The Philadelphia Eagles and their fans cringe every time they hear the term “Dream Team.” This now infamous declaration by Eagles backup QB Vince Young has put an unneeded target on the back of the team.
Besides the obvious ones, who are lesser thought-about players whose performance this season will be key to the team’s overall success?
We can all pretty much agree on the players who make up this dream team nonsense: Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin.
Sorry Vince, even though you came up with the name, you aren’t part of it!
And even though Young could become a key player as the backup to an injury prone Michael Vick, I’m not certain that it wouldn’t be Mike Kafka who comes in as the #2.
With that said, here are five other guys who need to step up in order to make this season a success.
C Jason Kelce
Now that it has been made official that he is the starter over Jamaal Jackson, he literally becomes a central piece in the Eagles offense.
Kelce played poorly in last week’s preseason game against the Browns so it comes as a surprise that he “won” the starting job. Howard Mudd must really see something in him and believes that he’ll turn it around sooner rather than later.
That has to be the case because the health and future of the $100 million man he’s protecting depends on it.
Should Kelce struggle, it will bog the offense down as it will not allow for plays to develop and have Michael Vick running for his life. Assuming they keep Jackson as the backup center, they could always re-insert him into the lineup.
But by that time will the damage have been done? The Eagles have decided to start a sixth-round rookie next to a first-round rookie in a season with Super Bowl aspirations.
Kelce will have to significantly step up his game if the Eagles hope to playing after the first weekend in January.
LB Jamar Chaney
While many people might think Casey Matthews needs to be a key player, I think the onus will fall more on Chaney.
He’ll have to be the one who steps up from the linebacker corps and make plays. With Matthews being a rookie and Moises Fokou being, well, another player, Chaney is the Eagles’ best chance at having an impact from this group.
He’ll have to do his job as well as help cover for Matthews. The linebackers can’t afford to be a gaping hole in the defense. Somebody has to make plays or at least not let the middle of the defense become a liability.
I have high hopes for Chaney this year. A good season from him will go a long way towards the Eagles attaining their goals.
K Alex Henery
I was severely disappointed in the Eagles when they selected Henery in the fourth-round of this year’s draft. At that point, I knew that the David Akers era was over in Philly.
There was no reason to change kickers as Akers is still a top kicker in the league. But alas, no use in crying about it now.
Now the pressure in on for Alex Henery. In a league where many games are decided by field goals, Henery is in a position to make or break the season by making or missing a few clutch kicks here and there.
Will he come through in the swirling winds up the New Meadowlands stadium during a big game with division rival New York? Does he have what it takes to make the game winning kick during a bad weather playoff game?
The answers to these questions could have a huge impact on the season. Kickers are often afterthoughts for some teams but yet many times they are the difference between winning and losing.
Let’s hope Henery is up to the task.
S Kurt Coleman
It doesn’t appear that the safety position is panning out as originally thought. I assumed that Nate Allen would be the starter at free safety and Kurt Coleman starting the season at strong safety but may give way to rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett at some point.
As it stands right now, it appears Coleman is the starter at free safety while Nate Allen and Jarrad Page battle it out for the strong safety spot. Allen is still apparently recovering from a torn patellar tendon and Page is somewhat of a journeyman.
So far during the preseason, Coleman seems to be the only one playing consistent. He’s not very big at 5′ 11″, 195 lbs, but he can lay the wood. He also appears to be solid in pass coverage as well.
Coleman could emerge as the Eagles’ best safety this year. Even though they have the “big three” cornerbacks, they still need quality play from the safety position to sure-up the pass defense.
On a defense that has lacked an identity since the departure of Brian Dawkins, some feisty play from Coleman could help restore some intimidation to the secondary.
RT Todd Herremans
In all honesty, I could have listed all five starters along the offensive line as being “key players” this season. But that would have been boring no matter how true it actually is.
Todd Herremans is considered the Eagles’ second-best lineman behind only Jason Peters. They just recently decided to move out to right tackle due to the serious lack of talent that has been put on display this preseason.
How will Herremans handle the move? Will he be as successful there as he has been at left guard? He is now charged with protecting Michael Vick’s blind side which is a crucial position for the Eagles’ offensive line.
His veteran presence should help in the development of rookie Danny Watkins as well. But another reason why Herreman’s performance could make a difference will be whether or not TE Brent Celek has to stay in and block.
If Herremans is effective, it should alleviate some blocking responsibility by Celek and therefore allow him to be another weapon in the passing game. And as such, the offense will have more opportunities to thrive.
When allowed to focus on running routes and catching passes, Celek has proven to be very effective. He becomes a key third-down and red zone target.
Todd Herreman’s performance will determine how much Celek is freed up.