Rich Hofmann: Eagles don't need to be blown up and rebuilt

Plaxico Burress , with the Jets last season, is a player the Eagles should target.
Plaxico Burress , with the Jets last season, is a player the Eagles should target. (Associated Press)
Posted: February 29, 2012

WE ALL SPEND the NFL offseason scheming about moves that can be made here, there and everywhere in order to make the Eagles better. Given enough quiet time - 76ers on the road, Flyers on the road, Phillies in Florida - it is possible to sit there with a legal pad and a cup of coffee and make a dozen trades and signings before lunch.

Well, scratch that.

Think minimalist instead.

This is the exercise for the day: Calculate the fewest number of moves in the starting lineup that the Eagles would need to make in order to be a team that is good enough to win the NFC East in 2012, a team good enough to win 11 or 12 games and get hot at the end of the season and make a real run at a championship.

Most people would agree that the Eagles did too much with the roster last year, especially considering the lack of an offseason because of the NFL lockout (and also the major changes on the coaching staff). Most people also figured the Eagles should have been a 10- or 11-win team last season.

After their horrendous 1-4 start to the schedule, after blown lead piled upon blown lead in September and October, they did play like a 10- or 11-win team: not great, not especially dangerous-looking, but better than average. So we start there.

The fundamental question that they all have to be asking themselves in the NovaCare bunker is if they have a lineup that needs only to be tweaked, or one that needs major surgery after 8-8. That is, whether a talented group would benefit most from a normal offseason and from roster stability, or if there needs to be a significant shakeup in order to give coach Andy Reid his best shot at winning a Super Bowl in what might also be his last shot.

Even the pessimists in the fan base don't see the need for the roster to be dynamited. They need to identify the backup quarterback (Trent Edwards? Mike Kafka?) and they need to sign a backup running back who has some size and the ability to pick up a blitz, but those are moves on the edges. The question is, while acknowledging discussion areas at linebacker, safety, cornerback, defensive tackle and wide receiver, just how few changes can the Eagles get away with?

Put it this way: If safety Nate Allen's knee is sufficiently healthy, you could get away with only two changes. The ideal number would be four, two on offense, two on defense. In either case, it will be gutsy to stand pat to that degree. But stability is the way to go.

The two changes that must be made are at wide receiver and linebacker. At minimum, the Eagles need to add size at both positions. The receiver needs to be a big red-zone target, like Plaxico Burress, because giving quarterback Michael Vick that kind of weapon in close to the goal line is crucial. The linebacker needs to be able to play credibly on first down, and have the heft to deal with the guards who are going to be in his lap for as long as the Eagles run their wide-nine defensive front. Neither of these additions should be draft choices, either. There is no time this season for learning on the job.

If they can convince themselves that Allen is healthy, that really would be sufficient among the starters. You are going to retool some of the depth guys - a veteran backup safety to go with the veteran backup running back makes sense - but those are typical roster adjustments. Among the starters, you really could get away with just a wideout and a linebacker.

But there are two other moves that also make sense. One is moving DeSean Jackson out and somebody like Pittsburgh restricted free agent Mike Wallace in (and having already written that column, I won't rewrite it here). But the key is that you're making moves that will make Vick better.

The other is cornerback Asante Samuel, who is part of the stylistically mismatched trio of Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. People want to trade Samuel, and I get it, because the group just didn't mesh well, and none of them is suited to play the slot. Even recognizing his talent, it is going to be hard to make this one work. They could come up with something after an offseason of the coaches scheming about it, so trading Samuel isn't mandatory, but it might just be neater and cleaner if they did.

OK, maybe you add another defensive tackle, just because, but really, that's it. After the upheaval of 2011, the less the Eagles do, the better.


Send email to

hofmanr@phillynews.com, or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at

www.philly.com/TheIdleRich. For recent columns go to

www.philly.com/RichHofmann.

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