In the midst of a text message conversation with my cousin during yesterday’s Eagles and Cardinals game, he offered to write this blog post for me. His idea was short, sweet and very much to the point. It would have read simply: “The Eagles…they suck. Thank you for reading.” While I do not necessarily disagree with his assessment of the team, I thought I might expound slightly on his thoughts.
Undisciplined. Individualistic. Unfocused. These are the three most prominent phrases that come to mind when thinking back to the Eagles – Cardinals game yesterday, and they are meant not just for the players, but for the coaching staff as well. Missed tackles, dropped balls and players being out of position all killed this Eagles team.
In my opinion, there are a few plays from yesterday’s game that epitomize this Eagles season. The first of these plays was Nnamdi Asomugha, a CORNERBACK, LINING UP IN THE NEUTRAL ZONE on a key third down. The Eagles actually stopped the Skelton-led Cardinals on that play, but on the ensuing play after the penalty Arizona converted for a first down. This is indicative of the lack of discipline and focus that is all too evident on this team. The other play that sums up the Birds season in a nutshell is Steve Smith catching a ball 2 yards short of the first down marker on a huge third down and falling down to avoid contact instead of fighting and clawing to try and get the necessary yardage for a first down. No heart, no accountability.
Why in the name of everything sacred would you forget about your most explosive player (and the player that just so happens to lead the league in rushing and yards per attempt) for 13 minutes while you have the lead in the 3rd and 4th quarters? That’s a big part of the reason that Eagles have blown 4th quarter leads in 4 home losses this season. Utilize the running game to keep the opposing offense off the field…or at least attempt to do so. Completely abandoning the running game allowed the defense to focus on a receiving corps that was missing its top two players; DeSean Jackson who was deactivated for the game because he missed a Saturday meeting and Jeremy Maclin who was out of the game due to an injury. Jason Avant, Steve Smith and Riley Cooper are not going to strike fear into the heart of the opposition.
I’ve been a staunch supporter of Andy Reid since he came to the team in 1999. I’ve defended him in every conversation in which people have said he has to go. I’m starting to think they were right all along. Since 1999, after every Eagles loss we have heard that Reid needs to put his players in a better position to succeed. While some of that is surely him trying to take the heat off of the players, some of it is true. Actions speak louder than words, and it’s time to actually start putting players in a position to succeed. There is no reason that Asomugha isn’t playing press coverage, which is something at which he excels. Rodgers-Cromartie has been dreadful for the most part this year and clearly isn’t comfortable as the Nickel back. Why was rookie safety Jaiquawn Jarrett lined up on one of the best receivers in the league, Larry Fitzgerald in a critical situation? If McCoy were given the touches that he should be getting, he would likely be averaging over 150 rushing yards per game. Getting McCoy the ball more consistently would also open up the vertical passing game, which is something that the Eagles rely heavily upon but has not been successful as of late.
It’s beginning to seem as if Andy Reid has lost the locker room. While Jackson was punished for not showing up to a meeting on Saturday, that was too little, too late. There have been widespread reports of players consistently being late for meetings and not being held accountable. Players are not working as hard as they need in order to succeed in the NFL. If Jackson wants a new contract, there are ways to go about getting paid. Completely blowing off meetings is not the way to go about getting what he wants. Look at Matt Forte in Chicago, who also wants a new contract. While he has made some disparaging remarks in the media, he shows up every day and works hard, which translates to exceptional performance on the field. In my opinion, the best way to get paid in the NFL is to work hard and perform on Sundays, but this is something that DeSean Jackson does not seem to understand.
The Eagles as a team have been atrocious in the 4th quarter this year. When taking into consideration all 9 games played, the Eagles have scored a mere 27 points while surrendering 74 to the opposition. The disparity at Lincoln Financial Field is even worse: Philadelphia has scored only 10 points while giving up 53. Giving up 5 times as many points as you score in the 4th quarter at home is not a recipe for success. It is difficult to tell whether this poor play to close out games is due to a lack of conditioning, loss of focus, poor play calling, insufficient execution or a combination of these things. What is easy to tell, however, is that if the Eagles were able to perform what-so-ever in the final quarter of even a few of these games, their record would be much better than 3-6.
Nobody on this team seems to have any fire, nor does anyone seem to want to step up and lead. While this group is immensely talented, nobody is holding any of these players accountable and nobody seems to want, or be able to, motivate them. A talented group of individuals is just that, and it takes a team effort to succeed in the NFL. I long for the days of Jeremiah Trotter and Brian Dawkins brining fire to this defense and making them one of the most feared groups in the league, all while being significantly less talented than the 2011 version of the Eagles defense. I have said since the beginning of the year that Philadelphia should bring Trotter back to the team in some administrative / coaching capacity, perhaps as the linebacker coach. I can guarantee that he would not settle for the subpar effort being displayed by this group.
I have no idea what is in store for the Eagles for the rest of the season or the upcoming offseason. One thing that this group has going for it however, is that they will have plenty of time to try and get things figured out, since they won’t have to worry about preparing for a playoff game. There is sure to be (hopefully) some turnover with respect to players and coaches this offseason and we can only hope the organization makes the right moves. This team desperately needs an identity, and demanding accountability is the first step in establishing that identity.