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Philadelphia Eagles 2004 Season Preview

Fourth Time a Charm?

By

Updated August 04, 2004
The Philadelphia Eagles arguably made the two biggest free agent acquisitions during the off-season in wide receiver Terrell Owens and defensive end Jevon Kearse, and they hope the additions will put them over the hump and finally into the Super Bowl after losing three-consecutive NFC Championship games.

Plagued by poor play at wide receiver and a pass rush that was inconsistent in 2003, the moves would appear to be just what the Eagles need. However, Kearse must stay healthy and return to the form that made him a star in his first two seasons in the league, and Owens must learn to be a team player. With numbers that are likely to drop from his days with the 49ers, Owens could become more of a distraction to the offense if he displays the unhappiness he did with the 49ers last year.

Quarterbacks
Donovan McNabb struggled early in the 2003 season, but rebounded nicely in the second half despite having few weapons to work with. And while he has never been tremendously accurate as a passer, he has been plagued with a receiving corps that has failed to consistently gain separation from defenders and drops far too many catchable balls. What McNabb lacks in accuracy he more than makes up for with his agility, which gives defensive coordinators one more base to cover and frustrates pass rushers to no end.

Koy Detmer is listed as the No.2 QB, but free agent signing Jeff Blake could push him for that position. Detmer has a great understanding of Andy Reid’s offense and has done an adequate job when pressed into service in the past, but Blake possess better skills and would probably be the better option should McNabb miss extended playing time again.

Running Backs
With Duce Staley taking his services to Pittsburgh, the Eagles will rely on Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter to carry the load this year. Westbrook is the more explosive of the two, and his abilities in the passing game make him the logical choice on third downs. However, he has durability concerns and lacks the size to be an every-down player. Buckhalter has been banged up in the past, but bounced back nicely to have a solid season in ’03. Between the two, the Eagles should be able to produce an adequate running game provided the passing game can loosen defenses up a little more than in recent seasons.

Rookie Bruce Perry may also see spot action this year after performing well in off-season workouts. He’s a quick, versatile back that possesses a nice burst to the outside and he catches the ball well.. He may struggle between the tackles, but he could give the Eagles another option with the ability to make big plays out of the backfield.

Wide Receivers
The Eagles’ runs through the playoffs the last three years have come without a consistent playmaking receiver, but the addition of former 49ers wideout Terrell Owens should change that. Landing Owens during the off-season was an arduous task, with the enigmatic superstar landing in Baltimore by trade after a contract snafu seemingly had ended his opportunity to become a free agent. But after much protest and the realization by the Ravens that Owens didn’t want to play for them, a deal was worked out by all parties that allowed Owens to sign with Philadelphia.

Although it was tough getting Owens in Philly green, it should be worth the effort. He is a big, physical receiver that has the ability to easily surpass on his own the total touchdowns scored by the receiving corps as a group in ‘03. Last season, Owens nearly doubled the production of the Eagles receivers by scoring nine touchdowns as compared to just five for Philadelphia’s group.

The addition also paves the way for Todd Pinkston to move into the No. 2 role, where he is a much better fit, while Freddie Mitchell moves into the slot. Behind Mitchell are second-year receivers Greg Lewis and Billy McMullen, who have just seven career receptions between the two of them, so depth is a bit of a concern here.

Tight Ends
The addition of Owens should also open things up for L.J. Smith, who could be on the verge of a break-out season. As a rookie last year he showed the ability to stretch the middle of the field, but he had trouble hanging onto the ball at times. If he can hang onto the ball, he has the chance to become one of the elite tight ends in the league. Chad Lewis, a smart veteran with good hands, will play the second tight end position.

Offensive Line
The best word to describe the Eagles offensive line is adequate. The are solid up and down the line, but not spectacular. They added the massive Shawn Andrews in the draft, who has tremendous potential and will likely start at right guard, which will allow Jermane Mayberry to move to the left side. Offensive tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan are solid players, but they are coming off down years and need to rebound for this unit to be successful. At center, Hank Fraley is a decent blocker, but again, not a dominating player.

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