How Will The Eagles Improve In The Red Zone?
The Eagles' performance in the red zone last year certainly cost them at times.
The loss to the Bears in Chicago came down to a fourth-and-goal attempt that came just inches short. The Eagles took two shots from 1-yard out against the Redskins the following week and were denied again.
Now, there were games where the Eagles dominated but didn't execute well in the red zone. In the Week 14 win at the Meadowlands against the Giants, the Eagles were scored just one field goal in three red zone opportunities.
The Eagles coaches mixed in some chicanery with guard Todd Herremans catching a touchdown pass against Seattle and Hank Baskett using his height and leaping ability to beat opposing cornerbacks.
But to get better from a consistency standpoint, the Eagles needed to make personnel changes and here's a look at what they've done.
Along the offensive line, the Eagles allowed Tra Thomas to sign with Jacksonville and Jon Runyan to become a free agent. The Eagles signed Stacy Andrews and his younger brother, Shawn, will return from the back injury that sidelined him for most of 2008. In those goal-to-go situations, creating the slightest hole or generating the smallest amount of push can make all the difference.
At tight end, L.J. Smith is likely going to sign with the Ravens if the published reports are correct. You have Brent Celek, who was amazing in the playoffs, but he would be the first to admit that he must become a better blocker. The Eagles have not added a true blocking tight end, but one could still come in the form of a free agent signing or, more likely at this point, in the draft. But what if the Eagles were to simply add another outstanding receiver at tight end to complement Celek and give Donovan McNabb another go-to target?
In free agency, the Eagles haven't added a back to account for the loss of Correll Buckhalter, who signed with the Broncos. There are a plethora of options in the draft this year. The question is whether the Eagles would add a bruiser to pound the ball or another back who can catch the ball like Brian Westbrook? You could argue that the Eagles found a good short-yardage runner in Kyle Eckel midseason. The fullback spot is obviously one to watch with incumbent Dan Klecko and Eckel battling it out. Right now, there are no other challengers on the roster. With a full off-season to harness their craft at the spot, Klecko or Eckel could emerge as a threat both as a lead blocker and as a runner.
The Eagles have a number of options in tow and with 12 draft picks there are likely more on the way. In the tough NFC East, every win is important. Players and fans could have breathed a little easier on the last Sunday of the regular season with another win or two already in the bag.