Over the last couple of months, I've been asked to answer a few questions about the Eagles for various sites/publications that are previewing the 2010 season.
And the same general question continues to come up, so I thought I'd answer it here: What is the Eagles' biggest concern?
For our purposes, I picked one on offense and one on defense. Here's my take as we stand a week away from the Birds' first practice at Lehigh.
This one was pretty simple for me: the interior of the offensive line. Left guard, center and right guard can be summarized with the following three questions:
1. Is Todd Herremans' foot OK?
2. Can Nick Cole be good enough at center with an offseason's worth of practices under his belt?
3. Can Stacy Andrews be counted on?
Let's start with the first question. I know Herremans says his foot is fine, but I need to see it. There was obviously some reason why he didn't participate in OTAs at the NovaCare Complex and had to see a specialist. When he's on the field, Herremans is one of the Eagles' most dependable linemen. He's not only being counted on to start at left guard, but remember, if Jason Peters goes down at left tackle, Herremans would likely slide over as his replacement.
As for the second question, if you're a frequent reader, you know what I think. I think the answer is yes. Will he be as good as Jamaal Jackson? No. But I still think Cole beats out Mike McGlynn and is the starting center. During camp, he'll need to get the basics down with Kevin Kolb. The last thing the Eagles need the first month of the season is a botched snap or two that adds to their turnover total. The other key for Cole is to study and learn what to look for so he can direct the line's blocking schemes. If he can pick those things up, I think he'll be OK.
And finally, Andrews at right guard. I'm not even going to try to give you a guess here. Andrews has to show he's a completely different player than the guy the Eagles benched after awarding him a $39M contract. The fact that the Eagles reportedly were ready to cut Andrews if he didn't restructure his deal, along with the evidence of them showing more confidence in Max Jean-Gilles at the end of last season, tells me they're not sold on the idea that he'll bounce back.
You can really make a case for any of several different areas on D. But to me, it's the secondary. If you believe the coaching staff and front office, Ellis Hobbs is the odds-on favorite to start opposite Asante Samuel at cornerback. But I'm not convinced they'll open the season that way. Joselio Hanson will get a shot to win the job, while Macho Harris and rookie Trevard Lindley go into camp having to prove themselves.
On the other side, whether you like or diskile Samuel and his style of play, he's not much of a question mark. The Eagles know what they're going to get from him.
But at safety, it's another story. Rookie Nate Allen enters camp as the starter, but he's yet to agree to terms on a contract. At OTAs, Allen seemed like he had the smarts to pick things up quickly, but every practice at Lehigh will be important for him. Remember what camp was like for LeSean McCoy last year? Expect a similar situation for Allen. If he's not up to the task, the Eagles will turn to Quintin Demps.
And finally, there's Quintin Mikell. Whether he was ready or not, Mikell was the quarterback on D a year ago. The Eagles gave up 27 touchdowns through the air (only seven teams allowed more), and there was general confusion throughout.
The fault is certainly not all on Mikell. The Birds need more production from their blitzes, better communication and more pressure from their front four. But Mikell's role remains key, especially with two new starters lining up in the starting secondary.
That's my take on the biggest concerns. Feel free to chime in below with what you think.