Haven't we been down this road before? The Eagles lose a big game. There is some kind of controversy regarding the quarterback position. Injuries hit the team hard. The reaction outside of the team is one of gloom and doom. The players aren't good enough. Changes have to be made. After all, we are talking about a catastrophic situation (I think we're up to crisis number 237 in the Reid era).
Inside the NovaCare complex, Reid and the players ignore the chaos. They go to work and focus on the things that they can control. More often than not, Reid and the team right the ship. That's exactly what I expect to happen this season.
Losing to Green Bay was disappointing. Seeing all the players get hurt was frustrating. You have to quit thinking about that stuff, though. It is time to focus on the Detroit Lions and move forward. You can't do anything about being 0-1. You can do what it takes to improve the record to 1-1.
Reid knows this. He won't be talking to the players about any quarterback controversy. He won't talk to the players about any of the controversial issues among fans and the media. Reid will talk to his players about the upcoming game against the Lions. Some people will find this hard to believe, but that kind of mentality, that kind of focus has allowed Reid to thrive during his time as Eagles coach.
Don't underestimate just how important that aspect of Reid's coaching style is. He provides a steadying influence that the players and other coaches can look to in turbulent times. Too often that kind of leadership is overlooked because people think a true leader is a coach that screams and gives fiery speeches. No way. A true leader is someone that other people look to for guidance. They trust him. Think about the 1980s. Both Mike Ditka and Bill Walsh had teams loaded with talent. Ditka's fiery style of coaching led to one great season and a Super Bowl win. Walsh was much more calm. That helped his teams to be more consistent and they won multiple titles and did some amazing things.
Over the years Reid, has built the Eagles into a hard-working, detail-oriented team. That serves us well over the long haul. The players aren't going to be as up and down with every peak and valley. There will always be bad games. How do you handle them? How do you react? Good football teams are mentally and emotionally tough. Players and coaches that fall into the trap of worrying about external factors are usually doomed to struggle. Let fans and the media say whatever they want. It won't matter on Sunday. Focus on what you control.
This is a young team and we don't know how they'll react, but I trust Andy Reid. He's the man you want running the show when things go a little crazy. Settle 'em down, coach 'em up, and go play the games.
Since we know Reid has the Eagles focused on the Lions, let's also talk about them. Detroit lost a heartbreaker last week to the Bears. Everyone has likely seen the Calvin Johnson non-catch/catch by now. That was only one of many frustrating moments for fans of the Lions. They led the game 14-3 late in the first half. A short screen pass to Matt Forte turned into a long touchdown to cut the score to 14-10. Then Julius Peppers awoke for his one big play of the game and sacked Matt Stafford. The ball was knocked loose and the Bears recovered it, setting up an easy field goal. Also, Stafford injured his shoulder and didn't return. The game was less than stellar in the second half, but things got cooking late. Jay Cutler hit Forte with a long pass down the left sideline for the winning touchdown. Good throw, great catch. The Lions marched down the field for the apparent winning touchdown only to have the NFL's worst rule rob them of the score. A day of frustration turned into a day of misery.
I was impressed with some of the Lions new and/or young players. Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch might have the best motor in the entire NFL. He had 10 solo tackles last week and was all over the field. Jason Peters will have his hands full with Vanden Bosch. Highly touted rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh played well. He's big and strong, but also has good athletic ability. Mike McGlynn and Nick Cole will spend a decent amount of time double-teaming Suh. You don't want that guy getting free and into the backfield.
The Lions added running back Jahvid Best late in the first round. He has an excellent burst and is very fast. They've lacked a big-time running threat for a long time. Best struggled last week, only running for 20 yards on 14 carries. Best is a typical rookie. He's got the talent, but he's trying to adjust to the pro game. The Lions do have one elite player on offense. Johnson is as good as anyone in the league. We won't have one player try to cover him. Johnson requires multiple players and he will be the focus of our coverage schemes.
The best way to slow down Johnson is to pressure the quarterback so that he doesn't have time to find his elite receiver. Trent Cole should win his battle with left tackle Jeff Backus. I expect Cole to be a force off the edge and disrupt the offense on a regular basis. Left end Brandon Graham could be a tough match for right tackle Gosder Cherilus. Graham is short and plays low. Cherilus is tall and plays a bit upright. That could lead to Graham getting around the edge and into the backfield. You know he'd love to get his first NFL sack in the state of Michigan, where he was a star player in college. I'm curious to see how well Brodrick Bunkley plays. He was very good last week. Was that just one game or is he going to break out and have a big-time year?
As for the man the line is trying to pressure, Stafford is out with the injury. We'll face Shaun Hill. He is a solid veteran player who has had some success in the league as a starter. Hill is a game manager-type of quarterback. He won't make mistakes, but also isn't likely to make great throws or any special plays with his legs. I fully expect us to put a lot of pressure on Hill.
The headline story for us is having Michael Vick start at quarterback. He showed last week that he can run the offense and lead us to points. One key thing to watch this week is how he runs. Mike Kafka is the backup for now. We need Vick to be judicious when he runs. He's got to think like a starter now and that means being careful about taking hits.
I'm going to be real interested to see what we do with the run game. Vick has been used as a runner during his time here. I think the coaches will dial that back. I hope that means more carries for Shady McCoy and Mike Bell. McCoy looked terrific last week. We need to feed him the ball. Let's see just how good he can be. I'm sure we'll test the Lions with screen passes since the Bears had the one long touchdown on a screen last week.
We must get the ball to DeSean Jackson. He is our most dynamic offensive player. He never got fully involved in the game last week. Give the Packers defense some credit for that. We can't have that situation repeat itself. Jackson is too good to be limited in consecutive games. Reid and Marty Mornhinweg need to come up with some ways to get Jackson the ball on the first drive. I think we'll see at least one deep ball go Jackson's way early in the game. He's got the speed to run right through the Lions defense.
I expect our defense to play well this week. Green Bay has an explosive attack. The Lions aren't anywhere close to that. We do have one major lineup change. Omar Gaither will take over at middle linebacker for Stewart Bradley. Gaither struggled last week, but he's had a full week of practice. I'm sure Gaither is dying to get on the field as a starter and have a big game. The defense showed a lot of promise last week, but is definitely a work in progress. The run defense needs to be tighter. There were some coverage breakdowns. These are the kinds of mistakes you expect from a unit with so much change. The talent is there, but the kinks need to get worked out.
This is an important game. You don't want to fall to 0-2 if you expect to contend for a playoff spot. Also, you want to give the young team a taste of success. Getting the first win is important. Making it a road win would be even better. You know that Vick will do everything he can to get us the win. You know that Cole and Graham will be a force on defense. Ernie Sims is returning to his former home and I'm sure he'll play with a special sense of urgency. Sunday is a big chance for the 2010 Eagles. Tough times don't last. Tough teams do.