Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Philadelphia Eagles: Donovan McNabb Vs. NFC East Quarterbacks

It is difficult to argue that quarterback is not the most important position on the football field.

Teams suffer when their No. 1 quarterback goes down with an injury. Teams gamble their future by drafting a quarterback with the No. 1 pick.

Most experts would pick Tom Brady or Payton Manning as the NFL’s top quarterback. Either selection is difficult to argue with. But if you narrowed the choices to the quarterbacks in the NFC East, who would be your No. 1?

The play of Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Jason Campbell, and Donovan McNabb will most likely determine the outcome of the division. With the NFC East being the premier division in the NFC, the winner should position themselves nicely for a Super Bowl run.

In years past the answer to the division’s No. 1 quarterback was easy, Donovan McNabb. But McNabb’s recent injury history and the continued development of the other QBs makes labeling McNabb as your choice debatable.

Tony Romo is coming off a Pro Bowl year in which he threw 36 touchdowns and posted a QB rating of 97.4. Romo will be entering his third year as the Cowboys' staring quarterback. His numbers should continue to improve as he comes more comfortable with the offense and opposing defensive schemes.

Romo also has his top receiving targets returning in Terrell Owens and Jason Witten. Pressure on Romo should also lessen with the addition of Felix Jones to an already potent running game. Going against Romo is his lack of a capable No. 2 receiver to ease coverage on Witten and Owens.

Despite Romo’s many regular season achievements, a playoff victory has still eluded the star quarterback. Romo’s inability to win the big games makes it difficult to give your vote to Romo. Plus it looks like Jessica Simpson will be back attending Cowboys games this year!

Jason Campbell showed great promise in his first year as the starter in 2007. Unfortunately, his year was cut short because of injury. During his absence, Todd Collins excelled and led the Redskins to the playoffs.

Campbell enters the 2008 season having to learn a new offensive system. Critics are already questioning if Campbell is the right man to lead Zorn’s West Coast offense. Outside of Santana Moss, Campbell’s top receivers will be rookies also learning the complicated system.

Campbell will need to improve on his mediocre 2007 numbers. He threw only one more touchdown than he threw interceptions. Campbell’s indecisiveness contributed to him being sacked 21 times and fumbling 14 times.

Campbell’s youth, having to master a new offensive system, and possibly not even being the best QB on the Redskins roster makes it difficult for Campbell to secure the vote.

Eli Manning’s 2007 season allowed him to finally quiet his critics. Could Eli handle the New York pressure and intense spotlight? Could Eli post consistent numbers throughout an entire season? Could Eli show the confidence of a leader and a player teammates could follow in crunch time? Eli showed that the answer to all of these questions is yes.

Eli should continue to find success in 2008. After his Super Bowl performance it will be difficult for any regular season moments to rattle him. The offense remains intact (pending resolution of Burress’s contract demands) and another removed from a dependence on Tiki Barber. Steve Smith should continue to grow into a nice complimentary receiver to Burress. Boss should continue to grow with Shockey’s inevitable departure.

Based on Eli’s remarkable growth and clutch performances it would be difficult to not vote for Eli. A valid argument would be the difficulty in duplicating last year’s success and getting over the always-present Super Bowl hangover.

Eli’s Super Bowl ring is what McNabb craves most. McNabb has come oh so close oh so many times. McNabb’s seasons have ended with three NFC Championship Game defeats and one Super Bowl defeat.

In reviewing the defeats, it would be hard to argue with the critics who point to McNabb as being the reason for the team’s big game failures. It would also be hard to argue that without McNabb the seasons would have ended much sooner than a championship game.

McNabb enters the 2008 season healthy (well that is if you believe Andy Reid, and that McNabb’s shoulder tendonitis is of no concern). Donovan claims that his knee is back to 100 percent. He can again be a threat with his legs and arm.

If you review the Eagles' final four games of the 2007 season, McNabb’s numbers show a return to the status of elite quarterbacks. McNabb posted a quarterback rating of 95.5, a 65 percent completion percentage, six touchdowns, and a rushing average of over five yards per carry - numbers reminiscent of his Pro Bowl days and of Eagles dominance.

McNabb’s end of season play should only improve in 2008. Again, this is if he is able to stay healthy, which is always a BIG if.

The Eagles return a healthy L.J. Smith to improve McNabb’s efficiency in the red zone. The Eagles added another speedy back in Booker to spread out with Brian Westbrook. Mismatches should be a plenty with the running backs going against linebackers.

The chemistry between Kevin Curtis and McNabb should also be improved as Curtis enters Year 2 as an Eagle. And McNabb’s deep ball should once again (absent since the departure of TO) be a weapon with speed burner DeSean Jackson on the field.

These additions and McNabb’s return to health would provide a strong backing to McNabb being the division’s top quarterback.

My vote? Well, that’s easy: McNabb. What did you expect? I am an Eagles fan and a Philadelphia fan. I have been waiting over 100 seasons for a city team to capture a championship. So help a Philadelphian out and vote McNabb in '08.

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