The season is in the final stretch, and somewhat unexpectedly the Eagles have put themselves in position to win a division title and hopefully more.
Back around week three, I noted the similarities between the 2010 Eagles and 2007 Giants. Both were written off as being in rebuilding years prior to the start of the season, and then somewhat surprisingly they contended. Luck plays a big part in NFL success, much more so than most coaches or fans would care to admit. Often the difference between being 6-10 and 10-6 is just a handful of plays. And sometimes when you least expect it, a team surprises you and contends for a championship, often with players you didn't expect to be contributors. The story of the 2010 Eagles season is still being written, so we will see. But the Football Gods have already smiled on the Eagles with three crucial events this season:
1. Kevin Kolb getting hurt. If Kolb doesn't get hurt in the Green Bay game, they may not have gone to Michael Vick until later in the season, if at all. Otherwise, they'd have probably just went through some ups and downs with Kolb, stuck with him, and been about as good as we expected them to be (8-8'ish). But the bottom line is, as much credit as the organization is getting for Vick's metamorphosis at QB, they had no idea he'd be this good either, just like the rest of us. And they spent the whole offseason trying to trade him. If someone had given them a 2nd or 3rd round pick for Vick, there is little doubt that he'd have probably been traded last spring and we'd have some veteran stiff backing up Kolb right now.
2. Brodrick Bunkley getting hurt. I've thought for years that Bunkley and Mike Patterson just aren't a good enough DT combo. Both are undersized (around 300 lbs) by modern NFL standards. And Bunkley just isn't built like a typical DT. He's kind of tall, with long arms and built more like an offensive tackle. You generally want DT's who are shorter, so they can get better leverage. And outside of a handful of games at the end of the 2008 season, this combo has never really played well together stopping the run. I think they originally envisioned Bunkley as more of a gap-shooting, pass-rushing DT, but it just never happened. Enter Antonio Dixon – an undrafted free agent who signed with Washington in 2009 and was picked up by the Eagles during the middle of last season. And with Dixon and Mike Patterson paired together, their run defense has improved dramatically since the first Redskins game in October.
3. Ellis Hobbs getting hurt. I thought going from Sheldon Brown to Hobbs was a downgrade from the beginning. At his best, Hobbs' coverage ability was about the same as Brown's and he was much less of a factor in run support. You need at least one physical cornerback, and Hobbs is too similar to Asante Samuel in both size and style. Dmitri Patterson drew some positive reviews during training camp, but I figured that was the usual hype bestowed on backups who practice well in shorts. But being a guy who has played most of his career on kickoff coverage, you know he'll be physical and he's been as good as Hobbs in coverage so far.
You need to be both good and a little lucky to succeed in the NFL. And thus far in 2010, the Eagles have been both.