2006 season recap
Dealing with adversity
In a season marked by injuries to key contributors, the Eagles weathered the storm and returned to the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons, winning the NFC East for the fifth time since 2000. Despite losing quarterback Donovan McNabb in Week 10, the Eagles won six of their last eight games, eventually falling to New Orleans in the Divisional Playoffs.
Key camp questions
Can the front seven improve its run defense?
The Eagles' biggest weakness in 2006 was their inability to stop the run, ranking 26th overall (136.4 yards per game) and allowing four 200-yard games. The onus will be on the front seven, starting with the defensive line, to shorten drives and get the defense off the field. That will require bounce-back years from veteran ends Jevon Kearse and Darren Howard, improvement from 2006 first-round pick Brodrick Bunkley and contributions from newly acquired tackles Ian Scott and Montae Reagor. There is size and experience at linebacker, led by Jeremiah Trotter, newly acquired Takeo Spikes and second-year player Chris Gocong. The play of the front seven will go a long way in determining the success of the defense in 2007.
Can the Eagles maintain a balanced offense in 2007?
The Eagles employed a balanced offense to great success last season, ranking second in total offense (381.4 yards per game) and sixth in total points (24.9 per game). Forced to play without quarterback Donovan McNabb, they relied more heavily on running back Brian Westbrook, who responded with a career-high 1,217 yards, averaged 5.1 yards per carry and led the team with 77 receptions. Marty Mornhinweg took over play-calling duties in midseason, and the balance that resulted led the way to six wins in the final eight games. A healthy return by McNabb and the addition of receiver Kevin Curtis could mean more of the same in 2007.
Can the Eagles sustain their long run of success through one more season?
The NFC has been very well balanced in recent years, with only a fine line separating the true contenders from the rest of the field. The Eagles have been among those contenders for a long time, but odds are they again will battle age and injuries while trying to continue their run of five division championships in the last six seasons. The team's success will depend on the core veterans returning from injury -- McNabb and Kearse -- as well as those holding key positions -- John Runyan, William Thomas, Brian Dawkins, Spikes and Trotter -- staying healthy and continuing to perform at a high level.
Key position battle
Sheldon Brown vs. William James
Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has opened the competition at several positions, leaving several veterans in danger of losing starting assignments. Brown, the incumbent at left cornerback, has been a full-time starter the last three seasons. James, who signed a one-year contract during the offseason, is fully healthy after overcoming a serious back injury and is confident in his ability to start. James will push Brown, with one player likely fill the nickel cornerback role.
Bradley, the 87th overall pick, should have the biggest impact of any Eagles rookie. Bradley has the outstanding size the Eagles covet to match up against opposing tight ends and is a true strong-side linebacker. But he also has the versatility to play different positions. With the release of incumbent starter Dhani Jones and with Chris Gocong recovering from a neck injury that kept him out all of last season, Bradley has the opportunity to fight for playing time and eventually earn a starting job.
Player on the spot
McNabb, who has missed a total of 13 games over the last two seasons, must prove he can stay healthy for a full season. Rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered on Nov. 19, McNabb took part in several OTAs during June but has no expectations for training camp and hasn't locked himself in to a return date. On the field, McNabb was sensational in 2006, completing 162 of 277 passes for 2,312 yards, 16 touchdowns and only five interceptions through eight games. How much of that form he can regain, and how quickly, remains to be seen.
One of the most attractive third-year wide receivers in the NFL, Brown showed flashes of brilliance last season and will be a more featured component of the offense with Donte' Stallworth out of the mix. A viable No. 2 fantasy wideout, Brown could be a tremendous draft value for owners.