I've already received a ton of questions about what this team needs to do to improve. I think there is an awful lot to like about this team right now. Free safety Brian Dawkins is the only starter on defense who is a free agent. He played very well the second half of the season. He's been an Eagle his whole career and I don't think the organization wants to see him go elsewhere. Joselio Hanson is also a free agent. He has developed into a good No. 3 cornerback. I think he's likely to stay as well. I don't think Hanson has the athletic ability to go elsewhere and start. He's in an ideal situation right here.
The offense is trickier. Change will come on that side of the ball. I think we have a good core in place. Donovan McNabb will be back at quarterback. Brian Westbrook obviously isn't going anywhere. DeSean Jackson might develop into a star receiver next year. He was better as a rookie than I ever expected. Kevin Curtis made some big plays last Sunday and has the other starting spot. Jason Avant is an excellent slot receiver. Brent Celek has shown enough that we can go into next season with him as the starter. I'm sure the team will look to see if any star tight ends are available. If not, that position will be addressed in the draft. The depth at tight end could be greatly improved with a blocking specialist. Fullback must be addressed. The offense needs a sledgehammer to pave the way for Westbrook. Klecko can come back and compete for the job, but I'd hope for an upgrade.
Correll Buckhalter is a free agent. I'd love to see him come back, but wouldn't blame him for leaving. He needs a commitment from the coaching staff that they will use him. He had 102 touches this year. That should be in the 125-150 range. We need another running back to add to the mix. I'd love to get a young power runner. We cannot have another year where the team struggles to run in short yardage and goal line situations. Games were lost because of that.
</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He's followed the team for almost 20 years. Tommy has been trained by an NFL scout in the art of scouting and player evaluation and runs [www.scoutsnotebook.com.](http://www.scoutsnotebook.com)</td> </tr> </tbody>
The offensive line is a major mystery at this point. Both Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan are free agents. Runyan battled through injuries that got the best of him this year and his play dropped. Thomas could come back, but that's far from a lock. Todd Herremans could take over left tackle, right tackle, or stay at left guard. He's the one piece we'll build around. Jamaal Jackson will probably return at center. Nick Cole played well enough that he will be in the mix to start next year. Max Jean-Gilles needs to stay in shape and get healthy so he can fight for a job. Rookie Mike McGlynn could take over at left guard. Shawn Andrews remains a mystery. Let's hope he's back in 2009.
I'm really at a loss when it comes to the offensive line. The Eagles will have a plan in place. They just won't tell me what it is. There are some interesting targets in free agency. The tackle group in the draft looks to be very good. Solid players will be available into the fourth round. Changes will be made, but the Eagles do have some good pieces to work with. I'm more curious than concerned.
The biggest thing overall that we need to improve is red zone ability. We must block better on run plays. We must get better fullback play. We must get better tight end blocking. We need a running back who can push the pile. The passing offense could also use a boost. I very much like our group of receivers, but we could use someone who is a physical player. Passes in the red zone are less about precision and more about position. We need a receiver who can fight through a defender and give McNabb a good target. I expect the team to spend a pick on receiver. I'm looking for a guy who is strong and/or tall. Speed isn't a concern. There are several guys of interest. We'll talk more about them in the coming months. I will be writing about prospects on ScoutsNotebook.com every day for those of you who want a lot of draft information.
Goodbye 2008 season. Hello 2009 offseason.