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Run Or Pass? A Question For All

Everything that could have gone wrong for the offense on Sunday in Arizona went wrong. There were protection breakdowns. There were missed blocks in the running game. There were open receivers who did not get the football. There were plays on which the receivers did not provide quarterback Michael Vick an option. There were gaps in time when running back LeSean McCoy did not receive the football enough.

And so on, and so on, and so on ... 

I mean, did anything go right?

Alright, so it's back to the drawing board for the offense, for coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and the coaching staff, for the players. So many things must go right for the offense to work for a full 60 minutes, and the Eagles haven't been anywhere close to where they want to be when they have the football.

Run the ball more? Sure, if the situation favors the run. But if the Giants stuff the box with eight defenders, and all eyes are on McCoy, why in the world would Mornhinweg call a running play, or why would Michael Vick check to a call that hands off to McCoy?

In this NFL, the general rule of thumb is that if you see one-on-one coverage outside on a wide receiver, you throw to that wide receiver. If you see seven men in the box, you run the football. If you see eight ...

There are a lot of variations, of course, and with 11 players on the field on each side of the line of scrimmage, the play calls are never that simple.

Anyway, let's talk specifically about the Eagles offense. There has been a giveaway dysfunction that, obviously, obscures any kind of X's and O's. Vick has turned the ball over 9 times as the Eagles far and away lead the league with 12 turnovers. It's a ridiculously high number that, coupled with last season's problems, raise red flags all over the place. How to reduce the turnovers? The coaches preach it in practice. The players are aware of the mistakes they've made. It's gone beyond instituting a no-turnover policy in practice, or having live periods to work on ball security. It seems as much mental now as it does physical. Are the players just trying to do too much?

How can the coaches mitigate the turnovers? Maybe the answer is to tone down the wide-open nature of the scheme and to limit Vick's exposure to pressure. More three-step drops, more running plays. Maybe move the pocket and allow Vick some run/pass options to his left. I don't know. Anything to get the man into a rhythm -- no-huddle offense, anyone? -- and put the ball in the hands of the other playmakers in this offense.

Is it, as many fans believe, as simple as "Run the darn ball more!?" No, it isn't. But there is a mentality developed when a team runs the ball, when an offensive line can come off the snap and move forward and take a physical approach and when an offense just tries to wear down a defense. The Eagles, and most NFL teams and all of the good offenses (I dare say this), follow the formula of throwing the ball early more than they run the ball. 

I have always been of the belief that success with an offense is due more to execution than it is the simplistic notion of run or pass. Teams have to adjust to the looks they get in the pre-snap read, agreed, but then it comes down to putting a hat on a hat and winning the battle. The Eagles aren't winning enough of the battles. They're inconsistent in every phase of the offense and Reid is right when he says that everyone -- himself included -- shares in the blame.

Sunday night's game against the Giants is the epic test of 2012. The Giants are the Super Bowl champs -- I'm putting my finger in my throat right now, for I detest the Giants. Respect them tremendously, but detest them -- and they have an attacking defense that put the Carolina Panthers' much-hyped offense to shame last Thursday night. The Giants are going to have a good plan in place for Sunday night. The Eagles' plan has to be better.

We know that Philadelphia isn't going to come out and run, run, run. That just isn't the way offense is run here. The Eagles have to be strategic, smart and opportunistic. There are plays to be made in every NFL game. McCoy needs his touches -- he certainly had his fair share in Week 1 (26 against the Browns) and in Week 2 (27 against the Ravens) -- and the Eagles have to find ways to get him into space. The Giants are well aware of McCoy's ability to reverse field and make big plays, so do the Eagles run him to the edge or do they keep him between the tackles?

Most concerning, of course, is Vick's performance. The Eagles have to find a way to keep him clean, upright and free of pressure against one of the best front four groups in the league. New York generates enough pressure from its front four that it doesn't rely on the blitz game too heavily, but given the blueprint provided in the last year-plus, every team blitzes the Eagles offense.

Bottom line: Yes, I want to see the running game emphasized more, but the needs are far more complex with the Giants waiting. Winning the line of scrimmage allows the Eagles to dictate to the Giants with the run or the pass. That's the first order of business. Everything else falls into place with that accomplished.

The game plan is going to be varied, I'm sure. The Eagles want to achieve balance and they want to feed McCoy and Bryce Brown, etc. They also want to score big points against a defense that is one of the toughest in the NFL. The battle lines are drawn for this game, and they go way beyond the idea that the offense can be ramped up simply by calling more running plays.

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