2012 NFL Diaries: Will The Philadelphia Eagles Rebound Part Deux

With the 2012 NFL season right around the corner I find myself thinking daily about America’s new national pastime, so I thought why not turn it into a recurring feature on the site? So as you sit back and enjoy the end of the summer hopefully on a beach or somewhere on vacation and let’s get ready for some football! 

As stated in part 1 of this column: The Eagles front office made a bunch of necessary resignings in the offseason, but the two most important took place on the offensive side of the ball.

Unlike the Ravens, Bears, and Jaguars the Eagles didn’t wait for their young star running back’s contract to hit either franchise tag territory, or the let’s sign him at the last minute so we don’t have to worry about his performance all season scenario. Signing Shady until 2017 was a mandatory move because he has the potential to be not just the next Brian Westbrook, but the next Barry Sanders (yes I just jinxed him).

The most important offseason resigning was the five year contract that DeSean Jackson inked his name to back in March even though 2011 was the worst season in Jackson’s four year tenure in the NFL (bolded numbers are career highs):

2011: 15 games, 58 receptions, 961 yards, 4 touchdowns, 16.6 yards per reception, 64.1 yards per game

2010: 14 games, 47 receptions, 1056 yards, 6 touchdowns, 22.1 yards per reception (lead league), 75.4 yards per game (voted to the pro bowl)

2009: 15 games, 63 receptions, 1167 yards, 18.5 yards per reception, 9 touchdowns, 77.8 yards per game (voted to the pro bowl)

2008: 16 games, 62 receptions, 912 yards, 14.7 yards per reception, 2 touchdowns, 57.0 yards per game

(courtesy of pro-football-reference.com)

More stats! Last season Jackson had by my account seven dud games (a dud game for a receiver = less than four catches for under 50 yards and no touchdowns). In 2010 and 2009 Jackson had four dud games and in 2008 he only had three.

Last season it appeared that the speedster was going to be shown the door at the end of the season because as my friend Jeff says, no one wins a contract dispute with the Eagles, however Andy Reid realized that if Jackson walked he would have lost his biggest home run threat. Make no mistake about it Reid loves the idea of letting Vick launch a Vortex like pass to Jackson. It’s like putting a turdukin in front of John Madden, when a man loves something you let him have it!

With DeSean now a happy camper I expect this season to have vibes of his 2009 season when he set multiple career highs and led the league in yards per reception. I don’t think there’s anyone who will question that last year Jackson didn’t exactly give it his all and how can you blame him? The Dunta Robinson hit in 2010 not only knocked him out, it made him realize that at any point his football life could end. Those fat game checks wouldn’t be coming in anymore and all of a sudden he would be a 25 year old with more money than he knows what to do with, we’ve seen how much disaster that recipe can cause.

Why was he going to bust his ass for a team that wouldn’t commit to him long term? He wasn’t! Hence all of the drops last season on passes that he had caught in the past. The footsteps of defenders grew louder and louder as the sound of the bank teller saying “thank you for your deposit, is there anything else I can do for you Mr.Jackson” grew softer. At the end of the day we as fans need to remember that sports are just a GIANT business for everyone involved and that includes the players. That’s why the contract year theory has validity to it every season. It’s why some players don’t give it their all when their team needs it. Some guys are just wired in a way that we as fans don’t understand because we would kill for the opportunity to give up our mediocre paying job to do what they do, but how many fans if given the opportunity to play a professional sport would act the same as DeSean did last season. I guarantee you quite a bit would reconsider busting their ass week in and week out if long term money wasn’t guaranteed.

Sorry for the rant, now where were we?

With Jackson back on the bus, it’s time for Jeremy Maclin to have that breakout year for not only his fantasy owners, but for the city that wants to believe in the first round pick in 2009 from Missouri. A 80/1200/10 season seems like a real possibility this year because he has had a full offseason to heal from a bunch of irritating injuries until a “nagging” hamstring appeared in camp (the injury is minor and he returned to camp on Aug 12th). There has been no sign of that mysterious training camp virus that affected his body into the beginning of the season (the virus was gone, but the affects of it wore down his body quite a bit and he didn’t have enough time to get 100% before the season started). The trio of Maclin, Jackson, and Brent Celek could be dangerous IF they all stay healthy.

Obvious statement alert!

