Their late-season hot streak was maddeningly frustrating for Philadelphia fans who knew what their team was capable of all season. The positive takeaway was that the future looked bright, that their late surge would springboard them to greater heights next season, when perhaps their “dream team” talent would manifest itself in a division championship and postseason success.
SI. com NFL columnist Don Banks agrees with this sentiment, saying as much in a column released over the weekend.
The article is worth a read, as it sums up in concise fashion what the Eagles did to improve this offseason. Of all the interesting points and analysis in the piece, I found these to be the most compelling:
• The defensive-heavy draft that delivered some much-needed, potential-early contributors such as defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, defensive end Vinny Curry and cornerback Brandon Boykin.
• The March trade for veteran middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, addressing the team's glaring hole in the middle of its defense, not to mention its leadership deficit on that side of the ball.
• The contented and peaceful locker room that should result from new contract extensions for the likes of receiver DeSean Jackson, running back LeSean McCoy, defensive end Trent Cole and offensive lineman Todd Herremans.
• The benefit of a full offseason program and plenty of practice time for quarterback Michael Vick and second-year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, who both have something to prove after their tumultuous 2011. The Eagles' roster was kind of thrown together at the last minute due to the NFL's labor standoff a year ago, and eventually there was a price to pay for that on-the-fly approach.
• The reality that the Eagles didn't swing and miss entirely in last year's free-agent haul. Defensive end Jason Babin and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins had very productive first seasons, as did guard Evan Mathis. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha must step up his game significantly, but the one-and-done experiences of free agents like backup quarterback Vince Young, running back Ronnie Brown and receiver Steve Smith really didn't cost the Eagles much.
There’s a lot to be said for the Eagles’ strong finish, their success in both free agency and the draft and the lowered expectations after last season’s “dream team” fiasco. But is this team ready to unseat the Giants in the NFC East? Will they finish ahead of Dallas?