Duce and Douglas Provided Some Positives for the Eagles Future
As the 1997-98 season came to a close for the Eagles at Washington, the Eagles finally got a glimpse of their rookie running back Duce Staley. With Ricky Watters career with the Eagles finished at the end of the season, the Eagles wanted to see a little of Staley. The Eagles already had their plan set for the 1998 season. Charlie Garner would be the new starter in the backfield, with Staley backing him up.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles were not getting enough production out of their defensive ends getting sacks. The Eagles knew they had to find somebody for the 1998 season. They wanted somebody who could take the heat off of DE Mike Mamula, who was constantly facing double-teams. In the off-season, the Eagles acquired Hugh Douglas for their second round pick in the draft. With this acquisition, the Eagles were looking for the combination of Mamula and Douglas to apply the much-needed pressure. It did not happen as Mamula suffered a season-long injury during preseason. Now everything would fall on Douglas' back. Many felt he would not be able to get it done by himself.
For Staley and Douglas, it was just suppose to be an average season for them. However, as the season started, their names would be etched in the minds of many of the Eagles fans, especially during such a terrible season as the Eagles were having. These players stood out as a couple of the bright spots in the Eagles future.
As the season opened, Staley had become the Eagles starting running back, due to an injury to Charlie Garner. While the Eagles were embarrassed in their season opener by the Seahawks, Staley shined some light for the Eagles, as he rushed for 98 yards on 20 carries. As the year wore on, Staley would continue to impress. The thing that had most people wondering, was why did they not use him so much in some of the games? In a few of the games during the season, he rushed the ball on 4 to 5 times. However the thing that impressed many was his dedication to trying to help the team. For over half of the season, Staley played with a hernia, and in the end, he still was able to become only the sixth Eagles running back to break the 1,000 yard mark for a season. Now many will look for him to provide even more firepower next season.
The experiment for the Eagles defensive line next came about, as Mamula was sidelined for the season. Now everything was on the shoulders of Hugh Douglas. At the start of the season, it looked bleak for him as he was not involved much in the defense. As the season progressed, he got better. In October, he had earned NFC Defensive Player of the Month, as he racked up seven sacks and 20 tackles. Most notably was the game against the San Diego Chargers, when he tied an Eagles record with 4 1/2 sacks. December proved fatal for him, as he suffered an early game injury against the St. Louis Rams, and never made much of an impact the rest of the season. It was what hurt his Pro Bowl chance. What Eagles fans have to look forward to in the future is Douglas coming back next season, and the reintroduction of the experiment with Mamula, as he signed a four-year extension the day before the free agency period started.
These two players were the Eagles MVPs for offense and defense, and both look to continue on their progression in the 1999 season. The Eagles do have two players to build from as the Eagles management tries to resurrect the team back into prominence in the NFC.