QB Donovan McNabb – B-
Donovan is a top 5 QB when healthy. He drops from a solid A to a B- due to significant injury issues in the past few seasons. If he remains healthy, we can expect a B+ without question from the QB position.
Overall QB rating: B
RB Brian Westbrook – A+
The Wizard of Westbrook is arguably the best back in the NFC. Some will claim AP is better, but the one-year wonder factor still applies until he proves against it. Outside of LT in the AFC, Westbrook is the single most dangerous back in the NFL. Good depth behind Westbrook helps his case, as well.
Overall RB Rating: A
FB Tony Hunt – D+
Despite being a quality runner, he’s not a fullback. He has shown improvement from his first outing to his second at the position, so we can hope that his development continues. At worst, he’ll provide another runner, a short yardage option, and a decent receiver out of the backfield. If he fails, Jed leaves the farm and joins the big boys on gameday.
Overall FB rating (including Collins): C-
WR Reggie Brown – B-
Reggie Brown is a slightly better than average starting receiver at this point in his career. He has shown flashes but has yet to put it together fully. When he shows up, he can show up big… but a tendency to disappear hurts the ability to lean on him as a truly solid option at WR.
WR Hank Baskett/Jason Avant/Desean Jackson – C/C-
Neither of these guys is a legit starter. Due to the Curtis injury, one of them will be forced to start for the first half of this season. With Brown coming off a minor injury, both Hank and Jason are likely in starting roles this week. Baskett is a standout ST player that can become a redzone threat at WR if he learns to catch the ball at its highest point rather than make cradle catches. Avant has great hands and is a prototype slot receiver that plays physical. Desean Jackson could take the second starting spot if he plays like he did in the preseason, but he’s too much of a question mark at this point.
Overall WR rating: B with Curtis, C without
LT William Tra Thomas – A-
Still an elite LT, Big Willie Style drops from A+ to A- due to age and injury. He’s on a contract year, so if he wants to play next year he will need to step it up to earn one more big payday… but a betting man would likely have their money on this being Tra’s last year. Knee problems coupled with back problems are good for a man that is 6’7” and 350 lbs. so we can expect retirement in his near future. That doesn’t make the man any less hungry, he wants his ring, so expect a solid year from the big man.
LG Todd Herremans – B
Todd struggled last year, after coming off a studly season in 2006. His knee injury that he played through is likely the cause. Healthy and hardworking, Herremans may take his game to the next level, but that is to be found out for sure in the coming weeks. He is the clear starter, after murmurs that MJG could overtake his job, because he outplayed Jean Gilles by leaps and bounds this preseason. Herremans also showed that he just may be the answer at LT when the big fella moves on.
C Jamaal Jackson – B-
Jamaal’s story sounds like Todd’s, but without the injury. Despite being healthy, his play seemingly dropped significantly from 2006 to 2007. Perhaps his struggles were more due to Herremans not supporting his weight in protection, but any way you slice it Jamaal needs to step up. There is not too much behind his at center, so we need him to crank it up a notch and be what we all believe he can be.
RG Shawn Andrews – B+
The Big Kid is an A+ player, one of the best at his position in the entire NFL, but he needs to get through his issues and shake off the dust before we can consider still the same player. So, Shawn… trim up that brohawk and get to work, we need you on those screen to Westy!
RT Jon Runyan – B
Once considered a beast, Big Jon seems to be slowing down a bit. He is still well above average, but not sure if you can call him an elite RT anymore. Runyan is one of the smartest linemen in the league and that won’t go away. Expect a few more holds that last year, as some quicker players may burn him and he’d rather a penalty than get Donny killed.
Overall OL rating: B
The Eagles could use a better starter in Curtis’s absence, but the WR corps is deeper than any other in the division, which should help out. I suspect Booker will be utilized as a receiver a lot early this season. Buck in the backfield with West in the slot is a likely combination as well. Kris Wilson not being good enough at TE is a big disappointment, LJ better show something because the less Schobel sees the field, the better.
DE Trent Cole – A-
Cole is a stud. The only concern is that his motor slows a bit as the season goes. Bringing in Clemons and drafting Smith should add pass rushers that can spell him to keep him from wearing, increasing his stock to a solid A. With a stronger presence on the left side, Cole wouldn’t face nearly as many double teams and would produce even more solid pressure than he does. Overall, Cole is a flat out stud and will be an All-Pro throughout his career.
DE Juqua Parker – C
An average NFL starter. He is a good pass rush specialist and flourished in that role before having to become the starter. As a starter, he has been adequate, but never much more. Abaimiri projected to be the starter, but will miss the first few games due to injury. It isn’t unfair to assume that Abiamiri will likely take the job by the end of the season, putting Parker back to the role where he belongs.
Overall DE rating: B+ once Abiamiri is back, B- without him
DT Broderick Bunkley – B/B-
Bunk looks like he can be a monster, but needs to build on his performance from last season to prove it. I’d like to give him a B, but not quite yet. He’s strong at the point of the attack and should provide a great anchor against the run. Laws will spell Bunkley at times, giving him the ability to stay fresh. Laws has a high motor and played the run extremely well in college.
DT Mike Patterson – B/B+
Patterson should have been a Pro-Bowler last season. Only Jovan Haye had more tackles than him as a DT last year. Patterson is a motor guy that provides a good pass rush up the middle. He should be spelled by Klecko and Laws, to keep him fresh. Expect Patterson to remain in the nickel at times, alongside DE Darren Howard lining up at DT.
