The 10 Best Players on the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles
The 2012 National Football League season is almost one-third over, as five games have been played and 11 remain in the regular season, and the Philadelphia Eagles stand at 3-2, tied for first place in the NFC East division (although in my book, they're in sole possession of first in the division because they beat the Super Bowl champion New York Giants in a head-to-head matchup.)
For the Eagles, the 2012 season is about clutch play for the Eagles. They have a -19 point differential through five games, despite a winning record, because four of their five games have gone down to the final minute. The Eagles beat the Cleveland Browns behind a last-minute touchdown drive and an interception off Brandon Weeden by their defense. They beat the Baltimore Ravens behind a last-minute touchdown drive and a turnover on downs by their defense. They beat the New York Giants behind a last-minute field goal drive and a missed field goal (twice) by kicker Lawrence Tynes. But they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers after the offense led a go-ahead touchdown drive but the defense allowed a walkoff field goal, spoiling what would have been the fourth one or two-point victory for the Eagles this season. As it is, they still set a record by playing in four games decided by one or two points through five weeks.
For the Eagles, a number of players have emerged among the best on the team this year. The following slides will highlight the ten best players on the team so far this season, in reverse order.
10. Stanley Havili, Fullback
Count me as one of the many who did not even expect Havili to be on the 53-man roster yet this season. I couldn't have been wrong on my opinion of Havili, who has proven to be a tremendous blocker, specifically on the run. He's also shown a knack for occasionally carrying and catching the ball, and while I don't expect him to turn into the next Leonard Weaver, there are actually reports that Havili is one of the top fullbacks in the game already. LeSean McCoy even said that Havili is the best fullback he's ever played with at any level, and don't forget that he played with Pro Bowler Leonard Weaver in 2009.
9. Nate Allen, Free Safety
I predicted Nate Allen to make the Pro Bowl this season. He's not having a Pro Bowl season, but he is playing at a high level, showing that his impressive rookie season from 2010 is likely not a fluke. He's allowed 12 completions on 27 attempts for just 90 yards, and he hasn't surrendered a touchdown this season. He also has 27 tackles, the second most on the team.
8. Evan Mathis, Left Guard
I've been pretty wrong on Mathis so far this season. I thought that the 31-year old only had a tremendous season in 2011 because of the help at left tackle from Jason Peters. With Peters out for the year, I predicted Mathis to have an average season, at best. Through five games though, he's rated as the best offensive player on the team, according to Pro Football Focus. He's struggled in pass blocking, but he's been exceptional in run blocking. He just needs to cut down on his penalties (four in five games).
7. Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle
The Eagles' first round draft pick is making an impact like no other first roud draft pick in the Andy Reid era. He's been the best defensive linemen on the team in 2012, playing in more snaps than projected starting defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Derek Landri. He has 10 tackles without a miss, a sack, and a reputation as one of the more explosive young defensive players in the league.
6. Brent Celek, Tight End
Brent Celek almost always falls under the radar, but he's finally starting to earn some nationwide praise for his strong start in the 2012 season. He's caught 21 passes for 324 yards and a touchdown in five games, putting him on pace for his first 1000-yard season. In week two, he caught eight balls for a career-high 157 yards against the Baltimore Ravens, and the Eagles won 24-23 on a late touchdown.
5. DeSean Jackson, Wide Receiver
With a new contract, DeSean Jackson is playing at a top level in 2012. He's caught 24 balls for 391 yards, both tops on the team, with a touchdown. Those numbers put him on pace for over 1200 yards, which would be his career-high. He hasn't caught a 70-yard touchdown yet, like he used to do on a frequent basis in 2009, but he's stretched the field and opened up opportunities for Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek.
4. Mychal Kendricks, Linebacker
Until last game, when he missed a ridiculous six tackles, Kendricks had been a leading candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He's recorded 18 tackles this year, and has brought a much-needed ability to cover tight ends and chase down ballcarries to the Eagles, something that all three starting linebackers couldn't do in 2011.
3. LeSean McCoy, Running Back
LeSean McCoy is the best offensive player on the Eagles this season. When he carries 20 or more times, the Eagles are 3-0, and when he doesn't get 20 carries, the Eagles are 0-2. He's averaging 4.5 yards per carry and he's on pace for 1398 yards, which would be his career-high. He does need to improve his blocking though.
2. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
It's pretty clear that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is the best cornerback on the Eagles. He's playing for a new contract, and I predict he'll get it in the next month. In five games, he's allowed an opponents' passer rating of 26.4, with a 44.4 completion percentage, no touchdowns, and three interceptions. He's also collected 15 tackles without a miss, an incredible improvement for a player who regularly rates as one of the worst tackling defenders in the league.
1. DeMeco Ryans, Linebacker
DeMeco Ryans came to the Eagles with a huge reputation, as he earned two Pro Bowl selections with the Houston Texans. He's delivered on those expectations without fail, collecting 29 tackles, the most on the team, with just one missed tackle. He's also notched a sack, and he rates as the fifth best inside linebacker in the league this year, according to the rankings at Pro Football Focus.