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Know Thy Enemy 2009: Philadelphia Eagles - December 20

After six straight games of non-division opponents, the 49ers get Arizona and Seattle back to back in what could be monstrous matchups for divisional supremacy (or at least we hope).  However, late December gets them a pair of non-divisional matchups, one of which will see them facing one of the NFC favorites in the Philadelphia Eagles.  If not for some of the worst play-calling in recent memory, the 49ers had a shot at upsetting the Eagles last season.  The Eagles only get better this season and have most definitely become rather intriguing with a certain quarterback addition.  Glad I waited on this particular preview.

The Philadelphia Eagles are represented here at SB Nation by JasonB over at Bleeding Green Nation.

2008 Overview
2008 was a rather odd year for the Eagles.  You of course had the bizarro tie that Donovan McNabb didn't know could happen.  The Eagles stormed through December winning four of five games, and having everything fall their way the final day of the season to gift them with a wildcard spot.  They then proceeded to make quite a bit of noise in the playoffs, knocking off Minnesota and New York en route to a very unlikely NFC title game between the Eagles and the Arizona Cardinals.  The Cardinals did win but not before blowing a 24-6 lead in what turned out to be a highly entertaining second half of football.

The Eagles offense finished the season 13th in the league overall, 12th rushing and 14th passing.  The Eagles offense has rarely been spectacular, but once again got things done.  On defense, though, the Eagles finished the season 3rd overall and 3rd against both the run and the pass.

After the jump we look at the Eagles offseason additions and subtractions, 2009 Questions and Answers and a quick preview of the matchup...

We'll get to the controversial addition in a minute.  The Eagles knew they had a solid defense last season and an improved offense could have won them a Super Bowl, given how last year's playoffs played out.  The Eagles wasted little time on offense through free agency and the draft.  They added a pair of offensive tackles in Stacy Andrews and Jason Peters and solid fullback Leonard Weaver.  In the draft they went heavy on offense, adding WR Jeremy Maclin, RB LeSean "Shady" McCoy and a potential steal in TE Cornelius Ingram.  On defense, the Eagles lost Brian Dawkins (pissing this guy off to no end), and went with Browns free agent FS Sean Jones as his replacement.  Probably a downgrade, but still a solid addition.  They also signed safety Rashad Baker and traded for CB Ellis Hobbs for some depth.

The one addition that has everybody abuzz is quarterback Michael Vick.  Given the existing QB situation in Philadelphia, this was certainly an intriguing addition.  When it was announced by the Monday Night Football crew, Ron Jaworski thought it was an awful move, while Jon Gruden thought it had great potential and was willing to wait on it.  I have to side with Gruden.  It's a low risk deal for the Eagles (given that the second year salary increase is a team option) and as they say you can NEVER have too many offensive weapons.  Imagine if the Eagles rolled out McNabb and Vick in the same offensive formations.  I recall reading somewhere that McNabb mentioned how he might roll out at receiver or even tight end on a play here or there.  Even though I'm not an Eagles fan, they might be the most intriguing team outside of the 49ers (just because) that I'll want to watch on Sunday.  I'm absolutely fascinated by how they might utilize Vick.

Also, please keep this thread's discussion to football-related matters.  If people post about the dog stuff, the comments will be deleted.  This is about the football aspects of the signing.

The most notable change was the departure of Brian Dawkins.  Eagles fans will miss him, but given his age, they were going to have start looking in a new direction at some point.  The same also holds true for offensive tackle Jon Runyan.  He took care of business on the line, but he was getting up there and the Eagles have made some impressive additions to bring down that average age.  They also let Tra Thomas walk, but again, they made the necessary replacements.

Aside from that, they lost LJ Smith and Correll Buckhalter.  Buckhalter will be replaced by Shady McCoy, which could end up being an upgrade if McCoy gets things going.  Maybe not immediately but soon.  As for Smith, he's struggled to stay healthy and even when on the field, he hadn't been overly productive in the passing game the last couple years so it made sense to look for a replacement.

2009 Questions and Answers
Right off the bat, what do they do with Michael Vick and how does it affect Donovan McNabb?  I realize McNabb is saying all the right things now, but I am wildly intrigued to see what happens if McNabb struggles at some point.  Kevin Kolb seems to be the guy tabbed for the future and once he gets healthy (sprained MCL, day-to-day), he'll be added into that equation.  It's just human nature where if Vick has some success in whatever role, people might clamor for him if McNabb struggles.

Although I like Shady McCoy, I also think the running game could have some question marks if Westbrook goes down.  He's sat out so far and might sit the whole preseason, which might not be the worst thing in the world.  While a guy like Buckhalter wasn't exactly a homerun hitter, he was a reasonable backup.  McCoy is the primary backup and is unproven at this level.  Alongside the QB and RB positions, the offensive line will play into this.  They're rolling out a new pair of offensive tackles, so we'll see how cohesive the unit is early on.

On defense, the questions surround how the team does without veteran leader Brian Dawkins.  Even if he was getting up there in age, he was still effective.  Sean Jones is talented, but he's not Brian Dawkins at this point.

vs. San Francisco
In our early schedule discussion, Bigelow and I split, me predicting a loss, Bigelow predicting a win.  While this is certainly a game the 49ers could win, I think they have less of a chance this year compared to last year.  Bigelow wasn't high on McNabb but I think he's still a tough QB to handle.  Throw in the fact that it's a December home game for the Eagles, a great second half team, and this is quite a tough matchup.