Can Eagles' offensive weapons compensate for 'D'?

Posted Dec. 21, 2010 @ 2:57 a.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

The Eagles are still buzzing following their epic comeback against the Giants, and well they should. They now find themselves in the driver's seat in the NFC East, looking good for the division, and they perhaps can earn a first-round bye. Considering all the defensive injuries they have suffered, they might need it. But no amount of rest will bring back DE Brandon Graham and now S Nate Allen, who has joined Graham on injured reserve.

The PFW spin

Allen had been playing a solid free safety for the Eagles as a rookie, with some obvious rough patches (the Tennessee game comes to mind) but some clear high notes. His loss will be felt, though, and Kurt Coleman has a tough call in replacing Allen. Although Coleman, another rookie, has shown up in limited duty, he will have to take the quantum leap to starting, and the move leaves the Eagles with only three healthy safeties. Colt Anderson hasn't played a lot on defense since being claimed from the Vikings' practice squad, and much of that came Sunday — with mixed results.

MLB Jamar Chaney did an excellent job replacing Stewart Bradley, who is out with an elbow injury, making 16 tackles and forcing a huge fumble on Mario Manningham that helped turn the tide. Bradley might be back in the playoffs, but Chaney showed he can step in and play well in a hard-fought division game. But again, if Chaney goes down, the depth takes a big hit, even with Omar Gaither still there to step up.

The Eagles have fought through several other injuries, including those to DT Brodrick Bunkley and CB Asante Samuel, with mixed results. But DT Antonio Dixon saw his role expand when Bunkley went down and earned a starting spot even after Bunkley was at full health. So good things can come out of these injuries, even though Samuel clearly was missed before his return Sunday.

The Eagles have perhaps three of the seven or eight most electric offensive players in the NFL with Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy. They're that good. The Eagles showed they can turn a game on a dime against the Giants. But at some point, this defense will reach a breaking point. It can't afford to lose any more key defensive performers because comebacks like Sunday's are extremely rare and thus can't be counted on.