In the NFL, seasons turn around quickly. So instead of lamenting the loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday -- we've done enough of that -- it's time to look ahead and focus on New Orleans and find ways to turn 2012 in the right direction.
Where to begin? Let's start on defense, where Todd Bowles has a lot of work to do to fashion the defense the way he wants it to be. The challenge directly ahead is quarterback Drew Brees and the explosive Saints offense. Brees is an expert at getting the football out quickly and accurately. He has excellent weapons, starting with tight end Jimmy Graham, who is the latest test for rookie SAM linebacker Mychal Kendricks. The second-round draft pick has already been exposed to a variety of tight ends, including Sunday's battlle against Tony Gonzalez. I liked the way Kendricks fought. Gonzalez had 3 receptions. Kendricks was physical, and, yeah, I know he was called for two penalties, two against Gonzalez and one against wide receiver Roddy White.
Kendricks wasn't perfect. Certainly, him being sidelined for the first series after reportedly missing a team meeting was a mistake, and I venture to say that he won't make the same error again. But Kendricks is one of the young players to build and develop in this defense, and he is someone on whom Bowles can count on improving weekly.
Bowles has to figure out some way to manufacture a consistent pass rush against Brees, who is a surgical quarterback. The Eagles aren't going to dazzle Brees with formations and games up front. They are going to have to win individual battles and execute Bowles' strategy to near perfection against Brees and the Saints passing game, as well as a decent New Orleans running game that really hasn't cranked it up this season.
Personnel moves? I don't know. We'll see. There are a lot of questions about what's going on up front as Jason Babin's plays were reduced on Sunday and Phillip Hunt played nary a snap at defensive end against the Falcons and Trent Cole was very, very quiet. Where is the pass rush? What can Bowles do to get it going again?
It begins there, and then it moves through the linebackers and their responsibilitiies in the passing game and in the running game. The back four clearly has to be better, and a good pass rush would absolutely help the corners and safeties down the field.
Don't give up on the defense. Bowles is a good coach who learned a lot about his players on Sunday. He'll challenge this group. He's going to make some tweaks and find some success in New Orleans.
Offensively, the big question comes at quarterback amid conflicting reports about who will start on Monday night. I think the Eagles will stick with Michael Vick, but that's just a guess. It wouldn't surprise me either way. Andy Reid knows this team needs a spark, and maybe that is the place to do something radical. Maybe not.
In any case, the offense must continue working to improve. Clearly, the approach against this offense is to blitz Vick and to bring more pass rushers than the offensive line can handle and Vick took a lot of hits on Sunday. I just wonder how much difference some early success would make. How good would this team be with a double-digit lead early in a game? They would have a defense on its heels and could dictate and run the football and, oh well, let's just see what happens when the Eagles get to that point.
It's important that the playerrs report back to the NovaCare Complex on Thursday -- Tuesday and Wednesday are days off -- with a positive attitude, with some fire in their blood. This is a critical time for the team, for the franchise. The Eagles need a win in the worst way to get to 4-4 and head into the NFC East schedule with a bit of momentum.
Green Bay made the playoffs in 2010 on the final weekend of the season and the Giants also went 9-7 last year on their way to a Super Bowl win. That's life in the NFL. There is a ton of season to go, but there isn't much margin remaining for error. The Eagles need a win, and they need to turn it around right now.
The focus is on the Saints and nothing else. The Eagles need a wiin in the worst way to turn things around and maybe, just maybe make a run ahead.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- I don't know for sure, it appeared to me that Dennis Kelly did a pretty good job at right guard in place of Danny Watkins. I assume Watkins gets his job back when he's healthy, but Kelly went out on Sunday and battled.
- That said, the running game really needs a boost. LeSean McCoy scored twice and had to create to gain just about every one of his yards.
- As I see it, Cedric Thornton makes the most plays of any of the defensive linemen on the field. He has really come a long way. Kid has a nice future.
- Mat McBriar seems to have found his stride, and Alex Henery has been money all season. The kicking game is fine, just fine.