HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 30: Maurice Jones-Drew #32 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs the ball against DeMeco Ryans #59 of the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on October 30, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
On paper, the Eagles had lots going for them in 2011. Fresh off the signing of Nnamdi Asomugha, the momentum of Michael Vick, the ascension of LeSean McCoy, dynamic big play ability from DeSean Jackson.
So what happened?
Jackson's pre-season contract dispute, Vick's inevitable injury, Asomugha adapting to a new system, all these things took their tolls on the Eagles, and they limped to an 8-8 finish.
The NFL should be wary of the Eagles in 2012, because they have nowhere to go but up. The Steelers should expect a hungry Eagles team in Week 5 at Heinz Field.
The addition of DeMeco Ryans (a player much better suited in a 4-3 as opposed to the 3-4 Houston is now running) was an excellent move. Philadelphia's linebackers were horrendous in 2011, and coupling Ryans (a two-time Pro Bowl player) with rookie speedster Mychal Kendricks coming via the draft, the Eagles may have greatly improved the middle of their defense.
They'll also be free of contract headaches for the first time in a while. With Jackson and McCoy both now under contract, their offense is free to concentrate on improving their middling 24.8 points per game in 2011.
The Eagles didn't struggle overall moving the ball, finishing 4th in yards per game (399.1) in a juiced-up offensive year for the league overall. But the three teams ahead of them in yards per game (Green Bay, New Orleans and New England) all scored more than 32 points a game, while the Eagles fell eight points a game short of them.
They'll quickly feel the loss of LT Jason Peters, who has ruptured his Achilles tendon, and re-injured it, so far this off-season. Peters is one of the game's best, is likely to be replaced by one of the slew of offensive linemen the Eagles brought onto the roster in free agency.
Outside of Peters, they return a big chunk of their key participants from a shaky 2011 campaign. An argument can be made they simply needed a year of adjustment, and Andy Reid's Eagles haven't typically stayed down for long.