Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Eagles played a sloppy, turnover-marred game Sunday afternoon. It’s been the story through 6 weeks thus far, but they’ve been lucky enough to keep things close in 5 of those 6 weeks. They’re 3-3 headed into the bye and just a game behind the Giants for first place in the NFC East, but the Eagles have serious issues as a football team.
What’s so maddening is that this team has the talent. It’s right there. You can see it in flashes. They’ve got an excellent group of skill position players on offense, a pair of dynamic cornerbacks, a stud MLB, and young players who figure to be contributors in the future. Yet, they’ve consistently disappointed since the overhaul after the 2010 season. They’re 11-11 in the 22 games they’ve played since the start of last season, yet were viewed as a potential Super Bowl contender before both seasons. The turnover issues have been a killer this season, as they have a whopping 17 through 6 games. Michael Vick is responsible for 13 of those alone. It seems as if each week is Groundhog Day for this team, as they repeat the same mistakes over and over again. If things don’t change this season, Michael Vick would figure to be gone. But it’s early, and he’s got time to correct his mistakes. It’s too early to determine who will be here and who will be gone after the season. What should be the topic of conversation is how to right the ship this year.
I think a key adjustment to make during the bye week is to change the offensive play-calling. Obviously every Eagles fan wants Andy Reid to run the ball more, and I agree, but in addition to that the team needs to change the way it approaches the passing game. The offensive line’s limitations should have the team calling more short/quick passes and taking less shots down the field. Vick’s 2 INTs Sunday were both products of deep passes, and he took many more hits and sacks on long-developing pass plays. Run more of a traditional “West Coast” offense, and if Vick continues to make poor decisions as the QB then it might be time for a change. And please, please, PLEASE, give LeSean McCoy the ball more. He’s a running back who doesn’t necessarily need excellent blocking to make a big play due to his elusiveness, so it would make sense to give him more opportunities as the offensive line struggles.
On defense, the team needs to simply hope for better play from the defensive line. Jim Washburn’s unit has had an embarrassingly poor start to the season, ranking near the bottom of the league in all sack-related categories. A lack of pressure on opposing QBs has led to some breakdowns in the secondary, but overall the DBs have been very good. DeMeco Ryans has been a revelation at MLB and Mychal Kendricks looks like a future star. Nate Allen has been good at SS and Kurt Coleman has done a passable job as well, leaving the DL as the only unit that has truly struggled this season. I don’t think blitzing is the answer, but Jason Babin, Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins, and Fletcher Cox have to play better. It’s as simple as that.
We’ll know more in a month or two about the future of this team. Will Andy Reid be back for a 15th season as the head coach next year? Will Michael Vick be back as starting QB next season? What about Marty Mornhinweg and Juan Castillo? Time will tell, but for now it’s clear that the Eagles have to make adjustments to the current team in order to contend for a playoff berth the rest of the season.