2012 NFL Diaries: Will The Philadelphia Eagles Rebound Part One

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 a journalist I’m supposed to keep my fandom at bay because it isn’t “fair” to the reader for my opinions of my favorite team to be interjected into my writing. I find that idea or concept to be hogwash. It’s completely possible to watch a game in any sport, root for a team, and not be blinded by the colors that are on the field of play.

You have to be critical of your team if they make a mistake, sometimes overly critical just to make sure you get your point across.

You also have to be very careful about handing out credit when they do something good because it gives people a chance to say well you’re a fan of the team, so of course you’re going to see it that way. No guy, I see it as a sports fan unlike you who chooses to be blinded by the logo of the team that you root for.

I had to get that out in order to move on, I’ve been a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles for 14 years. Even though I wasn’t a diehard sports fanatic until my mid teenage years I would rarely let my Sunday afternoons go to something else besides my beloved Eagles. I’ve watched the Donovan McNabb era blossom, hit rock bottom, and then come back, only for it to be dismantled by the Dallas Cowboys in ’09. Five NFC Championship games, one Super Bowl appearance, a madden cover and subsequent curse, it was tough to be an Eagles fan in the South Jersey area during that run even though they were a premiere team in the league.

I’ve been through the T.O. saga (for the record the Eagles’ front office should have shown him the money; his contributions in Super Bowl 39 were other worldly for a guy dealing with a severely sprained right ankle), but nothing will be as bad as last year’s debacle.

The Eagles’ 2011 campaign began with a Super Bowl or bust like mentality for everyone associated with the team including the fans. In hindsight we as fans should have saw through the novelty of signing every big name free agent that was available. That method never wields success in the NFL (quick shot to Jerry Jones nodding), yet expectations couldn’t have been higher because after all a justice league of talent had just bought a residence in Philadelphia. Instead the “dream team” gave writers across the country a chance to have a contest to see who could come up with the best headline using the word nightmare.

The disappointment of 2011 blew the misery of 2006 out of my memory forever.

The most frustrating part about last season was that I couldn’t just look forward to the draft like every other fanbase with a mediocre team could, instead every Eagles fan was tortured until Christmas time. In week 16 the Eagles still had a chance to make the playoffs even though at the time they were 6-8. We had the dubious task of rooting for another team (Jets) in a late December game. Finally our playoff heads were chopped off that that week thanks to one of the worst offensive performances in recent memory. My God was that Jets-Giants game hard to watch, not because I was biting my nails off for three quarters, it was hard to watch because sitting back and actually paying attention to what the Jets do on offense will make your brain either stop working or force your hand to change the channel.

Even though last year was indeed a nightmare I find myself sitting here in August strongly considering making the Eagles my pick to go out of the NFC and onto Super Bowl 47 and no it isn’t because of my fandimonium.

Philadelphia’s front office had one of the smartest offseasons of any team in the league. Instead of flooding camp with a bunch of acquired talent, Andy Reid, Howie Roseman, Joe Banner and Jeff Lurie decided to make important guys on the roster very happy. LeSean McCoy was extended for five more seasons. DeSean Jackson got the money that he so desperately wanted. Trent Cole and Todd Herremans both signed extensions. Evan Mathis was resigned.

Two big needs were addressed as well; MLB DeMeco Ryans was brought in from Houston for a 4th round pick  and LT Demetress Bell was signed from Buffalo. Bell became a necessary signing after Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles in March and then reinjured it in May after a freak accident occured. (Now Bell is in a camp fight to keep his job over King Dunlap, c’mon Karl Malone jr!)

On top of the resignings and free agents, the Eagles appeared to have one of the better drafts in terms of immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball. DT Fletcher Cox will start the season in place of Mike Patterson who is out indefinitely with a brain injury. Also injuries to Jason Babin and Trent Cole have allowed second round pick DE Vinny Curry to take more reps in camp. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Merrill Reese call both of their names quite a bit this season.

With the emphasis on Washburn’s physical pass rush the Eagles are incredibly deep in that regard especially if Brandon Graham plays anywhere near his potential and the new guys make  an impact. If everything goes to his plan, Washburn will be able to have fresh rushers at all times. He has arguably the top combination of defensive ends in the league (Babin and Cole) to work with, and his “make the quarterback’s life hell mentality” will give Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asumougha a chance to make up for a lost season last year.

Also in the secondary is FS Nate Allen who will have to fight through the injury concerns (both of his two seasons have been plagued with injuries and he suffered a hamstring strain in camp), but he has the potential to be a pro bowl free safety. The strong safety possession appears to be locked down by Kurt Coleman, especially after a poor showing from 2011 second round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett against the Steelers.

Mandatory if coming: If the defensive line becomes a force, the Asumoghua and Rodgers-Cromarte duo play to their potential, Nate Allen plays somewhere near his potential, Jarrett lays some big hits, and DeMeco Ryans solves the problems in the middle of the field all of a sudden the Eagles defense goes from a laughing stock last season to a scary good group that can cause havoc on a weekly basis.

Here’s the talent that defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and Washburn have at their disposal.

Defensive line:

DE: Trent Cole (2 time pro bowler) In four out of the last five years he’s registered double digit sack totals.

DE Jason Babin: All-Pro in 2011 after recording 18 sacks. He was one of the few bright spots of the spending spree last year.

DT Fletcher Cox: Drafted 12th overall in the 2012 draft. Daniel Jeremiah from NFL.com had this to say about Cox after visiting the Eagles camp last week:

“The first-rounder out of Mississippi State is not going to be a good NFL player — that would be selling his ability short. He is going to be a dominant force at defensive tackle. Cox has rare first-step quickness and his hands are very explosive against both the run and pass. He is going to create a pick-your-poison situation for opposing offensive lines; if they slide help to either of the Eagles‘ talented defensive ends, Cox will be a very disruptive player on the inside.”

DT Cullen Jenkins: Super Bowl champion with the Packers in 2011.

DE Brandon Graham: 13th overall pick in 2010 from Michigan. Juan Castillo has said that “Brandon has a chip on his shoulder.”

DE Darryl Tapp: 31st overall pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2006.

MLB DeMeco Ryans: (2006 AP defensive rookie of the year, 2X Pro Bowl ’07&’09, All-Pro in ’07) There has to be a concern about lingering effects from a torn Achillies in 2010. He insists that he has no pain, but it isn’t exactly the type of injury that just goes away. Still just a fourth round pick for the former all pro middle linebacker could wind up to be the steal of the offseason.

CB Nnamdai Asum0ugha: The best cornerback in the league from 2006-2010.

CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: (Pro bowl in 2009) It sure sounds like DRC is ready to move on from the Didn’t Really Contribute nickname in 2011.

FS Nate Allen: 37th pick in the 2010 draft.

Time to stop looking at how pretty the paper is right? NO! C’mon! Look at all of the talent that’s been amassed! It’s no wonder why Andy Reid seems oddly confident going into this season even though his ass is on the line.

Click here for part 2.

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