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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Eagles Off-Season Report Card: A 

C'mon, admit it, you cynics out there. You, OK we, were afraid last year's 6-10 Eagles would think all they needed to do was recover from their physical wounds and those emotional ones created by Terrell "Boogey Monster" Owens.

But I gotta praise the Eagles for clearly realizing much more was needed.
They seriously upgraded the defensive line by signing Darren Howard.
They got a legit wideout in Donte Stallworth.
The doubly upgraded their dubious backup QB situation, even though McNabb seems healthy again.
They re-signed John Runyan and beefed up the future of the O-line.
They re-signed Brian Dawkins.
They examined a lot of options at all sorts of positions, and so ought to be better or at least deeper.
They really do seem to have regained their composure and confidence.

Still not impressed? Likely then, you're still worried about depth at running back, receiver and tight end.

But look at their moves as part of a two-year plan. Shore up those lines this year, fill in at skill positions and linebacker next year. I've long thought it's not that Andy Reid undervalues runners, catchers and linebackers, just that salary-cap-smart teams have to save money somewhere. So where are you most likely to find bargains? Not at QB, cornerback, offensive tackle or defensive end. No, you're more likely to find a gem among positions haunted more by normal sized people: the positions the Eagles seem to downgrade. There, their strategy seems to be a numbers game: Sign this second-tier free agent, draft this third-rounder, pick up a guy in a trade, and one of them could be prove to be diamond in the rough. If not this year, then next year. This thinking is also why they drafted McNabb (good luck replacing him) instead of Ricky Williams (replaced multiple times). It's supply and demand, and it's smart.

Until, of course, you're that one piece away from the Super Bowl. Which is why they took a risk on Owens. Let's hope they take simiilar chances again.

Not saying the Eagles will be great. They still have many question marks about who can stay healthy, whose talent is for real, how tough the competition is, and whether Andy Reid's game plans will keep opponents guessing more this year ... and handle late-game drives.

Just saying for a team that already went deep into the playoffs, it's impressive their future still seems bright.

Prediction: 11-5 if they stay healthy and Reid innovates, with a playoff win or two.


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