The Official 2010 Eagles' Record Prediction Thread

The Official 2010 Eagles' Record Prediction Thread

As has become tradition around here, I asked The700Level staff to provide brief summaries on their predictions on the Eagles' upcoming season. As always, everybody went well over their word limits. In light of this travesty, I tried to limit my own thoughts, but admit I failed as well. Anyway, we're on the record with our guesstimates, and we'd like you to join in and do the same in the comments. Thanks to the team for contributing.

Kulp

Last year, I went with a breakdown of the schedule to arrive at my won-loss prediction, and since I correctly reached 11-5, I'm going back to the well for a second season. The first thing that jumps out at me are fewer gimmes. As our presumptions about the league stand today, only the Lions and Jaguars in Weeks 2 and 3 look like easy pickins. Even with all the changes, the Eagles appear to be more complete right now than either, so two wins.

The middle tier of teams features the 49ers, Falcons, Titans, Bears, and Texans. The Eagles have had Atlanta's number in recent years (granted decimated by injuries in last season's meeting), and Chicago's situation may only get worse with Mike Martz running the offense. The Titans in Tennessee before the bye is tough though, and I have little confidence in their ability to beat darkhorse contender Houston on a short week—particularly with Andy Reid teams historically struggling against AFC teams—or win their cross-country trip to San Fran. Three wins if the defense can keep Chris Johnson in check.

The Eagles face an unfortunate slate of Super Bowl contenders, including the Packers, Colts, and Vikings. Indy has roughed up the Birds twice under Reid, a trend that will continue. The Vikings, on the other hand, I expect to be much worse than anticipated, especially later in the season as injuries catch up with their age. The Packers are a winnable game, but with so much unknown, I'm handing out a loss to open the season. They escape with one win from this bunch.

Which brings us to the NFC East. A lot of people predict splits in these contests, but I just don't have a ton of respect for New York or Washington. The Eagles posted 85 points in two meetings against the Giants in '09, and I don't see a great deal of improvement on that defense. And while Donovan will have extra motivation, especially the first time out, the offense is lacking weapons. Maybe Washington sneaks a win, but I could see a sweep. Three wins to err on the side of caution.

That puts the Eagles at nine wins with two to play against the Cowboys. With much of the off-season spent seemingly focused on defeating Dallas, who own a questionable offensive line of their own, it's hard to imagine another devastating series anything like what we witnessed last season. The Cowboys have the upper-hand in Week 14, but when they return to the Linc for the annual Week 17 showdown, I like the Birds to secure their playoff spot, and perhaps even a Division Championship. 10-6

Rev

If NFL Films approached me today, more than a full week before the Eagles open their regular season (Ed note: good hustle), and asked me to give them a title for their Eagles year in review film I'd go with "Out from the Shadows". Kevin Kolb is stepping out from Donovan McNabb's shadow to take the reins of an offense many believe he's better suited to operate. The skill position players (Shady McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Brent Celek) no longer need to show deference to a guy who was rightfully the face of franchise long before they arrived in town. The offensive line? Well, aside from having question marks at right guard and center (at least until and if Jamaal Jackson is healthy) they'd go a long way towards establishing themselves if Jason Peters could simply line-up correctly and stop false starting every time he sees his own shadow.

On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has another opportunity to step out from Jim Johnson's shadow. To me, one of the most interesting stories of the offseason centered around comments Sheldon Brown made with respect to the defense not buying into what McDermott was preaching last season. With a full offseason of OTA's, training camp, and preseason games under his belt, has McDermott done enough to forge his own identity and gain the trust of his players?

Can Brandon Graham finally be the guy to provide a pass rush threat opposite Trent Cole, which they'll absolutely need if they have any hope of generating a pass rush from their front four? The return of a healthy three down linebacker like Stewart Bradley will also help. The secondary remains a big concern as rookie Nate Allen will be thrust into a starting role next to Quintin Mikell at safety. Asante Samuel's aversion to tackling and willingness to freelance will likely be McDermott's biggest challenge. The defense will be quick, but after seeing them get pushed around in consecutive weeks by Dallas last season I have reservations as to whether they're stout enough to handle physical teams.

