September 26, 2010

Tweeting my tweets on Twitter.

I'm not ashamed to say that I love Twitter.

I currently have 389 followers, which I think is pretty good for some asshole Web editor living in Boston. Of course, a lot of them are fake accounts set up to send people spam links and porn, but beggars can't be choosers.

There's a million reasons why YOU should be tweeting right now, too. First off, there's some true comedic geniuses out there. If you don't laugh at Cyborg Tommy Hanson, Drunk Hulk or snakebro, you don't have a soul.

And you might get in contact with stars! I've been direct messaged by Thurman Thomas (of Buffalo Bills fame) and Thomas Lennon (of Lt. Dangle fame). Both were upset that I lightly ridiculed them. Keep in mind that Thomas is an NFL Hall of Famer and Lennon is a very successful comedic actor and television star.

But if you aren't contacted directly by celebrities you've chosen to malign, don't worry. Sometimes they'll share your words with all their pals! I've been retweeted by CSNPhilly.com's Jordan Raanan, The700Level.com's Matt P, ESPN's "Talented Mr. Roto" Matthew Berry and NickCifuentes.com's Nick Cifuentes (alright, the last one is less impressive). It's the silliest, cheapest thrill to get RTed by someone like TMR, to stand out amongst the hundreds of tweets he gets every hour. But it's a thrill nonetheless.

Keep in mind, though, that it's not just about the "fame" of accumulating followers and being recognized by fantasy sports gurus. I've had football conversations with NFL analysts, talked hockey with Philadelphia sportswriters and shot the shit with "respected" bloggers. All of a sudden, everyone is accessible. If you like (or don't like) someone, you can let them know. Odds are, if they're like Thomas Lennon and Thurman Thomas, you'll even be asked why.

It's already cliché to say this, but Twitter really does bring everyone down to a more even playing field. Guys like Chad Ochocinco and Kevin Durant tweet as much, if not more, than I do. Suddenly, the only difference between us is that they have millions of dollars and outrageous amounts of athletic ability.

I know that doesn't exactly make us equals, but on a typical day, both of us are staring at our smartphones while sending out stupid 140-character messages. No matter what, they're still people. Rich, successful people, but also attention-seeking weirdos looking for human connection and online encouragement. Just like me!

If you're reading this and you aren't on Twitter, I highly recommend it. It's a little weird at first; you'll basically be tweeting into a deep, dark void of disinterest. But it's obviously more than just a fad, and there really is something for everyone. If you like sports, for example, you'll find that breaking stories are now tweeted before anything else. I highly enjoyed being the first person in my friend group to know that Vick was retaining his starting job; it made me feel special in a loser-y way.

And of course, Sylvester Stallone and Weird Al Yankovic are on Twitter. If that's not enough for you, I don't know what is.

September 21, 2010

All aboard the Michael Vick Experience.

A show of hands: who actually gives a shit about Kevin Kolb?

Sure, Andy Reid anointed him the 2010 starter to great fanfare, essentially choosing Kolb over his long-time, Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback. And yes, Kolb put together a quality game and a half in relief of said QB last year, showing a skill-set that made people believe he could be the next Aaron Rodgers.

But in reality, Kevin Kolb is nothing more than those six quarters plus two months of uncontrollable preseason hype. Why that ensures him the starting job over Michael Vick in some people's minds is something I do not understand.

When it was Donovan McNabb versus Kevin Kolb, there was an investment there. Eagles fans knew what McNabb would bring to the table, and many of them loved what he'd done for the franchise and the city. While most people seemed to agree that a change was in order, you could certainly make a case that McNabb had done enough, and remained talented enough, to go out on his own terms.

There's none of that here. Andy Reid has seen Kolb behind center for 3+ seasons, and Vick since August of last year. If he says Michael Vick is the better choice at quarterback, well, let's roll those dice.

Now, don't get me wrong. I thought that Kolb would be handed the job back immediately, and I would have seen the logic behind that decision. Everyone seemed to agree that 2010 was a transitional season, and everything the Eagles have done in the last six months indicated that Kolb was the starter for this year and beyond.

