When I did a Q&A with Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders before the 2009 season, he pointed out that the Eagles were very fortunate in terms of defensive injuries in 2008.
But what about last season?
The obvious injury that crippled the 'D' was Stewart Bradley tearing his ACL during training camp. Sean McDermott tried out several options to replace him, but no one was up for the job, and the Eagles were weak at middle linebacker the entire season.
The 2010 Football Outsiders Almanac takes a look at injuries league-wide to see how the 32 teams compared.
According to their numbers, the Eagles ranked 23rd in a metric called Adjusted Games Lost (AGL). The stat assigns a number to each game lost by each player, based on several different factors to gauge which teams were most devastated by injuries. Over the last three years, the Eagles rank 14th.
According to their research, the Eagles were one of the league's healthier teams on defense:
Outside of the Lisfranc injury suffered by sometimes-replacement Omar Gaither, however, the defense was again really healthy; the other nine starters (excluding Bradley) combined to miss one game.
One key factor here that the metric did not measure (at least I don't think it did) was Sheldon Brown's hamstring injury. Brown somehow still managed to start all 16 games, but he was not the same player he was earlier in the season when healthy. His injury shouldn't be undervalued.
Offensively was an entirely different story as the Eagles suffered various injuries across the board.
I took a look at where the 12 teams that made the playoffs ranked in AGL. Four of the top six teams, or four of the league's sixth healthiest teams, made the playoffs. The Jets were second, the Cowboys third, the Vikings fifth and the Cardinals sixth. The Ravens (eighth), Patriots (10th) and Packers (11th) all finished in the top half of the league also.
But there were exceptions. The two teams that played in the Super Bowl were at the bottom of the league in AGL. The Saints were 29th and the Colts were 31st, yet both teams overcame injuries to make it to the title game.
The other playoff team I left out is the Bengals (24th).
So the question I pose to you today is: Who are the players the Eagles can least afford to lose to serious injuries?
I'll get the conversation started. Offensively, I'd say Kevin Kolb is No. 1; DeSean Jackson No. 2 and probably Jason Peters No. 3. Those of you who think Michael Vick could step in and do a formidable job would disagree with me, but I think there would be a drop-off.
Jackson is an obvious choice. He's the team's biggest weapon and helps everyone else on the offense with the attention he draws.
And while Peters underperformed in 2009, he's still an above average left tackle. Part of the reason he makes the list is because of who the Eagles would have to use to replace him. Todd Herremans would have to slide over from left guard, and someone like Max Jean-Gilles would have to fill in for Herremans (at least early in the season). In other words, the Eagles would instantly be weaker at two spots along the offensive line - both on the left side.
Who am I missing? Winston Justice? Herremans? Brent Celek? Any of them belong in the discussion?
Defensively, Trent Cole is a no-brainer. He's their best pass-rusher and also very good against the run. For all the criticism Asante Samuel takes, he's right behind Cole. An injury to him would be devastating, given the Eagles lack of depth at cornerback. I would put Bradley on the list, given what we witnessed last year, but we're not sure what to expect from him at this point.
Quintin Mikell? Brodrick Bunkley? Mike Patterson? Any of them warrant consideration.
I'll let you all chime in below.