Now, the attention turns to Jacksonville on Sunday and on welcoming back Kevin Kolb and Stewart Bradley to the lineup and on improving the mistakes the coaches have seen through two weeks. This is the settling-in period of the NFL season and you see it across the league. Teams are learning what they have and what they don't have, so coaching staffs and adjustments must make adjustments on the fly.
With the Eagles, of course, the questions seem quite obvious. The offense, as potent as it has been at times, needs to be more consistent from the line of scrimmage and then on through to the skill-position players. The defense shows signs of dominance but has yet to put together 60 total minutes. The special teams have some bright spots, but they are still making too many mistakes, committing too many penalties and losing valuable real estate on the change of possession.
At the same time, there is a whole lot to like. LeSean McCoy is averaging 6.7 yards per carry, with 155 yards and 4 touchdowns in two weeks. Jeremy Maclin has a pair of scores and DeSean Jackson was as explosive as ever in the win over the Lions. Rookies Brandon Graham and Nate Allen are making the kind of immediate, big-play impact the Eagles hoped they would make. The rotation up front has been positive and the pass rush has generally been quite good. Cornerbacks Ellis Hobbs and Asante Samuel have played well.
When the Eagles put it all together ...
In time, in time. The scene is the same across the landscape in the league, trust me. What the Eagles need to do now is build around their strengths, fortify their weaknesses with their scheme and go week to win in search of victories. Here are some top-level issues worth discussing ...
**How Do Eagles Better Handle The Blitz?
The book is clearly established on how to attack the Eagles' offense. Teams are blitzing with quite a bit of success. Michael Vick's ability to escape saved a lot of lost yardage in Detroit, but he still absorbed some major hits. Kevin Kolb isn't as mobile as is Vick, but he has quick feet and can get out of trouble by using his feet. Still, the Eagles need to be much better against the blitz. Look for some significant coaching adjustments to be made, whether they come in the form of technique or scheme.
Will the Eagles go to more three-step-drop throws for Kolb? Will they spread the field and run more with McCoy out of the shotgun with the field spread, as they did with great success in Detroit? Or will the Eagles have more maximum-protection calls when they see the blitz forming on the other side of the ball?
This is a telling game, then. Jacksonville has a stout defensive line, but the Jaguars have been hit hard in the passing game and the secondary has some question marks. Conventional theory suggests the Eagles will throw the ball to their explosive weapons on Sunday. The best way to back off a blitz is to push the ball down the field, especially if there is no safety in the middle of the field. A couple of those throws to Jackson in Detroit came against that "zero" blitz and the Eagles made the Lions pay for bringing the heat.
That said, there is also the man-on-man element to consider. The Eagles simply have to be better up front.
Feed McCoy Early And Often
Based on what he showed last year and through the first two weeks of this season, McCoy is ready to break out. He is running with more power and confidence and is breaking tackles and, well, the young man has four touchdowns in three weeks. Is McCoy ready to be the next outstanding Eagles running back?
He deserves his touches. McCoy is catching the football nicely and is in command in the running game. Look for him to get his 15-20 carries each week as the Eagles earn some respect in the running game.
Defense: Consistency Is The Key
What an up-and-down performance against Detroit. It was very apparent early that the Eagles had their hands full with running back Javid Best, who has that rare ability to one-cut up the field in the running game and to destroy a defense catching the football in space. For half of the second quarter and the entire third quarter -- and even into the fourth quarter -- the defense played well in Detroit. Good pressure, forced turnovers, got off the field.
But the defense had a tough time as the Eagles fell behind 17-7 and then, of course, finishing the game strongly. The Eagles need to learn to put 60 minutes of defensive football together. They had their moments of dominance in the opener against Green Bay, too, so the ability is there.
The linebackers have to make more plays than they have made so far. Detroit had great success getting the ball to Best and tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the passing game and the Lions took advantage of some matchups in the middle of the field. Having Stewart Bradley back should help a great deal in every phase of the defense.
There are a lot of good things going on with the defense, but just not enough over a span of 60 minutes. Juqua Parker has been a beast with three sacks. Graham and Trent Cole are coming hard off the edge, and Graham has shown excellent pass-rush ability inside at tackle. The secondary, despite giving up a couple of touchdown passes to Aaron Rodgers in the opener, has grown together early.
But Sean McDermott is going to keep preaching the fundamentals: The tackling must be more consistent, the blitzes have to get home, the coverage must improve.
The defense is a work in progress, but it is a promising work in progress. Big test on Sunday against an efficient quarterback in David Garrard and the talents of running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
What Is Happening On Special Teams?
Sav Rocca ranks second in the league in net punting average and has been superb, absolutely fantastic. David Akers has his stroke on field goals and his kickoffs have been outstanding. The coverage was improved in Week 2 vs. Week 1, but there were still mistakes. The Eagles blew a chance to down a Rocca punt inside the 5-yard line and instead settled for a touchback. Rookie Kurt Coleman, who has played well on special teams, committed two penalties in Detroit. Riley Cooper failed to handle an onsides kick.
Coordinator Bobby April is looking for ways to get the return game going with Hobbs on kickoffs and Jackson on punts. Those two have the ability to turn games around with their return skills.
There is much work to do here. I still say the presence of April will add one or two wins to this season. He knows he has to tighten things up in every phase, and he will get it done.
And Finally, Anybody Want To Talk Quarterback?
There is so much to discuss and, yet, what is there to say? Vick was remarkable in Detroit after his outstanding performance against Green Bay, but now Kolb has the starting role. This is his team and he deserves to be the starter. The Eagles want to build around Kolb, and they want to support him on and off the field.
For Kolb to have success, of course, he is going to have to involve everyone in the offense. The game plan has to be a smart one that allows him to have early success. And everyone has to do his job around Kolb.
The Eagles are trying to build some momentum here, and a win in Jacksonville is critical with an NFC East game looms against Washington. There is a lot of promise, a lot to build upon, as the team takes shape in 2010.