In a special edition of Man Up, here's a player-by-player look at what might be in store for the Eagles' offense this year.
I'll break down the defense on Friday.
Kevin Kolb - All eyes are on him in Year 1 of the post-Donovan McNabb era. Kolb will likely have games when he looks like a rookie. And he'll likely have games where he looks like a Pro Bowler. Specifically, I'm interested to see how Kolb performs:
* in the final minutes of close games.
* in the red zone.
* when he's under constant pressure and being attacked with blitzes he's never seen before.
* when he has to bounce back. In other words, can he play three awful quarters but come up with just enough in the fourth to pull out a win?
Good thing we'll have a weekly feature to measure these things.
Michael Vick - Unlike many others, I'm not ready to say the Eagles will be doomed if Vick has to play for a prolonged period of time. I think Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg would have to change the offense pretty drastically to incorporate more throws downfield and take advantage of Vick's legs, but I think the offense could have some success that way. When Kolb's healthy, Vick will still see the field. I wonder if he could be effective as a weapon in short yardage. I am concerned with how Kolb's rhythm will be affected though.
Mike Kafka - Don't expect him to see the field. If Kolb AND Vick were to go down, the Eagles would likely pick up a veteran QB.
LeSean McCoy - To say this is his first year as The Man is a bit misleading. McCoy had twice as many rushing attempts as any other Eagle in 2009. At just 22 years old, the Eagles are counting on him to make a leap in his second season. As a receiver in '09, he averaged 7.7 yards per reception. I'd like to see him show the ability to be more of a home run threat in the passing game. Blitz pickup was OK last year, but needs improvement, especially considering how teams are likely to attack Kolb.
Leonard Weaver - The Eagles averaged 5.2 yards per carry in single-back formations and 3.1 yards per carry with two backs last year. McCoy and Weaver should benefit from having played together for a season. I don't really expect to see him have an increased role in the offense, although he showed last year he's capable of filling in when the Eagles need him as a ballcarrier.
Mike Bell - By far the biggest unknown in the Eagles' backfield. If he can stay healthy, I think Bell can play a valuable role as a complementary back to McCoy. But it's been a frustrating run for him so far.
Eldra Buckley - He snuck onto the roster in 2009 and did so again this summer. Buckley's primarily role will be special teams.
DeSean Jackson - Would you believe that he had just one more catch in 2009 than he did in 2008? The difference? Jackson averaged 18.5 yards per catch last season and had nine touchdowns (14.7 and two in 2008). It will be tough for him to average that same YPC number, but Jackson will still be one of the league's biggest deep threats, and he should set a career high in receptions.
Jeremy Maclin - He should thrive as Jackson's complement and be able to pick up yards after the catch from Kolb. I thought he overachieved a bit as a rookie after missing a good portion of training camp, though, and I don't know that Maclin is ready to make a huge leap in his second season.
Jason Avant - Great guy to have around if you're a first-year starting quarterback. Avant catches everything thrown his way and should benefit from defenses having to focus on Jackson, Maclin and Brent Celek. It'd be great to see Kolb and Avant develop a chemistry on third down.
Riley Cooper - He's the biggest unknown among the receivers. Cooper could not have been more impressive during the first part of training camp. Will the Eagles finally utilize a receiver with some size? We'll see. But only two teams ran four-receiver sets more often than the Eagles last year so Cooper should see the field. It helps that he can be a capable downfield blocker as well.
Hank Baskett - Not sure if he'll have much of a role other than special teams. Baskett will be asked to step in if one of the top four guys gets injured though, and he could get the call over Cooper in certain packages.
Brent Celek - He had a quiet preseason, but Celek should still be a monster. He gets little mention as a red-zone threat, but can be effective inside the 20. Celek had ups and downs as a blocker in 2009 and struggled in that aspect in the preseason game against the Chiefs.
Clay Harbor - Another rookie who is tough to project. Only two teams ran two tight-end sets less often than the Eagles in 2009. Given the talent at wide receiver, I'm not sure that's going to change this season. If Harbor is a major liability as a blocker early in the season, the Eagles might have to rethink their personnel. I like his potential. Harbor just seems a bit raw at this point.
Winston Justice - If he plays at the level he played at last year, Justice will be fine. But it's clear he wants to have more of an impact and be thought of as one of the better offensive tackles in the league. Don't forget - Justice has not even reached his 26th birthday. There's room to grow there.
Nick Cole - It looks like he'll begin the season as the starting right guard, but Cole will have to hold off Reggie Wells to keep things that way. Cole is a valuable player. He provides depth and can play multiple positions. The experiement at center didn't go smoothly, but the Eagles are just fine with him at right guard. It can't hurt that he had to work on making calls in Jamaal Jackson's place, either.
Reggie Wells - I won't lie and say I've watched Wells much, but he has a proven track record as a starter, which counts for something. It wouldn't surprise me to see him replace Cole or at least rotate in. Wells' flexibility helps also.
Jamaal Jackson - Jackson's the biggest unknown along the offensive line, not because of his past performance, but because he is less than nine months removed from tearing his ACL. Credit Jackson for putting in the work to get back on the field this quickly. Now we'll see what level he's able to perform at.
Mike McGlynn - If Jackson needs a breather early in the season, McGlynn will fill in at center. Not sure there's much of a role for him at guard. McGlynn seems like a valuable backup, who could eventually work himself into a starting role - either here or somewhere else.
Todd Herremans - He probably has a higher ceiling than most think. Herremans has the potential to be a Pro Bowler at guard, and the Eagles have a chance to run the ball effectively on that left side. That's assuming of course that no foot problems surface.
Max Jean-Gilles - He provides depth as an interior lineman, but with the addition of Wells, the Eagles would have to suffer significant injuries for Jean-Gilles to get onto the field.
Jason Peters - Take a second and go back to Week 9 of last season. The Eagles lost to the Cowboys, but Peters turned in an outstanding performance against DeMarcus Ware. That's the player the Eagles need him to be, but it hasn't happened on a consistent basis. Peters also led the Eagles with 11 penalties in '09. Those false starts can be drive killers, especially on third down, and especially with a young quarterback.
Austin Howard - It'll be interesting to see what happens if Peters goes down. Howard is the backup left tackle on the depth chart, but my guess is they would still slide Herremans out, considering the depth and experience at guard.
King Dunlap - The goal for him is to get better at practice during the week. I don't see much of a role for Dunlap on Sundays unless the Eagles are just decimated at tackle.
Thanks to Football Outsiders for some of the stats mentioned above.
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