Eagles Monday Morning Quarterback... 10 Observation On the Eagles And The NFL
By Lance Epstein
Here are my observations and analysis after the Eagles nerve-racking 35-32 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
10 I think about the Eagles....
1. I think the Eagles offensive line might be one of the worst in the league. Normally a position strength for head coach Andy Reid has all the sudden become a huge weakness. (LT) Jason Peters is looking more like a bust each day. It is a testament to his passion for the game that he is playing through injuries (his ankle and knee), but even when he was healthy he has been a major disappointment. His line-mates have not been much better. Since Mike McGlynn has taken over at center, teams have been blitzing up the middle. Granted it is also Todd Herremans and Nick Cole's fault as well for not keeping blitzers off their QB. Neither player has been playing at a high level. Finally, right tackle Winston Justice has been OK. However, if the Eagles want to compete for a Super Bowl in the upcoming years then they must go offensive line heavy in the 2011 draft or at least sign a very good lineman (Marcus McNeil and Logan Mankins are going to be free).
2. I think if the Eagles expect Kevin Kolb to start next week then Andy Reid must get him moving around to avoid the immense amount of pressure he will face. The great thing about the Michael Vick's and Donovan McNabb's of the world is their ability escape sacks with their athleticism. Unfortunately, Kolb does not have that unique trait and will take the punishment. The biggest question coming out of the Lions game is how many more sacks would Detroit have with Kolb under center?
3. I think defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is taking a lot of unnecessary heat for his defense not being a top-10 unit like Jim Johnson consistently had. The problem is Jim Johnson never had to take over a very young defense. In McDermott's first two years, he has had to play a rookie free safety in the secondary. Meanwhile, Johnson had Brian Dawkins for his entire tenure. This is something that is constantly overlooked. Additionally, he has a rookie defensive end starting at right defensive end. If that was not bad enough, he has been able to employ the best defender (Stewart Bradley) on the field for a whopping one game out of the 19 games he has been defensive coordinator. Moreover, he has seen poor tackling by his team for much of the last two seasons. This was something he emphasized about fixing this offseason. Lastly, people tend to forget JJ also struggled when he lost his middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter for a couple of seasons. It is beginning to look like that position is one of the most important in the Eagles defensive scheme.
4. I think (RB) LeSean McCoy is emerging as the best offensive playmaker on the Eagles. While DeSean Jackson is a great player, the offense runs much smoother with McCoy seeing at least 15-20 touches per game and having the ball in his hands. He probably could see even more touches if Reid chose to do so considering he has bulked up. Also, he is not dancing around at the line of scrimmage. He is seeing the hole and hitting it hard.
5. I think the Eagles need to find away to get (TE) Brent Celek more involved in the offense. In the first two games of the season, Celek has recorded five receptions for 59 yards and no touchdowns. Obviously, the Eagles must keep him in to help block with the poor showing by the offensive line. However, if Kolb is going to succeed he needs to have his safety blanket involved. In addition, his lack of involvement in the offense is screwing with Celek's head. He dropped two easy passes yesterday.
6. I think it is time for the Eagles to make rookie CB Trevard Lindley the No. 3 cornerback. Yesterday Dimitri Patterson was covering nobody on WR Calvin Johnson's touchdown reception. He was supposed to be the guy covering Johnson. Ultimately, his mistake left strong safety Quintin Mikell exposed as he was forced to cover two men in the end zone. As for Joselio Hanson, he had a great play on the 4th and 10 play that clinched the game. He deserves credit for that play, but the problem is he had five bad plays earlier in the game, which allowed the Lions to make a fierce comeback. While Hanson might be more polished due to his experience than Lindley, it is clear that teams are picking on him when he is on the field. The Eagles should at least try Lindley, who can probably do about the same as Hanson and get experience in the process.
7. I think MLB Omar Gather's stat line looks much more impressive then his play did. For the game, Gaither finished with 11 tackles (all solo) and two tackles for loss. Needless to say, he was constantly being beat by (RB) Jahvid Best and (TE) Brandon Pettigrew. In addition, he missed plenty of tackles that allowed the Lions to connect on huge plays or continue drives. There was a reason that late great defensive coordinator Jim Johnson replaced him as the starter. He is a nice backup, but he is neither big enough nor strong enough at the point of attack.
8. I think the kickoff coverage was much better, but he punt coverage got worse. It was great to see the kickoff coverage holding the Lions from getting to the 35-yardline. On the other hand, it was frightening at the end of the game when the Lions nearly broke two punts for touchdowns. Special teams coordinator Bobby April is considered one of the best in the NFL, but so far his units have put the defense in a bind.
9. I think the defense knows when it must raise to the occasion like championship style defenses do. Certainly giving up 32 points to the Lions is nothing to be proud of. In fact, it is a little embarrassing considering (QB) Matt Stafford was not even under center. Nevertheless, when the Eagles defense needed to make a play and they stood tall. The Eagles have always been notorious for giving up yards. It has been called the bending, but not breaking defense. The Eagles are breaking too much for fans liking, but when the game is in the balance they are making the necessary plays. A couple years back against the Saints in a playoff game, the same could not be said.
10. I think the Eagles need to find a new kickoff returner. At he end of the game we saw DeSean Jackson taking kickoffs, but he did not get the opportunity to return the kick. Still, Reid and company will be better off not having guys flying around at 100mph and trying to take his head off. The Eagles should give (CB) rookie Jorrick Calvin a chance to prove his worth as a kickoff returner. So far, Ellis Hobbs has been a major disappointment as a returner.
