Although it always manages to arrive much too soon, the offseason can be a fun time for fantasy general managers. We like to suggest what players the team should sign and draft, and occasionally offer some whimsical trade proposals.
And of course, we like to prognosticate about the real guy's decisions too. The Eagles had one of the more wild offseasons on record in 2009, leading to an abundance of second-guessing, as well as plenty of intrigue. Looking back on the events from last spring and summer, how well did our expectations match the final product?
Prediction: Rookies usually don't get much playing time here; Jeremy Maclin won't, but LeSean McCoy will.
It's probably fair to say the draft turned out better than initially hoped. After a holdout that lasted a week into training camp, it was thought Jeremy Maclin couldn't have much of an impact this season, especially early on. Wrong. Maclin burst onto the scene in Week 5 with 142 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Moving forward, he had at least 40 yards in nine of the remaining 12 games, plus 146 yards and a TD in the Wild Card loss. Not bad at all for a rookie.
McCoy's contribution was also a bit of a surprise. We knew he would have to be a factor in the offense somehow, but he exceeded most expectations with 945 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. With Westbrook in and out of the lineup for most of the season, McCoy's role increased and he answered the challenge. We are very confident knowing he is the running back of the future.
The rest of the draft was a wash. The only other player who was supposed to make an impact was Cornelius Ingram, but apparently his knee is a mess. Macho Harris was awful down the stretch, but nobody suspected he would play such a key part in the defense. Moises Fokou took some terrible penalties, but there were some positives to take away from this season.
Result: The bulk of the grade falls on the performance of the top selections, and Maclin and McCoy out-performed expectations.
Prediction: Revamped O-line will be better than ever.
Beginning with the major offseason addition, Jason Peters was definitely inconsistent. He took way too many penalties, and while he's no revolving door, he needs to be more of a constant while protecting the quarterback's blind side. Let's talk about the good though. Even if Tra Thomas secretly had a better season in Jacksonville, which we don't know one way or the other, it's completely irrelevant. He couldn't be the left tackle here forever. Peters is an amazing talent. The idea that they were going to wait and be able to find somebody better is far fetched, and now they are settled at left tackle for a long time to come.
After we got over our Winston Justified initial fears, this was a change that worked out much better than ever could have been hoped. While Shawn Andrews did whatever it is he was busy doing, Justice blossomed into a decent right tackle. Meanwhile, Jon Runyan finally got some play in San Diego toward the end of the season, but the Eagles somehow successfully replaced both of their offensive tackles in the same offseason.
The Stacy Andrews signing went quite a bit less swimmingly. His knee was a concern when they signed him, and we all know how that story ended. Before we go ahead and label this a complete bust though, he deserves the benefit of the doubt for one more year. Knee injuries are difficult for any athlete to come back from, especially linemen. All the pushing and driving those players do begins at their base. If the knee isn't strong enough, that lessens the force the upper body can distribute. You should be rooting for his return to form, because Jamaal Jackson will have the same issues, and it just so happens Stacy can also play center.
Result: Not without its issues, but injuries plagued them all season. The jury is still out on the unit as a whole.
Prediction: Huge loss, but they have good reserves and strong interior defensive linemen.
The assumption the Eagles would be fine without Bradley was based on two ideas that both proved false. First we imagined Joe Mays to be far better than he actually is. In retrospect, he's not a starting caliber linebacker in the NFL, not at all. What can I really say? Occasionally you fall in love with a player who it turns out isn't very good.
No big deal, because we still have Omar Gaither. Well then Gaither went and had a season ending injury of his own, and suddenly there isn't a single quality linebacker on the roster who also has the distinction of being experienced in the middle. There really wasn't any way to predict that would happen.
There wasn't an injury that had a bigger negative impact on the Eagles season. While Sean McDermott desperately plugged one body after another in that spot, the play never improved. Patterson and Bunkley looked a lot more ordinary without a decent player behind them to clean up their handiwork, and Gocong's production fell off as offenses paid less attention to one particular linebacker. The defense never got right without him.
Result: It was a total failure. Stewart Bradley was the loss this team never overcame.
Prediction: His departure graded anywhere from "Won't be a problem," to "Everything will fall apart."
If I had my way, Dawkins would have been back this season. I still won't blame the organization for letting him walk, but that's for another discussion. The fact of the matter is, there was a steep drop off in the quality of play at the safety position, and that's not even limited to his replacements. Quintin Mikell didn't have what anybody would call a good season either.
That being said, safety typically isn't an impact position. Dawkins proved it can be, but it's not a necessity. To say not having him in the secondary was a serious problem might be stretching it. Hey, they missed him in more ways than one, but was that the difference between winning or losing against Dallas? Not seeing it, not the way they were completely destroyed.
At least one person will question the leadership and point to his influence in the locker room. Nobody can deny that about Dawkins, but bring something to the table we can actually quantify. We have no way of knowing leadership was or was not a problem, and even if it were, how can you even begin to measure what, if any, effect that has.
Result: They would have been far better off with Dawkins, but how significant his loss was depends on where you stand.