At times this season, the Eagles offense has had that quick-strike, back-breaking ability that you expect with such breath-taking talents at the skill positions. At other times, the offense has been mired in inconsistency, which is understandable given the who-is-playing-quarterback question mark hanging over the team's head every week. Kevin Kolb could be in line to start Sunday night in San Francisco, so what does the offense need to do to get back on track after Sunday's disappointing loss?
There is a lot of work to do, as Marty Mornhinweg would say. The offensive line has to come together, eliminate penalties, and block better in the running game. There is no magic formula here. The Eagles are having problems at the right guard position with Nick Cole hobbled, with Reggie Wells not yet ready to help, with Max Jean-Gilles willing and able and waiting for a more permanent call. Left tackle Jason Peters is a standout talent, but he has not put it all together through four games and the entire line has too many penalties on its ledger at the quarter pole of the season.
The solution is to continue to work hard and tighten up the technique. This is not a quick-fix position. There aren't players out there to bring in and instantly make it better, unless the Eagles think someone like Austin Howard or King Dunlap is ready to move up the depth chart.
In years past, when the Eagles were solid and very good up front, they had a consistent five players starting and they had a nasty, physical attitude. Maybe they weren't physical enough at times, especially when they needed to run the ball and gain the short, tough yard, and they always worked at being more physical. But they had an attitude with Tra Thomas at left tackle and Jon Runyan at right tackle and a scrappy, smart center running the show. They had a good fit. This line has yet to establish that fit.
Once the Eagles find the solution up front, everything else will fall into place. I'm not smart enough to tell you if the scheme is right or not; the results speak for themselves. I've always been one of those guys who says that when a team scores a lot of points the scheme is good and when an offense bogs down, the scheme wasn't very good.
In the case here, it could be as easy to finger as the quarterback position. When the Eagles have had stability at quarterback, they have scored a bunch of points. The offense certainly wasn't perfect in wins at Detroit and at Jacksonville, but there was plenty of firepower and a certain dominance when the Eagles had the ball.
There is no doubt that the instability at quarterback has hampered this offense. In the two losses, the starting quarterback has been KO'd. Now it appears, although there are certainly a lot of questions that could go either way, that Vick is going to have trouble playing at San Francisco and maybe even the next week against Atlanta. Kolb, should form hold this week, will get the reps on Wednesday through Friday and will have a chance to establish his timing and some continuity to the offense.
LeSean McCoy? We shall see. The Eagles haven't added any players to the 53-man roster as of mid-day on Tuesday, which unofficially tells me that they don't expect either Vick or McCoy to miss long-term action. I'm not buying the Marshawn Lynch rumors at all. I think the Bills are shopping Lynch and I think they are calling any team that might possibly be in the hunt for a running back. But I digress ...
Kolb's development this week is huge, should it be determined that he is the guy. He responded in an unfavorable situation on Sunday and he moved the offense for most of the game after taking over when Vick went down. Kolb's first drive was the 16-play, 84-yard drive that ended the first half and he completed 5 of 7 passes for 63 yards to get the Eagles to the Washington 1-yard line before the half ended so unpleasantly.
After a three-and-out series early in the third quarter, Kolb put together another drive deep into Washington territory that ended with McCoy's fumble at the Redskins 21-yard line. Kolb completed 3 of 4 passes on the drive and also had a 32-yard run wiped out by a Peters holding penalty. The fumble then squashed the drive, and Kolb's third drive of the quarter was an ugly three-and-out event and the Eagles entered the fourth quarter facing a huge deficit.
The Eagles were on the move early in the fourth quarter when Kolb completed a 14-yard pass to Jason Avant to put the offense in Washington territory. But a Todd Herremans holding penalty negated the play and the offense could not recover and keep the drive going.
Kolb's final two drives were productive. With Washington in deep zone coverage, Kolb worked the under belly of the defense and drove 65 yards in 9 plays to throw a touchdown pass to Brent Celek to keep the Eagles' chances alive. I know everyone wanted Kolb to go down the field and, yeah, he may have missed a chance or two, but the fact is that Kolb put the ball in the end zone with more than 4 minutes remaining in the game and kept the Eagles going.
The next time the Eagles had the ball, they had the ball at their 26-yard line with 1 minute, 7 seconds to go in the game and no timeouts remaining. To reach the Washington 32-yard line, and then to throw a pass into the end zone that nearly got to Avant cleanly, well, I've seen worse. I have seen many, many other quarterbacks fail miserably in that situation.
Kolb didn't fail. Kolb was poised. Kolb maybe gained some confidence in those three quarters of action, and hopefully he will carry that into this week of practice and, if he is the starter on Sunday night, he takes that mojo into a very difficult spot in San Francisco.
The 49ers are going to attack the Eagles backfield, no matter who is playing quarterback, no matter who is carrying the football. The 49ers are a desperate team at 0-4, and the Eagles have to match that urgency and intensity. This is a huge, huge spot.
And the offense has to lead the way. No doubt about that. The Eagles scored just 12 points on Sunday and they are not pleased at all with the production. There are a lot of things that must be improved -- and finding ways to get the ball to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin should be at the top of the list.
Another week, another challenge and another opportunity for the offense to find its stride and hopefully stay there.