Former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback and current ESPN football analyst Herm Edwards understands the football fans in Philadelphia. He knows what they expect out of their football team.
"They want a team that is hard-working, tough, plays defense and is a physical football team. The Philadelphia fans want a full day's work out of their football team," Edwards said. "You also have to win. But those fans are the greatest because they are so emotionally involved in their team. Also, when they boo, it is because they care. But if you give those fans a full day's work, they will love you for it."
Last season, the Eagles went 8-8 and did not make the playoffs. Yet, as the 2012 season approaches, Edwards is optimistic and feels it is the Eagles who could be in the mix for a Super Bowl berth.
"I think they really rebound this season as they went out and addressed a lot of issues on defense. They went out and traded for DeMeco Ryans. They went defense with four of their first five picks in the draft headlined by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who when teamed with (Cullen) Jenkins, should provide a physical presence inside, especially against the run where they struggled last year," Edwards said.
"They can rush the passer with Jason Babin and Trent Cole. The cornerbacks are very good and the addition of Brandon Boykin will help as he can play the nickel spot."
On offense, Edwards has reason to believe the receivers will be even better in 2012 but he knows it all starts with the quarterback.
"Michael Vick cannot turn the ball over and he realizes that too. But to his credit last year, Jeremy Maclin was hurt. DeSean Jackson was not the same guy. Now, with a new contract, he is very excited. I think the offensive line is solidified and LeSean McCoy is a staple within this offense," Edwards said. "So I look for these guys to win the NFC East and challenge for a berth in the NFC Championship Game."
Defensively, Edwards is most eager to see two of the newest faces amongst the Eagles linebacker unit, mainly, veteran DeMeco Ryans and rookie Mychal Kendricks. Ryans brings an impressive resume as a former two-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection, who was acquired by the Eagles in a trade with the Houston Texans earlier this offseason.
"DeMeco Ryans is a leader and they have not had that on defense since Brian Dawkins left. DeMeco has it. He is going to provide that leadership. He can rally the defense in critical moments and it gives them a physical presence right in the middle of their defense at the linebacker position", stated Edwards about the new No. 59 on the roster.
Kendricks, who was drafted in the second round by the Eagles this past April, was the Pac-12's Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 starring for the California Golden Bears. Here is what the former No. 46 stated about the two newest players that should provide an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball.
"Mychal Kendricks is going to bring a lot of speed to this defense. He can flat cover," Edwards proclaimed. "He can tackle and is very athletic. He can run and is going to make a lot of plays within the defense."
On the offensive side of the ball, the Eagles are loaded with a bunch of young explosive playmakers that should score plenty of points this season. But the catalyst might be McCoy, who last season earned his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro nominations. In addition, he set the franchise records for total touchdowns (20) and rushing touchdowns (17) in a season. Edwards, who loves watching No. 25 play, could not help but see similarities with one of his former teammates.
"He reminds me a lot of Wilbert Montgomery," Edwards said. "LeSean can run inside. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He has the speed to bounce it outside. He can run for the tough yards. He doesn't fumble. He can play all three downs. You do not take him off the field on third down."
Another guy who needs to have a big year in 2012 for this offense and team to really explode is DeSean Jackson, who became the first player in NFL history to post 3,500 receiving yards and 1,000 punt return yards in his first four seasons in the league. However, No. 10 had a disappointing 2011 season personally, and on the field he failed to surpass the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time since his rookie season. In addition, he only posted two 100-yard receiving games last season.
Yet, the Eagles' brass knows that the wide receiver brings a unique combination of speed and skill. He is arguably the most dynamic weapon in the NFL, and was rewarded with a five-year deal that will keep him with the Eagles through 2016. Edwards wants Jackson to show that he can be both an elite player and team leader for many more years.
"He showed some immaturity last year, but I think he has learned from that and there are no excuses." Edwards said. "He is a very talented player, but you never want to cheat your talent because you are cheating your team. Your career in the National Football League is not very long and you do not want to look back having any regrets. I look for him to have a big year."
Ultimately Edwards, who once helped the Eagles defense to a Super Bowl XV berth against the Oakland Raiders, has advice for this current squad.
"They just have to play it one game at a time and not get ahead of themselves," said the man who scored on the original Miracle at the New Meadowlands. "They're going to face some bumps in the road along the way. But, they got playmakers both offensively and defensively. They got guys that can hit the quarterback. They got guys that can take the ball away. This game is about playing in space and they can do that. They cannot get caught up in winning the division, just play one game at a time. But, they owe it to themselves to get back into the playoffs, because if they get back to the postseason, I see them making a deep run."
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