I was chatting with a buddy at lunch recently. I told him that the Eagles are 3-3, but if you go by the way a lot of Eagles fans seem to feel, you would think this team is 0-6. I get that people are down because of consecutive losses and blown leads in both games. No one is happy right now. Still, the notion that the season is over and massive changes are needed seems out of line to me.
If the Eagles make a couple of plays, the team is 5-1. They didn't make those plays and that's why they are just 3-3. My point here is that the team is close to being pretty good. The job for Andy Reid and the coaching staff during the bye week was to figure out what changes did need to be made and how to improve the team.
Dismissing Juan Castillo wasn't easy for Reid. Castillo was a long-time assistant, but also a long-time friend. Reid didn't fire him as a way to make someone the scapegoat for the two losses. Reid made the change because he felt that Todd Bowles could help fix the defense. The blame game is something for fans and the media. Coaches focus on problems and solutions. Castillo just wasn't the right guy to put the defense over the top.
There were no huge changes on offense. All the coaches kept their jobs. There were no changes in gameday responsibilities. Reid has drawn up great gameplans. Marty Mornhinweg has called plays for explosive, high-ranking offenses. The job is for them to figure out what wasn't working and to adjust so that Mike Vick and the offense can get going.
The offensive line was tweaked.
Reid and Mornhinweg can do their part to help the situation by adjusting the offense. Dial back on the vertical passes and focus on short to intermediate routes. That means that Mike Vick is holding the ball for a shorter period. The line doesn't have to block as long. The passing game can get a rhythm going. I understand that Mornhinweg and Reid love chunk plays. They love runs of 20 or more yards and pass plays that cover 30 to 40 yards. Those can be game-changers when they happen. The problem is that the line isn't doing a consistently good job of giving Vick the time he needs to throw downfield. Also, Vick hasn't had his normal deep ball accuracy. We've seen several passes off target on the deep throws.
|Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.|
The offense is seventh in the league in yards gained, but down at 30th in points scored. That tells you all you need to know. The offense can move the ball, but too many drives end in turnovers. Also, field position is a huge problem. The Eagles start way too many drives inside their own 30-yard line. That means you need 40 to 50 yards just to get in field goal range.
I'm sure the bad field position is part of what makes Reid and Mornhinweg want to throw deep balls. One big completion can flip the field and change things in a hurry. Unfortunately, those deep passes can end in incompletions. Some end in interceptions (happened in the Detroit loss). Some end in sacks and fumbles. I still say the wise thing to do is play more of a ball-control attack. The big plays will come eventually. If you get the ball to players like
Reid and his staff do a good job with making adjustments in the bye week. It will be interesting to see what they have in mind for the offense. Maybe they do buy into my ideal of a more balanced offense and shorter passing game. Maybe the coaches have something else in mind. We'll have to wait and see what happens over the next few weeks.
Over the last two seasons, Vick is 11-4 in post-bye games. He was 6-2 in 2010 and 5-2 last year. Reid corrected issues and Vick got hot. That could happen this year, if the coaches and players are able to identify and fix what is wrong. Just eliminating turnovers would make a huge difference.
The defense and special teams do have to help the offense out. Their job, put simply, is to make plays.
The special teams units are not delivering good returns. They are giving up too many long returns. The defense isn't sacking the quarterback and it isn't coming up with takeaways. You don't expect these units to deliver big play after big play, but right now they are too few and far between. Imagine the difference a long kickoff return might have made at the end of the Lions game or in overtime. That could have been huge.
Think about the difference it would have made if the defense had gotten the ball back or even just come up with a big sack on third down. Those type plays could have saved the game. Instead, the Lions marched up and down the field when they needed.
Part of the issue for the defense is that teams knew what to expect. The Eagles ran very simplistic schemes. It was up to the players to win one-on-one battles. There is something to be said for keeping things simple, but you do need to have a few twists that will confuse blockers and quarterbacks. A moment of hesitation can make the difference in a sack/turnover or a big play.
Bowles won't make significant changes to the defense. He just needs to have some wrinkles for those times in the game when you want to confuse the offense. You never want to be too predictable, which the Eagles were. Bowles could make some lineup changes, but I don't expect anything major.
Bobby April has the biggest challenge with special teams. He has a rookie kickoff returner in
The last 10 games of the season will be an interesting time, hopefully a fun one. The defense has the potential to be outstanding. The offense still has the firepower to break out and score points in bunches. Special teams is an area where some players need to stand up and make a difference.
Reid knows he needs good results. He has a terrific track record in November and December, which certainly bodes well. He still has some big-time players to lean on. It isn't as if Reid needs smoke and mirrors to get wins. The Eagles are 3-3. Making a playoff run isn't asking anything crazy, but the team needs to get going soon. Sunday against Atlanta would be a great time to start a winning streak.