The Eagles Are Still Legit Contenders in the NFC East
Personnel changes on both sides of the ball during the offseason have transformed the Philadelphia Eagles, especially at quarterback and running back. Gone is Donovan McNabb after establishing himself among the Eagles’ best quarterbacks in franchise history. His exit to their division rival, the Washington Redskins, opened the door for Kevin Kolb. The team also released Brian Westbrook after LeSean McCoy showed the vision, cutting ability and speed the Eagles coveted when they drafted him in the second round in ’09 out of Pitt. McCoy became the highest rookie rusher in franchise history and proved himself worthy of being a productive NFL running back last year.McCoy caught on quickly because Westbrook was kind enough to be a mentor to him and show him how to become a great running back in the NFL.
Westbrook told him if he tirelessly studies the playbook and lets his natural ability take over that everything else would fall into place. He finished the season with 637 yards rushing; breaking Correll Buckhalter’s record for rookies set in ’01, and finished third among all rookie running backs in rushing and second among rookie backs in yards from scrimmage, with 945. With McNabb and Westbrook no longer in the equation, Eagles’ fans aren’t sure what to expect. It is hard to be optimistic heading into a season with a completely revamped roster, but in the eleven seasons since Andy Reid has been the head coach, they only have two losing season, in ’99 and ’05. The young talent such as Kolb, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and McCoy will have to share leadership responsibilities. If they can step it up, this team is still a legit threat to win the NFC EastLeSean McCoy joined WIP in Philly to talk about how he feels heading into this year as the featured running back, what the difference is with Kevin Kolb as the quarterback, and what he can say to assure the fans that this team hasn’t taken a step back.
How he feels heading into this year as the featured running back:
“I feel pretty confident knowing the supporting cast I have around me, a lot of great guys. We have a high-powered offense so I feel real confident. I think if we also get these younger men in we are going to be unstoppable.”
What the difference is with Kevin Kolb as the quarterback:
“I think lately Kolb has done really well. I think he has shown that he is a leader. That is the biggest thing that surprised everybody, his leadership in and out of the huddle kind of getting the team together and the offense to rile up a little bit, so he has done really good. I think everybody is surprised at how much a leader he is.”
What little things he has noticed that indicates he is ready for the season:
“Well just how the offensive line has been playing. They have been blocking pretty well. It is only a finesse-type of offense that the defense has to prepare for so coming into the game they are going to be looking at DeSean and some of the guys in Celek and Maclin, Weaver, and myself so we know the defense has to worry about all of them guys and not to be confident. I feel like Coach Reid is doing a good job trying to get everybody involved and when my numbers go up lets go out there and perform.”
Whether he is going to be able to pick up blitzes similar to how Brian Westbrook would:
“Definitely. I think the biggest thing with Brian is he is so smart. He knew the game and that stuff helped him out so much. He knew the game so well and when those guys blitzed he knew where they were coming from it never really fooled him. When he was here that was one of the biggest things that he was teaching me so it was kind of great having a guy like that around to be able to kind of see things through his eyes, pick his brain a little bit and learn from him. So now when I watch tape and kind of prepare for games, it is Brian did it.”
Whether he has to sell the running game to the coaches or if he has any input into how active the running game is:
“I think sometimes it has to do with having success in the running game. Earlier in the game when we were running pretty well coach would come back to it because we are a passing team. But it is weird because sometimes a screen pass will do pretty well for us so you have got to look at that as a run. With Brian he had a lot of good runs and a lot of stuff out of the backfield, the things trying to get different matchups off on a linebacker in the open field, so stuff like that. This offense is going to be, you can’t be selfish. You cant be selfish at all. The good strategy is to get the backs some type of mismatch.”
What he can say to assure the fans that this team hasn’t taken a step back:
“I mean the whole Eagles franchise and history we have always been a good team. I think you have got to have confidence in the coaching staff to make these changes, I think for the better. You will see. You will find out. Just have confidence is us, man. We are them same birds.”