Friday, December 22, 2006

Eagles shouldn't Stall on Donte'

By Michael Rushton

While it's certainly not the time of the season to be pondering new contracts, the Eagles shouldn't wait too long on Donte' Stallworth.

After the departure of you know who, the Eagles were left without an experienced, go-to wide out to help along No. 5.

Philadelphia desperately wanted, and still wants, Reggie Brown to be that guy, but Brown is a second-year player at a position that takes at least three years to get the hang of. So, the Eagles wisely sent Mark Simoneau and a draft pick to the Saints to get Stallworth.

And when healthy, Stallworth has been that guy.

He is averaging 19.3 yards-per-catch and has 674 yards receiving while finding the end zone five times in 10 games. The guy can also make plays. His longest catch this year went for 84 yards and four of his receptions have been longer than 40. He has a knack for getting open.

Three weeks ago against Carolina, he put an exclamation point on his solid season, I believe, with a brilliant one-handed catch along the sidelines from Jeff Garcia that helped the Eagles tie the game late in the second quarter.

The thing that prevents the Eagles re-signing of Stallworth from being a slam dunk is his hamstring, which has caused him to miss four games this season. Remember skeptics, he did appear in all 16 games last year and in 2004.

Stallworth's numbers this season are tough to gage because of his missed time. His average per catch leads his other NFC East counterparts: Santana Moss, Plaxico Burress and he who shall not be named.

In fact, in two fewer games, Stallworth's numbers are about even with Moss.They aren't even close to T.O.'s, but hate him or loath him, the gaudy wide out is one of the best in the game.

So it's when comparing his numbers to Burress that makes re-signing No. 18 a smart move.

Burress has 907 yards receiving – just 233 more than Stallworth – in three more games. He averages over four less yards per catch and has just four more TD receptions despite being New York’s No. 1 red zone target.

And let’s not forget Brown. Do you honestly think he would have eight TD catches and 789 yards through the air if he had Hank Baskett or Greg Lewis lining up on the other side of him every game? Good, because I don't either.

For the last few seasons, offense has always been the Eagles big concern, but the tables have been turned with the Eagles’ now declining defense. Re-signing Stallworth would give Philly enough weapons that it can just concentrate on rebuilding the other side of the ball.

They just can’t let Stallworth slip away.

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