrews was brought in last year to not only solidify the line but also help his brother play. However, Shawn Andrews didn’t play a single down for the Eagles and is no longer on the team. Stacy was injured early and often, and the team forced him to take a pay cut just to stay on the team. That alone should show how little faith the Eagles have in Andrews. Max Jean-Gilles started ten games for the injured Shawn Andrews in 2008, and started 5 this past year in the strange offensive line rotation the Eagles had going. Much like center, the Eagles have few other options to go with. The right guard position will likely be filled by Jean-Gilles or Andrews if he’s healthy.
RT- Winston Justice
Perhaps the biggest surprise last year was Winston Justice’s reemergence. With Shawn Andrews lost again due to injury, Justice stepped into the starting right tackle spot and never looked back. I’ll admit that I had more or less written him off after an infamous start in 2007 in which the Eagles allowed the Giants to sack McNabb 13 times. However, he had arguably the best season of any Eagles’ offensive linemen, and looks to have another stellar season.
The Eagles have many returning stars, but new faces in very important positions: Center, quarterback, and halfback. What the returning players lack in experience, they make up for in talent and potential. I’m high on what the Eagles can do on offense, but their defense is really what will dictate their success in 2010.
I’ll post the projected defensive starters next week.
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