With all of that being said the largest shadow being cast on this team is Andy Reid's (both literally and figuratively). He's helped to rebuild this team on the fly. The average age of the projected starting offense is 24-years-old. His fingerprints are all over the roster. By now he's been here long enough that we know he's going to make some curious decisions with play calling and clock management. He's going to infuriate you when he says less than zero at press conferences. Putting all of that aside, and in light of the schedule, how many wins can Reid coax out of this young group? Rev's Prediction: 9-7

Andrew

Maybe it's just residual bitterness over the Eagles letting go of so many of the players that have come to define the franchise the last few years, seemingly without much of a second thought, but my confidence in the Birds this season is not great. The house-cleaning moves on offense were probably the right decisions for the long term, but a smooth transition to the Kevin Kolb era just doesn't seem particularly likely to me. I'm still not sure DeSean Jackson is gonna be half the weapon with Kolb that he was with McNabb, or that LeSean McCoy can be the multi-dimensional threat that Westbrook was in his prime—at least not just yet. The rocky pre-season offensively just kind of confirms what I've long suspected, that good as the new offensive weapons may be, they're not gonna walk in and replace the missing multiple Pro Bowlers right off the bat without anyone noticing the switch.

That said, it seems equally likely that the defense, buoyed by rookies, new acquisitions and players returning from injuries, is gonna be miles better than the one that gave up a combined 58 points to the Cowboys the last two games of the season. It'll keep them competitive the whole season, but in the eternally-tough NFC East, I'm not sure it'll be enough to keep 'em ahead of the Cowboys and possibly resurgent Giants, or to get 'em into the playoffs for the third straight year. (On the plus side, though, I think the Redskins are still gonna be worse.) Prediction: 8-8, 3rd Place in Division

Matt

Like just about everyone else, I really don't know what to expect from the upcoming Eagles season. They've essentially hit the reset button on the personnel while keeping the system intact, and there's no certainty that they've improved as a result. Not for this season, or beyond. This is the case whenever a new starting quarterback takes over for a team. The good news is that Kevin Kolb was handpicked out of college for this role and has had three seasons to get a handle on a challenging pass-first offense. Aside from a debacle of a half against the Ravens in 2008, the only real time experience Kolb has shown us has been favorable, setting an NFL record for passing yards by a QB in his first two starts. One of those games was against the eventual Super Bowl champs. 

A mildly shaky preseason has people dialing back their earlier warm expectations, but I think that's reading too much into live practice. The same people are probably finding ways to discount his two starts last season, which to me are far more telling than what he did with a limited script in August. Beyond the QB position though, there are two great receivers, a confident and capable tight end, and a talented running back who fits the system well. The offensive line is still a major question mark, but fans have a tendency to see that and forget that it's true of most teams in the league, and particularly the current NFC East. Last year the line had very little experience together; at the very least, the majority of the unit has spent more time together within the system and under line guru Juan Castillo. 

Defensively, again, it's hard to predict. I thought they looked pretty good in the preseason, and Brandon Graham has only solidified the notion that he'll be an immediate difference maker. When the regular season starts, we'll see just how true that is, but also what it will mean for Trent Cole. A capable pass rush solves a lot of other problems. Meanwhile, the linebackers are looking stronger than last season, which should also help take some pressure off of the secondary, which has its issues. We're not used to seeing our defense be scored on, but we could be more familiar with it as the season wears on. 

