Andy Reid has built the Philadelphia Eagles with a particular philosophy in mind. To put it simply, it’s all about the passing game. Pass the ball on offense, defend the pass on defense.
Run game? What’s that? Meh, who cares.
The NFL in general has shifted to a predominantly passing league over the years so I can’t say Reid is exactly alone in this regard.
With that, Reid constructs his teams with the majority of emphasis on the passing game.
On offense, the Eagles are built with a lot of speed in mind. They prefer the smaller, quicker players over the bigger, stronger ones. Speed kills, as they say.
Their top two wide receivers are on the small side, especially DeSean Jackson, but what they lack in size they make up for in speed.
Same goes for two out of their three running backs. LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis are not your prototypical running backs who run between the tackles for the tough yards. But both are quick and have some wiggle.
On defense, it’s much the same. They prefer the small-ish, faster defensive linemen and linebackers over the big and bulky guys. Though, I will note that Mike Patterson and Antonio Dixon are “bigger” guys at the tackle position and seen primarily as run-stoppers.
They typically choose speed over size and power on both sides of the ball.
Andy Reid’s philosophy is to score fast, often and early on offense thereby forcing the opponent to play from behind. That, of course, means the other team will have to pass the ball rather than play any kind of ball control offense.
That’s why their defense is built with speedy defensive ends who can fly off the ball and get to the QB. It’s also why they now have three excellent cornerbacks.
It’s not a bad blueprint for winning football games in this day and age. Andy Reid has certainly won a lot of games with this philosophy.
But what happens if the Eagles are the ones who get behind early? Teams then go from 98 percent sure to 100 percent sure they’re going to pass the ball on almost every play.
In 2011, this is where the Eagles’ new offensive line comes into play. How they perform will have a ripple effect on the entire team.
Now I can see why Reid loves new offensive line coach Howard Mudd. He, like Reid, prefers the smaller, faster-style players. Juan Castillo liked having big guys up front.
Mudd’s new group and scheme will be the determining factor for how far the Eagles go in 2011.
If they don’t play at least adequately, opposing defenses will be able to disrupt the offense and limit their effectiveness. That means they could have a hard time building an early lead so that the Eagles defense can maximize their effectiveness.
Put it this way, everyone knows the Eagles pass the ball much of the time. Now, defensive coordinators will be devising complex blitzes to throw at two rookie starters in Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins.
There is a high potential for serious “growing pains” with this group.
This unit has struggled in the preseason. And actually, the starting line that plays on opening day will not have played a single preseason snap together as a unit.
In order for the passing game to work, the offensive line has to provide ample protection long enough for the receivers to get into their routes. Michael Vick will need enough time to read and react to what the defense is doing.
If that doesn’t happen, the Eagles offense will struggle. And therefore, they won’t be scoring any points fast, early or often.
Then guess what?
That means the other team can play ball control and run the ball against an Eagles defense that is built to defend the pass. The smaller, faster linemen become much less effective when they’re getting run over by offensive linemen who weigh 50 lbs more than they do.
That’s exactly how the Packers beat the Eagles in the playoffs last year. Green Bay, predominantly a passing team as well, came in with a game-plan to play ball control on offense and just rush the passer on defense.
The Packers ran the ball 32 times versus only 27 pass attempts and controlled the ball for 32 minutes. Though the Eagles still had a chance at the end, the Packers accomplished what they set out to do.
Furthermore, the Eagles are now deploying defensive line coach Jim Washburn’s “wide 9” approach. It is a one-gap, attack up-field style of play. It is an effective pass-rushing scheme but it did appear vulnerable against the run game during the preseason.
So in essence, here’s a quick summary of the Eagles’ grand plan and current situation:
Build a lead early by passing the ball and connecting on big plays. Force opponents to pass the ball so that the defense can tee-off on the QB. The personnel on both sides of the ball reflect this type of strategy.
The Eagles are starting two rookie offensive linemen whom have struggled in the preseason. They also are starting a new left guard and Todd Herremans will make his first start at right tackle.
If the offensive line doesn’t play well, it could tear a gaping hole in Andy Reid’s blueprint for success.
Reid has always said that games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage. If his OL can’t “win” their battles, then ultimately neither will his DL and his plan will go straight down the drain.
**Note: As I was finishing up this post, word just came out that Danny Watkins is no longer the starting RG. Newcomer Kyle De Van is already assuming that position.
This just further illustrates that the Eagles’ offensive line situation is a complete mess.