Whether or not Hank Baskett and/or Kevin Curtis plays on Sunday in Washington, the task remains the same. The expectations don't change. The Eagles have to throw the football to make big plays and they have to count on their entire receiving corps to contribute. The show continues. That's the way it is in the NFL. If you don't have depth, you don't win.
The Eagles are finding out that they have depth on offense. The wide receivers thrived early in the season when starters Reggie Brown and Curtis were out with injuries. The offensive line has played well with three players used at right guard. They have moved the ball and scored points with Brian Westbrook out, with Correll Buckhalter sidelined.
In the case of injuries to Curtis and Baskett, the Eagles may have to go with Brown, who has been inactive the last couple of games and who has had a disappointing season. What is interesting, even in the light of Brown's obvious demotion, was the way Andy Reid and the coaches treated Brown. They spoke highly of him. They tried to keep his spirits up. They knew they would need Brown again, and perhaps this is the weekend they find out just how much they need him to play and to play well.
If this means anything, Brown has played very well against Washington in his career. He has 25 receptions for 428 yards and 4 touchdowns in seven games against Washington, averaging 17.1 yards per catch. Brown is a talented receiver, good releasing off the line of scrimmage and quick in his route running.
He has had the kind of season that tests any player, and Brown is clearly at a crossroads in his career. Maybe he will respond in a positive manner to his fall from the starting lineup and come back with the fire and the intensity and the focus that has not always been part of his game. Brown has the skills. He is strong. He is quick. He is fast enough to get down the field. He makes plays with the ball in his hands.
Brown's challenge has always been to be more consistent catching the football. He spent a lot of time in the off-season in that part of his game and then was the go-to receiver in training camp as the Eagles tried to get him into the flow right away. But Brown suffered a series of nagging injuries late in the summer and his season has just not taken flight.
Now, he may have a chance on Sunday. We don't yet know if Curtis and/or Baskett will play against Washington. We do know that the beat must continue, no matter who is playing wide receiver, or running back, or offensive line, or any position.
*NEWS AND NOTES AND THIS AND THAT *
- The Eagles have allowed 21 receptions to opposing tight ends in the last eight games after permitting 39 receptions in the first six games. The reason for the turnaround? I'm sure it is a variety of things, but Chris Gocong has improved in his coverage ability and the Eagles are doing a good job mixing coverages and taking the tight end away. Biggest tests are coming with Chris Cooley and Jason Witten ahead.
- I had a question on the Discussion Boards asking who I would "blame" for the Eagles' late first-half woes on offense. So I went to the team's Media Relations department and they provided this statistic: The Eagles have scored 40 points in the final two minutes of the first half of games, ranking fifth in the league in that category. Dallas leads with 47 points. Now, the Eagles have made some mistakes -- a couple of blocked field goals, an interception in the end zone -- but the fact is that they are scoring a lot of points in the two-minute situation. It has to get better, of course. But the Eagles are doing a pretty good job there already.
- I'm looking at Brodrick Bunkley the other night, watching him very closely, and I am seeing a player who is playing quite well against the run. He is active, he is pushing the man around in front of him and he is getting to the ball. Bunkley has made good strides there. The next step is for Bunkley to become a force as a pass rusher. Once he does that, Bunkey will be a Pro Bowl tackle.
- Have you noticed how improved the special teams have been this year in coverage? Good test against Washington's group on Sunday. The Eagles must lock down on kickoff return man Rock Cartwright.
- Trent Cole won't see Chris Samuels on Sunday and Cole won't miss Samuels a bit. The Pro Bowl left tackle has always been a warrior and his battles against Hugh Douglas and now Cole are something special to watch. "He's a great player, one of the best if not the best," said Cole. "It's hard to replace a guy like that. I'm going to go out there and play as hard as I can and see what happens." What is going to happen is the Redskins are going to double-team Cole on every snap and probably keep a back in to chip, too. Look for a lot of three-step drops from quarterback Jason Campbell.