- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
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Over the next month, "SportsCenter" will put every NFL team "On The Clock." Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering. The Eagles are up now.
Many counted the Eagles out after Donovan McNabb's injury, but Philadelphia finished the season with five straight victories, won its wild-card game, then lost a tight divisional playoff game in New Orleans. The Eagles are in fine position to contend in the NFC next year and should be favorites in the competitive NFC East. They need McNabb to return to health in a timely manner, but they have an excellent quarterback, running back and offensive line. This team will score points. The Eagles are also solid on special teams, but they do have some work to do to bring their defense back to the level the Eagles' fans are accustomed to seeing. Philadelphia is a very strong franchise.
On defense, the Eagles re-signed DE Juqua Thomas and CB William James. Both are important depth players, and their familiarity with the defense has obvious value. More needs to be done on this side of the ball, but it made a lot of sense to bring these two players back. Offensively, the Eagles have signed WRs Kevin Curtis and Bethel Johnson. Johnson is a blazer with natural ability but hasn't been able to produce consistently at this level; he caught only nine passes last year. He cannot be counted on to be a major contributor but might offer some return ability. Curtis, on the other hand, is entering the prime of his career and could put up big numbers in this pass-happy system. Re-signing Correll Buckhalter was important. He gives the Eagles a physical runner to lighten the load on Brian Westbrook.
In McNabb's absence, QB Jeff Garcia filled in very well. He kept Philadelphia's explosive offense rolling and managed the West Coast attack efficiently. He is now in Tampa Bay and, depending on McNabb's early-season health, could be a significant loss -- although Westbrook deserves at least as much credit as Garcia for taking over the offense. The Eagles generally don't spend a lot of their resources on the wide receiver position, which led to WR Donte' Stallworth leaving town for New England. Stallworth was replaced by Curtis, which is an adequate trade-off. Philadelphia's secondary also took a hit with the defections of former starting SS Michael Lewis and backup CB Roderick Hood. Both players are replaceable and Lewis began to fall out of favor, but both played prominent roles.
When will McNabb return, and how effective will he be by the opener? Also, can the star quarterback stay healthy for an entire season? The Eagles have some holes, but overall, are in awfully good shape for this time of year. On offense, Buckhalter was re-signed, but with his injury history, the Eagles might be wise to add one more big back in the draft. They also could still be in the market for another receiver and a developmental quarterback. On defense, they need to find a starting linebacker and possibly a second linebacker to develop. They also could use secondary depth and possibly another defensive end -- if they can find the right guy. This defense needs one more playmaker, for sure.