With the opener just two days away, it’s time for some predictions that we’ll likely look back and laugh at a few months from now.
We came up with 10 questions that focus on the Eagles’ 2012 season. Here’s how we see things playing out.
When all is said and done, what will Michael Vick’s 2012 season look like, and will he return in 2013?
Tim McManus: I think the familiarity with the system and the decrease in responsibility at the line of scrimmage should lower the turnover number, and Vick will at times look like one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. He will also find old habits hard to break, and will undoubtedly miss some time because of injury. Ultimately, he’ll do enough to be back in 2013.
Sheil Kapadia: Vick has said he didn’t really comprehend what he was doing as a quarterback until 2011. I believe him. The part we sometimes forget is that when he drops back, has time and identifies an open receiver, Vick is a very accurate passer. The key will be less hits in the pocket (where his last six injuries have occurred). Vick is poised to continue to grow as a quarterback and will return in 2013.
What is an offensive storyline that will emerge during the season?
TM: When Vick does go down, Nick Foles will step up. He will win a game or two, and there will be a faction of the fan base that will want Andy Reid to ride with the rookie, even when Vick returns to health. And they will be denied.
SK: McCoy will struggle at times. He led all offensive players with 50 broken tackles in 2011. In other words, he had to do a lot on his own. Now McCoy’s without Jason Peters, and I’ve seen little evidence that King Dunlap can be a factor in the running game. McCoy’s going to have to do even more on his own this season.
What is a defensive storyline that will emerge during the season?
TM: Juan Castillo will find himself on shaky ground once again, whether it’s for the perceived misuse of Nnamdi Asomugha or just because the defense is under-performing. The name Todd Bowles will be a regular part of Philadelphia’s lexicon.
SK: Trent Cole will challenge for the sack title. Jim Washburn said early in camp that Cole didn’t know what he was doing last year, and he still had 11 sacks in 14 games. With a new contract in hand and another year in Washburn’s system, Cole is going to have a monster year.
Which Eagles rookie will have the biggest impact?
TM: A lot to choose from this year, but it’s hard to move away from Mychal Kendricks. Originality be damned. He and Fletcher Cox will both have quality campaigns, but Kendricks’ impact will be the most noticeable because of the nature of the position.
SK: I’m with T-Mac here. Kendricks will be the best linebacker this franchise has seen in years. But a sleeper pick is Brandon Boykin. He’s got the athleticism to be one of the better slot corners in the league, and the key is he played inside in college, so the learning process won’t overwhelm him. Working under Bowles, expect big things from Boykin.
LeSean McCoy’s over/under for rushing yards is 1,100. What do you got?
TM: I’ll take the over. He’ll have some carries taken away from him this season by Bryce Brown, Dion Lewis and possibly Chris Polk (in that order). But think of it this way: He had 66 fewer carries in 2010 than he did last season, and still finished with 1,080 yards. I see around 1,200 yards for McCoy this season.
SK: Despite the potential struggles I mentioned above, I still think McCoy goes over 1,100. Last year, nine running backs had 1,100 yards or more, and I certainly think he’s a top-nine tailback, especially considering McCoy is only 24 and has a 4.8 YPC average.
DeSean Jackson’s over/under for receiving yards is 1000.5. What do you got?
TM: That’s a bad line. Jackson should cruise past 1,000. He was a wreck last year and still had 961 yards. I think they’ll be committed to getting the ball in Jackson’s hands more this season, and he’ll end with career highs in receptions and yards.
SK: I’m with McManus here. Jackson had four drops on passes that traveled 20+ yards downfield last season (per PFF). If he caught one or two of those (assuming YAC), he’d have been well over 1,000. Jackson’s never missed more than one game in a season due to injury (It’s true! Look it up!). Look for him to be in the neighborhood of 65 catches and 1,100 yards.
Jeremy Maclin’s over/under is at 950.5. What do you got?
TM: Over. Interesting that Maclin has never had a 1,000-yard season in three years with the Eagles. Think he gets his first one. From what I could tell, he was poised for a breakout year in 2011 before the health scare set him on a different track. Now that he’s healthy, the 24-year old should see a jump in production. This will be the first Eagles wide receiver tandem with 1,000-yard campaigns in the same season.
SK: Hate to keep going the same way, but I’ve got the over too. Maclin set a career high, averaging 66.1 yards per game last season. Carried over a 16-game season, and that turns into 1,057.6 yards. Maclin is going to have his best season as a pro. With his contract up after 2013, don’t be surprised if an extension is on Howie Roseman’s to-do list.
The Eagles will go to the Super Bowl if…
TM: Vick plays like a top-5 quarterback. We can all close our eyes and pretend that the conference isn’t inhabited by Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Eli Manning, or that playoff success isn’t largely dictated by clutch, transcendent quarterback play, but then we would be fooling ourselves. Vick (or Foles, if he’s called on) has to match the excellence that is guaranteed to come from a few of his NFC peers.
SK: Everything clicks with the quarterback. Vick has the coaching, and he has the weapons. By all accounts, he’s been the hardest-working guy in the building all offseason. Now we find out if that’s enough. Comparing Vick to other quarterbacks is pointless. His skill set is truly unique, and his path will never be replicated. Since he joined the Eagles, Vick has made it clear that he is making up for lost time. The coaches believe in him, and his teammates follow him. If it’s ever going to all come together for Vick, this is the year.
Andy Reid will get fired after the season if…
TM: The Eagles do not win a playoff game. Jeffrey Lurie is looking for “substantial improvement.” Does 9-7 or 10-6 and an early postseason exit qualify? Likely not.
SK: The Eagles don’t make the playoffs. A postseason berth with a young roster can be labeled as a step in the right direction. In that case, everybody’s back for another try in 2013. Failing to make the playoffs two years in a row means Lurie moves on.
What’s your prediction for the season?
TM: 10-6. I think this team is good enough to win the division, but will be knocked out in the divisional round.
SK: I’ve got the same projection as McManus. I think we’ve been spending too much time together. To project a better finish, you have to be confident that the offense can beat the likes of Rodgers, Brees and Manning in a shootout. Or you believe Castillo can gameplan to shut those guys down. I’m not ready to project either right now.