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Offense Needs To Find Its Identity

Posted Sep 24, 2012

One bad game does not a season make, but it sure raises some eyebrows in the wake of Sunday's distressing loss in Arizona, with the Giants ahead on Sunday night ...

We all saw what happened in Arizona: The Cardinals played with more speed and more power and much more purpose than the Eagles' disjointed offensive effort. It was an awful performance on many levels -- every level, really -- and the same mistakes continued to haunt the Eagles.

There were too many turnovers. There weren't enough runs. Quarterback Michael Vick had barely enough time to get through his snap count before the Arizona blitz swarmed him. The play in the red zone was ineffective. Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy, the best player on this football team, didn't get enough touches.

So with a quick blink of the eye we look ahead, not back, and wonder in what direction this offense is going. What is the personality here? What adjustments do the Eagles make in light of the makeshift nature of the offensive line, because it appeared they came out and tried to run the offense business as usual in Arizona and it didn't work.

Moreover, how do the Eagles get their tempo back?

The only time they're really played the kind of Eagles offense we hoped to see this year is when the no-huddle approach has been used. When the Eagles up the tempo that way, the offense seems to respond. We saw some of it in a modified version at the end of the first half in Cleveland and then at the end of the game in the win over the Browns. Michael Vick and the offense opened with the no-huddle offense against Baltimore and employed it at various points during the game, as I remember.

And only when things started to get out of hand on Sunday did the Eagles give some no-huddle love to the offense. The results weren't sparkling, but at least the offense showed some proof of a pulse when jolted by the no-huddle directive.

We're starting to understand exactly what the Eagles are as three games have been played this season. As with every team, there is a sense of discovery through the first quarter of the season. What you see in September is often a mirage or, in other cases, a microcosm of a season to follow.

This offense has some powerful weapons, and also some glaring concerns.

Nobody doubts that the Eagles have enough firepower to put points on the board against any NFL defense. The wide receiver corps is a good one, although we saw by his absence on Sunday just how valuable Jeremy Maclin is to the group. Having both Maclin and Riley Cooper -- hopeful to return against the Giants -- means a lot to this offense, and they help take the pressure off of DeSean Jackson, who was targeted 10 times in Arizona but came up with just 3 catches for 43 yards against Patrick Peterson and a very good secondary that, by the way, missed its best player in safety Adrian Wilson.

McCoy is as good as there is in the league at what he does, which is everything. His workload in each of the first two weeks was borderline excessive, and then in Arizona he had just 16 touches, and only 4 carries and 3 receptions in the first half, after which the Eagles trailed 24-0.

What do the Eagles need to do to more consistently get the ball out of Vick's hands and into the hands of their other playmakers? This is the question asked over and over again. When the Eagles see a blitz coming, where is the adjustment and the counterpunch? Where is the three-step drop?

The Eagles must defeat the blitz enough to put defenses on their heels, rather than allowing them to play downhill and dictate the flow of the game, as the Cardinals did on Sunday.

This offense has turned the ball over 11 times in three games, and that is simply not acceptable. When the team opened Sunday's game with a pass (Vick ran for 3 yards to avoid being sacked), pass (incomplete deep on the left side for Damaris Johnson) and pass (another incomplete intended for Johnson), didn't you just feel the offense was going to be in for a struggle?

I sure did. I saw the Cardinals go all out in attacking Vick, getting up in his face and forcing hurried, inaccurate throws.

What are the Giants going to do on Sunday night? They've got a great front four, led by end Jason Pierre-Paul, who is as dominating as any defensive player in the NFL right now. The Giants enjoyed their weekend off after dismantling the Panthers on Thursday night and are going to be as fresh as they can be for the showdown Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

It's going to be interesting to see how, or if, the Eagles modify their offensive structure after watching the film from Sunday's loss. Are they good enough up front to play it straight against the Giants and continue the pass-first approach? Through three games, if the numbers mean anything, teams have had more success throwing the ball against New York than they have running it, which could lead one to believe that passing is the way to go against New York.

We know, of course, that the Eagles want to throw the ball first. That's what most NFL teams do. They throw the ball early and try to get a lead and then work in the running game and, well, we've been through this conversation for more than a decade. The Eagles have had a lot more success doing it their way than most teams in the league.

I just haven't seen a consistent tempo from the offense through three games. I haven't seen a defining personality. I love the no-huddle change-up, and is that something the coaches would consider on more of a full-time basis until the offense gets its swerve back? Or is it too much of a gimmick to rely upon over the long haul?

Everything center around Vick in the offense, and his inconsistency with ball security has been an area the coaches and players are working to improve. It isn't just Vick, of course, because the turnovers have come from all corners of the team, but the quarterback is the one in the spotlight more than anyone else, for better or for worse.

The Eagles need A) Vick to be a lot better at the quarterback position and; B) A system modification to make things easier for No. 7. He's back to trying to do too much for the offense, whether that is by design in a pass-heavy offense. Vick's 125 pass attempts are third in the NFL behind Drew Brees (137 attempts for the 0-3 Saints) and Carson Palmer (128 attempts for the 1-2 Raiders). Matthew Stafford (122 attempts for the 1-2 Lions) and Andrew Luck (122 attempts for the 1-2 Colts).

Vick has a passer rating of 66.3 through three games, ranking him 29th in the league in that department. Only Brandon Weeden, Jay Cutler and Ryan Tannehill are lower than Vick in that very important category. How can a team that throws as much as the Eagles win with a quarterback who has a passer rating that low?

This is a really interesting time for the coaching staff to determine what's next for the Eagles' offense. What is the best approach is the best moving forward? Vick has been sacked 9 times in his 125 pass attempts, a percentage that ranks 21st in the league. Do the Eagles continue to throw the ball as much as they do? If the answer is yes, how can they get the ball out of the quarterback's hands more quickly and effectively?

Hey, the Eagles are 2-1 and very much control their destiny in the NFC East. We know how Andy Reid's teams play down the stretch, and all that matters now is wins, not style points. Still, it's hard to escape the feeling that something has to give right now for the offense to find the right path on the road to Vick-tory.

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