Heading into the 2012 season, the Philadelphia Eagles are, on paper, one of the most talented teams in the National Football League.
Including the five special teams positions, the Eagles have 27 starters in 2012, and I would say all but five have a decent chance at a Pro Bowl. (Stanley Havili, King Dunlap, Akeem Jordan, Kurt Coleman, and Chas Henry are your no’s, since I know you were wondering.)
They had a top ten rushing offense in league history in 2011, and a 10th ranked scoring defense, despite a completely incompetent defensive coordinator who has in over his head the moment he put on his headset. They finished with just eight wins, but the +68 scoring differential suggested a much better team.
This year, the Eagles should be that much better team. They will likely have a much better passing attack and an improved defense, highlighted by a defensive line that will probably be the best in the NFL.
But there’s one obstacle that the Eagles may not overcome at any point throughout the 2012 season. That would be the loss of left tackle Jason Peters, who suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in an offseason training program back in March.
Peters, 29, is an absolute rock at left tackle. He is arguably the best offensive lineman in the league, and his strength is run blocking. It’s no coincidence that running back LeSean McCoy emerged as a top three back in the league, highlighted by a franchise-record 20 touchdowns.
As Peters went, so did the Eagles’ run game.
Against the Miami Dolphins in week 14, Peters turned in his worst game of the season, according to Pro Football Focus. Is it a concidence that McCoy rushed 27 times for 38 yards, a pathetic 1.4 yards per carry? I don’t think so.
Against the Dallas Cowboys in week eight, Peters turned in his best game of the season. McCoy rushed 30 times for 185 yards. Again, that is definitely not a coincidence.
For the year, McCoy averaged 7.5 yards per carry running over left tackle. That’s an unbelievable figure.
The good thing about Bell is that he is also a pretty efficient tackle, when he is healthy. In fact, Bills running back Fred Jackson averaged 7.2 yards per carry over left tackle, almost the same amount that McCoy averaged with Peters.
But Bell has been benched in favor of King Dunlap, who has made just seven starts with the Eagles over the previous four seasons. Consider the benching of Bell similar to the benching of Danny Watkins at the beginning of 2011, when the Eagles started veteran Kyle DeVan for a few games while Watkins learned the system.
Just like the Eagles didn’t expect DeVan to start for the full season, they don’t expect Dunlap to end 2012 as the starter. I expect Bell to take over about a month into the season, and I expect him to have a pretty solid season.
No matter what he does though, he won’t be Peters. The Eagles will be able to survive the loss of Peters this season, because the rest of the line should be improved, particularly Danny Watkins, who is due for a breakout season, and Todd Herremans, who now has a year of experience at right tackle under his belt.
But the running game likely won’t be as dominant. I wouldn’t be surprised to see McCoy’s yards per carry drop down to about 4.5. I hate to say it, but I also think he’s due for an injury, having stayed healthy for the first three years of his career.
If the Eagles do have that dream season and win the franchise’s first Super Bowl, they’re going to have to do it without their best player. Michael Vick is the most valuable player, but Peters is the best.
This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for the Philadelphia Eagles and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.