Eagles links: Breakout seasons for Gaither, Celek?

Every week, I will be delivering various football links that mention the Eagles from around the Internet. While philly.com's Eagles section has your best local coverage, along with blogs Eagletarian and Birds' Eye View, these will be links you may have missed.

Jeremy Green of Scouts, Inc. predicts a breakout season for Eagles linebacker Omar Gaither:

Brian Westbrook has made a couple preseason MVP-watch lists. (Getty Images)

The Eagles have revamped their linebacker unit over the past few seasons, and one of the most important developments has been Gaither's rise in the lineup. Though he piled up solid tackle numbers last season (102 total), his inability to provide more big plays was apparent (only one forced fumble and one interception). Gaither sometimes appears to lack natural football instincts, but a year of experience as the starter should improve his reaction time. Expect Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson to put more on Gaither's plate in '08, resulting in the athletic linebacker being in position to come up with more explosive plays.

SI.com's Bucky Brooks has Brian Westbrook fifth on his MVP-watch list:

The two-time Pro Bowl back led the NFL with 2,104 yards from scrimmage a season ago, and figures to play a bigger role this year with top receiver Kevin Curtis sidelined indefinitely. As the Eagles' top rusher and receiver, Westbrook's production is critical to the offense, and he will need to be spectacular for the Eagles to contend.

Brooks also puts DeSean Jackson third on his Offensive Rookie of the Year list:

The Eagles' top pick is slated to start at receiver, but he may make his biggest contributions as the team's return specialist.

Aaron Schatz of footballoutsiders.com names tight end Brent Celek one of 10 under-the-radar prospects poised to break out in 2008:

Draft experts can put together all the big boards and top-200 lists they want, but once you get into the middle rounds of the NFL draft, the talent differentiation becomes small enough from pick to pick that a player's ability to fit your system becomes more important. And thus did Celek, a tight end born to play in the West Coast offense, find his way from the University of Cincinnati to Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles. Celek is a smart route runner with outstanding hands who really opened eyes at the 2007 East-West Shrine Game. When blocking, he makes up for his lack of natural talent with competitiveness. The Eagles put the franchise tag on L.J. Smith because this year's free-agent class was low on tight ends, but he's not exactly wowing everyone with his 24.2 percent DVOA and 50 percent catch rate. Celek will get more time in 2008 and is in line to start in 2009.

ESPN.com's Matt Mosley says the Eagles' fan base is the fourth-best in the NFL:

No other team dictates a city's mood like the Eagles. It's a loyal group of fans, but don't confuse it with blind loyalty. When the Eagles play poorly, they face the wrath of the fans. That rattles some guys, but players such as Jeremiah Trotter and Brian Dawkins have thrived on that tough love. Fans of opposing teams should tread lightly in the Linc.

SI.com's Don Banks predicts a 10-6 season for the Eagles:

I like the Eagles. I really do. That three-game winning streak to end last season was no mirage, and Donovan McNabb is back to being a quarterback who can beat anyone when he's on his game. But while I don't see a glaring weakness on this roster, I just can't picture Philly's season avoiding a speed bump or two.

Banks has the Eagles making the playoffs, knocking off the Seahawks in the first round, but losing to the Saints in the divisional round.

CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco has the Eagles 10th in his power rankings:

Andy Reid will have the Eagles back to competing for a division title. Donovan McNabb will love rookie DeSean Jackson. Their division will make for wars every week.

FoxSports.com names its 10 leading candidates to win the NFC. The Eagles come in at No. 9:

The Eagles have become the fashionable pick to make a big move forward and might do so if quarterback Donovan McNabb can identify a playmate for Brian Westbrook. Things may go smoothly if rookie slot receiver DeSean Jackson is what Freddie Mitchell said Freddie Mitchell was going to be. Jackson went from supposed Heisman candidate to disappointment last year at Cal, but has looked good in make-believe NFL games. Blitz-happy Jimmie Johnson and the Philly defense added coffin corner Asante Samuel from New England and offer regular pressure off the edge with Trent Cole.

A panel of eight USA Today experts offer their predictions for the 2008 season. None of the experts pick the Eagles to win the NFC East, but six predict they'll earn a wild-card berth. Writer Skip Wood also names Westbrook as his league MVP.

Yahoo Sports'
AccuScore predicts a 9-7 record for the Eagles with a 46.7 percent chance of making the playoffs.

Peter King says ex-Eagle Artis Hicks is the player under the most pressure in September:

With the four-game suspension handed to left tackle Bryant McKinnie by the league last week, the Vikings turn to Hicks, and all he'll have to do in the next four weeks is protect the blind side of an inexperienced quarterback (Tarvaris Jackson) gimpy with a recovering knee. His blocking assignments: Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Yikes.