Measuring '09 Predictions from Eagles Offseason Against Results

Measuring '09 Predictions from Eagles Offseason Against Results

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?

The Draft

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.

Offensive Line

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.

Stewart Bradley

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.

Brian Dawkins

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.

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter for his fifth of the game and the Washington Redskins avoid a near-disastrous 0-3 start with a 29-27 win over the penalty- and error-prone New York Giants on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to DeSean Jackson and 55 to Jamison Crowder as the banged-up Redskins (1-2) handed new coach Ben McAdoo his first loss with the Giants (2-1).

Su'a Cravens ended the Giants' final drive with an interception in New York territory. It was Eli Manning's second pick of the quarter, with the other coming in the end zone by Quinton Dunbar after New York got to the Redskins 15 on a big play by Odell Beckham Jr.

This was a wild NFC East matchup that see-sawed the entire second half after Washington rallied from a 21-9 deficit (see full recap).

Prescott, Cowboys rout Bears on SNF
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without injured quarterback Tony Romo over three seasons before the rookie fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals in NFL history.

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox (see full recap).

Vikings stop Newton, snap Panthers' home win streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries --and keep finding ways to win football games.

Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, Marcus Sherels returned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers' 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.

The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league's reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.

"We have a great team -- the best team I have been a part of," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. "We come from every area on the field and we get sacks."

Said Newton: "They were dictating to us after they got the momentum."

The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason (see full recap).

Bills bounce back with win over Cardinals
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  -- LeSean McCoy scored twice and safety Aaron Williams returned a botched field-goal snap 53 yards for a touchdown in leading the Buffalo Bills to a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 20-yard run at a time the Rex Ryan-coached Bills spent the past week taking the brunt of criticism after opening the season 0-2.

The win also came on the heels of Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

McCoy scored on 24- and 5-yard runs, and finished with 110 yards rushing after combining for just 117 in his first two games. Taylor had 76 yards rushing, including a 49-yarder, the longest by a quarterback in team history (see full recap).

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Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

On his way to the locker room following his team's stunning 34-3 victory over the Steelers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reacted, well, like you probably did.

Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first). 

And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.

But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.

“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight. 

"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that. 

At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit. 

“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play. 

"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”

Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.

And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).

More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas'  Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.

But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).

“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”

As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone

"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”