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Offensive System Works If Done The Right Way

This is a conversation about the X's and O's of the West Coast offense the way the Eagles run it, or hope to run it every week. It is a scheme built of variety when it is working right -- plays from the same formations that have so many variables that the truth is there is just no way one play is the same as another.

There have been times in this up-and-down season when the Eagles offense has been a shell of what the coaching staff wants it to be. There have been too many slow starts, too many stalled short-yardage situations and some early-season troubles in goal-to-go opportunities. The running game has been both a benefit and a bystander, and quarterback Donovan McNabb has had some of the craziest Yin and Yang moments of his career.

And in the course of trying to figure out where and how and why the offense has not played at a high level, the scheme has generally gotten much of the blame.

So I went to an expert to ask this question: Can the scheme the Eagles run offensively work at a high level in the NFL?

"Of course this scheme can work in the NFL. I think the scheme is fine. The execution of the scheme has been inconsistent of late," said ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski. "This is an aggressive, attacking scheme that attacks all levels of the field. It's a scheme based on creating matchups. It's a scheme based on protection, and the Eagles do a great job with their protection scheme.

"I have no problem with the scheme."

The good news is that the Eagles are averaging 26.4 points per game, sixth in the league. They are sixth in total offensive yards. They are fourth in the passing game.

On the flip side, the Eagles rank 26th in rushing and had had many, many problems in short-yardage situations.

Is the scheme to blame for the inconsistency? I'm sure there are moments, yes, but not entirely.

"It is a combination of things," said Jaworski. "The Eagles are going to look back and see how much the problems in short-yardage situations have hurt them this year. That, and the inconsistency running the football, throwing it at times, executing all around."

Let's make this very clear: Everyone and everything shares in the blame. The Eagles are working hard to correct the offensive problems in time to beat Baltimore on Sunday in what Jaworski predicts will be "an old-fashioned street fight." And a lot of things have to get better to carve some big plays into the Ravens' defense.

"The offense has to start much faster and Donovan McNabb has to get into a rhythm right away," said Jaworski. "He knows it. He watches the tape and sees opportunities that he is missing. The Eagles could run the ball a little bit more, too. If you keep throwing it and you see Donovan isn't on top of his game, you need to be able to fall back on the running game.

"But these are things that every NFL offense goes through during the course of the year. It just so happens that last Sunday against the Bengals, it happened at a very inopportune time. It cost the Eagles a win."

There is only so much overhauling the Eagles can do in a week's time. When the season is over and the time is appropriate, the coaching staff will evaluate the scheme and the approach and the timing of the play-calling and the execution from the players' end and submit a plan for next year.

For now, all the Eagles can do is tweak a little here and there and hope it all clicks in.

"I honestly understand what they are trying to do," said Jaworski. "Andy (Reid) and Marty (Mornhinweg) generally create good matchups and get receivers open. There were a couple of drops on Sunday, but there were plays to be made. There have been plays to be made every week.

"Hey, the guys on the other side of the ball are pretty good, too. They are paid to stop the offense and sometimes they win. That's the way it works in the NFL."

So what can we expect on Sunday? The Eagles are going to throw the football and they are going to try to make some explosive plays and then mix in the running game and establish something between the tackles. Philadelphia has run for more than 100 yards in only five games this season -- with a 3-2 record -- and certainly knows it needs to not be as out of whack as in Sunday's 58 passes (with two sacks) and 18 runs (including a McNabb scramble).

"We'd like to run the ball a little bit more. We'd like to run the ball better," said Mornhinweg. "We need to run the ball better.""

And they need to throw it better and catch it better and take advantage of opportunities. What they don't need to do is scrap the scheme and start over. Oh, there are places on this team that are going to require an upgrade -- we can talk about that next year -- but the Eagles should do what they do -- only better and more consistently.

"That's it," said Jaworski. "They have shown this year that they can score points as well as any team. They just have to go out and play with confidence and execute the scheme. The scheme is fine. It has always been fine. That hasn't changed."

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