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Fan-Demonium: Midseason Fix-It List


The loss to Dallas leaves us with a record of 5-3 at the midpoint of the season. I started to think about that on Monday. Good? Bad? Initially I was disappointed. I fully expected the Eagles to be a 12-win kind of team in 2009. As I thought about the season something occurred to me.

The Eagles I expected to go 12-4 were going to start Shawn Andrews at right tackle. Kevin Curtis was going to be the X-receiver. Brian Westbrook would be the focal point of the offense. Stewart Bradley was going to be a Pro Bowl type of middle linebacker. That's a lot of firepower. It is also a lot of experience.

Instead, we have Winston Justice, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy starting on offense. Joe Mays didn't pan out as the starting middle linebacker, so the team had to turn to Omar Gaither. He got hurt and we had to trade for Will Witherspoon. That's a lot of youth, as well as a lot of change.

I never really adjusted my expectations or thoughts about the season. The Eagles always have such good depth and prepare so well that I guess I never took the time to really sit back and re-think things. Last season's more veteran team also started 5-3. McNabb hadn't missed a game. Westbrook had 96 touches and eight touchdowns at that point.

Now we're halfway done with 2009 and Westbrook only has 58 touches and two touchdowns. Think about that for a second. In the past the offense could be really stagnant if Westbrook missed time. He's barely played this year and we're still one of the top scoring teams in the league.

Things aren't as bad as they may seem. I think two factors are at work. The loss to Oakland really stings. That will haunt us all season long. Add in the disappointing result from Sunday night and it feels like things have gone awry. That isn't the case. We just hate losing to the Cowboys so much that it skews our sense of things.

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The team still has a chance to win 11 or 12 games. I don't think going undefeated is realistic, so I'm not going to address that possibility. The Eagles have normally been a very good team down the stretch during Andy Reid's tenure. There is no guarantee that will happen this year, though. Remember, this is a young team. How will Maclin, McCoy, and Justice respond to the pressure of the stretch run? You also have to consider the veteran additions. Guys like Leonard Weaver, Sean Jones, Jason Babin, Peters and Witherspoon have never been part of the late-season successes in Philadelphia. However, the players I mentioned do seem like high-character veterans who want to win and will do what it takes.

There is enough talent and veteran leadership that I expect the team to play well and earn a postseason berth. Donovan McNabb, DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek and Westbrook are playmakers. Trent Cole, Brodrick Bunkley, Quintin Mikell, Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown are defensive stalwarts. David Akers is kicking the ball really well this year and we've got good returners. Mix in a good coaching staff and I think this group will have a solid finish and return to the playoffs.

Last year, we had to sneak into the playoffs, but were good enough to win a couple of games. This team has more talent so that raised expectations. The goal this year was to win the division and maybe even get a bye week. If you can have a better season it will make things easier in the playoffs. Winning at Minnesota and New York was tough last year. That finally caught up to the team on the trip to Arizona.

Can we still win the division? Yes, I think so. We're only a game out of first place and we get to face the Cowboys again. We've seen that team fade in previous Decembers so as long as we take care of our own business I think we'll have a chance.

What does the team need to do in the second half of the regular season? The most important area to fix is the offensive line. We must get some continuity. There has been entirely too much shuffling. We need the guys to get healthy and stay that way. Playing on our line has been almost as dangerous as being a drummer for Spinal Tap. The only positions of real stability are center, with Jamaal Jackson, and right tackle, with Justice. We expected the new faces would have the summer to come together and build a cohesive style of play. That never happened.

The line has gotten better in recent games. Todd Herremans missed the first five games of the year, but he's back in place. That's huge. Peters needs to stay healthy. If Stacy Andrews can continue to get better he could be a big help at right guard. We aren't where we need to be, but the line is at least headed in the right direction.

We need Westbrook to be more of a factor. McCoy has filled in nicely, but Westbrook can still be a difference-maker at times. We need him on the field. We've also got to find a way to get Jackson more involved on offense. Last season, he had 80 offensive touches. Through eight games this year, he's only got 33. Jackson is too dynamic of a weapon not to get the ball more. Throw it short. Throw it long. Use him on end arounds or Wildcat snaps. Get him touches.

I don't have a lot of major problems with the defense. The tackling has been sloppy at times, but that has improved recently. I would like to see better play from the safety position. We've got two interceptions, one sack and three tackles-for-loss from the position. We need more production. Covering tight ends has been an issue. Sean McDermott has been working on that for a couple of weeks.

The biggest overall thing for the team is to get into a groove. 2009 has been filled with ups and downs. There hasn't been a good flow to this point. The best Eagles teams have got hot and gone on a good run late in the year. We'll see if this group can do that.

Quick Recap Of Sunday's Game Vs. Dallas

Dave Spadaro already wrote a pretty good column covering the game and the multitude of mistakes that led to the loss. There's no need to rehash everything. There are a couple of things worth mentioning. The Eagles didn't play a bad game overall. Dallas made a couple of more plays and made fewer mistakes. That was the difference.

Also, this loss can't be blamed on one person or play. The officiating didn't cost the Eagles the game. Neither Reid nor McNabb is solely to blame. Same for Sheldon Brown and every other guy that made a costly mistake. This was a group effort. A team can overcome mistakes by making big time plays. Unfortunately, that didn't happen on Sunday night.

Some positives from the game:

  • LeSean McCoy had 18 touches for 115 all-purpose yards, making it his most productive game of the year. He had a 45-yard gain on a screen pass as well as runs of 17 and 14 yards.
  • Jason Babin got to the quarterback again for a sack and just missed a second one. He is making things happen. The Eagles need to find a way to keep him on the field even when Victor Abiamiri returns.
  • The Eagles played good run defense. Dallas came in averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Their backs had 19 carries for just 73 yards Sunday night.
  • Akers nailed three field goals, all longer than 45 yards.
  • Trent Cole added another sack, giving him 7.5 for the season.
  • Jason Avant made a spectacular catch down the left seam to convert a third-and-6.
  • Brent Celek continued his great season. He added three catches and a touchdown. We need to get him to the Pro Bowl. While he's there, someone get his picture with T.C., Rick and Higgins.
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