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Online Eagles Lines & Predictions - Philadelphia Future Odds - Free NFL Betting Previews

2006 Philadelphia Eagles Season Preview

2006 Eagles NFL News - August 22nd, 2006
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The Philadelphia Eagles' fall from grace was fast, precipitous, and exceedingly painful. The NFL's winningest franchise of the first half of the decade, which was supposed to make another serious run at reaching the Super Bowl stage

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in 2005, instead decomposed into the rubble of a 6-10 season.

To make matters worse, the Eagles' humiliation was a very public one, perhaps even the biggest storyline to emanate from the NFL in 2005. The quarterback and star wide receiver feuded throughout the offseason leading up to '05, a rift that spilled over into the first half of the campaign and proved to be a divisive element of locker room chemistry. When the Eagles finally separated Terrell Owens from the roster, a move that only fanned the flames of public and media interest, the expected positive on-field fallout lasted all of two games before Donovan McNabb crumbled under the weight of his nagging injuries and the season fell as rapidly to earth as Wily E. Coyote in those Road Runner cartoons.

Can the drama be put to rest in 2006? Not really, since McNabb's Eagles and Owens' new employer, the Dallas Cowboys, will meet twice during the regular season. Both games have been circled as must-see affairs for all NFL observers, and everyone on the Birds' roster and coaching staff will be forced to address all of the same questions that they tried to run from all of last season.

But to a man, every member of the 2006 Eagles knows that those questions will be far less difficult to suffer if the franchise that was such a short time ago held up as one of the league's elite can get back to the business of winning.

Below we take a capsule look at the 2006 edition of the Philadelphia Eagles, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

2005 RECORD: 6-10 (4th, NFC East)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2004, lost to New England, 24-21, in Super Bowl

COACH (RECORD): Andy Reid (70-42 in seven seasons with Eagles, 70-42 overall)



OFFENSIVE STAR: Donovan McNabb, QB (2507 passing yards, 16 TD, 9 INT)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Brian Dawkins, FS (77 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 INT)

OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 28th rushing, 8th passing, t17th scoring

DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 21st rushing, 21st passing, 26th scoring

FIVE KEY GAMES: N.Y. Giants (9/17), Dallas (10/8), Washington (11/12), at N.Y. Giants (12/17), at Dallas (12/25)

KEY ADDITIONS: QB Jeff Garcia (from Lions), WR Jabar Gaffney (from Texans), WR Hank Baskett (from Vikings), WR Jason Avant (4th Round, Michigan), WR/RS Jeremy Bloom (5th Round, Colorado), TE Matt Schobel (from Bengals), T Winston Justice, (2nd Round, USC), DE Darren Howard (from Saints), DT Ed Jasper (from Raiders), DT Brodrick Bunkley (1st Round, Florida State), DE/OLB Chris Gocong (3rd Round, Cal Poly), OLB Shawn Barber (from Chiefs)

KEY DEPARTURES: QB Mike McMahon (released), WR Terrell Owens (released), WR Billy McMullen (to Vikings), DT Hollis Thomas (to Saints), DE N.D. Kalu (to Texans), LB Keith Adams (to Panthers)

QB: Jaded Eagles fans found out just how much Donovan McNabb (2507 passing yards, 16 TD, 9 INT) meant to their team when he missed the final seven games of 2005 due to a medical situation that eventually forced hernia surgery. McNabb at 75 percent was still light years better than Mike McMahon (1158 passing yards, 5 TD, 8 INT) or Koy Detmer (238 passing yards, 0 TD, 3 INT) at the height of their powers, so it came as a surprise to few knowledgeable football fans that the Eagles went 2-5 with McNabb out of the lineup. When healthy, which he now appears to be, McNabb is one of the top five quarterbacks in the league. Should he go down, the new insurance policy is Jeff Garcia (937 passing yards, 3 TD, 6 INT with the Lions), who is 36 and has had two tough years in Cleveland and Detroit, but is still a major improvement over McMahon. Detmer has somehow managed to stay on the Eagles' payroll for eight seasons, though since it is abundantly clear that he is not an NFL quarterback, free agent Timmy Chang might be able to unseat him and hold the clipboard.

