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Writer Report: Philadelphia Eagles

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Tommy Lawlor talks Michael Vick, an improved defense, and more as we preview the Eagles.

Writer Report: Philadelphia Eagles

In this article…

With the training camp and preseason games well underway, CHARGED.fm is getting ready for the NFL season. As part of that, we reached out to writers/bloggers for all 32 teams to get their takes on the upcoming season. Here is Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz to shed some light on the Philadelphia Eagles.

Last season didn't go according to plan for the Eagles.  With Super Bowl aspirations and a roster chock full of talent, Philadelphia failed to make the postseason while their rivals in New York took home the Super Bowl.  Michael Vick had a down year, DeSean Jackson had issues, and the defense was highly inconsistent.  The team that backup quarterback called the "Dream Team" was far from it.

But this is a new season, and Philadelphia is reloaded for another run at it.  To talk about Philadelphia's prospects this year, we spoke with Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com.

1. Michael Vick struggled last season with his accuracy, turnovers, and with staying healthy. What adjustments does Vick need to make to his game this season to improve in these areas?

Vick still has special physical ability, even though he's on the wrong side of 30. He remains an elite talent. He's now trying to get his quarterback skills to match his talent. This is the first offseason he's had as a starting quarterback since 2006. That's hugely important. He was able to work with coaches and teammates all spring and summer to work on the nuances of his game.

Vick needs to be better before the snap. He must see what is going to happen before it happens. That will eliminate some of the sacks and interceptions that came from his holding onto the ball too long. He was waiting for the play to start before he read things. The goal now is to anticipate and then get the ball out quickly.

The first preseason game was rough, but Vick has looked good in training camp and everyone around him raves about his work ethic and dedication to becoming a true quarterback and not just a playmaker.

2. I thought LeSean McCoy was the MVP of the offense last year. Even though he was seventh in the league in carries, it often seemed to me like he was underused. How does Andy Reid incorporate one of most dangerous players into the offense more?

Andy Reid probably won't give McCoy more runs. He would like to throw him the ball more. McCoy caught 78 passes in 2010, but that number fell to just 48 receptions in 2011. Reid loves feeding the ball to McCoy, but fears him wearing down. One way to handle that is by throwing him the ball. McCoy then gets to play in space and won't take the pounding that he would on a run up the middle.

Reid has said that he would like to give additional carries to the backup running backs. He has said this before and then failed to live up to that goal so Eagles fans are skeptical to think the other runners will see much of an increase. It would be a popular move with the fans. The Eagles had great success with mixing up carries amongst runners in 2002 and especially 2003.

3. The defense was able to get to the quarterback often, but they also struggled against the run at times (though it was much improved towards the end of the year). What has Philadelphia done in the offseason to improve their run defense?

The run defense was highly in consistent in 2011. The coaches knew this area had to be better. The Eagles went out and got middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans from the Houston Texans to come in and be the anchor for the middle of the defense. The team also upgraded at SAM linebacker by drafting Mychal Kendricks in the second round. He has the speed to chase plays to the outside, but also has the strength and physicality to handle runs that come at him.

The Eagles feel that other players will be better simply through having a full offseason to master the Wide-9 front. It requires the back seven to do some different things. There was more than a little confusion in 2011. Players now know their gap resonsibilities. The linebackers understand the need to take on blockers in a specific way.

It also helps that safety Nate Allen is fully healthy. His absence early in 2011 hurt the defense.

4. How do you see the secondary performing this year after the Asante Samuel Trade?

The secondary has the potential to be outstanding. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is taking over at left cornerback for Asante Samuel. DRC, as he's popularly known, made the 2009 Pro Bowl while with the Cardinals. He has the physical skills to be a star defensive back. And he's done just that in training camp. He has broken up passes left and right. He made interception after interception. DRC has the cover skills to stick with anyone and then has the recovery speed to catch up to a receiver should the guy somehow get free.

Nnamdi Asomugha is much more comfortable in his second year as an Eagle. He knows the team and the scheme. The coaches will use the two big corners to press more in 2012, something that Samuel wasn't very fond of.

Beyond the big two, there is talent, but also questions. Joselio Hanson is the veteran nickel corner. Can he keep his job (and roster spot?). His primary challenger is rookie Brandon Boykin, who the team is very high on. Those two are battling it out and each has played well this summer. Just as important is Curtis Marsh, who is the top backup on the outside. He's been more up and down. The Eagles hope he'll play well in the next couple of preseason games so they can settle on him for that role. Rookie Cliff Harris opened some eyes early in camp, but then got hurt. He could still steal a roster spot from someone.

Safety play was a major issue last year. Allen missed time with injury. He was up and down when he did come back, as the injury would have good and bad weeks. Jarrad Page started some early games and was incredibly bad. Kurt Coleman struggled in the first couple of games and lost his job. He then replaced Page and settled in to have a solid year. Jaiquawn Jarrett was forced to start a couple of games due to injuries and looked like a typical rookie.

2012 looks much better. Allen is healthy. Coleman has shown that he can be an effective starter. Both guys know the scheme and are ready to show Eagles fans that they can be the next strong safety duo for the franchise. OJ Atogwe is the number three safety for now. He's new to the team, but has a strong track record and would love to steal a starting job from someone.

One other thing that helps the secondary is the addition of coach Todd Bowles. He was with the Dolphins last year and has an excellent background. Too often in 2011 the Eagles defensive backs were not on the same page. Bowles should change that. He is an excellent motivator and communicator. The players are highly impressed with him already.

5. Who is one player to watch this season that is going to surprise people for the Eagles?

Defensive end Phillip Hunt was in the CFL in 2010. He earned a roster spot with the Eagles in 2011. He is now pushing to be a regular part of the rotation. Hunt is short at 6-0, but uses that to his advantage by staying under blockers. He can fly off the edge and is an ideal fit for the Wide-9 system. He could be an excellent rotational player in 2012.

Rookie Damaris Johnson is slated to be the punt returner and has opened eyes as a wide receiver. The Eagles are deep there already, but he's too good to ignore.

6. What is your prediction for the Eagles this season?

I think the Eagles will win the NFC East. I'm guessing the record is 11-5. This roster is loaded with talent. The schedule is tough, but that's life in the NFL. As for the playoffs, impossible to predict without knowing who's healthy and what other teams look like. I think the Eagles have as good a chance to win as anyone else in the league. Put simply, the team will go as far as Michael Vick takes them.

You can find Tommy Lawlor writing all over the Internet at igglesblitz.com, scoutsnotebook.com, and in podcast form at helmet2helmetshow.  You can also follow him on Twitter @lawlornfl.

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see the Philadelphia Eagles live this season.


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