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Free Agents and Draft Picks
After the preseason games the birds have shown why again they are the cream of the crop when it comes to re-tooling their team. There was no additional FA signings and no returning favorites like a year ago, but there was substance. The most important free agent landed was Mike McMahon , the former Scarlet Knight who wasn't given the chance to succeed as the quarterback of a then talent-bare Lions team. The Lions opted to go with their prize draft pick Joey Harrington. Returning backup Koy Detmer has earned confidence as David Akers holder on special teams. Detmer's secondary value is his knowledge of Reid's version of the WCO after spending 9 seasons as an Eagle. McMahon looked more than serviceable through 2 preseason games and finally gives the Super Bowl contenders a viable backup. Although Detmer adds experience to the number 2 spot, McMahon should eventually unseat him because of his superior athleticism and strong arm.
What is even more comforting was the play of the rookies thus far. The impact players drafted: DT Mike Patterson, WR Reggie Brown and RB Ryan Moats have performed extremely well and have coaches and fans excited. All three players have helped validate Tom Heckert's promotion to Head of Pro Player Personnel. The most exciting of the three has been Ryan Moats , who is already responsible for a handful of twisted ankles and pulled hamstrings. He's short, powerful and has shown a second-gear most analysts disputed prior to seeing him run during the preseason. He's a special player and a legitimate 2 nd option to Brian Westbrook , who should agree to a new contract before the start of the season. The Eagles are currently offering Westbrook an 8 million dollar signing bonus plus a contract that averages between 4.5 to 5 million dollars over 4 years. The hold up is not the signing bonus, rather the guaranteed money per year. It's reported that Westbrook's agent, Fletcher Smith, is looking for 5.5 to 6 million a year and more money guaranteed. Look for both sides to meet in the middle after the final roster is decided.
WR Reggie Brown was selected in the 2 nd round to provide the offense with a future playmaker. His time table to learn the complex terminology of the WCO was accelerated by the unfortunate injury suffered by Todd Pinkston . Pinkston became a solid complimentary receiver opposite Owens but seemed to reach his potential as a second tier player. He will be replaced by 2 nd year speedster and FA surprise Greg Lewis . What Lewis gives up in experience and height, he makes up for with speed and talent. The Eagles lost a complimentary number two in Pinkston but should not miss a beat while Lewis and Brown continue to impress. Owens is the key to the unit becoming special. His importance to the team, despite his bizarre personality, should not be minimized. With Pinkston going down, this unit of talented young receivers lead by Owens should be fun to watch. Westbrook acts as another weapon when split out as a receiver and will contribute to an already exciting bunch. Since Reid was named coach in 1999 a rookie WR has never started. Reggie Brown will become the first.
The Eagles made the decision to release Corey Simon because of the depth at the position and the strong play of their 1 st round Pick. DT Mike Patterson has validated his first round value by notching 2 sacks through 3 preseason games." He's a special player we're expecting big things from" defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said after Friday's game vs. Cincinnati. Johnson stated that Patterson is much better at playing the run right now but he still gets a good push up the middle. He's still learning and with that will come improvement rushing the passer. Patterson will back up Darwin Walker and see plenty of playing action. Patterson has shown a quick first step and the leverage to penetrate as displayed in the Raven game. This promising first round pick could crack the starting lineup by midseason.
There are other draft picks that deserve recognition for their progression and solid play thus far:
OT Todd Herremans the relative sleeper from Saginaw Valley College is currently backing up Tra Thomas at LT. Thomas is working his way back slowly now that he's stopped taking blood thinners to treat a blood clot. Herremans has started in place of the veteran LT and has more than held his own against opposing team's first-unit defensive ends. Herremans has made very few rookie mistakes and is making the most of his opportunity while playing with the starters. He's making tremendous strides and will be Thomas's successor at LT.
Matt McCoy has struggled to absorb Jim Johnson's complex defense which was expected. He has flashed potential and made solid tackles when given the opportunity but is far from becoming a starter. The learning curve alone will keep him out of the starting lineup this season. McCoy will see plenty of action on special teams where he should contribute immediately.