But I thought wrong. Suddenly, the transition is to the known quantity, to Michael Vick. Based on Vick's work so far in 2010, that's tough to argue with. This certainly hurts Kolb's career, and probably his psyche, but that looks like a risk Reid is willing to take. He, like many other people, wants to see how the Vick saga plays out.

So what now? Well, we know that Sundays will be very interesting with Vick behind center. We know that he'll be much better than Kolb at evading the blitz, which is probably a big reason that he's still starting. We saw him go 21 for 34 last weekend, admittedly against a porous Lions secondary, and we saw him break into some freaky runs. We got a glimpse of the quarterback everyone's always wanted Vick to be: an amazing combination of lethal speed and a arm-cannon, one that made smart decisions and led his team with gusto.

And who knows? Maybe Michael Vick really has matured, maybe he does want to be more than just the human highlight film he was a few years ago. Maybe he is the best football player in the universe ever.

We won't have to wait long to find out. The Michael Vick Experience is heading to Jacksonville. All aboard.

September 15, 2010

The maturation of Cole Hamels.

In the 2008 playoffs, Cole Hamels was 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA. He was by far the best pitcher in the postseason, even taking home World Series MVP, and many people thought he'd use the 2009 regular season to take the next step into pitching superstardom.

But it was not to be. Whether the culprit was the Verducci Effect, immaturity or just an ill-timed letdown season, Cole was not the pitcher we'd seen in October. 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA, he was the picture of inconsistency, and questions began to abound about his two-pitch repertoire growing inadequate after a few go-arounds against the 29 other teams.

But thanks to a one-year-old son, a dog in a backpack and Roy Halladay taking the reigns as "Phillies ace," Cole Hamels seems reinvigorated in 2010. He's only 11-10, but this isn't 1992 and we're not living and dying on wins and losses. When the Phillies brought in Roy Oswalt, everyone said they had three aces...and they were right. Hamels may be a step down from Halladay, but there's no question he's up there with Oswalt as one of the top-10 starters in the National League, and maybe top-15 in all of baseball.

His numbers support my vaguely focused ramblings. Cole has a 3.01 ERA, 13th in the National League. After last night's 13-strikeout gem, he's now tied for second in K's with Clayton Kershaw and...Roy Halladay. He has the sixth-best strikeout-per-walk ratio, behind Mat Latos and Adam Wainwright and ahead of Oswalt. His K/9 is also sixth-best in the NL, ahead of Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wainwright and Oswalt. His ERA+, which is adjusted for a pitcher's ballpark, is 10th in the NL, ahead of Oswalt and Chris Carpenter. His WHIP is 11th.

Perhaps most importantly, he's 10th in innings, impressive after a year of fans and media alike calling him "soft" and questioning his desire to take the ball. I don't know if Halladay inspired him, or if another top-of-the-rotation starter took the pressure off, or if Cole just figured it out himself, but he's become the kind of pitcher we love in Philadelphia: a horse, a guy who goes out there and just pitches every fifth day.

He's only 26, but he's showing the maturation we all prayed was coming. Cole hasn't gotten frustrated when the team around him comes up short, which was a Hamels trademark in previous years. Despite having the seventh-lowest run support totals amongst pitchers with over 160 innings, Cole hasn't flinched in the face of adversity. He's said all the right things and showed all the right body language on the mound. It seems like he's finally realized that if he goes out there and pitches his heart out, a) the team will win more than it loses and b) he'll get the recognition and respect he deserves anyway.

And I may be jinxing Hamels here, but I love his mechanics. They're smooth as silk, and he doesn't throw any serious breaking pitches that could rip his arm from its socket. Minus a few aches and pains here and there, he's shrugged off early-career indications that he'd be injury-prone and fragile. He's given the Phillies 931 innings since his debut, an average of 217-per-season, and he shows no signs of breaking down.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that Cole has answered his critics. His step back has been followed by a huge step forward, and he's become a elite starting pitcher. Whether he takes that final leap into the upper echelon, where the Santanas and Sabathias and Halladays of the world reside (and win awards), remains to be seen. But for 2010, with the two Roys by his side, all we need is for Cole to be Cole.

