Will Birds' be more than paper tigers in 2012?
If only there was an award for winning the off-season, the Eagles surely would have taken it home last summer.
Alas, we all know how that turned out.
The team that looked so good on paper started out 4-8 before winning their last four in a row, victories that were by then too late.
Now, just weeks away from the start of training camp, the Eagles again look like a contender on paper. So "will reality meet perception" in 2012?
It's the question Sports Illustrated
asked of the club in its off-season breakdown series. The answer, in their estimation, will revolve around three key players -- DeMeco Ryans, Demetress Bell and Mike Vick.
Starting with Ryans, he was brought in from Houston to plug the gaping hole that was, and has been for the some time, the middle linebacker position. A playmaker with the Texans, the Birds are hoping Ryans can continue to rebound from a 2010 injury to regain his form in a 4-3 defense, and become the anchor the wide-nine so desperately requires behind a spread out D-line.
Moving to the other side of the ball, Bell will undertake the arduous task of replacing the out-for-the-season Jason Peters. He's a capable replacement expected to hold his own, but filling for a tackle of Peter's caliber means the Eagles could be taking a step back on the O-line, even if he plays well.
Then there's the quarterback he's trying to protect, and whether he's interested in being protected. Stop us if you've heard this before, but Mike Vick needs to make better decisions, stop exposing himself to unnecessary hits and spend more time going through his progressions in the pocket before declaring a play broken. He's got all the talent he could ever ask for at the receiver and running back positions, so it's on him to make the best use of their talents.
Whether all those matters break in the team's favor remains to be seen. But, once again, the Eagles look strong on paper. Just ask SI
"Given Philadelphia’s 2011 flop and the Super Bowl win of the division-rival Giants, it’s odd to say this, but: The Eagles should be the favorites to win the NFC East this season," they write.
"Of course, if all goes according to plan, Philadelphia will be right in the Super Bowl mix come January. But the Eagles’ plans have gone very awry in the past."