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Friday, August 8, 2008
Updated: August 28, 4:51 PM ET
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (Consensus division finish: 2nd)

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Brian Westbrook

Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Running back Brian Westbrook led the league in total yards from scrimmage with 2,104 in 2007.

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The Eagles finished last in the NFC East last season with an 8-8 record. For Eagles and NFC East coverage, visit Matt Mosley's NFC North blog. | Discuss Eagles | MAG Preview

ANALYST PREDICTION
Jeffri
Chadiha

ESPN.com
DIVISION FINISH: 3  The Eagles still have enough talent to compete for a playoff spot after last season's last-place finish. The big question is whether quarterback Donovan McNabb can avoid injuries.

John
Clayton

ESPN.com
DIVISION FINISH: 2  Donovan McNabb has repaired his leadership role in the locker room and reestablished his value with Eagles ownership. With more weapons on offense and a quick, blitzing defense, the Eagles should be a dangerous playoff team.
Tim
Graham

ESPN.com
DIVISION FINISH: 3  Too many questions to mention in a couple sentences, but the biggest have to do with Donovan McNabb's mobility and durability.

Jeremy
Green

Scouts Inc.
DIVISION FINISH: 3  The Eagles' offense looks similar to last year's unit. That is not necessarily a bad thing as I think this offense can get better production from WRs Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown now that QB Donovan McNabb has had an offseason to work with them.

Paul
Kuharsky

ESPN.com
DIVISION FINISH: 2  One more good run for Donovan McNabb. Andy Reid and his staff won't oversee two consecutive down years. The defense will find more takeaways.

Matt
Mosley

ESPN.com
DIVISION FINISH: 3  Donovan McNabb looks like himself again, and rookie DeSean Jackson has flashed in the preseason. A lot will depend on whether Shawn Andrews can return to form after missing training camp while being treated for clinical depression.

Mike
Sando

ESPN.com
DIVISION FINISH: 2  The offense put up impressive numbers without winning enough games last season. Donovan McNabb calls the Eagles the best team in the NFC. This team could have an edge.
Kevin
Seifert

ESPN.com
DIVISION FINISH: 2  No, Donovan McNabb's team is not the best in the division. But if everyone stays healthy, it's to be reckoned with.

James
Walker

ESPN.com
DIVISION FINISH: 3  Quarterback Donovan McNabb thinks the Eagles are the favorites in the division. Let's not go too far, but the Eagles will be a threat for the playoffs if McNabb stays healthy.
Seth
Wickersham

ESPN The Magazine
DIVISION FINISH: 1  The Eagles are everyone's sleeper to win the East over the defending champs and the 13-win Cowboys. If the offensive line comes together and keeps Donovan McNabb healthy, they just might.
Bill
Williamson

ESPN.com
DIVISION FINISH: 3  This is a crossroads year for the Eagles. If they make progress, everything will be fine in Philly. If not, both Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb could have some explaining to do.

Matt
Williamson

Scouts Inc.
DIVISION FINISH: 2  Expect the special teams and defense to be much improved, especially its ability to create big plays. Donovan McNabb should start fast as he ended last season strong, but Brian Westbrook is far and away the team MVP and should have another terrific season. Philly and the Giants will battle for a wild-card slot.
Pat
Yasinskas

ESPN.com
DIVISION FINISH: 2  Last year didn't show it, but Donovan McNabb's still a good quarterback and Andy Reid's a good coach. The Eagles are going to bounce back very strong.

 
             CONSENSUS DIVISION FINISH: 2 | NFL standings

BEST OF THE EAGLES

Best underrated player: We've spent the offseason talking about Asante Samuel and the man he's replacing, Lito Sheppard. But if you talk to Eagles insiders, there's still a belief that Sheldon Brown is the best cornerback on the team.

Best receiving back: Even in a division with excellent running backs, no one can touch Brian Westbrook. He's now an excellent runner, but he's always been explosive in the passing game. Now he's finally paid like the superstar that he is.

Best red-zone receiver: I watched enough fade patterns during camp to realize that Hank Baskett should become a consistent threat inside the 20. He has the size (6-4) and the athleticism to make plays.

Best linebacker no one knows: There's a chance that Stewart Bradley has a breakout season. He has the build of Brian Urlacher and he could be a breakout start for the team.