September 13, 2010

The curious case of Michael Vick.

If you're Andy Reid right now, you're in a pickle. And not the delicious kind that comes with a giant hoagie.

As much as you want to win this year, you also want to be competitive every season, to avoid the 4-12, 5-11 disasters that get coaches fired. You want to last long enough to stumble upon one of those "perfect" stretches where everything bounces your way, injuries don't cripple your stars and your team marches to a Super Bowl championship.

You're also stubborn as hell. You insist that Tony Hunt is a fullback, that J.R. Reed and Greg Lewis are punt returners, that Stacy Andrews is a guard. You seem to think you can plug players into your system at will and create a winner, because it's that damn good.

And now, for at least another week, Michael Vick is your starting quarterback.

There's no question you'll reinsert Kevin Kolb when he's healthy. At the very least, the Kolb we saw in the first half of Week 1 is not the Kolb we saw last year in spot-starting duty. We know he can be better than that, a lot better, and anyone rushing to judgment in that regard needs to take a couple deep breaths.

But you'd be a fool to ignore that Vick greatly, greatly outplayed Kolb, as both an athlete and a quarterback. He was dodging tackles, breaking into long runs, rifling passes downfield; all with a decimated offensive line. Vick looked like the Vick of old.

But do we want the Vick of old? The most successful Vick-led Falcons team was the one we upended in 2004, when Brian Dawkins destroyed Alge Crumpler and the Eagles finally made the Super Bowl. The Falcons were an entertaining, inconsistent team that never came close to living up to expectations. You can argue that Vick never had DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin-esque weapons, but you can also argue that if Donovan McNabb didn't "fit" in a West Coast offense, Vick surely won't.

That being said, what Kolb will end up becoming remains unknown. The preseason hype around him grew to insane levels, even if he seemed like the most level-headed man on Earth. I still think that Philadelphians will be patient with him, but not if he comes out with stinkers like that. The city could live with a mediocre 8-8 season, but we'd want to see silver linings in that dark-ish cloud. As a friend of mine recently put it, the dream is '08 Aaron Rodgers, with the hopes of a Rodgers '09-esque follow-up. But that seems farther away than ever now.

So what's a coach to do? If the goal of a National Football League coach is to win games in the present, not set yourself up for the future, Mike Vick might be the 2010 answer at quarterback. But if you're convinced that Kolb is the Eagles QB for the next half-dozen years, you throw him back in there, cross your fingers and hope that he gets his shit together, fast.

Of course, it's much more complex than that. I forget who it was, but someone on philly.com wrote that it doesn't matter what me, you, the psychotic callers on 610-WIP or Sal from Fishtown thinks about Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick. It almost doesn't matter what Andy Reid thinks. If the other 51 players in the Eagles locker room believe that Vick gives the team a better chance to win than Kolb, there's going to be trouble. And after this week's horrifying first half, trouble is probably already brewing.

September 7, 2010

Eagles vs. 49ers: Round two.

With only two days until kickoff, here's part two of kingmyno.com's award-winning showdown between Peter True's San Francisco 49ers and Steve Cimino's Philadelphia Eagles. Today's topic: offense! Spoiler alert: We have a lot of it, San Francisco does not.

Offensive line:
King:
Ut-oh. That’s how most Eagles fans feel when you bring up the offensive line. It might be the most questionable part of the roster, not a good sign when you’re breaking in a first-year quarterback and maturing running back.

After years of Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas holding down the fort, Eagles fans got used to two dynamite bookends at tackle. And after trading for Pro Bowler Jason Peters, everyone expected more of the same. What they didn’t expect was inconsistent play and false-start penalties, but they fast became two of Peters’ Philadelphia trademarks. His name will become mud in this town if he doesn’t start living up to everyone’s lofty expectations.

