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Offense In Focus As Eagles Prepare For Giants

Keep the ball in DeSean Jackson's hands. But make sure, as the Eagles move forward and enter their preparation phase for Sunday's game against the Giants, that they keep everyone else involved, too. Philadelphia has converted 6 of its last 31 third-down plays, an alarming drop off for a West Coast offense that in the past has been able to dink and dunk and move the chains and then go up top for the big play down the field.

Missing these last couple of weeks is the short- and intermediate-passing game. And, of course, consistency in the running game. The Eagles gave the running game a chance on Monday night in the 27-17 win over the Redskins. They opened with three called runs on the first four snaps and the third run was an end around to Jackson that went for 67 yards and a touchdown. Two Brian Westbrook runs started the drive and gained 8 yards an then a completion to Brent Celek went for 6 yards. Then Jackson took it to the house and the Eagles celebrated.

They weren't done offensively, but they also didn't put together much of anything else the rest of the game. On their second drive, the Eagles picked up two first downs, one on a third-and-1 run by Leonard Weaver, before having the drive stall on an errant third-down pass to Celek. The throw was off, one of a handful that Donovan McNabb missed in the game.

From that point through the end of the first half, the Eagles gained two first downs. One was a screen pass to LeSean McCoy that went for 15 yards on a first-and-10 play. The other was McNabb's 57-yard touchdown throw to Jackson that converted a third-and-22 snap.

The second half? Forgetaboutit. The Eagles generated all of five first downs. Not much of anything worked and the Eagles scored nary a point.

Now, Andy Reid didn't want to dwell on the things his team needs to work on when he had his post-game press conference. He wanted to enjoy the much-needed win, if only for a few hours. At this point, Reid and his coaching staff are, I'm sure, ready to "go back to basics."

Maybe that's it. Maybe the Eagles are too tricked-up offensively. Maybe they have lost the move-the-chains mentality and are too reliant on the long ball. Maybe they need to re-evaluate the "Wild Eagle," which gained a few first downs on Monday night but generally has been more fizzle than sizzle since the Kansas City game.

Maybe, with the Giants coming to town snarling after losing two straight games, the Eagles need to use the short- and intermediate-passing game more and set up Jackson down the field. All of a sudden, Jason Avant isn't a factor in the offense. Celek had a measly 3 catches and 8 yards against the Skins. Had it not been for an Eagles defense that registered six quarterback sacks and four takeaways, the Redskins might have been right in Monday night's game.

Devising plays that require seven-step drops by McNabb against the Giants probably isn't the most prudent approach. New York is very aggressive off the line of scrimmage led by ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. New York gave up some yards to the Cardinals on Sunday night, but when Kurt Warner and Arizona have it going on, there are few teams capable of stopping the Cardinals.

There are reasons for concern about the offense here. The line hasn't played with any kind of consistency with a revolving door of personnel lining up. Todd Herremans should be much better in his second game back from injury than he was in his first game back, and that is an encouraging thought. Nick Cole and Stacy Andrews -- who I thought had had his best game working in with Cole -- have to play well at right guard. Sunday is a huge test for Justice, working against the superstar Tuck. We will know for sure how good Justice is after this game. He has played well, has been a pleasant surprise. But Tuck is Justice's great challenge to date.

Left tackle Jason Peters has to be letter perfect in this game. The Giants are going to overload on an edge, bring blitzes from every angle, try to get after McNabb and force turnovers and stunted drives.

It is a huge, huge chore. Reid said that Brian Westbrook has a chance to play on Sunday and that he is "counting on that he will be there," and that would be a positive development after Westbrook suffered a concussion against Washington. Really, though, as we have discussed here, the offense is a click or two away from being on track. It is not just a matter of running the football more and balancing out the pass/run ratio. It is a matter of execution, and the Eagles aren't consistently finishing their plays. They've had too many penalties, too many mental mistakes, too many missed opportunities.

At the same time, they did ring up 27 points on Washington in the first half on Monday night. The defense had a big part in that, yes, but that is the way the NFL works. Opening the game with seven points set the tone.

No question the Eagles must play their best football of the season to beat New York. The offense has to step up as the game plan takes a turn toward a more, maybe, restrained approach.

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