Thursday, April 30, 2009

To Sheridan: It Isn't Time to Let Sheldon Brown Go

In what is becoming an annual off season event for the Eagles, another play reported to the mini-camp yesterday unhappy with his current contract.

Like Brian Westbrook two years ago, and Lito Sheppard just last year, the Eagles find themselves once again deciding what to do with an important part of their team.

This year its Sheldon Brown, the Eagles most consistent corner over the last several years. After watching money thrown the way of Asante Samuel and Juselio Hanson, Brown finally spoke out about his displeasure with his contract status.

Last week, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan wrote a piece advising the Eagles to get rid of Brown as quick as possible, even resorting to cutting him if they have to. While I respect Sheridan, I could not disagree more with that stance.

First of all, the idea of cutting Brown is crazy. You do not release a Pro-Bowl caliber cornerback, who is not in his prime, but not that far past it. Brown only gave up 1 touchdown pass last year, and that was to Larry Fitzgerald in the playoffs. If your going to release cornerbacks off of that, then theirs going to a lot of corners looking for jobs when training camp rolls around.

Sheridan says that with the acquisition of Ellis Hobbs, the Eagles have a better, younger replacement. I find that hard to believe on a number of levels. First off all, if Hobbs is so good, then why did it only cost the Eagles 2 5th round draft choices to get him? The Eagles got only slightly less for Sheppard, and he didn't play at all last season.

The Eagles defense last season carried this team into the playoffs, with their secondary giving up the thirds fewest yards through the air and 12 fewer touchdown passes then the Patriots secondary. The Patriots secondary gave up more touchdown passes then anyone else in the league last year. While other things factor into that, when you look at those numbers, then put in the fact that the Patriots practically gave him away, it makes you think twice about releasing Brown and putting Hobbs in their.

Sheridan references the Sheppard situation last season as a main reason to let Brown go. He says Sheppard "poisoned the air in the locker room, quit on them, and took up a valuable roster spot." Obviously, Sheridan has more access to the Eagles then I do, but I didn't think that Sheppard poisoned the locker room at all. Sheppard had a bad year, no doubt about that. But if having a bad year means you poisoned the locker room, then Reno Mahe should be dragged out and beaten for letting off so many fumes in that room.

The truth is that the Sheppard situation is completely different then the Brown one. Sheppard was replaced. The Eagles decided Asante Samuel was better then Lito Sheppard. Sheppard had not choice but to ride the bench. Browns situation is different. You could argue that Brown had a better season then Samuel last year. There were many times Samuels was burned over and over by players like Devin Hester. There's a reason Brown was on Fitzgerald in the redzone last year. If Brown wants to, he will be the starting cornerback for the Eagles in week 1. Sheppard did not have that option.

Sheridan then compares Sheldon Brown to Terrell Owens. That is a stretch in almost everyway. Does anyone think Brown is going to start hitting team mates and doing sit ups in his drive way? No. Brown is the ultimate team player, having watched players like Brian Dawkins and Troy Vincent handle themselves like professionals. Brown is one of the leaders on that defense for a reason. Worst case scenario, Brown makes the ocassional, snotty comments after loses.

That brings up another reason why they should keep Brown. Loses. The Eagles will not being doing a lot of that this year. This team is good, really good. The defense and offense are both in the top of the league. They have a good young nucleus surrounding a veteran quarterback in Donovan McNabb. This team is going to win a lot this year. And we all know in sports, winning is the ultimate deodorant. It covers up anything. Do you think that after blowing out teams, and playing the whole game, Brown is going to be complaining out his contract? No. Winning even shut T.O. up. I think it can keep Brown quite. And the truth is, the Eagles have a better chance of winning with Brown on the roster.

That is why the Eagles need to hold on to Brown. Don't pay him. Don't do anything with him. Keep him on the roster, let him pretend to throw a fit, then start him on Sundays.

But don't, by any means, let him go. The Eagles have enough young players on this team already. Don't let another proven veteran walk out of the secondary.

It is in the interest of everybody involved- the Eagles, Brown and fans- that Brown stays.

No matter what Sheridan says.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Eagles Draft Analysis

The Eagles entered the draft needing to fill some major holes. They were: left tackle, wide receiver, running back, secondary, and tight end. 

Check, Check, Check.

Lets look at this past weekend for the Birds, how they filled each hole, and how each move will effect the upcoming season.

1. Left Tackle/ Offensive Line- The Eagles addressed their offensive line in a big way this offseason. While it was not the popular move to let Runyan and Thomas go - I previously wrote I thought they should resign them both- the Eagles let them both walk, leaving  huge holes at both tackle spots. However, with the addition of Stacey Andrews and Jason Peters, the Eagles now have what some consider to be the best offensive line in football. The Eagles absolutely robbed the Buffalo Bills of Peters, giving up their 28th pick for him. Knowing the Eagles had to come out of those first 2 picks with at least one tackle, to be able to use that pick on a young, proven, 2 time pro bowl 26 year old tackle is one great pick. The Eagles were able to make their offensive line from one of their weak points to one of their strongest. 

