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DeFranks: Threatened Birds (Sept. 6)

Matt DeFranks | Monday, September 5, 2011

This is the second of a new Observer feature. A series of 10 Observer sportswriters will have columns appear in this space on a bi-weekly rotation. Hopefully some of these writers will grab your attention, and you’ll know when and where to find more of their thoughts.


You probably remember it, right? When minuscule Packers cornerback Tramon Williams intercepted Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in the end zone before gleefully hopping and skipping to a stop.

You remember this, right? It was in Philadelphia, the Eagles hosting their first home playoff game in the newly formed Vick-era.

What’s that you say? You don’t remember it? Maybe it’s because this game was merely a stepping stone for Green Bay on their way to a Super Bowl title a year ago. Maybe it’s because the same Eagles, stealthily sniping people from the bushes last fall, will no longer be camouflaged.

By dropping bomb after bomb after cherry bomb during the frenzied free agent period, the Eagles have taken the crosshairs off of the Patriots, the Jets, the Packers, the Steelers and, most shockingly, the Cowboys.

This isn’t to say that those other teams, especially the Patriots, won’t be aimed at. Because they will.

With the signings of social media star and Spanish scholar Chad Ochocinco and perennially underachieving and overpaid defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, New England definitely made their presence felt in the intensified off-season. But their moves were a water gun to the Eagles’ bazooka.

Fact — The single most sought-after free agent this summer was Nnamdi Asomugha.

Fact ⎯ Many people thought he would go to New York or Dallas.

Fact — The Eagles signed him.

No one knows how they did it (except, maybe, Adam Schefter) but everyone knows they are better with Asomugha on the team. Couple the dropping of the deadweight known as Kevin Kolb with the addition of Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the Philadelphia secondary has just reloaded. And, oh yeah, they still have Asante Samuel.

The Eagles also signed defensive lineman Jason Babin, a tank on the defensive side who conquered quarterbacks on his way to 12.5 sacks last year.

But that’s enough defense for now. A primary concern for the Eagles last year was the health of Michael Vick, who has played all 16 regular season games just once in his career, and not since he was released from prison. An insurance policy on Vick’s golden left cannon was in order.

Enter Vince Young, a very similar quarterback who has shown flashes of brilliance and demonstrated mental gaffes in his five solid but unspectacular years in Tennessee. Could Vick mentor Young? Certainly. Could Young fill in for an injured Vick? Certainly.

Bullet-fast receivers Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin compliment a great ground game that now has Ronnie Brown, the bash to Lesean McCoy’s dash.

Every positional group appears to be a strong one and the entire league knows this. Not many teams have weathered the early-season expectations to win a Super Bowl ring. Count the empty-firing Cowboys among that group.

The newly appointed “Dream Team” can only go down from here and the fall from sky high to middle of the pack is not a pretty one.

Eagles are protected in America. But this is not America. This is the NFL and Eagles will be hunted all season long.


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Matt DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu