Eagles Monday Morning Quarterback… 10 Observations On The Eagles and The NFL
By Lance Epstein
Here are some of my observations from around the league and after the Eagles 17-12 defeat to Donovan McNabb and the Washington Redskins
10 Things I think About The Eagles…
1. I think the injury to running back LeSean McCoy will keep him out for the next two, possibly three weeks. While McCoy finished the game on Sunday, he was in the moment and had the adrenaline pumping. As the days pass, those ribs will become extremely sore and make it hard for him to breathe. Former Eaglews Brian Westbrook (a player the Eagles face this week) had the same type of injury, which severely affected his running style. Moreover, teams will purposely take shots at his ribs and make sure the injury gets worse. Of course, the Eagles need his 273 rushing and 172 receiving yards, but it is not worth it to lose him for more than just two or three weeks if he gets a vicious shot to his ribs.
2. I think defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is feeling a lot of heat on Monday from the fans and the local media. The Eagles defense looked awful for the first 20 minutes of the game. Eventually the defense turned it around, but this has become a common theme for the Eagles defense under McDermott. The defense cannot take plays or entire quarters off. It is becoming more and more likely that secondary coach Dick Jauron could be the replacement for the once promising McDermott.
3. I think one issue on the defense that is not McDermott’s fault is the porous tackling by Eagles defenders. The play that stands out in my mind is safety Quintin Mikell getting bulldoze to the ground by Redskins backup running back Ryan Torain. Instead of going low and taking out his legs, Mikell stood up to make the tackle. That is not proper form. Additionally, the rest of the defense had the same problem. Too many times did Donovan McNabb, Clinton Portis, Chris Cooley or Torain escape their clutches. Furthermore, Portis looked like he was a rookie again as Ernie Sims, Stewart Bradley and Akeem Jordan who constantly missed tackles.
4. I think the Eagles offensive line is making far too many mistakes to be a playoff caliber team. Every game left tackle Jason Peters has been called for at least one penalty. Yesterday, he was called for two holding penalties that absolutely killed drives. However, against the Redskins he was not the only lineman to be at fault. Right guard Max Jean-Gilles and left guard Todd Herremans were called for holding penalties as well. Both of their penalties made it difficult for the Eagles to continue drives. If the Eagles are going to make the playoffs, then the offensive line must do a better job than it has so far this season. On a positive note, Kevin Kolb only took one sack.
5. I think rookie safety Nate Allen is a ball magnet. Through four games of his NFL career, Allen has three interceptions. Two of which came against some of the best quarterbacks the league has to offer in Donovan McNabb and Aaron Rodgers. Surprisingly, in just four games he has more interceptions than Macho Harris had as the starter in 16 games last year for the Birds. The irony of his interception on Sunday against McNabb was that his selections turned out to be the compensation for trading McNabb to Washington.
6. I think fans are being too critical of Kevin Kolb’s performance. Did he miss some open receivers? Of course, so has Vick in the first couple of weeks. The only reason that fans do not realize this is because the Eagles were winning ballgames. All that stuff gets swept under the rug when you are winning. Certainly, Vick has been the better quarterback than Kolb, but he has also missed wide receivers. In addition, if it was not for Andy Reid’s blunder at the end of the first half and McCoy’s costly fumble deep in Redskins territory, then the Eagles might win that game. Yes, Kolb must get better. He also needs to be given the opportunity to throw the ball down the field and not just use his check offs. However, that should come as he gets more reps in practice with Vick being injured. Bear in mind he has not taken the field since midway through the second quarter of week one. If he plays against the Niners, he should be much better with a week full of reps. Moreover, Kolb did what he was supposed to do. He dinked and dunked his way up the field versus the Redskins. The offense was not going to have as many big plays this year with him under center. It was supposed to be clock eating type of offense. In fact, he had a nine-minute drive against the Redskin, which ended in a field goal. When was the last time the eagles sustained a nine-minute drive?
7. I think head coach Andy Reid is putting himself squarely on the hot seat. He has been the coach of the Eagles for 11 seasons, so there should never be a blunder as bad as there was on Sunday. After an official review and an Eagles timeout, he failed to get the play called in to Kolb. The Eagles received a 5-yard delay of game penalty, which made a 4 and goal from with inches to go into fourth and goal from the five. Clearly the Eagles were forced to kick the field. What is painful about the “goof” is that it changed the whole complexity of the game. If the Eagles punch it home for the touchdown right before the half, then the momentum is on their side and Kolb’s confidence goes through the roof.
8. I think defensive tackles Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley have been far too quiet this year for the Eagles likings. Neither has made a significant impact and both seem to be getting pushed off the line by blockers against the run. No one should be surprised if the Eagles decided to replace Patterson (has been slightly worse) with Trevor Laws, who had an excellent camp and a great game against the Jaguars. The Eagles cannot keep giving up 135 yards on the ground each game.
9. I think fullback Owen Schmitt is going to be a benefactor of McCoy’s injury. Schmitt is a powerful runner that is not afraid to play smash-mouth football. More importantly, he has a great part of hands. For the first time with the Eagles, he was an intricate part of the offense and kept the chains moving. Against the Redskins, he finished with three receptions for 43 yards. He has the potential to be a very good fullback for the Eagles and be a fan favorite as well.
10. I think it is time the Eagles gave rookie linebacker Keenan Clayton a shot at WLB. While LB Ernie Sims excels at rushing the quarterback, he is a huge liability against the run. The Redskins focused and zeroed in on his side of the field when they ran the abll. Torain and Portis gashed the Eagles defense because he was unable to shed blockers or out of position. This was a major reason that he Lions decided to get rid of the former top-10 pick for a mere fifth-rounder. Sims is a nice Nickel or Dime package linebacker, but he is too undersized to be an every down backer. Clayton is a bit bigger and has looked much better in games than he does in practice.
10 Things I think about the NFL…
1. I think the Chicago Bears showed why they are not the favorite to win the NFC. The Bears were the only 3-0 team left in the conference, which was commendable with their schedule. However on Sunday night, they did nothing with the ball and let their defense hanging out to dry. Furthermore, Jay Cutler was sacked nine times in the first half. There is no way he makes it through the entire season being crushed that many times. Yes, the Bears line is really that bad. On top of that, the Bears have not been able to establish a running game. You cannot consistently win football games with Matt Forte and Chester Taylor getting 50 yards rushing and only 15 attempts.
2. I think trading Donovan McNabb to the Redskins makes even more sense now. Lets look at the facts. He was absolutely brutal against a mediocre (that is being kind) Eagles defense. Unquestionably, he started out the game hot. He was 6 of 9 and had a touchdown pass through the first 20 minutes. Still think that was more the emotions and proving Reid wrong than anything. Then, the next 40 minutes he was 2 of 12 with an interception. Ultimately he finished the game with a passer rating of 60. This kind of performance has been a common theme for McNabb over his last seven games of his career. He has had one good quarter, and then disappears for the next two or even three. Certainly he made a huge 18-yard run, but he is not the same quarterback that took the Eagles to five NFC Championship games. Maybe it is his offensive weapons and line, but he had the same problem at the end of his tenure in Philadelphia. If you don’t believe me, go look back at the Broncos and 49ers games from week 15 and 16 of last year.
3. I think the Baltimore Ravens should be thanking their lucky stars Big Ben didn’t play for the Steelers. The Ravens managed to beat the Steelers 17-14, but if Ben Roethlisberger is playing I think the Steelers might blow the Ravens away. The problem for the Ravens is that they have become too pass happy. They used to be smash-mouth stuff the ball down your throat team. Now, they refuse to go to running back Ray Rice. QB Joe Flacco might have led that come back, but he has more interceptions than touchdown passes this year. He cannot make the excuse he doesn’t have weapons anymore.
4. I think Lions fans have to be encouraged by their team’s performances even though they are 0-4. The Lions have nearly beaten the Packers, Bears and Eagles. In fact, they should have beaten the Bears. Without a doubt, there are no moral victories in the NFL, but the Lions are getting there. It might not be this year they reach.500, but they are going to break through in the next two years. Additionally, Calvin Johnson showed the world and his organization why he is such a great player.
5. I think the St. Louis Rams are the best team in the NFC West. That is not saying much since the Cardinals stink, the Niners are overrated and the Seahawks cannot win on the road. But before the season, the Rams were clearly everyone’s pick for last place. Now, they sit atop of the NFC West after four weeks. Sam Bradford has shown flashes of being great. He might even be the best quarterback in that division as a rookie. More importantly, if not for Steve Breaston’s game-saving strip at the one-yardline, then the Rams are tied for the best record in the NFC.
6. I think it is only going to get crazier in the NFC East. The Giants come out of nowhere to beat an undefeated Bears team. Washington after losing a game to what was thought to be the lowly Rams beats the Eagles on the road. The Cowboys did not play, but hey must be thrilled to be just a half game out of first at 1-2. The NFC East teams all have flaws and it should be a very compelling division all year long.
7. I think the fans around the league and the national media needs to take note of Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton. Orton has been unbelievable so far this year for the Broncos. In just four games, Orton has thrown for 1,419 yards (354.8 yards per game) and six touchdowns. His passer rating is 96.3, which is top five in the league. Remember he is doing this without the recently departed Brandon Marshall. However, he has a huge test this week against the Baltimore Ravens.
8. I think the Colts are feeling the hangover of that Super Bowl loss. Yes they are 2-2, but they are not the same team as in previous years. Peyton is still Peyton, but the defense has become alarmingly bad. They gave up 31 points to a Jaguars team that barely managed to score 3 points against the Eagles defense the week before. Sureit is a divisional game and the Jags always play the Colts well, but 31 points to David Garrard’s Jaguars? Indianapolis fans might be looking at a 10-6 or 9-7 team that doesn’t make the playoffs.
9. I think the AFC is loaded with a bunch of Super Bowl contenders whereas the NFC does not have any. The Jets, Steelers, Ravens play great defense and can score points. Amazingly, the Ravens have won two games against the Steelers and Jets already. Still, the Steelers have done it without Big Ben and look better than any NFC team. As for the NFC, the Saints offense is still searching to find their rhythm. The Packers defense cannot stop anyone right now. The Eagles just lost Vick. The Cowboys have offensive line struggles. The Falcons are nearly lost to the 0-4 Niners and are very inconsistent.
10. I think the Cardinals need to reassess their gameplan. They are not going to beat teams throwing the ball. Derek Anderson is horrible and rookie Max Hall is not beating anyone with his arm. The Cards must get with the program and start handing the ball of to their factor-back in Chris “Beanie” Wells. Against the Chargers, who have a poor run defense, the Cards tried to air it out to beat them. Nevertheless, they found themselves down 28-7 and never recovered. Wells needs to pound the rock and eat clock. That is the only way the Cards are winning games. It is called ball control.