After a disappointing 2011 season, the Philadelphia Eagles are looking to bounce back in the competitive NFC East.
On offense, the Eagles have one of the most dynamic collection of players in the NFL in quarterback Michael Vick, running back LeSean McCoy, and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles have a strong one-two defensive punch of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who are among the best defensive backs in the NFL.
But star power doesn't necessarily translate into a winning season, as the Eagles proved in 2011. Philadelphia will need some key players to step up next season if they expect to improve on an 8-8 season.
Here are five players to pay close attention to in 2012:
Jason Avant: Perhaps the most consistent receiver on the Eagles, Avant caught 52 passes last season for 679 yards, and 33 of those catches were for first downs. Embracing an increasingly larger role on the Eagles, look for Avant to continue performing well in pressure situations under Marty Mornhingweg's offense.
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Alex Henery: The Eagles received a lot of criticism last season for not re-signing veteran kicker David Akers, but found a new bright spot on special teams in Henery. Last season, he converted 24-of-27 attempts, and his 88.9 percent field-goal percentage was good for fifth in the league. He came into Philly after being the NCAA's all-time most accurate kicker.
Brandon Boykin: The Eagles fourth-round pick is expected to play a major role in the 2012 season. Boykin, who has been praised for his versatility, is not only expected to be the team's nickel back, but also the primary kick returner. The Eagles may have found one of the steals of the 2012 Draft in Boykin.
Stanley Havili: Havili heads into the 2012 season as the Eagles' No. 1 fullback. In college, the speedy Havili often showed flashes of stardom when he started all of his 2007 redshirt freshman season for USC and continued to play a major role for the rest of his career under Pete Carroll and Lane Kiffin in the Trojans' pro-style offense. Havili has a great work ethic and reportedly increased his muscle mass from 230 pounds to 245 pounds, and could be a very pleasant surprise for Andy Reid.
Dion Lewis: Following a rookie campaign where he was used sparingly behind McCoy and Ronnie Brown, Lewis is expected to see far more playing time next season. In 2011, he carried the ball just 23 times for 102 yards, but the 21-year-old from the University of Pittsburgh has plenty of talent, and will have his chance to prove it with Brown now on the San Diego Chargers.