Meanwhile, the guard carousel continues to twirl. Todd Herremans is an old standby, but Max Jean-Gilles fails to impress and Stacy Andrews has been shipped out of town with great gusto to Seattle. Reggie Wells started for a bunch of years in Arizona, but he seems like a very ho-hum player. We'll see if he supplants Nick Cole after a few weeks.

The key, as always, is center Jamaal Jackson. If he comes back healthy, wealthy and wise in Week 1, the line should be acceptable. But either way, I’ll launch a preemptive strike and wave the white flag to Peter’s massively upgraded Niners offensive line. It’s the least I can do after they spent two first-round picks bolstering it.

True: I am glad Steve didn’t try to make a case here, because he clearly had none. Especially after the exciting play of Anthony Davis this preseason, opening monster-sized holes for Anthony Dixon on a consistent basis.

Our pass protection is still unproven, but after paying big in the draft, we should be able to run at will. The injury to Eric Heitemann, our fixture at center. was a crushing blow and had me cursing the NFL preseason all over again, but our possibly sycophantic 49ers beat writers seem to think that David Bass has been stepping up admirably in his absence. I'll keep an eye on that as the season begins, because nothing destroys a good o-line like a missing/shitty center. But if Bass is up to the task, I foresee this being an elite unit in 2010.
ADVANTAGE: 49ers

Tight end:
True:
Vernon Davis is an unquestionably polarizing football player. One needs only to look at the gap between his 2009 output and his 2010 fantasy stock to see that the conventional wisdom is not buying a return to greatness for V-Diddy this season. Luckily for you, loyal King Myno readers, I can tell you that this Hatorade being chugged by the NFL intelligentsia is entirely without warrant. Let's not forget that Vernon has always had the physical pedigree to be an NFL superstar. That's why the 49ers made him the sixth overall pick. No one should have been surprised that he put it all together under the tough-love tutelage of Mike Singletary for a monster 2009.

Davis' detractors who predict a regression seem to forget that Mike is still leading the charge in San Francisco, and that Vernon will be just as motivated in 2010. None of this is meant to detract from Brent Celek, who is by all accounts a solid tight end who isn't going to make many mistakes. But let's get real: he doesn't run a 4.4 forty and he isn't going to split down the seam for 40-yard touchdown strikes with relative ease all year either.

King: Again, I’m forced to agree with Pete. Vernon Davis’s head may not always be in the game, and he may be more focused on punching Michael Crabtree in the face right now, but he’s a monster. I wouldn’t take many tight ends over Brent Celek, but Davis is definitely one of them.

In fact, all the "Brent Celek will catch 100 balls this year because him and Kolb are friends" stories have been more than a little annoying. I really don’t think friendship levels are a part of Kolb’s quarterback decision-making process, and if they are, we’ve got bigger issues than I expected on our hands.

I like Clay Harbor as a tight-end project, but then again, I also liked Cornelius Ingram. Basically, it looks like Brent Celek and waiver-wire trash again, and Vernon and his Under Armour are a step above.
ADVANTAGE: 49ers

Wide receiver:
King:
Another bold proclamation: The Eagles have the best wideout trio in football.

As Mr. True and his California associates know quite well, DeSean Jackson is a speedster unlike any in the game today. As long as he doesn’t get decapitated going across the middle (a growing concern after the shot he took this preseason), he should continue to strike fear into the hearts of defensive coordinators everywhere.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Maclin lived up to his first-round pick status with a dynamite rookie year (762 yards, 4 touchdowns). As he matures, the six-foot, 200-pound Missouri alum might end up being Kevin Kolb’s favorite target.

And finally there is Jason Avant, the unsung hero. His name isn’t bandied about much, but he’s the perfect possession receiver with maybe a top-10 pair of hands. There was even a story going around the first few weeks of camp that Avant hadn’t yet dropped a pass. The perfect complementary receiver.

But let’s not forget about Riley Cooper. I know he was Tim Tebow’s butt buddy and everyone hates that, but look at those flowing locks creeping out of his helmet. This guy’s a keeper. And he’s not embarking in any extended, silly holdouts like Crabs over there. Our guy’s got dignity.

True: Bold indeed. Some would even say delusional. I mean, what the fuck is a Jason Avant?