10 Observations from around the NFL...
1. I think the NFC East winner might finish at 9-7. All the teams in the conference seemingly have the same crisis. Each team has a top seven schedule, mediocre offensive lines and defenses that seem to be lost right now. At the beginning of the season, many believed the conference had two legit playoff contenders. Now, it might not even have one.
2. I think it is time that (QB) Matt Schaub is mentioned in the same breathes as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Yesterday, Schaub saw his Texans fall behind to the Redskins by a score of 27-10. Certainly, it was not an insurmountable lead, but the Skins knew the Texans had to throw. Even thought they saw it coming, they couldn't stop Schaub from finding his receivers. Additionally, he did most of the comeback without his star wide receiver Andre Johnson. Schaub finished the day with 497 yards passing and three touchdown passes. The Texans are for real and a major reason is the development of Schaub.
3. I think the Steelers defense might carry them to a 4-0 start even without Big Ben. Before the season, the Steelers were praying that they could go 2-2 without their star quarterback. Now, at worst they could be is 2-2. Next week they square off with the 2-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road. The following week they face the Baltimore Ravens at home. The Steelers should be favorites to win whether Dennis Dixon is able to go or not in Tampa. The Baltimore game is beginning to look like it will be a low scoring affair as (QB) Joe Flacco's offense is averaging just 9.5 points per game. The Steelers can win a low scoring slugfest with the Ravens.
4. I think a big problem with the Ravens offense is they are getting away from their bread and butter in RB Ray Rice. Yesterday, he had 20 touches for 117 yards. However, the Ravens only gave him 16 attempts on the ground when he had a 5.4-yard per carry average. The Bengals defense began giving up big chunks of yards on the ground toward the end of the game as well. Yet the Ravens put the ball in Flacco's hands, which was a giant mistake. The Ravens should be thankful they are 1-1 right now and be rethinking their transformation into a pass first offense.
5. I think the end is near for (RB) Brandon Jacobs. First off, he appears to be afraid of being hit. Since cashing in on his contract extension, Ahmad Bradshaw has been the better back. Jacobs was the big bruising back that was like taking a truck down. Now, Jacobs gets to the line and falls down or tries to take it to the outside. Second, his attitude makes huge chemistry problems for the team. Some players will fight for him and others will be against him. His helmet-throwing incident doesn't help either.
6. I think the Dallas Cowboys are in the most trouble of any 0-2-team. The expectations for this season were sky high. Owner Jerry Jones wanted his team to be the first squad to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Instead they are starring 0-3 in the face. The Cowboys square off against the Texans next week in Houston. They will be the underdog in that matchup. If that was not bad enough, Dallas still has Tennessee, Indianapolis, Green Bay, New Orleans, Minnesota and five NFC East games still on their schedule. Once thought to be a 12-4 team might turn out to be a 7-9 squad for the Cowboys. The question will certainly arise about who the next Cowboys coach will be.
7. I think there a lot of 2-0 teams that have no business being 2-0. One of the teams is the Chicago Bears. The Bears realistically should be 1-1 if not for a blunder of a call. Nevertheless, they played a great game against Dallas, but there are still major concerns along the offensive line. They play the Packers on Monday Night Football and they will see where they stand after that game. Two more teams that are sitting pretty at 2-0, but will certainly tail off are the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa has had one of the easiest first two weeks in all of football. They played an overrated Panthers squad and beat the Browns on a miracle deflection. As for Kansas City, their 2-0 start is more impressive. They beat the Chargers on opening night, but then struggled to get by the Cleveland Browns.
8. I think (RB) LaDainian Tomlinson has found the fountain of youth in New York. He seems to be rejuvenated by going back east. Although it could be that he is playing behind one of the league's best offensive lines. Nonetheless, he has been much more impressive than second-year running back Shonn Greene. In his first two games, he has 22 carries for 138 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and six catches for 42 yards. If you have Greene on your fantasy team it is looking bleak right now.
9. I think Revis Island is going to need to shut it down for a couple of weeks. One of the worst injuries that can happen to a cornerback is pulling his hamstring. Yesterday, Darrelle Revis pulled up lame after (WR) Randy Moss blew past him at the line of scrimmage. The Jets are paying him a ton of money and they don't need the injury to nag him all season or become even worse. Their defense can survive one or two weeks without him. Still, you have to wonder if he was in training camp if he avoids an injury like this.
10. I think the Vikings must trade for (WR) Vincent Jackson to turn their season around. They currently sit at 0-2 and Brett Favre has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 1:4. A major reason for this is the loss of wide receiver Sidney Rice. The Vikings thought they could stay afloat until he came back in week six. However, their offense has been putrid except for Adrian Peterson and he might not return then. Jackson gives them that big, athletic threat in the red zone. Not only that, he has the speed to stretch defenses. The season is slipping away for the Vikings. Giving up a two draft picks along with paying Jackson might seem like a lot, but it is worth it for a shot at winning the Super Bowl. Especially considering Favre is likely done after this year.
An extra non-football I think...
11. I think the Phillies versus Braves series is bigger for the Braves. If the Phillies take two of three against the Braves, it will give them a commanding four game lead with just nine games to go. If they sweep (likely with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels pitching), they will have a six game lead with nine to go. It would take an even bigger collapse by Phillies than what the Mets had a couple years ago. Also, the Braves lead in the wild card is very slim and they cannot afford to be swept. Still, I think the Phillies take two of three from Atlanta.