The Eagles had a major problem forcing turnovers last year. While the defense was generally pretty stout as far keeping opponents out of the end zone, they were last in the league in takeaways. Jim Johnson's defense is predicated on pressuring the passer, so the idea is to put as many guys back there that can pick off passes as possible. Force bad throws, pick them off... that seems to be the plan.
I also think the "plan" was to trade Lito Sheppard before the draft... but coming off an injury plauged season he clearly didn't reel in the kind of offers the Eagles hoped.
It's hard to say coming out of preseason what the weak spots are, but for now I'll just assume the problems from last year will be there until I see otherwise. Last year the two main weaknesses were lack of turnovers on defense and poor red zone performance on offense. On paper Asante Samuel should certainly help with the turnovers, but we'll see...
As far as red zone efficiency, that remains to be seen as well. The hope is that having a healthy LJ Smith back and a healthy McNabb should be a cure for those ills inside the 20... It was pretty puzzling last year how the Eagles were able to move the ball quite well, but just couldn't punch it when they got inside the 20. They actually had the 4th best offense in terms of yardage in the NFC, but their red zone efficiency was poor. How could an offense that was so clearly capable of moving the ball become so bad when they hit that 20 yard line? Until I see otherwise, I'd say that's the #1 weakness on the team.
The Eagles run defense last year was quietly a major strength. It was the best I've seen the Eagles play the run in years. They finished up the year with the 4th best run defense in football mostly thanks in my opinion to the two first rounds picks on the interior of the defensive line. Those guys were able to eat up blocks and free the linebackers to make plays. I would think the way they'll look to defend Jackson is to rely on Patterson and Bunkley to clog up the middle so he's forced outside where linebackers and our two hard hitting safeties should be waiting. If the Rams' interior line are able to open up holes in the center of the Eagles defense, they could cause real problems.
No Country for Old Men. The Eagles have been in the midst of a serious youth movement over the past couple years, and there's just a few guys over 30 left (McNabb, Dawkins, Runyan, Thomas) who may be looking at their final shot to win the big one here in Philly before they have to hang em up or move on.
Also you often switch between thinking the Eagles look great and look completely confusing while watching them... much like the film.
This is the first year since the superbowl year that McNabb has not spent the offseason rehabbing some type of season ending injury from the year prior. It's pretty unreal to think the guy hasn't had a proper offseason in 4 years. So I think that's where the extra optimism is coming from this year. Last year at the start of the year he looked pretty bad and we could clearly see he wasn't over the knee injury of the year prior. This year, he looks like a different person.
Thanks agian to Jason over at Bleeding Green Nation.