The injury bug bites the Eagles tail feathers.

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Head coach Andy Reid is not known for running a particularly physical training camp. Even so, this year injuries have take down some starters critical to the success of the team in 09. MLB Stewart Bradley is one of the best young IB in the league but blew out a knee and was put on IR ending his season. Starting G Todd Herremans (foot) will miss the entire preseason because of a stress reaction in a bone in his foot. Others missing time include starters on the O line T Shawn Andrews (back) and G Stacy Andrews (knee). Starting WR Hank Baskett (knee) has been diagnosed with a hyperextension of the right knee. He is listed as day-to-day. And the star RB Brian Westbrook is recovering from foot surgery and will sit out the preseason. The injury list represents the best and most experienced starters on the team. That is not a good sign for 09.

The offense revolves around two guys—QB Donovan McNabb and RB Westbrook. McNabb has been criticized, benched, and yet has always come back to lead a team with very limited receiving options in the past. This year his corps of receivers looks a lot better. McNabb has the ability to carry the team on his back when he needs to. He is among the most productive QBs in the league. But he will be 33 before the season ends. That makes finding the next Eagle starter a timely issue. The team picked Kevin Kolb with their first pick in 07 (second round). He may be the guy but we haven’t seen enough of him to tell. We won’t see him this year either unless McNabb goes down.

Westbrook has been as much as 70% of the offense in previous seasons. Last year he was limited by nagging injuries and hits the magic 30 age for running back before the season starts. At just 203 pounds he can’t be expected to take the punishment of 250-270 carries a year for much longer. LeSean McCoy and Lorenzo Booker are his backups. Rookie McCoy looks like a capable replacement but so did Booker who proved to be less than advertised. FB Leonard Weaver is a solid blocker but not much of an offensive threat.

The starting WR are DeSean Jackson, who has sparkled in camp this year, and Kevin Curtis. Curtis had a great year going until he went down with an injury. Reid has rookie 1st round pick Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Hank Baskett in reserve. Both Avant and Baskett have experience and Maclin has the tools but will have to develop into a more consistent route runner. TE Brent Celek filled in nicely for the injured L.J. Smith last year and starts in 09.

The O line will be much improved IF the walking wounded return to play. LT Jason Peters was all pro last year despite not earning it. He wanted to be rewarded for a below average season with an above average increase and the Bills traded him. LG Herremans, RG Stacy Andrews (knee in 08), RT Shawn Andrews (back) are all fighting injuries. If healthy, this group is solid. C Jamaal Jackson needs to improve run blocking. The prime members of the bench are Max Jean-Gilles and Winston Justice. They are just adequate.

The D will have to get over a lot more than injuries. Sean McDermott will replace the long time and much loved Jim Johnson as D coordinator. Expect McDermott to keep the same system with no changes this season.

The team ranked 4th in run D last year. The D line did fine again the run but need to generate a lot more pass rush in 09. The base rotation includes starters Es Victor Abiamiri and Trent Cole and Ts Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley. Trevor Laws, Darren Howard, Chris Clemons, Juqua Parker who started last year at E are the reserves in the rotation. Out of necessity, the Eagles have always blitzed a lot. They would like to reduce the blitzes if the D line generates more pressure.

SLB Chris Gocong and WLB Akeem Jordan are set but the question is who will replace Bradley? Omar Gaither who lost the WLB spot to Jordan last season is the best bet. He has played there before.

The corners are solid with Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown. Samuel is an all pro and plays like it. Brown is fine but the team traded for Ellis Hobbs to provide a little extra incentive. The loss of team leader Brian Dawkins to free agency is going to hurt. He was the emotional leader as well as a coach on the field. Quintin Demps will get the first shot but the team also signed UFA Sean Jones from the Browns. Joselio Hanson and Jack Ikegwuonu play the nickel and dime spots and have experience.

OVERALL: The Eagles will be one of the most improved teams in the league if they can overcome the losses on D. With the new line and receivers, they should score a lot of points. If the D can do as well as it did last year, the team will make the playoffs and should make it to the NFC Championship game as well.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

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