The Philadelphia Eagles are 3-3 and in the midst of their bye week. Michael Vick can’t stop turning the ball over. The offensive line has been brutal. The offense in general can’t score points. Reid and Mornhinweg can’t or won’t adjust their play-calling to overcome and/or reduce the offense’s shortcomings.
The defense has collapsed late in the past 2 games. They haven’t recorded a sack for 3 straight games. They can’t get a takeaway to help put the offense in good position. Juan Castillo has been fired and replaced by Todd Bowles.
Oh yeah, and the special teams suck.
Have I missed anything?
Yes, it’s been a rather disappointing start to the 2012 season so far because we’ve all expected much better. After all of the good vibrations from the Eagles during the offseason — re-signing/extending/rewarding their players, trading for DeMeco Ryans and having an excellent draft per the consensus — many thought this team was primed for big things this year.
Unfortunately, things haven’t come together as we’d all hoped. The team has been consistently inconsistent and have been engaged in down-to-the-wire games against 5 of their first 6 opponents.
If a handful of select plays had gone differently in those 5 games, the Eagles could either be 5-1 or 0-6, depending on your viewpoint.
Their upcoming schedule is daunting, with games against the 6-0 Atlanta Falcons, the high-powered Saints offense in New Orleans and then a couple of always-tough division games.
Particularly after the next 2 games, this team could be staring at 3-5 and Armageddon would befall the city of Philadelphia.
Is that enough doom and gloom for you? Yeah, me too. I realize that this team has its problems, but the season is far from over at this point.
They are still 3-3 with plenty of football left and the NFC East is still there for the taking. There is no way I will give up on this season so early. I don’t know about you, but I still want to be watching Eagles football in January.
Therefore, I’ve decided to list some reasons for optimism as we head into the meat of the season…
- Andy Reid’s Eagles have never missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
- Under Reid, they’ve historically always played better in November and December (Reid’s career record in those 2 months is 72-36-1).
- Every non-T.O. meltdown season where Reid has 3 wins in the first 6 games, they’ve made the playoffs.
- The problems on offense (turnovers, OL, play-calling) and defense (late collapses, lack of turnovers) are correctable problems.
- The team has played their 2 best games this year against their 2 toughest opponents (NY and Baltimore).
- Despite the problems, the offense and defense are still ranked in the top half of the league.
- Overall, the defense has played much better than last year. DeMeco Ryans, Nnamdi Asomugha, DRC and Mychal Kendricks are playing very well.
- With Bowles taking over the defense, we should see even more improvement.
- Every game on the rest of the schedule is winnable as there are no formidable opponents, including Atlanta.
- The Eagles have owned their division for the past 3 seasons (13-5 against NFC East opponents).
To expand a little bit on what I meant about the Eagles’ problems being “correctable” is that, from my own observations and reading several other articles around the web by writers who have studied the All-22 game tape (particularly the guys over at Birds 24/7), most of the offensive line problems have been mental errors.
As in, blown assignments and/or reads by the line. There have been a few occasions where someone was physically beaten, but by and large it seems that they’ve mostly been struggling with the mental aspect of the game (defensive alignment recognition, blitz pick up, etc).
With hard work, studying and good coaching, they can eliminate those types of mistakes which would significantly improve their performance and thus fix a large portion of what ails the offense.
Improved OL play should also help in the turnover department, theoretically at least. If Vick isn’t under as much duress, he should be more efficient with the football. Either way, Vick’s turnover problems are correctable as long as he consciously works on that during the game (makes better decisions and better throws, protects ball better when running).
Even though Bowles is a rookie defensive coordinator, his experience on the defensive side of the ball is worlds more than what Castillo had. This should improve on any in-game adjustments needed (or non-adjustments, if you go by the Detroit game).
If Bowles can get the defense to be a little more aggressive, that should also help in the takeaway department. Getting more takeaways is an important factor in winning but a difficult one to say is “correctable.”
I think takeaways are part defensive scheme, part talent and part attitude. I believe they have enough talent and my hope is that Bowles will improve the scheme and attitude.
Lastly, this team reminds a lot of the 2008 Eagles team. That team went into a Week 7 bye with a 3-3 record as well. They were mired in the roughly the same kinds of troubles this team has, with the turning point coming when Reid benched McNabb in a game against Baltimore.
The Eagles were 5-5-1 at that point before winning 4 of their final 5 games and ultimately reaching the NFC Championship game. Everything was gloom-and-doom that year too and Reid shook things up by benching his star quarterback.
Maybe the firing of Castillo can serve as a “wake-up call” and a catalyst for this team to get their asses into gear.
One thing we can say is that Reid has a track record of pushing the right buttons to get his team to respond when things are going bad. If he can keep his perfect after-bye-week record in tact this year, winning the game against Atlanta may be the springboard for a winning season.