This team goes as far as Michael Vick can take them, after all it is a quarterback league and a team’s success and failure revolves around what kind of performance the signal caller provides each week. Let’s compare  this offseason to the nightmare team last year.

Vick was eerily close to giving this team the proverbial Vince Young kiss of death this season when his dynasty comment began to gain some momentum in the national media. But thanks to Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning ESPN didn’t have a chance to blow up the story to a point that it became an unbearable First Take segment. Vick’s dynasty comment was buried and forgotten about, which is the exact opposite of what happened with Young’s dream team comment last season. Score: 2012: 1 2011: 0

Is this the year that Vick plays all 16 games for just the second time in his career? I want to say yes, but with the way that the injury bug follows Vick I find it hard to believe that he’ll play every game this season, which will leave the team in some trouble because Mike Kafka doesn’t look like an NFL QB at this point. Rookie Nick Foles could be a viable backup if number seven goes down for a game or two this season due to his rave camp reviews from offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Even though Vince Young doomed the 2011 season, he did win a key Sunday night game on the road against the Giants. Score 2012: 1 2011: 1

One of the offseason statements that I think holds a lot of validity is the idea that this is really Vick’s first offseason as a starting quarterback since his time with the Falcons. Think about it; in ’09 he was nothing more than a wildcat backup, in ’10 Kevin Kolb was the heir apparent to the McNabb era before getting jacked up in week one by Clay Matthews and last offseason was a clusterfuck due to the lockout. This is Vick’s year to win the MVP (not saying he will, I’m just saying that with all of the preparation he has a chance to outshine what he did in the first half of the ’10 season). Score 2012: 2 2011: 1

Vick gets a happy DeSean at his disposal this season, along with a more confident Brent Celek after his career year last season. The stars are aligning for Maclin to have a career year and oh yeah a top three running back happens to play for this team. Score 2012: 3 2011: 1

In 2011 the Eagles offensive line started off as a question mark and became one of the strongest parts of the team. Jason “two flags a game” Peters was an all pro, Evan Mathis was a difference maker. Todd Herremans had his share of good and bad moments, while first round pick Danny Watkins looked overwhelmed. That isn’t the case in this year’s camp:

“Last season was a year of adjustments for the Eagles‘ 2011 first-round pick. After playing exclusively left tackle at Baylor, he was moved inside to right guard upon arrival in Philly. That is a tough transition to make for any offensive lineman — it was made even tougher for Watkins because the lockout robbed him of an offseason. He improved throughout the 2011 season, but never got comfortable enough to dominate like he did in college. During Thursday’s practice, he had several impressive drive blocks in the nine-on-seven run-game period and showed a consistent anchor when he was bull-rushed in the one-on-one pass-rush period. LeSean McCoy enjoyed a lot of success running on the perimeter last season, but Watkins is going to help create a lot of room for him to run on the inside in 2012.”

(Daniel Jeremiah NFL.com   http://www.nfl.com/trainingcamp/story/09000d5d82b06772/article/philadelphia-eagles-training-camp-andy-reid-pushing-players)

If there is any saving grace for Peters’ season ending injury it’s that he didn’t protect Vick’s blind side. Just imagine if King Dunlap had beaten out Karl Malone jr. to protect Vick’s blind side (cut to Andy Reid lighting his chair on fire). Even most of the offensive line returning and apparently a new Danny Watkins in camp, the loss of Peters will narrow some of the Eagles offensive attack. I lost count of how many times Peters would be 10-15 yards down the field pancaking a defender while McCoy ran for 15+ yards. Score 2012: 3 2011: 2

The biggest story this offseason for the Eagles was the tragic passing of Andy Reid’s son Garrett. Vick has already stated that this season will be dedicated to Garrett and I think there is something to that. The team knows that this could very well be Reid’s last depending on if the playoffs are made. Sometimes those motivating factors get in the way, but not this. It will only add fuel to a fire that has been burning for too long. Score 2012: 4 2011: 2

Predicting what will happen for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2012 season is like spinning the wheel on The Wheel of Fortune. In ’10 it appeared that the wheel had landed on the jackpot, but Reid and Vick couldn’t solve the puzzle. Last year the wheel spun and spun and spun before eventually landing on bankrupt. Reid can’t afford for this season to land on anything but either a free spin or the jackpot, because anything else will be the dreaded lose your turn.

Follow me on twitter @scottdargis.

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