Although they are looking to improve on a disappointing season as a whole, there are four Philadelphia Eagles that are primed to carry the team in 2012.
The Eagles were expecting more from their role players in 2011, but for a variety of reasons, got inconsistent contributions.
If they want any shot at making a deep run into the playoffs, they’ll need these four players to step up.
Even with all the uncertainties surrounding this group of safeties, the one guarantee comes from Nate Allen.
The third-year pro had a promising start to his NFL career until a knee injury robbed him of the final three games of his rookie campaign. With the lockout limiting his offseason rehab and opportunities in training camp, Allen was set up poorly for a sophomore return. His injury bumped him from his starting position as the Eagles opened their season and explains why he was only able to record one tackle during the first three games.
As the year progressed, Allen seemed to find his form in the back end of the secondary. His range and physicality returned and made him look like the second-round pick he was selected to be.
After a full healthy session at OTAs and training camp, Allen should continue his strong play into 2012.
After nearing the 1,000-yard plateau and hauling in 10 touchdowns in 2010, Jeremy Maclin was blindsided by an undisclosed medical condition that turned out to be a cancer scare. He was cleared to return for normal football activities, but came back to the team looking frail.
Not only will he be playing for a new contract, but is also looking to ascend his reputation of being a first-round selection.
This year at OTAs, Maclin has come back looking considerably bigger and stronger. With his new frame and old skill set, the 24-year-old has once again positioned himself to be a breakout candidate for 2012.
If the Eagles hope to make a serious playoff run, they’ll need Maclin to elevate his level of play and become another big-play threat to complement DeSean Jackson.
Although Brent Celek tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions and led the Eagles in yards after the catch, he played the entire season with a sports hernia and torn labrum in his left hip.
Like most of his teammates, Celek started the season off slowly—failing to record at least 50 receiving yards in six straight contests. However, he was able to recover and close out the year with a physicality that was sorely missed for the first 12 games.
During the team’s four-game win streak to close out the season, Celek recorded 17 receptions, 393 receiving yards and three scores—not only raising his own level of play, but also the entire team as well.
After undergoing successful offseason surgery to fix both of his injuries, expect the tight end to carry the responsibility of being Philadelphia’s primary red-zone receiving threat.
Last season, the Eagles envisioned a shutdown secondary that included a trio of Pro Bowl cornerbacks. With Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha already occupying the outsides, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was thrown into the slot, where he struggled to supplant Joselio Hanson as the nickel corner.
With Samuel now in Atlanta, DRC has the freedom to slide back to the position he’s built to play. This bodes well for the defense as a whole, since Rodgers-Cromartie is a strong man-to-man defender and has the athletic ability to make plays that few other cornerbacks can.
The switch back to a position where he spent the first three years of career will allow Rodgers-Cromartie to re-emerge as a ball-hawking playmaker in the secondary and make the defensive unit more potent as a whole.
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