I'm always excited for the start of an Eagles season. This year, it's a different kind of excitement than it's been in almost a decade, since the Reid Era moved from rebuild to contend. 2010 has the unique feeling that it could include both elements. However, of the two, we can be certain that there will be some rebuilding elements, which include growing pains. Whether they'll be managed enough to also contend remains to be seen. It doesn't appear we'll have to endure the usual pains of rebuilding though. Few teams do so with continuity of front office, coaching and system, and some in Philly wouldn't mind if that were true here too. But I'm not one of them, at least not so far. After seeing several very good and highly touted teams come up short, it's a relief to enter a season unsure of what to expect and not be overly encumbered by a preset set of expectations. That's not to say I don't have expectations though. I expect a winning season. 9-7

Enrico

I'm ready to embrace this new Eagles team. It's not the same team we grew to love throughout the aughts. Gone are the franchise QB, the amazingly versatile running back out of Villanova, and the beloved safety who made us 100% proud to cheer for our Birds. But it's not just the franchise guys that are no longer with us: Lito, Sheldon, Trot, Freddie, Jim Johnson, etc. etc. The memories of that Super Bowl team, and those personalities, are now long gone.

The memories are irreplaceable, but it's time to create some new ones, with the new guys.

I'm ready to get to know the new guys, with some real game action. To be fair, there are plenty of familiar faces. Andy and the brass certainly haven't changed. Bunk, Patterson, and Trent Cole are still rocks on the D-line, DeSean and Maclin were quick to make fans embrace them with their skill. We know this team a little bit, but not nearly enough.

This is a very young team that has yet to really form a distinct personality.

There's also something to be said about a team you have limited expectations around. There are always questions marks coming into a season, but this group seems to have even more than usual. Will the offensive line hold up? Will the revamped secondary with a pair of rookies be able to improve upon their predecessors, will the number one draft pick make an instant impact, is Stewart Bradley going to step up and lead, and, of course, how will Kevin Kolb perform as the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles?

Nobody really knows, but by piecing together anecdotes from the so called experts, we can try and come up with our best educated guesses. I was okay with the decision to give Kevin Kolb the reigns, but by no means am I confident he'll bring the city of Philadelphia a Super Bowl. As has been written on this site many times, he appears to have the pedigree, but does he have it? Only one way to find out.

The Birds went 11-5 in 2009 and this team, on paper, doesn't look a whole lot worse. That said, I think they caught a couple lucky breaks en route to those 11 wins.

My expectations aren't very high. I could see this new team going up or down. 10-6 seems reasonable. I'll go with that. If they find a way to make the playoffs, I'd call it a successful season.

Mostly, I'm just excited to really get to know them for the next 17 Sundays.

Time's theirs.

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Earlier this week, Doug Pederson admitted cornerback Eric Rowe had some “hiccups” during the spring, and seemed to indicate they stemmed from learning a new defense. 

Rowe says that wasn’t the problem at all.

“It wasn’t the new defense that was giving me whatever hiccups [Pederson] was talking about,” Rowe said on Wednesday as he reported for his second training camp (see Day 3 observations). “It was just, I was having trouble breaking on top of the routes, specifically the curl routes. But fade ball, deep post, digs, I didn’t have any trouble there. It was just curl routes. I just knew I had to work on it after the OTAs.”

Rowe, 23, said the problem was technical; he just needed to get his feet down quicker.

Whatever the problem, whatever the hiccups, it seems as though Rowe’s standing within the organization and on the depth chart isn’t what it once was.

Many thought he would be a starter in 2016, like he was at the end of 2015, but that wasn’t the way things were in the spring. Instead, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks took those positions, and it looks like Nolan Carroll, returning from an injury, and rookie Jalen Mills, who hasn’t yet practiced in pads, are vying for playing time, too.

In back-to-back days earlier this week, Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz failed to mention Rowe’s name while listing players at the cornerback spot. Coincidental omissions or a vocalized unofficial depth chart?

Rowe could possibly go from starter to deep bench player, but that’s not what he’s planning on.

“I know I had a little ups and downs in OTAs, but now the pads are coming on,” Rowe said. “I feel like it’s a fresh start for me and I’m just ready to get out here.”

Pads go on Saturday.

“Right now, I think I still stand in a good position (with the team),” Rowe said. “Football is about the game with pads on. Now we’re really about to see in a couple days when we put the pads on.”

Small in stature, Wendell Smallwood likes to play big

Small in stature, Wendell Smallwood likes to play big

He looks like a small back. He's built like a small back. He wants to play like a big back.

