Arsenal At Reid's Disposal
By Lance Epstein
Every season, it seems to be the same old story with the Philadelphia Eagles and the red zone. A team great at moving the ball from the 20 yard-line to the 20 yard-line.
Of course, then they seemed to self-destruct and settle for field goals. In the course of time, those David Akers’ field goals cost the Eagles a couple of games due to of their inability to put seven on the board instead of just three.
Now, the Eagles have revamped their offense and have all the necessary tools at head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's disposal.
Without a doubt, the Eagles have their main guys in wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. Jackson beats opposing team’s corners by using slant routes along with his speed to create mismatches. As for Maclin, he runs precise routes and is physical enough to find a way to get open in space when the field becomes increasingly smaller.
Still, these two are not the only wide outs that will make a difference for the Eagles inside the red zone this upcoming season. Jason Avant has a knack of going into the heart of the defense, finding holes and making himself a viable option in the middle of the field. Not only does he find the smallest of openings, he snatches almost anything that hits his hands or his airspace.
On the other hand, the two wide receivers that provide the Eagles with threats that they did not have last year are Hank Baskett and Riley Cooper. Both are tall wide receivers that can physically dominate smaller wide receivers.
Cooper (6-4, 222) is a rookie out of Florida that catches the ball at its highest point. Additionally, he is blesses with soft hands and the physical attributes to beat press coverage. On top of that, his size allows Kevin Kolb to throw fade routes, an art that was lost under the Donovan McNabb era. In fact, Cooper might be the biggest receiver that Reid during his tenure in Philadelphia.
Besides Jackson, Maclin and the wide receivers, the tight ends will also help Kolb's red zone efficiency. Of course, Celek is the main target at the position. Last year, he had a career high eight touchdown receptions. Of those eight TDs, six came inside the red zone. Yet, his touchdowns might not be the most important thing he brings to the table. His ability to be a threat inside the 20 permits Maclin, Jackson and the rest of the receivers to get open [and vice versa].
While Celek is the game-changing threat at tight end, do not overlook the contributions that Cornelius Ingram or Clayton Harbor could possibly make this year. Before Ingram's torn ACL in training camp, he was expected to be the team's No. 2 tight end. If Ingram did not tear his ACL in college he was a first or second-round pick due to possessing the strength, size, and speed to excel as a red zone target.
Furthermore, Ingram is widely considered the team's most athletic tight end, which will permit the coaches to use as a wide receiver at tight end position. For Reid, he can utilize his skills to extort slow-footed linebackers like Dallas' Keith Brookings.
Although if he is unable to recover from his second knee injury, the Eagles made a very smart decision in selection tight end Harbor out of Southwest Missouri State. Over this weekend's minicamp, Harbor was constantly beating the Eagles middle linebackers during the squad’s red zone drills.
One of the reasons for his effectiveness is that he is a patient route runner that has the speed and strength to beat linebackers and safeties. Additionally, he has the confidence and work ethic to develop into a nice option for the Eagles in their red zone packages.
Even with all the passing options for Kolb, the running game might be the most important. During this offseason, the Eagles picked up two powerful running backs and resigned their own Pro Bowl fullback. The signing of New Orleans Saints running back Mike Bell bestows the team with a running back that has the wiggle, but also has power to break tackles. Moreover, he is strong enough to move the pile, collect the elusive goal-line yards and get the ball past the plane.
Certainly, if Bell happens to get injured the Eagles still have two backs that can finish the job. Leonard Weaver is a fullback, but he encompasses running back skills. He receives the ball out of the backfield, but can run over defenders to get into the end zone.
If those two options were not enough, the Eagles still have sixth-round pick Charles Scott. He is an effective and powerful inside runner with good balance, who will drag defenders with him. His high motor will be extremely useful as he is trucking through arm-tackles and turning minimal gains at the line of scrimmage into a possible touchdown. Scott (6-0, 240) game is tailor-made to be a touchdown vulture and could eventually become a Mike Alstott clone.
Even with all three of those running backs, the Eagles still have second-year running back LeSean McCoy. Over this offseason, McCoy has been dedicated to the game. He has gained strength and bulk, so that he can be more of a complete back. With a skill-set very similar to former Eagle Brian Westbrook, he is a promising threat as well.
Even with all those options, the biggest threat the Eagles and Reid have in their playbook comes at the quarterback position. Kolb is a more accurate quarterback than McNabb. McNabb's inability to throw a ball through a small window was a major reason the Eagles had to settle for field goals.
Inside the red zone, the field gets smaller, so a quarterback must have the confidence to throw the football into tight spaces and be accurate. Kolb does not have the cannon arm like McNabb, but has a good enough arm to put the ball in the exact spot it needs to be.
Nonetheless, Kolb is not the only weapon at quarterback. Michael Vick will take an enormous amount of pressure off of Kolb’s young shoulders. Vick has can run away from defenders with his speed and get to the pylon with his athleticism. Yet at the same time, he can make a throw while on the run to hit an open receiver. A receiver that is opened because Vick’s elusiveness breaks down the opposing team's defense.
Last year, the Eagles finished 21st in the NFL in touchdown efficiency inside the red zone at 49 percent. For the first in a while, the Eagles have an amble amount of weapons all over the field to keep Akers off the field until the extra point is needed.
If the offensive line manages to holds up, the Eagles offense should soar inside the red zone in 2010. More importantly, the offense might become more dynamic and score more points than the record setting 2009 squad under McNabb, which is saying an awful lot.