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Regrouping Is Only Option Here

With injuries mounting -- Michael Vick with a right hand contusion, Jeremy Maclin with a hamstring injury, defensive ends Darryl Tapp (pec strain) and Juqua Parker (high ankle sprain) still hurting and, to top it off, Vince Young still a question mark because of a hamstring injury -- the Eagles have a lot of thinking to do to get their roster right for Sunday's game against San Francisco.

They also have a lot of work to do on establishing some normalcy with this football team. Being 1-2 right now is a huge disappointment, but there is a lot of season ahead and Reid has a history of having his teams get stronger as the season gets longer. Still, there are pressing issues with the Eagles. Nobody doubts that.


Vick's right hand contusion is the pressing issue. It isn't broken, so that is good news. The reports emerging from Sunday's loss were that Vick had a broken hand. This injury may allow him to play on Sunday against San Franciso. Can they find a way to pad his hand and allow Vick to do the things he needs to do with his non-throwing hand -- accept the snap from center, handle the ball, hand off, etc -- well enough to play on Sunday?

Maclin's hamstring injury, coupled with Riley Cooper's concussion, potentially leaves the Eagles dangerously thin at wide receiver, with only DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant and Steve Smith healthy for the 49ers. Would the Eagles have to promote Chad Hall from the practice squad? Or would they line up Clay Harbor or Brent Celek at wide receiver (Celek did that quite a few times on Sunday) in a pinch?

Beyond the injuries, Vick has not looked particularly sharp this season. He isn't as decisive as he was last year. He hasn't been as accurate with his throws and his ball security (five fumbles, four lost, and two interceptions) has dropped.

Whenever Vick next plays -- this week, in two weeks, after the bye week -- he needs to find his rhythm and his confidence and get the offense into a faster tempo. As for his complaints that he is getting hit a lot, Vick is right on there. Defensive players are taking their free shots at him, and it would be welcome if the refs threw a few flags.

But even a flag here and there won't change things. Vick's style is to hold the ball and make plays, and defensive players won't let up in their aggressive pursuit of a player who can make so many things happen with his legs. Until Vick drops back and throws the football long before the defense is near him, he is going to take shots and absorb punishment.

The offense has been all about McCoy and his tremendous skills. The Eagles need to ride him. Defenses are going to look to take away the deep ball with the Cover 2 shell and dare the Eagles to beat them underneath and then to score touchdowns in the red zone. Piling up all the yardage the Eagles are gaining isn't a big deal when you can't score touchdowns.


What is the identity of this offense once it reaches the red zone? The Eagles have no go-to play, it appears, to put the ball in the end zone. They were 1 of 5 in red-zone efficiency and zero for 2 in goal-to-go situations. It has been a problem all season and it has been an issue off and on for several years.

The Eagles' first trip to the red zone ended on Sunday when Vick's pass -- maybe it was thrown too hard, maybe it wasn't -- bounced off of Steve Smith's hands into the hands of cornerback Aaron Ross. The second trip was bizarre. The Eagles called 8 straight running plays to set up a second-and-9 play at the New York 15-yard line. A completion to Jason Avant and a LeSean McCoy run gave the Eagles a first-and-goal situation at the 3-yard line.

McCoy gained 1 yard on first down. Then a middle screen to McCoy was snuffed for a 1-yard loss. On third and goal, Vick lined up in the shotgun and threw a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and that fell incomplete intended for Smith in the middle of the end zone.

The next trip into the red zone was all McCoy, who had three straight runs of 11 yards to score a touchdown. Late in the first half, on their fourth trip to the red zone, the Eagles reached New York's 16-yard line with time winding down and then had successive false-start penalties to stifle the drive and force a rushed -- and successful -- Alex Henery 38-yard field goal to end the half.

Finally, the Eagles couldn't put the ball in the end zone with a first-and-goal scenario at the New York 2-yard line, failing on a couple of Vick sneaks and two Owen Schmitt fullback dives against a Giants defense that was stacking the line of scrimmage.

There is a lot of work to do here. The Eagles used neither Vick's mobility nor Jackson in the red zone on Sunday and it cost them.


That the Eagles have allowed 8 passing touchdowns in the last two games is simply shocking. Never did anyone imagine that the highly-acclaimed secondary would give up so many big plays, scoring plays. Why has this defense given up so many points and two fourth-quarter leads?

Reid was asked after the loss to the Giants if he anticipated major changes in personnel to the defense and his answer was "We'll see." That isn't a "no."

Kurt Coleman was benched after missing a tackle on Victor Cruz' 74-yard touchdown catch and run, and Nate Allen replaced him. Allen needs to shake off the rust and show his knee is healthy and strong enough to have the necessary closing burst to play the position well.

Really, there isn't anything settled at safety. Is it time to maybe get second-round draft pick Jaiquawn Jarrett ready to go? What about Colt Anderson? The Eagles need some plays from their safeties.

At linebacker, the team already moved Jamar Chaney to middle linebacker, Casey Matthews to the weak side and Moise Fokou to the strong side. What happened? The Giants isolated Matthews in the passing game and worked Brandon Jacobs free for a perfectly executed catch and run for a touchdown from Eli Manning. Otherwise, Matthews seemed to play a pretty good game.

The front four is generating some pressure and the Eagles aren't blitzing as much as they have in recent years. That means the coverage should be better. The defense is giving up way, way, way too many big plays and easy scores.


You find out who the leaders are in times of trouble. On a team with 21 new faces from a year ago, who emerges as the galvanizing force in the locker room? Will the Eagles ramp up their effort and tighten the screws? Fans are grumbling and the media are ready to pounce. The Eagles are 1-2, and they have to prove they have what it takes to rebound.

Reid has always proven to be at his best in times like this. It isn't an enviable spot. Instead of starting the season strong and building some confidence, the Eagles are in a hole. There is time to dig out, but no team out there is going to roll over just because the Eagles are on the other sideline.

Maybe the team believed too much of the hype about itself. Maybe they thought that just by showing up they could beat an injury-depleted team like the Giants. That doesn't cut it in the very-even NFL. If the Eagles don't know that by now, they are in for a lot of trouble ahead.

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