Juan Castillo is the perfect example of a coach who is self-critical and who makes changes. His Eagles offensive line had its troubles in the early weeks of the season in pass protection, and Castillo moved quickly to adjust his blocking schemes and coach up his personnel. The results have been obvious: The offensive line has improved tremendously since then, and the pass protection has been more than adequate.
Rest assured that Castillo, and the rest of the Eagles coaching staff, examined the first seven games with a relentlessly critical eye during this bye week. Tendencies have been examined, personnel have been evaluated and what has worked and what hasn't worked has been thoroughly questioned. Will there be lineup changes when the Eagles play the Colts in two Sundays? Other than Michael Vick at quarterback, and the walking wounded returning to action, I'm not sure there will be.
But you never know what the coaches discovered during their few days of self scouting.
There are some things on my mind, of course, during this bye week. The office is closed for a couple of days, but Eagles football is still very much front of my brain ...
Perhaps the most improved player on this team in seven weeks is center Mike McGlynn, who has gotten up to speed with his mental and physical responsibilities very quickly. Yes, he made a critical mistake in the Tennessee game on the play that resulted in a turnover inside the Titans' 5-yard line, but I liked the way McGlynn stood up for himself. He will learn from that error. He has a chance to be a darn good center here for quite some time. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles position the center spot when Jamaal Jackson is healthy next spring and summer.
- Seems like it will be a race to the opening kickoff to see if DeSean Jackson plays against the Colts. The good news is that he is improving greatly every day and that his post-concussion symptoms have gone away. The tough part is knowing that there are only 10 days until kickoff and that the Eagles really need his game-breaking skills against such a powerful team.
- Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis come to town, which is a reality check for this offensive line. Jason Peters is in line to start at left tackle, and he has experience against Freeney. The Eagles can't let those two defensive ends dominate play and take this offense out of its game. I wonder, with two ends as fast as Freeney and Mathis, how much Marty Mornhinweg will bootleg and roll out Vick, because those ends can chase him down. I see this as a game in which Vick has to be proficient from the pocket.
- While the Eagles will clearly benefit from Jackson's return, I hope they don't eliminate Riley Cooper from the passing game. His size, hands and toughness are quite an asset here.
- Will Jerome Harrison contribute to the offense after the bye week? Hopefully, yes. But I have to give Eldra Buckley a lot of credit for the way he is playing, particularly in pass protection. He is blowing guys up and has been so physical and technically sound in his pass protection.
- Moise Fokou has played well at SAM as a starter, a good sign. He is physical and much more confident in the scheme. Akeem Jordan hasn't sulked, though. He has been a productive player on special teams.
- How will rookie Nate Allen rebound after his first really tough outing in the NFL? We'll see. I know that Allen was down on himself after the Tennessee game when he had trouble playing the ball in the air a few times. I think this kid has a chance to be an outstanding safety, and I expect him to bounce back well. He won't have time to relax, not with Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon on the way to Philadelphia in two Sundays.
- One area Sean McDermott is working to improve is the pass rush for 60 minutes. The Tennessee game was a perfect example of what can happen on the back end of a defense if the pass rush isn't getting home. The Eagles had 3 sacks early to stymie the Tennessee offense. Then the Titans tightened up their pass protection and quarterback Kerry Collins had time to heave the ball down the field and, well, you know what Kenny Britt did after that.
- We have all acknowledged the tremendous play of running back LeSean McCoy this year and he deserves all kinds of credit for his approach to the game after his rookie year. He worked hard to get stronger and build his body. McCoy is one of the bright, young backs in this league. Where he has also improved a ton is in the receiving game. The Eagles have to be one of the most devastating teams in the league in the screen game, in large part because McCoy has come such a long way in a short time as a receiver out of the backfield.
- What about the cornerback position? What to do there? I think the Eagles will stick with Ellis Hobbs, who is going to battle and scrap and work hard to the very end. I love his attitude. I also recognize that teams are throwing his way a lot lately and that he has to be better. I think this is where the coaching of Dick Jauron will benefit the team. He has been through this before. He has brought along young cornerbacks, like Trevard Lindley, and Jauron will get that situation straightened out. You just know Manning is going in that direction, don't you?
- Finally, the overriding mood at the NovaCare Complex is one of optimism. The Eagles have had young teams before and they have lost games like they lost in Tennessee on Sunday before. The key is how the Eagles rebound. It is a critical message for Andy Reid to make sure his young players understand: Success isn't going to happen moving forward just because it has traditionally happened here. Hard work and attention to details are the daily must-do's. We'll learn a lot about the leadership on this team in the weeks ahead ...