In a remarkable turnaround, the Dallas Cowboys scored three wins over the Eagles in 2009 after the end-of-the-season shellacking (44-6, we all remember) the Eagles administered one year earlier. How did it happen? There are many theories, of course, but here is one to think about: Dallas got better because it improved internally first with players who turned around their games.
Dallas didn't go out in the off-season last year and throw money at free agents. Oh, the Cowboys added linebacker Keith Brooking, but a three-year contract worth $6 million hardly qualified as a headline-grabbing move. Dallas instead shed wide receiver Terrell Owens and then went about the business of finding out that some of their young players were ready to blossom.
Wide receiver Miles Austin came out of nowhere to have a Pro Bowl season in 2009. Linebacker Anthony Spencer reversed two-plus seasons of disappointment with a great stretch run. Running back Felix Jones got healthy and became the home-run threat Dallas hoped he would be as a first-round draft pick. Quarterback Tony Romo learned some discipline and found his stride.
As Dallas constructed its roster, players like Austin and Romo were signed as non-drafted rookies. Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff was a seventh-round draft pick, as was reserve wide receiver and punt returner Patrick Crayton.
The Eagles have had their success stories mining talent from every rock garden. Quintin Mikell wasn't drafted. Jamaal Jackson and Nick Cole, same thing. Trent Cole was a fifth-round draft pick. You understand.
The point is that the Cowboys vaulted to the top of the NFC East largely because they improved first from within from 2008 to 2009. The Eagles have an opportunity to do so as well this year, and players like Quintin Demps and Macho Harris, who could end up being critical pieces in the free safety picture, must take major steps forward in the off-season. A young man like Victor Abiamiri, needs to get healthy after a series of injuries marred his early Eagles seasons.
How about Trevor Laws? A second-round draft pick a couple of years ago, Laws was moved out of the rotation at defensive tackle last year, largely because of the early development of Antonio Dixon, who will also benefit from a great off-season.
Look, the Eagles, I'm sure, have a lot going on behind the scenes working the telephones and plotting moves. Whether those ideas come to fruition is another matter entirely. The draft is huge in April, absolutely huge.
But another key for the off-season is to make the most of the off-season conditioning program. The existing roster has to improve, collectively.
So now the Eagles have the following at defensive end: Trent Cole, Darryl Tapp, Abiamiri and Juqua Parker. Clearly, the Eagles will add some players at defensive end. Could be a position to watch in the draft.
- I've read all of the reports that suggest that there is an "outside chance" the Saints will match the offer sheet signed by running back Mike Bell here. We'll find out at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday heading into Wednesday. Who really knows what the Saints are thinking?
- League meetings in Orlando straight ahead. This is the time when the talks really heat up and trades and deals are made. Why do I have the feeling that this week is going to be very, very interesting?
- What is next for the Eagles? Aren't you wondering what the grand plan is for this off-season? Seems to me the team wants to get younger and wants to rebuild the defense one year after rebuilding the offense. Howie Roseman has a great working relationship with Andy Reid and I think there are still plenty of moves to be made in the off-season. Draft weekend could be one of the craziest we've seen in a long, long time.