As the coaches reviewed the game film from the loss in Pittsburgh, they saw a team that simply didn't have it. How else to explain three Michael Vick interceptions, all of the turnovers, the poor defensive first half and the general lack of intensity and execution. The page has been turned, and with that the Eagles can center their energies on what really matters.
This is not to dismiss the poor performance at Heinz Field. The Steelers provided the blueprint for what opponents would love to do against the Eagles. Pittsburgh moved the chains offensively and strung together long, time-consuming drives. They mixed the run and pass very well. They countered the up-the-field pressure with a nifty screen game. Defensively, the Steelers covered very well down the field and contained Vick and, well, the entire first half stunk from an Eagles perspective.
Now we look beyond that poor performance and center on some things going on with the Eagles as they start practice at the NovaCare Complex minus the huge crowds that filled Lehigh University every day with Midnight Green and chants of E-A-G-L-E-S-, EAGLES chants ...
The Injury Front: A Big Week For Progress
Over the course of the next few days the Eagles are going to get some of their injured players back on the field as they point toward September 11 and the St. Louis Rams. Defensive tackles Mike Patterson, Antonio Dixon and Trevor Laws are close. Right offensive tackle Winston Justice could get back on the field very soon, bringing some stability to that position.
We haven't heard updates about defensive end Juqua Parker (calf) or offensive tackle Ryan Harris (back spasms). And, of course, the return of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to the team and to some conditioning work is going to be a major story over the weekend.
How about wide receiver Steve Smith? He continues to be optimistic about his chances of playing in St. Louis, and to accomplish that he has to get on field to practice in the next week or so, at least.
That's quite a bit of star power on the sidelines. As good as the Eagles' roster looks now, it's going to be even better once the injured players return. That the team has played two preseason games without suffering any major injuries is the best news of all with the Rams waiting a few weeks away.
Are The Eagles Set On Defense?
It appears that they are, indeed. If the Eagles really wanted to bring in a veteran player of some significance for the defense, they would likely have done it by now. It isn't like a player is going to come in here and make an impact right away. There is just too much to learn.
For all of you wondering how the Eagles are going to handle the middle linebacker position and rookie Casey Matthews, it appears they are going to stick with him and give him more reps and more chances to learn. Matthews didn't appear to play particularly well in Pittsburgh, but I'm not sure anyone did on defense. Matthews remains the main in the middle.
If the Eagles want to move pieces around internally, they know they have Jamar Chaney at the ready. He played well last year at MIKE, but the system was quite a bit different.
Juan Castillo's chore is to get everyone on the same page. The defense clearly wasn't as the Steelers moved the football up and down the field. Castillo experimented with a lot of different looks and use of personnel, and there are things he will look to use in the future and maybe some things he will cross off the list.
There is no panic here. The Eagles know they have a deep and talented defense with excellent coaching. They must execute a whole lot better than they did against Pittsburgh or they are going to pay the price, and there are some areas the coaches must improve.
The Eagles have had three weeks to work together. Three weeks. To expect perfection is foolhardy. To expect progress after a downer of a game in Pittsburgh is reasonable.
Should Anyone Be Considered With QB Vick?
There isn't a soul within the organization that thinks Vick is slumping. Not one bit. He had a terrible game in Pittsburgh and he wore the frustration on his face the entire time. "Humble pie" is how Vick described the feeling after the 24-14 loss. That certainly was true. Vick rushed his throws, looked uncomfortable in the pocket and wasn't very active at all.
But there is no reason to worry. Vick isn't running in the preseason. He isn't throwing to his starting receivers. He is working on pieces of his game, here and there. Vick was terrific the week before against Baltimore, so he is 1-1 in the preseason.
Don't worry about Vick. He is going to have a superstar season in 2011.
In Other News ...
- How does the division look? The Giants are the Week 3 opponents, and they could very well be without defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who had knee surgery on Friday. That's huge. The Giants have had quite a few ups and downs this offseason. Washington has played good football in the preseason and seems destined to go with John Beck at quarterback. The Cowboys have been quiet. Tough to get a read on that team right now.
- Cleveland comes to town for preseason game No. 3 on Thursday. Quarterback Colt McCoy is off to a good start for the Browns, and receiver Greg Little looks like a promising rookie. I expect the Eagles to go with their starters into the second half.
- Too bad the Eagles didn't give rookie placekicker Alex Henery any chances in the field goal game on Thursday. He kicked off well and executed his PATs, and is building confidence day by day. Same with punter Chas Henry, who had a 53-yard punt in his only effort.
- Saturday's practice is closed to the media. And, just for your information, we aren't able to film practices from this point forward. We hope you continue to tune in to *Eagles Live! *every day from the NovaCare Complex.