RB: Reid said in the offseason that he would like to strike a 60-40 pass-to- run balance, which will likely mean more touches for running back Brian Westbrook (617 rushing yards, 61 receptions, 7 TD). Westbrook is arguably the top offensive talent on the team, even more so than McNabb, though his durability continues to be a question. The 5-8, 203-pound Westbrook missed the final month of 2005 with a sprained foot, and will have to prove that he can be a reliable weapon for an entire season. Philly has little depth behind Westbrook, though Ryan Moats (278 rushing yards, 3 TD), Bruce Perry (74 rushing yards), Thomas Tapeh and Correll Buckhalter all have NFL experience. Tapeh, who can also play fullback, missed all of 2005 with a dislocated hip, while Buckhalter has missed three of the last four seasons with various knee injuries. Incumbent fullback Josh Parry (13 receptions) could prove expendable if Tapeh has a good preseason.

WR/TE: If there is one area of the team that is most concerning for Eagles fans, it is wide receiver. With Terrell Owens (47 receptions, 6 TD) gone, the team has no proven No. 1 wideout, with second-year man Reggie Brown (43 receptions, 4 TD) now serving as the closest thing to it. Starting opposite Brown figures to be either former Texan Jabar Gaffney (55 receptions, 2 TD with Houston) or former starter Todd Pinkston, who missed all of 2005 with a torn Achilles. Rookie Hank Baskett, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound specimen out of New Mexico, was impressive early in training camp and could force his way onto the field ahead of 2006 draft picks Jason Avant (4th Round, Michigan) and Jeremy Bloom (5th Round, Colorado). Greg Lewis (48 receptions, 1 TD) figures to make the team despite failing to distinguish himself in 16 starts a year ago. Darnerien McCants (5 receptions) appeared to be on the outside looking in before reviving his chances with a strong camp. At tight end, the team needs L.J. Smith (61 receptions, 3 TD) to become more consistent, and could use Smith and newcomer Matt Schobel (18 receptions with Cincinnati) in frequent two-tight end sets. Mike Bartrum is the team's long-snapper but also caught two TD passes in goal-line situations a year ago.

OL: This area of the team was battered for much of 2005, and was among the squad's most nagging Achilles heels for the latter half of the season. Reid needs the core of this group, left tackle William (formerly known as Tra) Thomas, right tackle Jon Runyan, and right guard Shawn Andrews to hold up if the offense is to be successful. Runyan and Andrews each started all 16 games last season, but Thomas missed six contests due to a lower back injury. The starting line should be rounded out by center Jamaal Jackson, who played well in place of the injured Hank Fraley last season and will stay with the first unit, and left guard Todd Herremans, a second-year pro who did a decent job in place of the injured Thomas last season before succumbing to his own ankle injury. Depth along the line will be offered by second-round draft choice Winston Justice (USC), and fourth-round pick Max Jean-Gilles (Georgia), with utility men Trey Darilek and Adrien Clarke among those fighting for jobs. Fraley is likely to be dealt or released unless he unseats Jackson.

DL: The d-line, an area of the Eagles that was perceived to be a strength but turned out to be a weakness in 2005, received a major overhaul in the offseason. The underachieving likes of tackle Hollis Thomas (35 tackles, 2 sacks) and end N.D. Kalu (30 tackles, 2 sacks) were excised, and reinforcements such as first-round draft pick and tackle Brodrick Bunkley (Florida State), free agent end Darren Howard (33 tackles, 3.5 sacks with New Orleans), and free agent tackle Ed Jasper (24 tackles, 2 sacks with Oakland) were brought in to help. Bunkley and Jasper will get a chance to crack the interior rotation of second-year man Mike Patterson (44 tackles, 3.5 sacks), veteran Darwin Walker (25 tackles, 2.5 sacks), and lunchpail-type Sam Rayburn (16 tackles, 1 sack). At end, Howard should immediately free Jevon Kearse (38 tackles, 7.5 sacks) to make more plays. Trent Cole (46 tackles, 5 sacks) was a pleasant surprise as a rookie last season, and should factor into the end rotation again. Jerome McDougle, who missed all of last year after being shot in a robbery attempt prior to training camp, is probably fighting holdover Juqua Thomas (19 tackles) for one spot.

