From a championship in 1960, the Eagles plummeted to last place in 1962. The retirement of Quarterback Norm Van Brocklin was partly at fault, but the shoulder injury that came close to ending the career of Sonny Jurgensen, Van Brocklin's replacement, was the crusher. Far off the brilliant form he had shown in his first full season, Jurgensen was not helped in the least last year by a team that was almost as chewed up as he was. Furthermore, there were serious problems in the defensive line, where there were only two players worthy of the name. This year Philadelphia traded for two experienced linemen—Frank Fuller, a tackle from the St. Louis Cardinals, and End Bill Quinlan from the Green Bay Packers, who is a strong, consistent player against a running attack. The Eagles' ground defense needs them both. The return to health of Back Ted Dean and Tight End Pete Retzlaff, plus rookie receiver Ron Goodwin, is offset by a lack of strong offensive linemen; with blockers the Eagle attack could be as good as any in the East. To complement the running, the Eagles still have Tommy McDonald (below) to catch passes. His lot will be made easier by the return of Retzlaff. A glaring Philadelphia weakness is the team's linebacking. Chuck Bednarik has retired, John Nocera, with bad knees, has been released on waivers, and Bob Harrison is only adequate. The secondary is old but wise and still able. The Eagles, if they can get better defensive play, should move way up—but not all the way.
Few NFL teams have started a season with as many unanswered questions as Cleveland. In order of importance: How effectively can mild Blanton Collier replace Paul Brown as head coach? Is Frank Ryan (above) ready to assume control at quarterback? Can Collier rebuild the offensive line and find a running back to pair with Jim Brown? How much will the loss of Floyd Peters (regular defensive tackle) and Don Fleming (regular defensive back) damage the Cleveland defense? Collier runs a training camp that is notably relaxed compared to Brown's. The thin-skinned players who rebelled before at strict discipline seem happier. The biggest change, however, is in Collier's offensive philosophy. He will allow the quarterbacks to call their own plays. Since Collier learned most of his football from Paul Brown, the overall system is virtually unchanged. Ryan, who took over from Jim Ninowski in midseason last year and performed well, may be the solution of the quarterback problem, although, after six years of pro ball, he still lacks game experience. The loss of two fine blockers (Jim Ray Smith and Mike McCormack) from the offensive line could affect both Ryan's passing and Brown's running. Cleveland has an adequate defensive line, good linebackers and good defensive backs, but this will be a trying season for Collier in his first head-coaching job with the pros. And it will be trying, too, for Art Modell, the young Cleveland owner who decided to discharge Paul Brown.
By the end of last year the Redskin offensive line blocked beautifully. But there were no breakaway backs to take advantage of the blocking. No opponent ran with ease against the Washington defense. Opposing teams passed though, and they scored often, especially with long tosses which seemed to confuse the Redskins' scrambled secondary. Too, by midseason the defenses in the league discovered that if they put two men on Bobby Mitchell, sophomore Norman Snead had trouble locating anyone else to throw to. Coach Bill McPeak (above) has taken definite steps to remedy both faults this year. Johnny Sample, an old hand on defense, may help shut off the home run pass. He comes from the Pittsburgh Steelers and lends speed and savvy to the deep secondary. Snead, who has finished two years of intensive apprenticeship as a quarterback, was learning to find the second and third receivers by the end of last season and should remember how this year. The Redskins still need a good breakaway runner to complement a passing game that will be strengthened by the addition of big Pat Richter, the Wisconsin end and Rose Bowl star who is a strong blocker and punter as well as a sure-handed receiver. Another good rookie is Corner Back Lon Sanders, who, with Sample, beefs up the Redskin pass defense. This can be important for the Redskins, who gave rival throwers too much time in 1962. Washington will be interesting but it will not win often enough to earn a title. This is about two years away.