Sep 072010

Eagles rookie FS Nate Allen

September 7 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann:

“THE OVER-UNDER on wins in the NFC East this year, from the people at Bodog, goes like this:

Dallas. . . 10

Eagles. . . 8

Giants. . . 8

Redskins. . . 7

This seems fair. I’ve been saying 9-7 for the Eagles since the schedule came out and I’m still saying 9-7. What I don’t get is the people who are worried about the bottom falling out. They won 11 games last season with a defense that couldn’t stop anybody good, a defense that saw opposing offenses beat their season scoring averages in seven of their last nine games.

The schedule is arguably a game or two harder this season, but the defense is going to be better.

The Eagles lost five regular-season games last season. All five of them had this in common: The opposition threw for more than 200 yards and completed at least 60 percent of its pass attempts. This was the first Eagles playoff team ever to suffer five such losses.

In many ways, they were a mess last season. But they have taken a significant stab at fixing the three biggest problems.

They are better at safety right now. They had problems at safety all year, enormous problems, big enough problems that the two main perpetrators – Macho Harris and Quintin Demps – were cashiered over this past weekend. And if there was some ease in the making of those decisions – general manager Howie Roseman got a new broom with his new office this year, after all; all new GMs do – they still were a pretty plain pair of indications about how big a hole the Eagles had at that position in 2009.

So even if rookie second-round draft pick Nate Allen, a very polished personage so far, is not a great player, and even if he makes some first-year errors, everybody involved believes that this position has been improved.

They are better at middle linebacker right now. Then there is Stewart Bradley, the middle linebacker, who missed 2009 after tearing up a knee. In his absence, the Eagles went through a half-dozen middle linebackers and a whole series of machinations on the outside. It was as big a mess as the safety position, and the result was this gaping hole in the middle of the defense.

This season, they appear to be settled on Akeem Jordan on the strong side and Ernie Sims on the weak side. However that goes, the key here is Bradley, who looks strong and appears to be running very well.

Even if Bradley is only 85 or 90 percent of the rising young player that he was in 2008, he will be a marked improvement over last year.

Their pass rush is better right now. Finally, there is defensive end Brandon Graham, the first-round draft choice out of Michigan. He is already the starter at left defensive end, and he already has made an impact in the fake summer games.

Whatever Graham gives them, it will just be in addition to what they already had last year. They didn’t lose anyone of significance in the offseason and they have added a first-round skill set at defensive end and a potential blitzer with a first-round skill set in Sims, who was acquired from Detroit.”

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