LB: The play of middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter (119 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) was one of the Eagles' lone bright spots last season, and Trotter's starting job is the only one within the linebacking corps that is guaranteed. Dhani Jones (70 tackles, 1 INT) was mostly invisible on the strong side last season, and if he fails to improve, a young player like second-year man Matt McCoy (3 tackles) or rookie Chris Gocong (Cal Poly), a college end and record- setting pass-rusher, could stand to move up the depth chart. McCoy will also compete for time on the weak side, though veteran Shawn Barber, who played in only 11 games with the Chiefs over the past two seasons due to injury, is probably the more logical option there if healthy. Mark Simoneau (36 tackles) is a former starter and coaching staff favorite who figures to remain on the roster in the interests of depth. Fifth-round draft choice Omar Gaither (Tennessee) is an intriguing talent who will have a chance to contribute on special teams.

DB: Though overshadowed by the McNabb/T.O. soap opera, the mediocre play of the Eagles' much-ballyhooed secondary was another sore spot for the '05 edition of the team. Free safety Brian Dawkins (77 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 INT) and strong safety Michael Lewis (107 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack) both played well at times but fell off their Pro Bowl paces of 2004, while a third '04 Pro Bowler, cornerback Lito Sheppard (31 tackles, 3 INT), struggled a bit before losing the final six games of his season due to a high ankle sprain. The fourth secondary starter, Sheldon Brown (56 tackles, 4 INT, 1 sack), led the Birds in picks but had an indistinguishable year otherwise. That foursome should be back in its entirety. Roderick Hood (42 tackles, 3 INT) started six games in place of Sheppard last season and should appear in nickel situations. Vying to add further depth will be holdovers Donald Strickland (12 tackles), Dexter Wynn (11 tackles), Matt Ware (19 tackles), Quintin Mikell (24 tackles), and Sean Considine (4 tackles), as well as J.R. Reed, who missed all of 2005 after damaging the peroneal nerve in his left leg while scaling a chain-link fence in order to elude a dog.

SPECIAL TEAMS: David Akers (16-22 FG) is looking for an injury-free season after enduring a rough 2005 that saw him miss four games with a torn left hamstring. Dirk Johnson (41.4 avg.) was also banged up, losing nine games to a severe groin strain, but is expected back. The return situation is interesting. Reno Mahe averaged a healthy 12.8 per punt return last season but is ill-equipped to provide depth at running back. Dexter Wynn (5.0 punt return avg., 17.8 kickoff return avg.) can fill both return duties adequately but might be bumped out in the secondary competition. The x-factors are J.R. Reed, who returned kickoffs on the Super Bowl team but is coming off a major leg injury, and Jeremy Bloom (5th Round, Colorado), an electrifying college return man who has started just one season above the high school level.

PROGNOSIS: As with the other three teams in the NFC East, you can make a case for the Philadelphia Eagles finishing first in the division, and you can just as easily make a case for them finishing last. If they are healthy, it is difficult to envision the latter scenario. Should McNabb and Westbrook remain intact, and should the team find one credible target to help make up for the loss of Owens, then the offense should score points at its 2001-to-2003 pace, at the very least. And if the defense, which was so good under Jim Johnson's tutelage in 2004, can bounce back after a subpar year, much of the pressure will be off McNabb and the offense. No matter what, it is hard to fathom an Andy Reid-coached team falling apart again the way it did in 2005, and with the T.O. saga now gone from the locker room, this looks to be a franchise that can again concentrating on winning football games. Don't be surprised when Philly posts double-digit wins and makes a return trip to the postseason.

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