The birds had high hopes for DE Jerome McDougle coming into this years training camp. Misfortune struck as the former first round pick was shot in an attempted car-jacking in Miami. While McDougle is expected to return to action in a few months the team hopes their most recent 5 th round pick from Cincinnati will become a viable part of the rotation. DE Trent Cole showed a real ability to rush the quarterback and provided another option for Jim Johnson to work with. Cole has made some real athletic plays and looks to provide depth to a rotation that includes Jevon Kearse , N.D. Kalu, and Juqua Thomas . He gives the Eagles some of the quickness they lost upon letting Derrick Burgess sign with Oakland. Hugh Douglas has struggled to regain the edge rush that made him a force and was cut by the team. The strong play of Juqua Thomas, the ex-Titan has been quite impressive playing the run and pressuring the passer. All reports from camp have been positive in regards to Thomas.
Martin Patterson the undrafted FA linebacker from TCU had been challenging 2 nd year man Mike Labinjo for the backup MLB position but failed to make it past the final cut.
Position battles become clear
RB Ryan Moats will backup Westbrook as Bruce Perry looks to have the edge over the versatile Reno Mahe . Perry has shown some burst but hasn't proved that he can remain healthy. Perry has been slow to get up too often through the preseason. Another strike against the local product is his ball security problems. He has put the ball on the carpet one to many times. Look for the Eagles to bring in another experienced RB before September 8 th . (Lamar Gordon, Davenport, Morris)
WR T.O . is "playing nice" at the number 1 spot as Greg Lewis continues to impress and help ease the worries of losing Pinkston for the year. Reggie Brown seems to have won the battle for the number 3 position over Billy McMullen who is currently the 4 th wideout. Carlos Perez , the UFA rookie from Florida was cut and lost the 5 th and final spot when the Eagles brought in ex Redskin, Darnerian McCants .
TE L.J. Smith is poised to have a break-out year as the birds are interested to see how he responds to becoming a go-to guy. Without Chad Lewis returning for one more go, the team acquired James Whalen this off-season. What the team hoped Whalen would provide is exactly what they are seeing from URFA's Stephen Spach and Andy Thorn . Both players have shown great hands but Spach has looked more athletic. Whalen was released which opens the door for one of these young tight ends to contribute to the 53 man roster. Dr. Spach pronounced (Spock), will back up L.J. Smith with Mike Bartrum making the unit because of his long-snapping ability.
WIL LB Unfortunately Greg Richmond underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his lower back. Jim Johnson and Co. were excited by the strides he made early in camp. He was looking to compete with starter Keith Adams and now fringe player Mark Simoneau for the only unsettled spot behind the defensive line. Last season's special teams ace Jason Short has looked good at times and is posing a real threat to Simoneau's future as an Eagle. No one should be too surprised to see the over matched Simoneau released by the deadline. The Eagles have played him extensively on special teams and deep into the 3 rd and 4 th quarters of preseason games thus far. Short could beat out Simoneau because of his wedge busting abilities on kick-coverage units. The Eagles are searching for a leader on special teams now that Ike Reese left for Atlanta. Short and fellow linebacker - Mike Labinjo seem to be the leading candidates to fill the shoes Reese left.
1) Ryan Moats will be a key contributor this season with a good chance to run for over 500 yards and score 5 tds.
2) Reggie Brown will surpass Freddie Mitchell's best single season statistics.
3) Mike Patterson will ease the pain of losing Corey Simon by registering over 38 tackles and 5 sacks.
4) Donovan McNabb will win the leagues MVP award at seasons end.
5) Greg Lewis will give the Eagles their best number 2 receiver since Calvin Williams played second fiddle to Fred Barnett.
6) Sheldon Brown will make his first Pro Bowl in 2006.
7. The Eagles D will finish the season as the # 1 overall defense in the NFL.
8.The Eagles will play the Panthers in the NFC Championship game.
9) The Eagles will play the Colts in the Super Bowl.
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