As Sunday inches closer, I pose this question to the MTC faithful: What is the bigger concern for the 2009 season? The Eagles' offense? Or defense?
Here are arguments for both sides. You know the whole optimist/pessimist feature we do from time to time? Consider this the 'pessimist' part only.
And be sure to vote in the accompanying poll.
The offense: You can add all the weapons you want, but if the offensive line can't protect Donovan McNabb or open holes for the running backs, it really doesn't matter who the Eagles have at the skill positions. Their starting right tackle, Shawn Andrews, has seen no preseason game action and is playing a new position. Their starting left guard, Todd Herremans, will miss the early part of the season. And you have two new parts in left tackle Jason Peters and right guard Stacy Andrews. Continuity is important here, and there's no predicting how the Eagles' offensive line will mesh early in the season.
Greater concern: Eagles' offense or defense?
At quarterback, we know what we're getting with Donovan McNabb at this point in his career. But can he once again stay healthy for the entire schedule?
Depth is also a concern. At tight end, has Brent Celek shown enough improvement as a blocker? If he goes down, the only other TE on the roster is Tony Curtis, a player that nobody in the league wanted on their roster as recently as two weeks ago.
And finally, the Brian Westbrook question. He's been a fan favorite for years, but turned 30 last week. By all accounts, he looks healthy and has passed all of Andy Reid's tests, but is Westbrook game-ready? He's shouldered the load for the offense for years. How much has that taken a toll on his body? And how many games can we realistically expect him to play this season? Behind him, you have LeSean McCoy. He was impressive during camp, but can he really be counted on as a full-time player if Westbrook goes down? Especially as a blocker?
The defense: Let's start at the top. Leadership is a major question. No Brian Dawkins. And no Jim Johnson. There wasn't one player who emerged in this role during the preseason, although Quintin Mikell seems like the most logical candidate.
Middle linebacker and safety could be the biggest questions on the entire roster. Several players had chances to establish themselves during camp, but it appears the coaching staff is still scrambling to fill those two positions. Omar Gaither gets the nod at LB, but let's not forget this is a guy who has lost his job in consecutive seasons. Macho Harris is the starter at safety. A rookie who will step in and see guys like DeAngelo Williams, Steve Smith, Drew Brees and Marques Colston on the other side of the ball in the first two weeks. In other words, we'll know pretty soon whether he's up to the challenge.
Overall, does this unit have enough playmakers? Asante Samuel comes to mind, although the Eagles would like to see him drop fewer interceptions. Trent Cole is a difference-maker, but other than those two, does the Eagles' defense have enough guys who make things happen?
Those are the questions facing a unit that returns nine of 11 starters.