I am not going to sit here and argue that the Niners have better receivers than the Eagles. As Steve alluded to, I would never disrespect DeSean like that. Instead, I prefer to daydream about how good we would be if we had taken my advice and fucking drafted DeSean ourselves with one of the two picks we decided to pass on him with. Kentwan Balmer remains the bane of my existence to this day, thanks to that horrendous draft.

But despite Steve’s hyperbole, the two teams are actually much closer than he makes it out to be when it comes to pass-catchers. Although no one in Niner Nation was thrilled when Crabby decided to hold out for half the season last year, we were pleasantly surprised when he put together a respectable rookie season after he finally reported. If he gets past his nagging shoulder injury that Vernon Davis evidently thinks is fake, he should be a threat that does more than enough to keep opposing DBs from keying too much on VD.
ADVANTAGE: Eagles

Running back:
True:
I sure hope that Mr. Frank Gore doesn't read King Myno’s Court, because if he does, he will no doubt be offended at the following sentence. But, Mr. Gore's pedigree notwithstanding, the Niners and the Eagles are actually closer at this position that meets the eye. For starters, Frank has never been someone you could describe as "durable," having missed parts of the last three seasons.

This nagging issue is compounded by our lack of backfield depth. Sure, Anthony Dixon has looked like a fucking stud all preseason, and yeah, we made a savvy play to scoop up B-West from free agency (no one blames you for backing out of that Rams deal, B-West! Gross!). However, Dixon is a rookie, and it is unclear what he can do once the stats start counting. Plus, you Eagles fan readers know all too well that Westbrook has durability issues of his own, which are only compounded by his advanced age.

On the Eagles side of the ledger, I was a fan of LeSean McCoy as a potential sleeper in 2009. While that didn't exactly pan out in fantasy terms, Eagles fans no doubt liked what they saw from their rookie runner. Now with a year under his belt, I will be targeting "Shady" once again in 2010 and smart owners will follow suit. The addition of solid, if unspectacular, backup Mike Bell rounds out a backfield that will give the Eagles a legit rushing attack. Just not as legit as ours.

King: I’m going to agree with Pete. In fact, I’m surprised he was so complimentary towards the Eagles. I know Franky Gore isn’t exactly Bruce Willis in Unbreakable, but you can’t predict injuries, even with him. He’s light-years ahead of McCoy in terms of talent, and there’s very little doubt in my mind that he’ll eclipse LeSean in 2010 production.

In fact, I’m not high on LeSean at all. I don’t see one thing in particular that he does well, besides hold onto the ball poorly and cause constant heart palpitations. I’m not soured on him; he’s definitely an NFL player. I just don’t see him taking that step up to a definitive, starting running back. I think he needs complementary players.

Luckily, Leonard Weaver (and his wonderfully simplistic Twitter) and Mike Bell (hopefully) can be just that. The Eagles should have a decent running attack in 2010, and anyway, we all know they won’t run the ball anyway. Advantage definitively to the 49ers.
ADVANTAGE: 49ers

Quarterback:
King:
My indecision towards Kevin Kolb has already been well-documented, but with the season very close by, I’ll make a proclamation: Kolb will be a top-ten quarterback in 2010. Better than McNabb? Maybe, but definitely not worse.

His preseason struggles have been noted, but it’s also just preseason. The Colts never, ever put up a fight in the preseason, and that never seems to affect Peyton Manning. This, of course, isn’t saying Manning = Kolb, but it’s a bit early to draw any serious conclusions. Kolb knows the offense, he seems to have a quarterback’s mindset and he’s under the tutelage of Andy Reid, who, despite the occasional flaw, knows how to develop a QB.

Plus, Kolb has all the weapons he needs to succeed. DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek are Pro Bowl-caliber players, Jeremy Maclin is on the way and the McCoy/Weaver/Bell running ball trio should be adequate at worst. A weak offensive line won’t help matters, but if Jamaal Jackson gets healthy and Stacy Andrews is not absolutely awful, Kolb should be upright for 16 games.

