Philadelphia Eagles News

On Day After, No Choice But To Look Ahead

I'm done complaining about Sunday's loss in Oakland. There are no excuses. It was awful. It was embarrassing. There are no silver linings in losing a game like that. There are no "wake-up calls" here because, frankly, the Eagles should be way past that nonsense by now. The Eagles let a wonderful chance slip away by losing to the Raiders.

Now it is time to look ahead. The Eagles can't reverse what happened in Oakland, but they have 11 games to play in the weeks in front of us to make sure a meltdown like that doesn't happen again. If there is any good news to emerge from Sunday night's post-game depression, it is that left tackle Jason Peters seems to be OK after suffering a knee contusion and an ankle sprain. Defensive end Victor Abiamiri is day to day with a knee injury. Middle linebacker Omar Gaither has a foot injury that bears watching, but I'm going to take the optimistic approach and believe he won't be out too long.

Monday night marks a new opportunity for the Eagles to play the kind of spirited, precise football that this team is capable of playing. The NFC East is still wide open and with games against the Redskins, Giants and Cowboys over the next three weeks, the Eagles can gain traction and climb to the top of the division.

To do so, of course, they have to be worlds better than they have been through five uneven games. Here are some areas of concern, which are very obvious in some cases and not so in other cases ...

**1. Become Balanced On Offense


I am all for throwing the football. I love the idea of throwing to get a lead and then running to ice the clock. But there are going to be days when the passing game isn't there, and that was the case on Sunday. The Eagles didn't have it. Donovan McNabb had very little time to set up and throw. He missed some throws when he had time. There were too many dropped passes. There were not enough adjustments by the coaching staff to beat the Raiders blitz.

The Eagles should have gone more with the running game to sustain drives. The third-down problems -- 2 conversions in 16 third downs -- was horrible. Why continue to throw the ball when there are second-and-short situations? A couple of times, the Eagles killed drives with a sack or a loss on a pass or an incomplete throw that put them in third-and-tough spots.

This is a familiar refrain. What is concerning now is that with Brian Westbrook rounding into form (he averaged more than 8 yards per carry on Sunday) and with the clear talent of LeSean McCoy here, the Eagles don't seem any more willing to stick with the run. Yeah, the offensive line is banged up. And the push hasn't been there. But with Peters apparently OK, and with Todd Herremans about to return, and with Stacy Andrews -- I think -- getting closer to 100 percent, the Eagles need to trust the running game.

**2. Figure It Out Up Front On O Line


There have been a lot of injuries, no doubt about it. The Eagles scored a lot of points through four games with a line that missed a couple of projected -- actually, three -- starters. But then Oakland set the blueprint in place for other teams to follow and blitzed the Eagles silly and the offense had no answers.

When Herremans returns, where does he play? Is he replacing Nick Cole at left guard? Would the Eagles then move Cole to right guard in place of Max Jean-Gilles? Could Herremans play right tackle in place of Winston Justice? Is Stacy Andrews going to help this offensive line?

Prior to his injury, Peters was playing dominating football. He is an anchor at left tackle, and with some very good defenses waiting, Peters has to be great. There was way, way, way, too much pressure from the right side of the line on Sunday in Oakland and the Eagles need to look at that situation closely.

Get Herremans back and let's see how much the line steps forward. With the Skins, the Giants and Dallas on deck, the line is in for some major challenges.

**3. Work Avant Back Into The Picture


Where is Jason Avant? He has just 11 catches in five games, and 7 of those grabs came in the loss against New Orleans. Avant is the money man on third down, but he has been invisible lately with two grabs against Kansas City, one catch against Tampa Bay and zippo in Oakland.

Is there any way defenses are taking away Avant, tight end Brent Celek and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin? Can't be possible. If so, the entire offense needs to be overhauled.

Avant is a critical component in the offense. He controls the middle of the field. He is a security blanket for the quarterback, and Avant keeps drives alive.

**4. Improve Middle Linebacker


The defense played well enough to win against Oakland. I think too many people expected the Eagles to shut the Raiders down to nothing, and that is very hard to do in the NFL. But no doubt middle linebacker is a huge concern, especially with Gaither's injury. Jeremiah Trotter was targeted in the passing game and did not have good game. That's going to happen every week. When he is on the field, teams are going to make him run.

Is it time to look more deeply into Joe Mays, who clearly has rough spots? Would the Eagles move Chris Gocong into the middle in certain situations? Is it possible to work out some kind of trade before Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline?

Or is it going to be as it is for the rest of the season? Maybe that is the case. It is a major challenge for the players and the coaching staff to improve the position.

Fact is, the Eagles are giving up way too much to the opposing tight end. That is an entire-defense issue, not just the MIKE linebacker. With Chris Cooley, Kevin Boss and Jason Witten ahead, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has to figure it out -- and fast.

**5. Start Faster


For all of the complaints about the defense from Sunday, look back at the first quarter. The Eagles produced a turnover and had three-and-out stops and had the offense played a better game, the Eagles would have jumped out to a needed lead.

Monday night offers the same opportunity. The Eagles have to jump on Washington early. Opening a game with three straight passing plays and a failed first down puts the Eagles in such a hole. Where are the first-drive scores?

Coupled with that, the Eagles treated the end of the first half on Sunday in Oakland very, very poorly. It was terrible. McNabb knows better than to lose track of timeouts. The personnel has to get in faster. Everybody has to be on the same page.

Speaking of personnel ....

**6. Go With Vick, Or Don't


I still don't know what the bread and butter of this offense is. The "Wild Eagle" is here for a game or two and then it's gone. It works on some plays and then it doesn't. Michael Vick doesn't appear especially fast or dangerous with the ball in his hands, but to be fair he has had only a shot or two each week of late.

What are the Eagles going to do with Vick? Figure it out. I know it is a week-to-week proposition, but the coaches have to get this part of the personnel package right. Is he a weapon, or is it a pipe dream that Vick can be the game-breaker the Eagles hope he can be?

His lone run on Sunday resulted in a 4-yard loss and put the Eagles in a hole on second down. Don't force Vick. That's the worst thing the Eagles can do to an offense searching for consistency.

**7. Get It All Together On Special Teams


There were a lot of things to like on special teams. Sav Rocca was great. The coverage teams were excellent. Jackson was a threat on punt returns. But there were still problems. David Akers missed two field goals. A timeout was wasted when the field goal block team had 12 men on the field and the Eagles could have used that timeout at the end of the first half. For some reason, Quintin Demps replaced Ellis Hobbs on kickoff return and had no impact.

It is time for special teams to play a complete game and start to dominate. Right here, right now. It can make or break playoff chances.

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