Wendell Smallwood, trying to make the Eagles as a reserve tailback, stands 5-foot-10, 208 pounds, but he said he’s got a surprise for defenders that think he’s one of those itty-bitty backs that dances around looking pretty … until they get hit.

“I think that’s what most people expect,” he said Tuesday. “But when I actually put my head down and fight for those extra yards and get under guys, guys start to say, ‘Hey!’ They start to feel me a little bit.

“So I definitely think that started to show my last year in college, and I started becoming more of an inside zone type of runner instead of an outside runner.”

None of this should be a surprise considering Smallwood’s position coach is Duce Staley, who during his 10-year NFL career was much more interested in running over people than around them.

Smallwood is nowhere near as big as Staley, who played at about 235 to 240. But that’s the kind of back he wants to be.

“It’s definitely important to me and it’s definitely what Duce wants me to do,” Smallwood said. “He wants me to hit the holes and hit ‘em hard and that’s the reason he got me here.

“Duce, he doesn’t like small backs. He doesn’t. I don’t think he believes in those guys. He was a big boy. Running dudes over left and right. That’s what he wants.”

Smallwood played sparingly as a freshman at West Virginia, shared time with Rushel Shell as a sophomore, then took over last year when he led the Big 12 with 1,519 rushing yards and added nine touchdowns, 26 catches and a 6.4 rushing average.

The Eagles plucked him out of Morgantown in the fifth round, and in an uncertain running back picture, he’s got a realistic chance to not just make the team but also play a role.

Just don’t expect him to play like a typical guy his size.

“I don’t consider myself a small back anymore,” he said. “People have always said that and I kind of started to agree, but then I looked at some of the guys who are around and I’m not a small back at all.

“I’m not little and the running style I like to do is suited for a big back, and my catching kind of throws people off. I definitely think I’m a mixture of both.”

Smallwood ranked 13th in Division I in rushing yards last year, and his 6.4 average was tied for ninth among backs with at least 200 carries.

He said a lot of defenders expect him to be a finesse back, a guy who likes to juke safeties and linebackers instead of bowling them over.

“Get me going downhill and I’ll get you what I can get you,” he said. “A lot of [defenders] kind of take the easy route and think it’s going to be easy and then the rest of the game they’re going low and trying to take my legs out.”

Look at the Eagles’ running back picture.

The starter is Ryan Mathews, who is talented but injury-prone. The backup right now probably is Kenjon Barner, who has 34 career carries. Then there’s Darren Sproles, whose 3.8 average last year was his lowest since 2009 and second lowest of his 11-year career.

With a strong camp, there’s no reason Smallwood can’t work himself into that picture.

The last frontier for the Northern Delaware native is blitz pickup. Something he was never asked to do at WVU.

“I don’t think I did basically any in college,” he said. “They didn’t ask me to block at all. I was mainly running routes.

“But as soon as I got here, Duce emphasized, ‘If you want to get on the field, you’re going to block. If you’re not going to block, you’re not going to play.'”

Staley’s No. 22 wasn’t available, but Smallwood is happy to wear the jersey number of another one of his favorite backs growing up, Correll Buckhalter’s No. 28, who he seems quite similar to.

It’s not fair to compare Smallwood to Staley, Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook or any other former Eagles back until the pads go on and we see what he’s really made of.

But Smallwood said he’s thrilled Staley is his coach and said there’s nobody he’d rather be playing for.

“I think he’s a great fit for me as a coach,” Smallwood said. “I need a kind of guy who drives me, tough guy, who’s not going to let up, who’s going to keep his foot on my back. I definitely need that kind of coaching.

“Just being around him growing up and seeing what he did when he was here and how he runs and him being one of my favorite backs, I was kind of star-struck to be around him, and now he’s my coach. It’s definitely a great situation for me.”

Patience being tested after Phillies' embarrassing 10-run loss to Marlins

Patience being tested after Phillies' embarrassing 10-run loss to Marlins

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Wednesday was a miserable day for the Phillies, but there was one winner among the group.

