Heading into the 2011 season, assuming there is a season, the Philadelphia Eagles are one of the top teams in the National Football League, as usual.
They won the division title in 2010 but were knocked out of the postseason in the wild-card round by the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
This season, the Eagles have a number of players and coaches under intense pressure to win, and win now. The following five members of the team are under more pressure than anybody else.
5) Stewart Bradley.
Bradley was expected to be the face of the team’s defense following the disappointing departure of All-World safety Brian Dawkins. But he missed the entire 2009 season with a torn ACL and he struggled during the 2010 season, which ended with him missing the final month with a dislocated elbow. He will probably still start in 2011 but he may be switched to outside linebacker and if he doesn’t play well, the Eagles may get rid of him. After all, the future at linebacker may be in the young guys like Casey Matthews, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Keenan Clayton, and Greg Lloyd Jr.
4) Jaiquawn Jarrett.
Drafted in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, Jarrett has already been (unfairly) compared to Brian Dawkins for his tendency to deliver big hits. He will likely start for the Eagles in 2011 after Quintin Mikell leaves via free agency. Mikell has been called by Pro Football Focus as the most underrated player in the National Football League. if Jarrett plays poorly next season, the Eagles will realize how underappreciated Mikell was, and they’ll take it out on Jarrett.
3) Juan Castillo.
When you have never coached a defense at any level in college or the National Football League, and you’re promoted to the level of defensive coordinator in the NFL, yeah there’s going to be pressure. Castillo knows the Eagles inside and out, but he’s been the offensive line coach for over a decade. I’d be willing to accept that he can coach a defensive line pretty well. But how well can he really coach linebackers and a secondary, and lead a defense? I guess we’ll find out next season. Luckily for Castillo, he can’t really be much worse than Sean McDermott, who was the worst assistant coach in the entire Andy Reid era. Either way though, the Eagles need to shape up their defense to establish themselves as a Super Bowl contender. Castillo needs to make sure that happens and it needs to happen now.
2) Michael Vick.
Vick’s future with the Eagles is anything but guaranteed. He’s 31 (in six days) and he’s playing on a one-year contract. If he plays poorly in 2011, don’t be surprised if the Eagles draft his replacement next April. But if he plays well, he could lock up a four or five year contract. Either way, the Eagles’ success for next season hinges largely on the success of their most important player.
1) Andy Reid.
Without question, Reid is under the most pressure next season. His job, and his reputation, are literally at stake. His contract keeps him in Philadelphia through 2012 and if he has not win a Super Bowl at that point, he is likely finished. Reid’s decision to promote offensive line coach Juan Castillo to the position of defensive coordinator ranks among the more baffling decisions by a head coach in league history. If the Castillo promotion doesn’t work out, it will likely cost Reid his job, as well as his legacy. For the Philadelphia Eagles and head coach Andy Reid, it’s literally do or die time.