LET'S ADD someweapons," Donovan McNabb wrote in his blog on yardbarker.com in January,two months before the Eagles' pursuit of free-agent cruise missile Randy Mosswent for naught when Moss re-signed with the Patriots. On a short walk to hiscar at the Lehigh University training camp, McNabb elaborated on what hemeant.
This is an article from the Sept. 1, 2008 issue
"When you say'weapon,' people automatically think receiver," the 10th-year quarterbacksaid. "Weapons can be a lot of things. A weapon could be a guy who gets youthe ball back on defense. A weapon could be a returner people fear. It could beanother guy on the offensive side who can draw some attention."
Coach Andy Reidappears to have filled each of those gaps in his arsenal, in the personages of,respectively, cornerback Asante Samuel, the 2007 Pro Bowl selection who wassigned to a six-year, $57 million free-agent deal; wideout DeSean Jackson, a2008 second-round pick who returned six punts for touchdowns in his three yearsat Cal; and former Dolphins running back Lorenzo Booker, whose electrictraining camp made him the talk of the Lehigh Valley.
Philadelphia willcontinue to benefit from the versatility of Brian Westbrook, the running backwhose 2,104 yards from scrimmage led the NFL last season. He has quietly becomeone of the league's most dynamic players. "He scares me," says Giantsgeneral manager Jerry Reese. "Every time we play them, I'm like, Golly,this guy's a magician."
Still, there'slittle doubt that the missing weapon is a game-breaking No. 1 wideout.Sixth-year vet Kevin Curtis caught a career-best 77 passes for 1,110 yards lastseason, but he's out for at least six weeks with a sports hernia, and at5'11" and age 30, is more a No. 2 or a slot receiver. Of the otherwideouts, fourth-year man Reggie Brown has yet to contribute consistently, andnot one among the trio of Jason Avant, Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis has reached50 catches in a season. As for the diminutive Jackson, it's too much to expecthim to make a significant impact on offense as a rookie.
In fact, Phillyhasn't had an elite receiver since, well—"2004, obviously, when we hadT.O.," says McNabb. As he watches Terrell Owens continue his Hall of Famecareer in Dallas—and sees Owens choke up when defending the honor of hisquarterback, Tony Romo—McNabb can't help but imagine what might have been."The things we could have done together would have been remarkable," hesays. "You're talking about Bradshaw and Stallworth. You're talking aboutPeyton [Manning] and Marvin [Harrison]."
Even so, McNabbhas no regrets about the way Owens's ephemeral Eagles career ended midwaythrough the 2005 season, when McNabb and the front office essentially decidedthat the disruption Owens caused outweighed his considerable talents. "Ashe began to get in different situations in Dallas, he understood I wasright," says McNabb, who figures Owens is finally breaking his long patternof destructive relationships with quarterbacks. "You see what he's doingright now with Romo? How different is that?"
So for the thirdstraight year the offensive load will be shouldered by Westbrook and McNabb.The good news is that the 31-year-old passer looked as sharp as ever intraining camp, the torn right ACL and meniscus, suffered in 2006 and from whichhe was still recovering last year, a distant memory. "He's putting the deepballs right over the shoulder," says Baskett. "He's threading theneedle. It's back to Donovan—like, Pro Bowl Donovan."
McNabb isconfident, even in his receiving corps, which he says is stepping up to thechallenge. "If we stay healthy and play the way everyone in the NFL knowswe're capable of, believe me, by Week 6 everyone in the NFL will be talkingabout the Philadelphia Eagles," he says. Four of those first six games willcome against playoff contenders, including a pretty intriguing matchup in Week2—with T.O.'s Cowboys.
PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP WITH 2007 STATISTICS COACH ANDY REID (88-56 in NFL), 10thseason with Eagles
Asante SAMUEL --New ACQUISITION
SACKS 12 1/2
2007 RECORD 8-8NFL RANK (Rush/Pass/Total): OFFENSE 8/10/6 DEFENSE 7/18/10
7 ST. LOUIS
15 at Dallas
28 at Chicago
12 at San Francisco
2 at Seattle
9 NY GIANTS
16 at Cincinnati
23 at Baltimore
27 ARIZONA (T)
7 at NY GIANTS
15 CLEVELAND (M)
21 at Washington
NFL Rank: 16
Opponents' 2007 winning percentage: .520
Games against playoff teams: 8
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EXCERPTED FROM SI
September 11, 1989
CUNNINGHAM IS in the final stages of planning amillion-dollar house to be built in Morristown, N.J. His present house isspotless, trim, conservatively decorated and filled with clocks: big clocks,little clocks, wall clocks, tall clocks. He is proud of the job he diddecorating it. "But this is practice—wait until I get my real home," hesays.
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SI.com's NFL personnel expert Michael Lombardievaluates the Eagles' units.
Philly will have a big season if McNabb is completely healthy.
Westbrook is one of the best, but there's little behind him.
Solid unit still seeks a playmaker; also must cut back on drops.
Smith is central to the success of the passing offense.
Gave up far too many sacks last year; need Shawn Andrews.
Must ramp up the pass rush and get Cole some help.
Team expects big things from Bradley in his second year.
Talented and deep at corner; Dawkins must avoid injury.
Potential explosive return man in rookie DeSean Jackson.
Last year Akers was 22 of 22 on FG attempts inside 40yards but shanked eight of 10 from 40-plus. Special teams coach Rory Segrestthinks that long-range accuracy will improve thanks to a stable snapper-holdertandem and a training regimen Akers picked up from an infomercial that helpedhim drop 20 pounds while gaining leg strength.