-- Matt Mosley, ESPN.com

SCOUTS INC.'S FAB FIVE

Scouts Inc. has evaluated and graded more than 2,400 NFL players heading into the 2008 season, giving Insiders a leg up on the competition with exclusive grades, alerts and scouting reports. Insider
Top five players
ANALYSIS
1. Brian Westbrook
Running back
5-10 | 203
(Grade 88) He is one of the most electrifying players in the NFL. He is a good athlete with very good run skills, instincts and vision. Westbrook has good catching skills and is a productive runner in open space.
2. Asante Samuel
Cornerback
5-10 | 185
(85) He is considered one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He has adequate size, excellent athleticism and outstanding instincts as a perimeter defender. He plays with great confidence and is a physical tackler.
3. Shawn Andrews
Guard
6-4 | 335
(84) He has rare size, physical play strength and athletic skills for the position. Andrews plays the game very light on his feet and runs well when in space off the pull and can adjust on the move.
4. Donovan McNabb
Quarterback
6-2 | 240
(82) He has very good arm strength and has the ability to make all throws. McNabb also still has good feet and running ability, which can place a lot of pressure on opposing defenses.
5. Trent Cole
Defensive end
6-3 | 270
(78) He has a nonstop motor and has developed into one of the league's better edge-rushers. He has the speed and acceleration to bend the edge and close on the quarterback. He is a solid technician who must be accounted for.
Player grading scale: Elite (90-100), outstanding (80-89), solid starter (75-79), good starter (70-74)

SCOUTS INC.'S ANALYSIS

Best play option
RB Brian Westbrook just got a new contract. This play will show he is worth the money.
More best plays

Strengths

Upper-echelon CBs: The Eagles were aggressive in their offseason efforts to improve the playmaking ability of their defense. The need for more turnovers prompted the big-money signing of former Patriot Asante Samuel. With his superior route recognition skills and an uncanny ability to read QBs, Samuel should give the team exactly what it wants. If Sheldon Brown continues to play to his ability and Lito Sheppard stays healthy and content in his new role (nickel back), Philadelphia will have an elite group of cornerbacks able to match up with spread formations.

Excellent pass-rush personnel: Last year DEs, Trent Cole and Juqua Parker, combined for 17.5 sacks, and in the offseason DE Chris Clemons (eight sacks for Oakland in '07) came aboard. All three are undersized by traditional standards, but each can get penetration and understands the pass-rush sequence.

Move the chains: Sustaining drives and scoring points rarely were problems for Philadelphia last season, and the offense appears even better equipped in 2008. The Eagles return all of their important playmakers, and a return to health for TE L.J. Smith should only improve the scheme's versatility and explosiveness.

Weaknesses

Special teams: K David Akers struggled on field goals beyond 40 yards last year, signifying an unusual lack of consistency that he undoubtedly will turn around. But the return units also struggled, and the hope is rookie WR DeSean Jackson can provide big plays to flip field position in Philadelphia's favor.

O-line concerns: The Eagles have won a lot of games with RT Jon Runyan and LT Tra Thomas, but their age (34 and 33, respectively) is a concern. Throw in the training camp absence of RG Shawn Andrews (personal reasons), and the offensive line appears to be on the verge of a shakeup.

QB durability: Donovan McNabb hasn't started 16 games in a season since '03. In fact, only three times in his nine-year NFL career has he been healthy enough to start every game in a season.

-- Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles.

JEREMY GREEN'S X FACTORS

FOOTBALL TODAY PODCAST: DIVISION PREVIEW

MY BEST OPPONENT

Smith

Smith

Eagles tight end L.J. Smith on Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora:

He's one of the most versatile guys you'll ever face. One play he's coming on a speed rush and the next, he's dropping back into coverage. He's an incredibly smart player who will try to spend several plays setting up a particular move.

He's one of those high energy players who rarely takes a play off. He never seems to run out of moves, so you sort of have to prepare for anything. And if you try to double him, someone like [Justin] Tuck comes free.

-- As told to Matt Mosley, ESPN.com

FRANCHISE BEST


Mike Powell/Getty Images

In a vote by SportsNation, defensive end Reggie White was selected best Eagle ever. He was one of the most dominant ends in history and had 21 sacks in 1987 and 18 sacks in 1988. Complete results

BLOGS: PRO AND FAN

Mosley

Looking for more Eagles coverage? You've come to the right place. Matt Mosley writes about all things NFC East in his division blog.


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FANTASY FOCUS

Can any Eagles earn No. 2 fantasy WR status?

Curtis

Curtis

Because Brian Westbrook caught 90 passes in 2007 and totaled 138 receptions the two seasons prior, it helps create the impression the Eagles don't have a good No. 2 wide receiver. In a way, Kevin Curtis is Philly's No. 2 wide receiver. He lines up as the No. 1 guy, but Westbrook is the first option.

Not only is it time for people to stop expecting a second Philly wide receiver to emerge, since it's such an unlikely event to start with, but we should look at what Curtis accomplished in 2007 (77 catches, 1,110 yards) as a terrific season totally out of line with this franchise for what, the past six seasons?

The Eagles are a solid offensive team thanks to Westbrook's ability. There's just no room on this offense for another weapon, and based on past seasons, it sure looks like what Curtis did was shocking enough. To ask for a second Philly wide receiver to put up numbers like a No. 2 fantasy WR, as long as Westbrook commands so many touches, is just not realistic. Curtis himself fits that role.

-- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com

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