While making my rounds through the internet, I came across a column written by Dave Spadaro of PhiladelphiaEagles.com. In his piece, Spadaro mentions a recent article written by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.
Gosselin wrote an analysis of the Eagles’ rookie class from 2011, and gave the organization an ‘A’ based on the performance of the first year players. His take on the performance of the rookies, Andy Reid, and the Philadelphia front office is very shortsighted, overwhelmingly positive, and ignores larger problems with the team. (Perfect content for Spadaro to draw references from, as he is typically one of the biggest Eagles apologists out there). Here some select quotes from his article.
“The New York Giants will be the team to beat in the NFC East in 2012. But don’t lose sight of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles failed to live up to their self-proclaimed ‘Dream Team’ status in 2011, but coach Andy Reid put the season of under achievement to good use. Reid flooded the field with youth on the way to an 8-8 finish, an investment in time that should benefit the Eagles in the future.”
To imply that Andy Reid put the 2011 season to good use in any way, shape, or form is utterly ridiculous. Gosselin makes it sound as though Reid is responsible for fixing a sinking ship, when in reality Reid and his miscalculations (which I won’t go into specifics, they’ve been repeated to the point of nausea by now) are the catalyst for why the team underachieved in the first place.
“Philadelphia finished the season with a league-high 10 rookies on the roster. Four of them were in the starting lineup when the Eagles stormed down the stretch with a four-game winning streak to capture second place in the NFC East.”
The Eagles stormed down the stretch with a four-game winning streak to capture second place in the NFC East? I’d by no means confuse the victories over the mediocre Miami Dolphins, the collapsing New York Jets, the Tony Romoless Dallas Cowboys, and the inept Washington Redskins as storming success. For the proper definitions of storming success, see the four teams that will by playing on Sunday, and don’t even mention the word success when discussing any of the 20 teams that failed to play football after January 1st.
“On the season, Philadelphia’s rookie class started a combined 46 games. Only two NFL teams claimed more.”
“Center Jason Kelce and guard Danny Watkins were season-long starters in a Philadelphia offense that finished fifth in the NFL in rushing, ninth in passing and fourth overall. Watkins was a first-round pick and Kelce a sixth.”
Jason Kelce may be the one player in this draft class that the front office should be praised for. The sixth round pick was completely off of the radar until he surprised everyone by taking away Jamaal Jackson’s job in training camp. Even then I believe offensive line coach Howard Mudd had more to do with Kelce’s selection and success than anyone else in the organization.
On the other hand, much more was expected out of Danny Watkins. The thought process behind drafting the 26-year old rookie guard in the first round was that he could step in immediately as a starter, and perform at a Pro-Bowl level. Watkins was initially overwhelmed by the NFL, and played his way out of a job that was his to lose in training camp, forcing the Eagles to go with a mediocre guard Kyle DeVan for the first quarter of the season. Once Watkins did take over, he was serviceable. He had his moments, but made many mistakes, and was the weakest link on the offensive line. He’s not a bust by any means, but to imply that his first year was a success, and that he had a significant impact on the success of the offensive line just isn’t true.
“Brian Rolle also started at linebacker the final 13 games of the season for the NFL’s eighth-ranked defense and Jaiquan Jarrett finished up as the starting free safety. Jarrett was a second-round pick and Rolle a sixth.”
And why was Rolle a starter for the final 13 games of the season? Because Reid chose to enter the season with a paper-thin linebacking corp, and the team’s first choice to start (Casey Matthews) wasn’t ready to see the field, and had to be removed. Rolle may have been the lone bright spot among linebackers, but that isn’t saying much at all.
When Gosselin says that Jarrett finished up the season as the starting free safety, he implies that the second-round draft pick’s play was of such a high level that he eventually forced his way onto the field. Another blatant, completely laughable falsehood. Jarrett “finished the year as the starting free safety” by merely starting the final (and meaningless) game of the season because the regular starter Kurt Coleman was injured in the previous game, and was unavailable.
“Fourth-rounder Casey Matthews also started games at linebacker, and fifth-rounder Dion Lewis returned kickoffs and served as the primary backup to Pro Bowl halfback LeSean McCoy.”
Gosselin is very kind in this analysis, to say the least. Yes, Casey Matthews started games at linebacker. But how did he perform? He certainly didn’t show anything to make anyone believe that he could be an answer at any of the linebacking positions in the coming years.
Yes, Dion Lewis returned kicks. He didn’t enjoy much success returning kicks, but he was the guy the Eagles sent out to do the job for the majority of the season. No one will confuse him with the likes of a returner like former Eagle-great Bryan Mitchell. Lewis was also not the primary backup to McCoy. He was occasionally mixed in to the offense, but Ronnie Brown was the second option until the final game of the season, where the Eagles gave Lewis the majority of the carries to get a look at him for next year.
“In addition, the Eagles broke in two rookie specialists in 2011, fourth-round placekicker Alex Henery and undrafted punter Chas Henry. Henery converted 24 of 27 field goals on his way to a team runnerup 118 points and Henry compiled a net average of 37 yards with only nine touchbacks.”
Gosselin failed to mention that Henery missed several crucial attempts in Week 3 against the 49ers, which helped cost the Eagles the game. In all fairness though, the two rookie kickers performed at respectable levels throughout the season.
“So the Eagles have something to show for their failure in 2011 — a young, promising future.”
All that the Eagles have to show for 2011 is a humiliating season filled with disappointment. Of the rookies on this team, only Kelce and Watkins seem to have chances to become legitimate blue-chip players in the future. The rest of the rookie class didn’t show much, and may be nothing more than average, easily replaceable parts.
Gosselin’s praise of the Eagles’ 2011 draft class is a reflection of how the national media is blinded when it comes to evaluating the job done by Andy Reid and the rest of the team. Writers like Gosselin evaluate by looking only at numbers, and not by what actually went on during games. National writers like him see that Andy Reid has a winning record and has been to five NFC Championship games, and because of those numbers they’re unable to see the team’s recurring issues and shortcomings.
Gosselin looked at the stats, and saw that 14 rookies made the team and combined for 46 starts. An abnormal number for the average NFL team, but also a hollow one. The Eagles received very little impact from this draft class (or from the previous class in 2010), and it was one of the reasons that they struggled throughout 2011. Great teams are built through the draft, and when a team’s front office comes up short in April, it’s reflected in the team’s poor record. The Eagles’ 2011 draft is certainly not worthy of an ‘A’.