2. Wide Receiver: The Eagles won a lot of battles this weekend when it comes to the wide out spot. Along with the New York Giants, the Eagles were mentioned in almost every rumor involving either Anquan Boldin or Braylon Edwards. Many experts believed that when the weekend was over, one of them would be in either midnight green or Giant blue. Which ever team got one of them would instantly become the favorite to win the NFC. 
The fact that neither team ended up with either of them is a victory for the Eagles. The Giants offensive was awful after they lost Plaxico Burress last season. Eli Manning fell back down to earth, and with no passing threat, teams were able to stop the Giants running game. The Giants still have that problem today. This is a big victory for the Eagles.
Another victory for the Eagles was the drafting of Jeremy Maclin. While I, like many Eagles fans, at first was confused and angered by the pick, the more I analyze it, the more I like it. Maclin is 6'0, 200 lbs. Many people projected him going 7th, and ESPN had him ranked at the 2nd best wideout in the draft. His is comparable to DeSean Jackson, which some people don't like. But after watching Jackson last season, why woulnd't we want another Jackson? Maclin will be able to split time with Jackson in the punt return game, which solves a problem the Eagles were going to have to face as Jackson became their number one. Maclin also will be a perfect compliment across from Jackson, as their speed going down the field will open up the middle for players like Kevin Curtis, Jason Avant, or Brent Celek going across the middle. 
Another angle to look at the decision of Maclin over Boldin or Edwards is the effect it will have on Jackson. While their were no problems last season, some considered Jackson to be some what of  a diva coming out of college. The aquistion of Boldin or Edwards would have relagated him to the number 2 spot, and would have stunted his growth. Now, Jackson is paired with another young stud wide out, but one that is unquestionably below him. Going into the new season, Jackson is still our best threat. That is good for him, and good for the team.

3. Running Back: With the departure of Correll Buckhalter, the Eagles needed a running back to play behind Brian Westbrook. The Eagles could have gone two ways with this- they could have gotten a complimentary back for Westbrook, ala Beanie Wells, or a Westbrook clone/ eventual replacement, ala their second round draft pick, LaSean McCoy. 
Getting McCoy as the 53 overall pick was a steal. With Knowson Moreno off the board, the Eagles had the option of either Beanie Wells, Donald Brown, or LeSean McCoy. Brown, at least to me, as bust written all over him. Beanie Wells, while he would have been a nice compliment to Westbrook, has trouble catching it out of the back field, which would have had him glued to the Eagles bench. McCoy, on the other hand, was considered a first round pick until a poor showing at the combine dropped his stock.  And in that poor showing, he actually recorded a faster 40 time then Moreno. McCoy also had more rushing yards and touchdowns the Moreno last season. 
McCoy gives the Eagles what they needed- somebody who can step in for Westbrook and be able to run the same plays as him. When it comes to short yardage situations, a spot that Wells could have been used, the Eagles already have somebody to do that- fullback Leonard Weaver. The Eagles will be able to use McCoy to spell Westbrook, and they can also put them on the field at the same time. Imagine both of them splitting out in the flat with Jackson and Maclin sprinting down the sideline. Those are 4 home run threats right their. McCoy, like Maclin, will give this Eagles offensive more playmaking ability and more options.

4. Secondary- The Eagles defense was not a main priority this off season, with it already being one of the top units in the NFL. However, the secondary has been going through some changes thus far. With the departure of Brian Dawkins and the public brawl Sheldon Brown is going through with the front office, the secondary is a question mark going into this season. The Eagles tried to address that in the draft with the aquistion of Ellis Hobbs. Hobbs was the starting corner back for the New England Patriots. While their secondary struggled last season, to get a player of Hobbs ability with a 5th round pick is a good pick up. Hobbs gives the Eagles some insurance in the event of Brown going off the deep up ala Lito Sheppard and being a non factor this season (which is unlikely) or if Juselio Hanson has a down year or Jack Ikegwuono is not what the Eagles think he is. Hobbs adds needed depth at a position that is facing some big questions going into the season.

5. Tight End- When the Eagles traded up to the 19th spot, many fans were hoping and expecting to hear Brandon Pettigrews names called. Pettigrew was considered to be the best, most complete tight end in the draft. While Brent Celek had a nice year for the Birds last season, he is not a huge threat in the passing game, or a good blocker. Pettigrew was considered to be both. While the Eagles did not end up with Pettigrew, they might have gotten somebody just as good, if not better, with the drafting of Cornelius Ingram. 
Ranked as the second best tight end and 44th best player overall, Ingram missed all of last season at Florida with a torn ACL. However, he was healthy enough at the combine to record a faster 40 time then Pettigrew. In his last full season healthy at Florida, Ingram caught 34 balls for over 500 yards and 7 touchdowns. Last season, Pettigrew caught 42 balls for 472 yards and no touchdowns. Is Ingram better then Pettigrew? Many people will tell you no. But could he end up being the steal of the draft at 153 overall? Yes. 

Overall, this was an amazing draft weekend for the Eagles. They got everything they needed while out doing their division rivals. The addition of Maclin, McCoy and Ingram to Jackson, Kevin Curtis, Jason Avant, and Brian Westbrook will give Donovan McNabb a group of players on the offensive side of the ball that will be the best he ever lined up with. The Eagles offensive weapons are young, fast, and home run threats. Leaving the NFL draft, the Eagles have the best group of wide receivers in the NFC East. Whens the last time you could say that? They managed to fill almost every gap they needed to this weekend. Going into next season, the Eagles have to be considered the favorites to win the NFC East.