As the Eagles prepare to start the second portion of their season after the bye, I thought we would take a look back at the season to date. At 2-4, it is not a pretty picture.
The offense is averaging 441.7 yards per game and is on a pace to break the franchise record for points in a season, but that only tells half of the story. The other half is a league-worst 17 turnovers. That, more than anything else, explains the losing record.
Michael Vick still delivers the highlight reel plays, but he is the main culprit with the turnovers. He has thrown eight interceptions and lost three of his eight fumbles. That is completely unacceptable. He is being intercepted once every 25 attempts after being picked off only once every 62 attempts last season. His biggest problems have been against the blitz. Vick still can’t read defenses effectively, which is why seven of his eight interceptions have come against the blitz. He can expect even more pressure the rest of the season, unless he can correct that problem immediately.
LeSean McCoy might be the only Eagle who is completely blameless for the team’s failures this season. Even after the bye, he’s ranked 7th in rushing yards (569), 5th in yards per game (94.8), 2nd in yards per carry (5.4) and tied for 3rd in TDs (6). He also has 21 receptions for 123 yards and another 2 TDs. And on top of all that, he has improved his pass protecting and has not fumbled once this season. It’s just too bad Andy Reid will start to ignore him in a few games. It’s what Andy does every year with the running game.
Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson are both in the top 14 in the NFL in receiving yards and Maclin is No. 10 in catches (37). Jason Avant has also chipped in with 26 catches, but the problem with this group is that they can’t hang onto the ball. The deflections off their hands that turn into interceptions and their fumbles have killed the team. The Buffalo Bills players even said they targeted the Eagles receivers because they don’t protect the football. They better start. Brent Celek and Clay Harbor are stuck blocking on most plays, but that’s fine. After seeing Vince Young and Mike Kafka play, the Eagles need all the help they can get trying to keep Vick safe.
The offensive line has actually been better than expected. They have only given up nine sacks in six games, but Vick gets hit way too often. Excusing his usual false start every game, Jason Peters has played well. Todd Herremans has been the best lineman all year, which is amazing since he is playing a new position. The rookie center is getting blown up in short yardage, but has done reasonably well the rest of the time. Evan Mathis is adequate and Kyle Devan was not, which is how first round pick/bust Danny Watkins finally got into the lineup. Again, with the backup quarterbacks on this team, the O-line needs to keep Vick healthy or else the season is over.
The defense isn’t getting enough turnovers for all of the big names they have on that side of the ball. If it wasn’t for Rex Grossman’s generosity (4 INTs), they would only have five takeaways. And while they have 18 sacks, they only have nine in the last four games. The defense is middle of the pack in yards and points allowed per game, but they are ranked a lowly 23rd against the run. They are also ranked 31st in red zone defense and have blown a fourth quarter lead three times already this season.
The defensive line is the lone bright spot on this side of the ball. When Trent Cole was healthy, they were wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. Free agent signings Jason Babin (7 sacks) and Cullen Jenkins (5 sacks) are certainly earning their money getting after the passer. The problem is that horrible ranking against the run. Most of the blame rests with that stupid “wide-nine” defensive setup where the ends line up way outside the offensive tackles, which leaves gaping holes in the middle for running backs. Trent Cole is healthy again and the coaches are using a more traditional defensive front on obvious running downs. That can only help.
The Eagles don’t value linebackers, so they have the worst set in the entire NFL. They somehow thought an undersized rookie could play the middle without the benefit of minicamps and that was an unmitigated disaster. Casey Matthews was moved to the outside and then to the bench. Jamar Chaney hasn’t been much of an improvement in the middle though. The “wide-nine” only works when a team has a very good MLB. The Eagles don’t. This group has one interception, no sacks and no forced fumbles.
Nnamdi Asomugha has been a major disappointment so far. Of course, using the best cover corner in the NFL in a zone-based Cover-2 defense isn’t exactly the best way to utilize his skills. The “business entity” that is Asante Samuel has one interception on the season. It looks like he’s going out of business. Of course, nobody should be surprised. Bill Belichick doesn’t let good players get away. Dominique Rodger-Cromartie has been another major bust. I didn’t think it was possible for a cornerback to like contact less than Samuel, but DRC is proving me wrong.
The safeties are another position where the Eagles don’t believe in spending money and it shows. They have never adequately replaced Brain Dawkins and in spite of Kurt Coleman’s three interceptions off of Grossman, he has been horrible. He was benched for Jarrad Page, but Page was so bad that Coleman eventually got his job back. The only bright spot here is that Nate Allen looks like a player as he recovers from knee surgery.
The Special teams are good at covering kicks and punts, but not so good at returning them. Punter Chas Henry is one of the worst in the NFL and kicker Alex Henery’s inconsistency already cost the team one victory this year.
I’m not a fan of Andy Reid, but this is by far the worst coaching performance of his career. He made his offensive line coach his defensive coordinator and the results have been disastrous. It took him five games to scrap the “wide-nine”. His draft picks the last few years have been almost completely useless. Turnovers and penalties are a reflection of an undisciplined, poorly-coached team and the Eagles do too much of both. And after 12+ years, Reid still can’t make in-game adjustments, figure out the replay challenges or manage the game clock. Oh well, at least he’s nice and cheery in his press conferences.
The Eagles were expected to contend for the Super Bowl and yet they sit here at the bye with a 2-4 record. Their only two wins are against the winless St. Louis Rams and the Washington Grossmans. They play undisciplined football and haven’t played an entire 60 minutes in a game yet this season. And they just completed what was considered the easy part of their schedule.
They start out with three straight home games after the bye, but when they kick off on Sunday it will be 331 days since their last win at home. Nobody is running away with the NFC East, but the Eagles can’t afford many more stumbles. They need to get on a run now and keep it going. In essence, they are in playoff mode in Week 8 of the NFL season. That’s not a recipe for success, but that’s what happens when a team starts out 2-4.
We’ll find out starting Sunday night against the hated Cowboys whether this is a “Dream Team” or this will turn out to be a nightmare season for Eagles fans.