That alone is more than we’re used to, and its way more than Mike Singletary has to work with in San Fran. Alex Smith, the corpse of David Carr and something called Nate Davis? You’d be a playoff team if not for that poop platter, Pete.

Pete: I was dreading dealing with this position, as I am not one to try to put lipstick on a pig so I won’t even try. But as usual my bloviating friend has gone too far when he proclaims, “You’d be a playoff team if not for that poop platter.” Wrong, we are going to be a playoff team despite that poop platter.

Though it has taken him far too long, his half-season performance in 2010 indicates that Alex Smith has finally become an average NFL quarterback. And when you surround an average quarterback with an elite running back, elite offensive line and an elite target like Vernon Davis, you are going to win some games. Especially when you have a top-five defense on the other side of the ball, and (let’s face it) the shittiest division in football to compete against.
ADVANTAGE: Eagles

So who comes out on top? Pete will tell you San Francisco, and I’ll tell you Philadelphia. Personally, I think we’re both smack-dab in the middle of NFL mediocrity, so it doesn't really matter. But if you have a dissenting opinion, bitch to us in 140 characters at @SteveCimino and @pwtrue. Hooray for football.

September 3, 2010

Eagles vs. 49ers: Round one.

That sweet smell in the air? That's the smell of sweaty, gigantic men giving each other life-threatening concussions. That's football.

In less than a week, the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings will face off in a rematch of last year's NFC Championship Game. The NFL will probably give it some stupid name like the Kickoff Spectacular, and some shitty bands will probably play the pregame and halftime shows. But it'll be football, damn it, and you bet we'll all watch it.

So in preparation for football’s wonderful return, I turned to my former college roommate, current fantasy baseball commissioner and all-around Bay Area sports fan, Mr. Peter True, to do a position-by-position comparison of his beloved San Francisco 49ers and my equally beloved Philadelphia Eagles.

Will either of us win the Super Bowl? Highly unlikely. But we’re both flawed teams, and Pete and I are both more than willing to build up preseason expectations beyond a reasonable level and then be horribly disappointed at our respective 8-8 or 9-7 finishes.

With that in mind, a brief introduction from Peter True:

True: Greetings, loyal subjects of kingmyno.com, and thank you to the King for the gracious invite. To celebrate the fact that our two franchises will be facing off this season (October 10th, get ready), Steve and I will be going position by position to break down the outlook for our respective squads. I hope you enjoy our back and forth, and please direct any Hatorade to @pwtrue, where I will address your insults with 140 characters of dismissive West Coast arrogance.

And now, part one of our masterpiece: defense, coaching and special teams.

Defensive line:

True:
The Niners’ defensive line is one of the most consistently frustrating units on the team. While quite good against the run (although having Patrick Willis to bail them out surely helped), this unit was utterly ineffective at applying pressure on opposing QBs with a four-man front. When we were smoked against the Texans and Falcons, I nearly tore all my hair out as the two Matts (Schaub and Ryan) sat back there for an eternity waiting for a wide receiver to break free.

I love Aubrayo "Bray-Bray" Franklin (holdout be damned!) but the rest of this unit is in dire need of improvement and needs to be addressed in the 2011 draft (with the last pick of the first round!). The Eagles d-line has been good in recent seasons, and that's a lot more than I can say for my Niners. So, with a heavy heart, I am going to have to concede this one.

King:
So nice of you to concede one so early. Yes, our defensive line is probably better than yours, although I will also admit to knowing jack shit about your line. I’m not exactly watching game tape of NFC West teams in the trenches, and since this isn’t the Montana/Young/Garcia days, it’s not like you’re on TV ever. Nevertheless, I’ll take what I can get.

I was bitching to my roommate recently about the lack of pressure our front four gets on the quarterback, and he made the wise observation that it’s not like I’m watching all 30 teams and deciding that we're worse. We do have Trent Cole, who is an absolute stud at defensive end, and our defensive tackles are more run-stoppers than quarterback-tacklers. Sure, it would be great to have Warren Sapp in his prime, but that’s not usually how things work.

