- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The truth is that Philly was done in by more than Owens's petulance and the resulting distractions. Coming off four consecutive NFC title games and a Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, coach Andy Reid's team, some players say, had become complacent. Then there was the seasonlong barrage of injuries, McNabb's sports hernia being the most devastating.
After some brilliant and heroic efforts by McNabb early on, the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback went down for good in mid-November. He has come back strong and is as breezy and upbeat as ever, resolute in his belief that the lack of a receiving option that even comes close to approaching Owens's skill level won't keep him from regaining his mojo.
Before Owens joined the Eagles in 2004, McNabb, bereft of big-time playmakers, tended to play unevenly in big games--as though he believed he had to do it all himself. How much help he'll have this year depends in part on the development of the team's young pass catchers, with '05 second-round draft pick Reggie Brown, who led all NFL rookies with 571 receiving yards, the most logical to emerge. McNabb is also intrigued by the potential of Hank Baskett, a 6'4", 220-pound rookie free agent from New Mexico who has excellent hands. The wideout corps will be strengthened by the addition of veteran Dont� Stallworth, acquired on Monday in a trade with the Saints.
When healthy, fifth-year halfback Brian Westbrook is McNabb's most explosive option. The quarterback puts the 5'8", 203-pound Westbrook in a class with "the old Marshall Faulk. He has a bigger heart than his size would indicate." Problem is, the diminutive rushing-receiving threat gets hurt a lot, missing the last four games of last season with a right-foot sprain and most of the preseason this year with a sprained left foot.
The NFC East is a different division from the one the Eagles ruled from 2001 through '04--stronger top to bottom. It will take a spirited and focused effort for Philly to compete with the defending division champion Giants, the resurgent Redskins and T.O.'s new teammates in Dallas.
"Last year is buried in a casket, and the casket doesn't need to be opened up for any DNA tests," safety Brian Dawkins says. "You'll see a very emotional group this year. I promise you that."