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Fan-Demonium: Under The Microscope

Posted Oct 27, 2012

Fan-Demonium

We all know the stat - Andy Reid is 13-0 coming off the bye week. He and his assistant coaches do a great job of identifying problems and then figuring out solutions. It will be very interesting to see what adjustments Reid and the staff make on Sunday. Here are some thoughts on what we should be looking for.

One of the big focal points for Reid and Marty Mornhinweg is first quarter points. The Eagles have been very good in the past at coming out and executing on the opening drive. This year, the team has yet to score on the opening drive. Several promising drives have been derailed by turnovers. For my money, the best opening drive so far was in the Ravens game. Vick did end that with a pick in the end zone, but prior to that the team looked really good as they moved down the field.

I hope the coaches study that drive. It wasn't simply a matter of which plays were called. The players executed really well. Jason Kelce and King Dunlap were starting that day and mixing in new linemen has led to some of the struggles, but that isn't the only reason for the early-game struggles. In that game, the offense came out with a no-huddle attack. Vick spread the ball around to multiple receivers. LeSean McCoy got a carry. Damaris Johnson got a carry. It was a combination of creativity and basic plays.

The Eagles don't have to come out with a no-huddle attack. What worked well that day may not work as well against Atlanta. The key for me will be to see the Eagles look crisp and confident. The coaches need a good plan and they need to have the players ready to execute it. I know Reid and Mornhinweg will want to be creative and aggressive, but they've got to be careful about that. They tried an end around in the Lions game and that play lost several yards and put the drive in a bad situation. The call was good, but the timing was bad. I think they needed to get the Lions chasing after McCoy before trying to burn them with a trick play.

Lawlor

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.

One major factor for the team should be weather. It sure sounds like there will be a lot of rain. That doesn't mean you eliminate the thought of throwing the ball. It does mean you need to be smart about it. Receivers have the advantage on a wet, slick field. Defensive backs have to react to routes and that is tough to do when dealing with sloppy conditions. I do hope that the Eagles run the ball a lot, but quick receivers like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant can be very effective on short routes where they make sharp cuts. Another thing to consider in this regard is that the Falcons don't tackle well. Get the ball to the Eagles receivers and let them make plays in space against a team that struggles to consistently make good tackles. Mix in the weather and that could really help the offense.

I will be watching the offensive line closely to see if that group is improved. Getting King Dunlap back should be a good thing. I'm curious to see if center Dallas Reynolds was able to work out some kinks in his game. Right guard could be interesting. It sounds like there is a good chance Danny Watkins will miss the game and rookie Dennis Kelly will take his place. The Eagles used Kelly at guard this summer to get him prepared to play there should the need arise. The biggest thing I'll be looking for is fewer blown assignments. There have been too many plays this year when a rusher comes free upfield due to confusion. That must drive line coach Howard Mudd crazy. I'm sure he worked hard during the bye to figure out the best way to fix that issue.

Sunday will be the debut of Todd Bowles as the defensive coordinator. What should we look for there? I don't think we'll see dramatic differences. The defense was playing pretty well already. The team had struggled with stopping opponents in the fourth quarter so that is the one time when I think all of us will really be watching closely to see what happens.

The recent lack of sacks is something that is driving everyone nuts. You can bet the coaches will have a few new ideas to try. There could be some adjustments to the lineup. I'd love to see Brandon Graham get some snaps at defensive tackle in passing situations. He did that as a rookie (and in college) and was very effective. Graham has played well this year. The coaches need to find a way to get him on the field. It is possible that Vinny Curry could make his NFL debut. Phillip Hunt is dealing with an injury and isn't a lock to play. Curry is an end, but has some experience as an inside pass rusher. Maybe the Eagles experiment with a four defensive end look.

Teams have kept six, seven and even eight guys in to block at times. One interesting twist would be to rush just three. That would let you drop eight players into coverage and really lock down the receivers. You could go with three smaller guys or three bigger guys. The Eagles have a lot of pass rushing talent. The coaches need to find the right combination.

Bowles has worked under some coaches that liked to blitz a lot. I'm sure the Eagles will do more blitzing under Bowles. You don't want to do too much of this, but mixing it in at key times can make a big difference. The Eagles have done a good job of stopping offenses. The problem is that the Eagles aren't making big plays. They aren't coming up with turnovers. They aren't hitting the quarterback enough, which can help lead to turnovers. It also can make the quarterback less effective late in the game. The player we want to see more involved as a blitzer is Mychal Kendricks. He finished his college career with 13.5 sacks so he knows how to get to the quarterback and how to finish plays.

As for special teams, the biggest thing I'll be looking for is better blocking. Brandon Boykin, Damaris Johnson, DeSean Jackson and Mardy Gilyard have all had a chance to return kicks. They have had limited success. One key issue is the lack of room to work with. Blockers must win one-on-one battles and give them room to run. A good return game is about more than the returner. I remember a clip from an Eagles-Giants game back in 2003. The Giants needed a good punt returner and signed Brian Mitchell away from the Eagles. His first return against the Eagles got nothing. When they showed an overhead replay, you could see several Eagles getting to him due to terrible blocking. Mitchell wasn't going to make four guys miss. A good return game needs a talented returner, but also the other 10 guys doing their part.

Sunday is a huge game for the Eagles. Getting to 4-3 and beating the 6-0 Falcons would help to right the ship after a two-game losing streak. Reid and his teams are at their best in the months of November and December. Winning Sunday would put the Eagles in good position to make a run. Go do it, fellas.

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