Winning and getting to 8-8 doesn't mean a whole lot, but it was good to see the team close out the season on a positive note. That won't wipe away the disappointment of 2011. As we watch the playoffs in the coming weeks, I'm sure it will eat at Jeffrey Lurie, Joe Banner, Howie Roseman, Andy Reid and the players that they aren't in the postseason. There is nothing worse than watching the Giants in a playoff game (except seeing them win). The NFC East was so lousy this year that I'm not sure they will go far, but it will still be miserable to see them taking the field at all. That disappointment needs to be a driving force in the offseason.
While disappointment can be a valuable motivator, winning the final four games had to improve the players’ self-confidence and that's a good thing. You want the organization, coaches and players to feel bad for the overall results, but you don't want players being totally down on themselves. That mindset isn't conducive to having a strong offseason. It is a lot easier to watch film, study your playbook and pound the weights if you feel there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
Think about Dion Lewis. He ran for 58 yards in the season finale and scored a touchdown. I guarantee you that he's fired up based on that game. Lewis will attack the offseason full bore. That taste of success didn't satisfy him. It left him wanting more. Without that game maybe Lewis is not as motivated to work. Players must believe in what they are doing and themselves.
Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs once said something that I think very much applies in this situation.
"Once you have a plan, you must sell it to the players. It is not enough to put it on the blackboard and say ‘OK, here it is.' You have to convince the players that the plan is a good one and show them, in specific ways, why it will work,” he said. “If you do, you send them out to the practice field with more confidence."
The final four games of the season showed the players that things can work. Phillip Hunt doesn't have to close his eyes and day dream about sacking the quarterback. He can go watch himself do it in two games. That will give him a sense of hope moving forward. The question for him now is how much success can he have? The same is true for many young players. Danny Watkins, Casey Matthews, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Keenan Clayton, Clay Harbor and Riley Cooper all had good moments down the stretch run that will boost their confidence heading into the offseason.
Stewart Bradley didn't play much in his rookie season of 2007. He did play a lot in a game against the Saints late in the year. Bradley had a sack and an interception in the game. That gave him a huge confidence boost and Bradley started for all of 2008 and he played at a high level. I don't know if that happens without the good game late in 2007.
|Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He was a finalist for Philadelphia's Most Influential Blogger Award and is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com |
2011 was a disappointing season, but there are a lot of good pieces in place. As I look at the projected depth chart for 2012, there are only a few starting spots that I think need to be addressed. The Eagles had a lot of questions coming off the 2010 season and that led to a very active time in free agency. I don't think you will see a repeat of that. There will be a few key moves, but don't expect a flurry of signings/trades.
The 2012 Eagles will improve a lot based on talent that is already in place. The defensive line will get a boost from the return of Antonio Dixon and Brandon Graham getting closer to 100 percent. The development of young guys like Cedric Thornton and Hunt will also be important. Brian Rolle had a good rookie year, but should only get better. The other linebacker spots are very much up for grabs, but Matthews, Jamar Chaney and Clayton all played their best ball of the year down the stretch. The secondary also improved late in 2011. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie got to play outside and showed what he is capable of. A full offseason here should only help him. Young guys Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes got some playing time, but will be much more important next season.
Rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett could be a key piece moving forward. The Eagles are very high on Allen at one safety position. Coleman played pretty well at the other spot, but there is a question if he's the long-term answer as a starter. Jarrett has a higher upside. He didn't show that this year, but was a rookie coming off a short offseason. The Eagles spent a second-round pick on him because they think highly of Jarrett. He must lift, study and practice like his life depends on it. That's the way Coleman approaches football and Jarrett won't beat him out easily.
Most of the offense is good to go. The most important person there is Michael Vick. He finally gets his first offseason as a starting quarterback since 2006. Vick appeared to take a step back in 2011. He needs to fix a few things. Vick is coming off his best three-game showing of the year and a good end to 2011 should send him into the offseason with some confidence. Vick had a passer rating of more than 100 in each game. He also ran less, which I think is a good sign. Vick must do whatever it takes to stay on the field in 2012. I don't care if that means running less, sliding, eating spinach, or wearing Superman underoos.
The return of Howard Mudd bodes well for the offensive line. Those guys had a month to work with him this year. The results ranged from good to outstanding. Jason Peters went from a good left tackle to arguably the best in the NFL. Jason Kelce must get bigger and stronger. He showed great promise this year, but did struggle with getting pushed around at times. Watkins was a very good run blocker at times, but had some issues with pass protection. A full offseason should do wonders for him. Watkins’ head was swimming last summer as he tried to adjust to the move from left tackle to right guard. He was lost. By the end of the season, he was playing solid football. He's got a lot more confidence in himself now than then.
Don't forget the rookie kickers. Punter Chas Henry got better as the year went along. He still has a long way to go, but he finally started to show the skills that made him such a great punter in college. You know rookie kickers will have issues as they adjust to the NFL. The key is to see the leg strength and to see the player learn and improve. Henry has shown all three. He really boomed the ball in his final game, averaging more than 50 yards per punt. I'm sure his confidence is sky high after that game.
Placekicker Alex Henery had a disastrous game against the Niners when he missed a pair of short field goals in a 24-23 loss. Henery rebounded nicely. He finished the season 24-of-27 and set a team record and an all-time NFL rookie record for accuracy. He nailed a 51-yard field goal in Dallas, his longest of the year. The only hurdle left for him is to kick a clutch field goal. That can't happen until next year. Henery got better depth on his kickoffs as the season progressed. That was impressive to see. A full offseason with Bobby April should improve his technique and help Henery to be even better in 2012.
No Eagle is happy with the 2011 season, but there is value in the good finish. Players have something to believe in and that can be very helpful in the offseason. Between now and next August there are no games, just workouts and practice. That stuff isn't fun, but when you know that the work will pay off, it absolutely changes your mindset and helps you grind away. Soon enough, it will be time for the players to get right back to work.
For more dead-on analysis from Tommy Lawlor, check out the Fan-Demonium archive.