The Eagles made a lot of mistakes in the Atlanta game. Donovan McNabb was sloppy with some throws. There were also missed blocks and a couple of dropped passes. We had some costly penalties, on both sides of the ball. We dropped several potential interceptions. The pass rush wasn't nearly what it needed to be.
The good news is that all of this happened in a 34-7 blowout victory.
I'm not really sure what to make of the game. We won going away, which is great. Atlanta played backups at several key positions and that really hurt them. At the same time, we weren't exactly playing at full strength ourselves. I think not playing your A-game or being at full strength and still blowing someone out is a good sign. That shows the kind of talent and depth you have. Atlanta did struggle, but we had a lot to do with that. We outplayed them on offense, defense and special teams.
I'm utterly disappointed by the blown shutout. We last held someone scoreless in November of 1996. That's ages ago. Andy Reid was a little known assistant in Green Bay. Those Packers had not yet won a Super Bowl. Tom Brady was a freshman at Michigan. Ray Rhodes and Bobby Hoying had bright futures in Philadelphia. I was still a year away from getting online with a sweet 28K dial-up connection.
Ah, the good old days.
We've had a strong defense throughout the Andy Reid era, but we can't get a shutout. That frustrates the heck out of me. To let the Falcons score on the final play of the game was torturous. I wish they had kicked a field goal on the drive prior to halftime. That way I could have enjoyed the second half instead of sitting on pins and needles and hoping for the goose egg. Alas, it was not to be.
</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He's followed the team for almost 20 years. Tommy has been trained by an NFL scout in the art of scouting and player evaluation and runs www.scoutsnotebook.com.</td> </tr> </tbody>
Some quick thoughts from the game:
• We had more than 100 RAC (run after catch) yards on the day. That's always a good sign for our offense.
• Leonard Weaver had a terrific game. He had a 59-yard catch and run. He also caught a touchdown pass. Weaver led the team with 37 yards rushing on five carries. He blocked well on run and pass plays.
• Michael Vick played his best game as an Eagle. This was about the ideal performance from him. Vick completed a downfield pass. He ran for a short touchdown and threw for a score. I'm sure Sunday's game will boost his confidence. It will be interesting to see if that affects his level of play in the final month.
• Sheldon Brown picked off a pass and ran it back 83 yards for a touchdown. That was our third defensive touchdown of the year. I get asked why we sometimes have cornerbacks play off in coverage instead of pressing. That play is why. Brown was able to read the receiver and sneak a peek at the quarterback. He read the play, jumped the route and was off to the races.
• Asante Samuel had his best day as a tackler. He had one form tackle, but got players down with forceful hits a couple of other times.
• Mike Patterson was a force in the middle. He was able to disrupt some plays with penetration. He made some tackles on other plays. That's what you want from a defensive tackle in the run game.
• Trent Cole had a quiet day according to the stat sheet, but he still impacted the game. He got a couple of big shots on quarterback Chris Redman. Cole blew up a couple of run plays with penetration.
• We got another strong showing from Jason Avant. He caught three passes. Also drew a flag on a third down play and that moved the chains. Had a touchdown catch nullified by a penalty on Max Jean-Gilles. Avant ran great routes and sold his fakes well to consistently get open. Young receivers should study Avant to learn how to play the game.
• Eldra Buckley got to play more than usual and had a good game. He helped us convert on a fourth-and-one situation on the opening drive of the second half. He then came into the game in the fourth quarter as the primary runner. Buckley finished with eight carries for 33 yards. He showed vision, patience and burst. Tough runner. He didn't go down on first contact. Buckley was going to fight for every yard. Helped us to take more than five minutes off the clock on that final drive.
I am starting to get quite a few questions about draft needs. We can only put together a tenuous list at this point because we don't know what pro personnel moves will be made. We can't even really guess about that side of things because of the lack of a labor deal. We don't know who will be a free agent or what kind of rules and restrictions will be in place.
I think the Eagles have two primary needs. We must find a pass rusher to play opposite of Trent Cole. We have tried a variety of players on the left side. We've had varying degrees of success, but no one has emerged as ""the guy."" Juqua Parker lacks ideal size, but he makes some clutch plays and is tougher than a two-dollar steak. Victor Abiamiri is a good run defender, but has yet to show pass rush ability from the edge. Jason Babin shows excellent flashes, but we need a consistent answer. Chris Clemons has excellent speed, but he's disappointed me this year with his lack of production.
The other need is at cornerback. Brown and Samuel are terrific starters. Joselio Hanson is very good in the slot. We need a young guy to develop as a starter for the future. That was supposed to be Jack Ikegwuonu, but he didn't work out as hoped. Macho Harris has played safety and corner. I'm not sure what the coaches think of his future position. Good cover corners are crucial in our system. I think we need to take one pretty early in the draft. The best corners tend to come out of the first couple of rounds.
Future At Free Safety
People are also curious about the future at free safety. As of now the position is completely open. Sean Jones is the current starter, but he is scheduled to be a free agent. Also, I think Jones is ideally a strong safety. He has the physical ability to play either spot, but I don't know that he has the instincts to be the long term answer at free safety. You really want someone who understands that preventing big plays can be almost as important as making plays.
There have been a few instances this year when Jones was coming up toward the box instead of staying in deep coverage. The one thing someone playing deep safety has to remember is stay ""deeper than the deepest."" Don't ever let anyone get behind you. This isn't natural for Jones. He seems to have an aggressive personality. Also, he doesn't always take good angles. A free safety must pursue the ball with the focus being to prevent a big play. Always err on the side of caution. Taking too shallow a pursuit angle on a play along the sideline can turn a good gain into a touchdown.
We have Quintin Demps and Macho Harris as possible solutions. I know neither guy has shown so much this year that you think he is definitely the answer, but both have a lot of potential. Demps has ideal size and speed. Harris is very instinctive
If we look for help in the draft, it would only make sense to spend a high pick. Someone taken in the mid-rounds would be similar to Demps and Harris. We'd have to aggressively move up to go after a guy like Eric Berry. He is an elite playmaker on the college level and has great ability. Taylor Mays of USC should be available in our range and could be of interest. He has the best size/speed numbers of any safety in the draft, but lacks top instincts and ball skills.