In this week's Coach's Clipboard, Rory Segrest and David Akers explain what's wrong with the field goal unit, Jim Johnson states that Santana Moss is the key to the Redskins offense and Marty Mornhinweg offers a solution to the struggles in the second half ...
SEGREST: AKERS ADJUSTING TO MORE POWER
Kicker David Akers was restless. It was the night before the Eagles were set to play the Dallas Cowboys near the end of the 2007 season and Akers couldn't fall asleep.
He put on the television and watched an infomercial. It was for the workout program P-90X.
"I couldn't believe the guys were having this transformation," Akers said. "The reason why I liked it, I saw the plyometrics they were doing, the changing the routine. I still like to do a lot of my Kempo stuff, so it had a little bit (of that) involved with it."
Akers admitted that ever since he tore his hamstring in 2005 it hasn't been the same. Akers wanted to strengthen his leg not because of the distance he was getting on field goals, but on kickoffs. Akers was ninth in the NFC with six kickoffs in 2007. Through four games in 2008, Akers is only two off of that mark with four.
That success hasn't quite translated over to field goal attempts just yet because Akers has to adjust his aim to account for his stronger leg.
"I think it's just the deal where Dave has got to trust his leg strength," special teams coordinator Rory Segrest said. "He's a different kicker this year than he was last year. I think, the way he was hitting the ball last year, the kicks probably would have been good. He just got so much more powerful over the offseason here and when he hits the ball from those types of distances, the ball is just not moving as much. He's not going to have to adjust so much to the wind conditions. I think, right now, it's just a matter of him trusting that and realizing that he's got a lot more leg strength this year than he did last year."
Take for example the 47-yard miss in last Sunday's loss to the Bears. Akers and holder Sav Rocca lined up the punt and accounted for a swirling wind to take hold of the football. The problem is that the ball was never affected by the wind. Other kickers around the league were surprised at how the ball moved. Akers received a text from Titans Pro Bowl kicker Rob Bironas that said, "I thought for sure the ball would move."
Needless to say, with the added strength in Akers' leg, Segrest remains more than confident in his kicker.
"He's been kicking off really well," Segrest said. "He's been doing a good job in terms of distance and hang there and now it's just obviously the field goals. Right now, he's sitting there at 80 percent on his field goals. Unfortunately, the two misses were the longer kicks and that's the same thing that he struggled on last year, but we feel pretty good about just going back and maintaining that level of confidence and hitting them next time around."
- CHRIS McPHERSON
JOHNSON: SHELDON TO COVER MOSS
During his weekly press conference on Thursday, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson reviewed each of the Redskins' primary weapons.
He talked about how quarterback Jason Campbell has improved under the direction of new head coach Jim Zorn. He mentioned how well running back Clinton Portis is playing and tough it is to handle a tight end as talented as Chris Cooley.
When it came to one weapon, though, Johnson identified wide receiver Santana Moss as the one player that the Eagles need to account for at all times. Figuring how the Redskins move Moss around, that's sometimes easier said than done.
"He will play that X receiver, weakside receiver, or strongside receiver," Johnson said. "I'm sure, at times, they're trying to beat certain coverages in that. That's why they do it. There is no question about it, he is their go-to guy right now. He'll be in the slot sometimes. He'll be outside. He's all over the field."
Apparently, that will be cornerback Sheldon Brown's problem.
In the past, when the Eagles faced a top-flight receiver, it was cornerback Lito Sheppard's duty to sometimes play man-to-man. Johnson said Brown will be responsible for covering Moss even though he wouldn't say why.
"That's game plan stuff," Johnson said. "I don't want to talk about that."
Johnson did, however, want to talk about Cooley and how the Eagles' young linebackers have fared covering some of the best tight ends in the business.
Last week against the Bears, strongside linebacker Chris Gocong got beat for a touchdown by Chicago tight end Greg Olsen. But Johnson said that was more the exception rather than the rule this season.
"I think it was one play," Johnson said. "They had the right play - it was a great throw and a great catch and we didn't do a great job in coverage. I don't think they're doing that. I think that just happened to be one of the plays they have run. We've seen it before, we just didn't do a good job in coverage, I thought."
Against Cooley, things are going to be just as difficult. But having experience against players like Dallas tight end Jason Witten and Pittsburgh's Heath Miller can only help.
"We're facing some good tight ends," Johnson said. "Witten, of course, is one of the better ones. Cooley is right up there, also. He's not quite as big, but this is a guy we've got to do a good job on. He has hurt people. He has hurt us, at times, in the past. We have to keep him under control. He is one of the good tight ends in the league. In this conference, especially, we have some of the better tight ends in the conference, we all know that."
- STEVE LIENERT
MORNHINWEG: SECOND-HALF ISSUES
One more touchdown certainly would have helped in Chicago.
The second-half woes for coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's offense continued last Sunday in Chicago, as the team has outscored itself by a 75-35 difference between the two halves, including a 30-point first half against Dallas in Week 2.
Mornhinweg doesn't have any exotic reasons for the discrepancy, but he admits fixing it is just about priority No. 1.
"We play a little bit better the first half, and we have to play a little bit better the second half. It's important to start fast, and it's equally or even more important to finish strong," Mornhinweg said. "And so, we have to do those things, and we have to do a little bit better job at the details that win the game."
One of those "details" would certainly be sustaining an extended drive to start the third quarter. Early in the second half at Soldier Field, rookie wide receiver DeSean Jackson broke off of a route, and Donovan McNabb threw the ball into the waiting arms of safety Kevin Payne.
Though the Eagles defense immediately returned the ball to the offense, the momentum was gone. Philadelphia was only able to put two field goals on the board in the second half. The lone sustained drive ended at the 1-yard line when defensive end Alex Brown grounded running back Correll Buckhalter.
"It's not normally what your opponent does; it's normally what you did when you come out of something like that. We simply just have to play a little bit better and execute a little bit better," Mornhinweg said. "I have to do a better job. Last week we came out of halftime and we were backed up and we popped it out. Then, all of a sudden we had a problem and turned it over."
It was the small details, Mornhinweg said, that came up short against Chicago. Missing blocks, dropping passes and overlooking holes all affected the Eagles adversely.
All of it leads to points – especially the big six at the end – being left on the field.
"What were we? First-and-goal at the 4 (-yard line) and then we got three (yards). It was a good play. And then, I thought they did an excellent job and then we didn't perform quite where we needed to be," Mornhinweg said. "That's what happens. You have to finish. You have make sure of the detail down there."
- JOE DOLAN