The Eagles finished the 2003 regular season with
an impressive 12 wins and they head into 2004 as the team to beat in the NFC. Philly made some serious improvements in the off-season acquiring (WR)
Terrell Owens and (DE) Jevon Kearse. Owens will finally give the Eagles a go to guy on offense, something they haven't had in the past. Kearse will
help a defense that was weak rushing the passer, finishing last season with just 38 sacks. However, everything was not golden this summer for the
Eagles as the defense took a major hit with the loss of (LB) Carlos Emmons, who very well may have been their best defender last year.
The secondary also took a hit with the departure of both (CB's) Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent. Smaller corners Lito Sheppard & Sheldon Brown will
replace Taylor and Vincent, so there could be a drop off in the pass defense. For a city that last won a major pro title when Dr. J and Moses Malone
were wearing short shorts in 1983, the Eagles represent a real, tangible chance at an end to the misery. And it's not just the reason-deficient radio
show- callers who think so - Andy Reid's team is a popular pick among NFL experts to win the NFC and have a realistic chance for more.
QB Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook, WR Terrell Owens, S Brian Dawkins
WR Terrell Owens San Francisco 49ers, LBD hani Jones, New York Giants, LB Jeremiah Trotter, Washington Redskins DE Jevon
Kearse, Tennessee Titans
RB Duce Staley, CB Troy Vincent, CB Bobby Taylor
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.
Philadelphia has been an elite NFL team for the
past three seasons, and has seemingly gotten better with the addition of Owens, Kearse, and a pair of solid linebackers in Jones and Trotter. If they
remain relatively healthy, the Eagles have the makings of a Super Bowl team. But make no mistake, depth will be a huge issue on this club. Reid's
squad is thin at running back, wide receiver, on both lines, and in the secondary. Significant injuries to Owens, Kearse, Westbrook or either of the
starting corners would be catastrophic. The Eagles will need an uncharacteristic streak of good luck in the injury department to be NFC champions. If
they're still playing on Feb. 6, and the opponent is someone other than the deeper, more talented Patriots, Philadelphia could have its first-ever
Super Bowl title. 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.
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.