So I’ll appreciate what we have, for now, and hope that first-round pick Brandon Graham emerges as a legit pass-rusher in his own right. I wouldn’t say we have an excellent d-line (we could use a bit more size), but it’s not the first, second or third thing I’d upgrade right now.
ADVANTAGE: Eagles

Linebacker:
True: Two words, Eagles fans: Patrick Willis. When you have the best inside linebacker in professional football, your linebackers as a unit tend to compare favorably to pretty much anyone. Willis led the NFL in tackles as a rookie and hasn't looked back. No one has his intensity when pursuing the quarterback on blitzes; just ask Brett Favre, who found out the hard way on his first play from scrimmage this preseason. Welcome back, Brett! The same goes for his speed in pursuing running backs, some of whom think they have an easy seven yards on a sweep until P-Willy comes tearing from behind and drags them to the turf.

The rest of the linebacking corps, however, is not nearly as impressive. Takeo Spikes just got his AARP card approved, and I am not really a huge Manny Lawson believer. But Parys Haralson is underrated and NaVarro Bowman has really been showing us something in the preseason (even drawing some Willis comparisons). I confess to not knowing much about the Eagles backers, but the unit seemed to be a weakness in 2009 so...

King: There wasn’t much to know about the Eagles’ LBs last year; Stewart Bradley went down and it was a revolving door of “whatever” after that.

But now, with Bradley back and Ernie Sims acquired for a song from the hapless Detroit Lions, linebacker should be a position of strength. Akeem Jordan showed some promise at the end of 2009, and Omar Gaither provides a meager amount of depth. The position is still very un-deep, though, so please don’t get injured, guys.

Nevertheless, the Eagles (and probably the rest of football) have nothing that compares to Patrick Willis. Although I can’t believe you have Takeo Spikes (you guys love our leftovers), 49ers get the win at LB, too.
ADVANTAGE: 49ers

Defensive backs:
True: You don't have the NFL's top fantasy defense without a solid secondary, and the 49ers have that and more. With the addition of Taylor Mays (who, despite plummeting draft stock that let us snag him in the second round, remains a top prospect), I expect Dashon Goldson and the boys to take another big step forward in 2010.

Nate Clements has been a disappointment, especially given the money we shelled out for him, but our depth in the secondary has more than made up for that questionable signing. Eagles fans in particular know the value of having a bone-crusher like Michael Lewis lurking at safety, making those skinny wideouts think twice about coming over the middle and plugging up running lanes where needed.

Also, a special mention goes to the forever-hated-on Shawntae Spencer, who does nothing but win starting spots and shut down opposing receivers. There was a lot of whining and griping after his injury-plagued 2008 about that deal, but those of us who reserved judgment until the man was healthy were vindicated after a strong 2009. I expect more of the same from Mr. Spencer.

The Eagles secondary seems to be a consensus middle-of-the-pack unit (if only Brian Dawkins could stay young forever, huh?) and that isn't going to be enough to get the nod over one of the best secondaries in the NFC.

King: Ugh. I forgot that you had Michael Lewis; that makes me want to disagree with you right off the bat. Is he even good anymore? I thought he was exposed as a fraud when we sent him packing, but maybe he was just one of those "needs a new city/situation" guys. Either way, he should have been on the field in the 2002 NFC Championship Game over lame-ass Blaine Bishop, and I’ll never forgive Andy Reid for that.

As for the Eagles’ defensive backfield, it’s a whole lotta meh. Count me among the unimpressed at how we’ve reanimated the Patriots' mid-00's corner duo. But hey, maybe Asante really has learned how to tackle! Either way, a lack of depth (and talent, too) at the cornerback spot will inevitably hurt us against the Miles Austins and, yes, the Michael Crabtrees of the world.