Bench coach Larry Bowa was ejected from the game in the fourth inning, sparing him from having to watch a full dose of the carnage that befell the team in an embarrassing 11-1 loss to the Miami Marlins (see Instant Replay).

Manager Pete Mackanin wasn’t as fortunate as Bowa. He had to stick around for all nine innings as Zach Eflin struggled through a poor start and the weak-hitting Phillies came within an out of being shut out for the second straight game.

“He was mad at the umpire,” Mackanin said of Bowa. “He couldn't control himself. He had to let it out.

“In this game, when you win, you get giddy. When you lose, you want to hang yourself. You have to stay even keeled. You have to stay consistent. At least I have to. I have to try to stay consistent emotionally. 

“I used to be more emotional when I was younger. Over time, I just learned that it doesn't do you any good. My fate is left in the hands of the players.”

The players have not performed all that well since coming back from the All-Star break. Wednesday’s loss dropped the club to 4-9 since the break, dropping it to 11 games under .500. The Phils are averaging just 2.6 runs per game over that span and the pitching has been spotty. The baserunning, particularly by Cesar Hernandez, has been poor, as well.

“This game is all about consistency,” Mackanin said. “Repeating your delivery. Showing plate discipline. Not getting yourself out. Making the plays. Doing the little things on a consistent basis. Over the course of 162 games, the teams that do these things the best are the best teams.”

Wednesday’s loss dropped the Phillies to 2-4 on the first two legs of this 10-game trip. But all is not lost. The Phils play the Braves in Atlanta the next four days. The Braves have the worst record in the majors.

“We're going to Atlanta,” said Mackanin, not realizing he was about to damn his club with faint praise. “I think we have a good chance to compete against Atlanta to end the month on a positive note.”

The Phils came up short offensively and on the mound Wednesday. Actually, they had 10 hits, but only one was for extra bases, and they left 10 men on base while getting just one hit in eight chances with a runner in scoring position. (The Phils were 2 for 21 in those situations in the series.) Marlins lefty Adam Conley pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings and pitched out of bases-loaded trouble twice.

Eflin was hit hard early. The Marlins scored three runs in the first inning, two on a scorching two-run homer to left by Giancarlo Stanton. The bruising line drive left Stanton’s bat at 112 mph.

In all, Eflin was tagged for nine hits, including the homer and a pair of triples, and seven runs in five innings. Mackanin said Eflin “was not the same guy” that pitched a three-hit shutout in his previous start at Pittsburgh.

“I didn't like the mix of pitches he used,” Mackanin said. “We were hoping he'd use his curveball a little bit more. I thought he made some good pitches that the umpire missed. But that wasn't the reason. He just wasn't the same guy. We stranded 10 runners — had some chances to get something going but couldn't capitalize.”

Eflin was grazed on his pitching hand by a pitch during batting practice Tuesday, but said that did not affect him at all.

“I was just up with everything,” he said. “I wasn't executing. That's what it came down to. I was leaving all my pitches up in the zone and didn't give my team the best chance to win the ballgame. I didn't do my job. I've got to work on being consistent and staying down in the zone.”

Eflin is just 22. He had a 1.80 ERA in four previous starts in the month of July. He will be right back out there when his turn in the rotation comes up again next week.

But Mackanin seems to be losing patience with others. He laughed when a reporter asked him if it was time for a lineup shakeup.

“What do you think?” Mackanin said with some exasperation. “We've faced some tough pitching lately. It's an up-and-down season. That's the type of team we have. We don't have consistency in the lineup. Let's put it that way. That doesn't bode that well.”

Riding out a rebuild means Mackanin doesn’t have a whole lot of options at his disposal. He probably will have a new face to put in the lineup Thursday night in Atlanta, though. It appears as if Peter Bourjos will go on the disabled list and Aaron Altherr will be activated (see story). Altherr was projected to start in the outfield until blowing out his wrist in spring training. He is healthy now (see story). Maybe he can bring a spark to a lineup that has been mostly lifeless since the All-Star break.