Overall DT rating: B
WLB Omar Gaither – B+
Omar has been nothing but stellar since taking McCoy’s job his rookie season. He played well as the WILL and the MIKE. His lateral movement is on par with the likes of Lofa Tatupu and his versatility is reminiscent of Ike Reese. This is the kind of LB everyone should be excited about. Akeem Jordan is a more than adequate backup.
MLB Stewart Bradley – C/C+
I’d love to call Stew the next Brian Urlacher. I’d love to call him an A+ starter, but not yet… for now he is a guy who came up big in one regular season game and needs to build on it. He still seems to have more potential at SAM than at MIKE, but he should progress and be well above the C+ by the end of the year… we all hope. Mays showed up at a run stopping machine this preseason and could end up the MIKE next year. He looks like a young Axe Man out there.
SLB Chris Gocong – B-
Gocong still looks like a DE playing LB, but not nearly as much as he did early last year. He’s athletic and fast, but may be in the wrong role. He strikes me as a pass rush specialist that would flourish in a 3-4, or as a Joker in JJ’s scheme. Don’t be surprised if Stew moves back outside if Gocong struggles in coverage. Gocong may be more effective in a specialist role. If Gocong progresses, however, he will solidify his spot on the team for a long time. Tank Daniels was brought back to be Cong’s backup.
Overall LB rating: B
CB Asante Samuel – A
Despite Negadelphian cries that Asante doesn’t fit our system, he seems to be picking it up well. He’s a gamer, pure and simple. He reminded us of that when he clocked Randy Moss on the opening play against NE in the preseason. Once he fully becomes comfortable in our system, there is no question that he is a perennial Pro-Bowler.
CB Sheldon Brown/Lito Sheppard – A-/B+
Both Lito and Sheldon are solid, if not elite starters. Lito is an elite playmaker when healthy, but struggles in that department. Sheldon is more physical and is incredibly reliable, rarely missing a beat. Sheppard takes more risks and therefore gives up some big plays, while Brown can lockdown elite speedy WRs one-on-one. Despite their flaws, both are solid at worst and elite when on their games. Expect to see a lot of nickel sets this year. Hanson ain’t no slouch either.
Overall CB rating: A
FS Brian Dawkins – B/B-
Dawk used to be one of the best safeties in the league, maybe he still is… but it’s hard to believe that he’ll be Weapon X again when last year he spent the season hurt and this preseason he appeared nonexistent outside of a big hit on Moose. A B is generous at this point, but Dawk is still an above average starter in the NFL at FS. Don’t be surprised to see JJ use he and Q interchangeably as Dawk’s speed is dwindling and he may be more of a hard hitting SS at this point. Demps is the heir apparent at FS, but we’ll see how that shapes up.
SS Quintin Mikell – B
Q looked like a Pro-Bowler this preseason and was the most consistent player in the secondary last year. He is the best safety on the team right now. If his preseason play is any indication, Q will be an easy A at SS as the season picks up, but a B is fair at this point. Behind Mikell, there is experience in the hard working Considine and the hard hitting Reed.
Overall S rating: B
I think there are several Pro-Bowl caliber players on this unit if they play up to potential including all 5 of the secondary’s starters (counting all 3 CBs as starters). I wouldn’t be surprised to see the unit rank in the top 5 of the NFL, top 10 is virtually a lock. The biggest question marks lie in the LB corps. Gaither is the leader of that unit at this point and Stew is the young buck who needs to prove the most. In the past few seasons JJ and Andy have made the right decisions at LB, so in them we should trust… for now.
K David Akers – C+
Akers has been average in the recent past, considering his inability to hit FGs from 40-49 yards. Once considered automatic, Green Akers is struggling. Despite being a fan favorite, real competition in a guy like Carmody or Ito should have been brought in. Richmond McGee was not real competition. Since Rocca and Dorenbos have now had a full year working with Akers, we should hope that Akers improves, otherwise it’s time to hit the waiver wire and find someone to strike fear in him or replace him.
P Sav Rocca – B-
Rocca has begun to shut up his critics by nailing some coffin corners this preseason. There is no question that he has a leg, if his direction continues to improve, he could become one of the better punters in the league.
LS John Dorenbos – A-
I haven’t heard Dorenbo’s name much watching games and that’s the sign of a good long snapper. If you hear him called out, it’s because he is messing up. Also, one other thing Dorenbos also has going for him is that he was one of the best coverage long snappers last season, with several ST tackles. He is a solid A, but gets the A- due to providing no depth at any other position.
PR Desean Jackson – B
He’s not Devin Hester… yet. A stud returner in college, he’s already broken one this preseason. We can expect a bit of juice in the punt return game this year, unlike the days of Reno “Fair Catch” Mahe.
KR Quentin Demps – B+
Not much as a S, even less as a CB, but as a kick returner, Demps looks like lightning in a bottle. Some concerns about the offense should be quelled when we see that they’ll be starting drives an average of 10-15 yards further upfield. A few TDs and Demps will become the best Birds returner since B-Mitch. Doesn’t hurt that he has experience as a punt returner either.
Other key ST players: Hank Baskett, Dan Klecko, Akeem “The African Dream” Jordan, Sean Considine, Tank Daniels, JR Reed, Tony Hunt, Joselio Hanson, Greg Lewis, and Joe Mays)
Overall ST rating: B/B+
This unit looks like it could be one of the best ST units the Birds have had in years. Maybe Seagrest gets out of the fan doghouse this year and becomes the new Harbaugh. Depth at returner is reassuring after the Bloom/Lewis/Reed debacle. Akers is the weakest link right now… did you think you’d ever hear that