And fuck staying young forever; why the FUCK did we even let old Brian Dawkins go? He certainly didn’t look that aged in Denver last year. The Macho/Demps tag team can be vomit-inducing, and Nate Allen, for all his promise, is very much a rookie. B-Dawk sure would have looked good mentoring these guys for another year or two. Beyond idiotic. Super-duper advantage to you guys, partly out of rage.
ADVANTAGE: 49ers

Special teams:
King: The Eagles made a big move this offseason, and it wasn’t trading Donovan McNabb. They signed special teams guru Bobby April away from Buffalo, hoping he’d revamp a unit run into the ground last year by special teams un-guru Ted Daisher. Everyone remembers the Macho fumble and the penalties, and we all thought April would nip all that in the bud.

So far, the results have been…unimpressive. Preseason kick coverage, in particular, has been something of an embarrassment. April was hired to turn this unit into a cohesive group that doesn’t make mistakes, because the Eagles aren’t talented enough to overcome special teams blunders. I’m not yet convinced he’s done that, and I expect a game or two to turn on punt and kick mistakes.

But, of course, with DeSean doing what he do returning punts, April’s boys will probably win us a few games, too.

True: Though the Eagles do have one of the most electrifying weapons in sports returning punts, getting Teddy Ginn Jr. for peanuts upgraded what has been a huge weakness in recent years for us to a potential strength. If Ginn even breaks one or two long ones this year, it could change a couple of games for us in a way that shitty, shitty Arnaz Battle was never able to do.

We also return one of the league’s best punters in Andy Lee (he’s coming for you, Shane Lechler!) and a solid PK in Joe Nedney, so I don’t see the kicking game costing us anything substantial in 2010.

That being said, I don't know if either of our units stands out in any real way. Let’s call it a wash.
ADVANTAGE: Draw

Coaching:
King: Finally, the big fish in the pond.

Andy Reid has been in Philadelphia for 11 years, compiling 118 wins (playoff and regular season combined) and six division championships. He’s taken the Eagles to one Super Bowl and five NFC Championship Games, heading what’s probably been the most successful stretch of football in Philadelphia history. But as several experts have pointed out this offseason, very few coaches go from one era (McNabb) to another (Kolb) and retain the same level of success. Most don’t even last that long in the first place.

Can Reid preside over 20 years of (mostly) victorious Eagles football, and more importantly, can he bring home a championship? I’d say the bulk of Eagles fans view this year as a transitional one, and no one will really be upset if they hover around mediocre. It’s a very young team, and Reid should be given a little while to shape them in his image. That being said, Philly fans are not a patient bunch, and I still don’t think Reid’s position as "king of Philadelphia football" is a life-time appointment. He can cement himself as a Hall of Fame coach over the next couple of seasons, or he can fade quietly into the background.

His assistants are equally as intriguing. Marty Mornhinweg had a borderline-embarrassing ESPN The Magazine story come out last year that christened him the "next great NFL coach" (good luck with that, whoever the fuck hires him), and Sean McDermott is still looking to be more than "the guy who came after the late, great Jim Johnson." Neither’s name is worth much in Philly right now, but both can cement their reputation by tutoring Kevin Kolb and turning a ho-hum defense into a monster, respectively.

I personally think bringing in Dick Jauron is meant to light a fire under the young McDermott's ass, but that's just speculation. Either way, none of our coaches inspire this kind of hilarity, so I’m already "giving" this category to Petey.

True: Thought I would have to endure some more Singletary shots here, but luckily the King kept it to our head honcho’s hilarious "turn" on Letterman.

Say what you will about Big Mike’s unorthodox methods, but he has gotten big results. After straightening out Vernon Davis’ career, which was threatening to turn into a total meltdown, Singletary took a chance on "character risk" Anthony Davis and it appears to be paying off in spades.

He is clearly a motivational "player’s coach" type, as opposed to Andy Reid's oft-lauded strategic prowess, but that is exactly what a young team like the Niners needs right now. I love the attitude Singletary has brought to the Niners (after previous coach Mike Nolan seemed to spend most of his time lobbying the NFL to let him wear suits on the sideline) and I expect him to lead us deep into the postseason in 2010.
ADVANTAGE: Eagles (even if Pete does not agree)

That’s it for today, but we’re not done yet. Come back early next week for part two, where Peter and I tackle the fun side of the ball, also known as "offense."