The face of the NFC East has changed -- depending on your view -- either slightly or dramatically in recent weeks. Dallas is struggling. The Giants are surging. Washington continues to win slugfests. What does it mean for the Eagles? What did the week that was -- a bye week, a trade deadline that came and went -- mean to the Eagles? Eagles President Joe Banner visited on the set of *Eagles Live! *on Monday afternoon and talked about all of the above, and more.
He was very optimistic. Banner talked about the Eagles' strategy during the trade deadline and discussed what he thought of this team moving forward. Here are some of the highlights of a 20-minute interview: Joe Banner on Eagles Live!
- On the NFC East: "Within a range, I still think we have the toughest division and we have four of the best teams in the league. I never bought into 'we have the four best teams in all of football here' ... it's hard to understand what's going on with the Cowboys. There is no denying that they are very talented. The Redskins and Giants are playing well enough and were dominating some of the teams they were playing. They didn't really yesterday (Sunday). In a way, they deserve the reputations they have."
- On the strategy at the trade deadline: "We've said for years that we're always looking for ways to improve the team every year at the trade deadline as well as on an every-day basis we're doing that. I do think the Chiefs have confirmed that we were one of the teams that inquired about (tight end) Tony Gonzales and it's a true story. I can't go beyond that or talk about any other players, because they are still on their (respective) teams. Based on the comments coming out since (the trade deadline) and this was our read of the situation when we got in touch (with Kansas City) was that they really did not want to trade him. It didn't mean that if there was something that had blown them away they wouldn't have been interested in terms of somebody being willing to overpay. But the read we had from the beginning was that they were very reluctant, although they felt compelled based on his request (to be traded) to at least listen to offers they got. I guess in the end they made the judgment that none of the offers they got were good enough."
- On the idea of 'going for it' and overpaying for a player in a trade: "It's a meaningless term to me. We're 'going for it' every day of the year, as are more teams. If 'going for it' means would we do something stupid, then I hope the answer to that is no. If 'going for it' is, would we look for every opportunity to try to be aggressive and try to make it happen ... the answer to that is always yes."
- On the Roy Williams trade to Dallas: "They paid a lot. Time will tell. I wouldn't pay that much for a player like that -- and I think he is a very good player, so I don't mean that as if he isn't -- but that's a major step.
- On signing LB Tracy White and releasing RB/FB Tony Hunt: "The addition we made we think will help us on special teams. It's an area in which we've been looking in since training camp for opportunities to bring anybody in that can upgrade that. We had an opportunity and we had a player graded that could make a difference so we went out and picked him up. As far as Tony Hunt, it is a disappointment whenever you make a so-called first day pick and he doesn't work out."
- On the fullback situation: "I just think the fact that you've seen as much change there tells you that we're not completely satisfied, at least to this point. (Dan) Klecko is getting his shot now and we'll see how he does. He has what you want there. He's a big, strong guy who plays hard and just has a phenomenal attitude about everything and wouuld do anything for the team. I think when you see us making that making changes at a position, it tells you we're still searching for the answer."
- On the injured players returning to the lineup and what it means: "We started the year with a very talented team and we've had some ups and downs with how we've actually performed on the field. We've had a couple of breaks that didn't go our way. Adding to that group with additional quality players, quality character guys, you have to be optimistic going forward. We should be able to get on a roll here."
There was more, of course. Banner talked about the possibility of extending some players' contracts, but did not get into specifics. The Eagles have some serious questions with both Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas due to be unrestricted free agents along with tight end L.J. Smith and safety Brian Dawkins. The Eagles have always been interested in retaining starters and keeping continuity. From this year to next year, that may not be the case.
Or it may be. Things will play out in the next several weeks, on the field and off the field.
"I wish we weren't 3-3 right now. This is not the ideal position to be in, having completed the schedule we've completed," said Banner. "Everybody here would agree with that. But we're still good enough, and we're in a position to get on a roll, get some players back healthy, that we still have a chance to really do something.
"I like the football team a lot. I think the passion that they play with, and the effort and everything is phenomenal. I wish the results so far would have been better, and we are in a bit of a hole in our division and around the NFC ... but I look at the team and I ... still think we're as good as anybody out there."
BACK FROM THE BYE WEEK AND ...
- The reports from practice on Brian Westbrook, Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown, along with the other injured players, were very positive. There are many questions remaining, including how the Eagles plan to use Westbrook and Curtis and Brown, but the news was all positive on Monday. Well, all but Shawn Andrews. Still no practice for him. Still no words of progress. I can't tell you much of anything about Andrews and his health status.
- What I know about the Falcons: Very well coached. Disciplined on offense with a good running game. Outstanding young quarterback who is playing with great poise. A defensive front seven that is nasty. Excellent special teams. This is a good football team coming in here on Sunday.
- Think about this: Westbrook has 194 yards rushing through the first six games of the season. That's just an absurdly low number, so it is with great anticipation that Westbrook is on track to play Sunday. How much different is this team with Westbrook on the field?
- Klecko is the fullback, wth rookie Jed Collins on the practice squad as a fallback. Klecko is one of those guys who goes one million miles per hour, and if you knew him you would like him a lot. I wonder how much the bye week helped Klecko learn just a little bit more about the fullback position.
- Key player for the Eagles to contain on Sunday: defensive end John Abraham. He is re-born with seven quarterback sacks.