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Week-To-Week Proposition For Eagles Now

At the season's midway point, well, rarely have signals been more mixed about than the Eagles than they are now. They are 5-3, only a game behind Dallas in the NFC East and right in the thick of things in the conference. They have shown some very good things and they have been plagued by some major blemishes. With a tough stretch ahead -- starting in San Diego on Sunday -- the Eagles have to win and move on, win and move on, win and move on. Just how they get there, where they think they can be, is the question to be answered.

Andy Reid and his coaching staff assembled on Monday and pored through the loss to Dallas and then moved on to preparation for San Diego. That is how it works in the league: Play a game, grade the performance and then go to the next challenge.

In this case, the Eagles face a very good San Diego team coming off a comeback win over New York. The Chargers have an explosive offense, complete in every way. They have an attacking defense. They have a big-play special teams. To win, the Eagles have to play a great football game, and they are capable of doing so. What is maddening about the Eagles, of course, is that the Eagles of one week don't necessarily translate to the Eagles a week later.

The inconsistency is the major question mark here. How can the Eagles look so good one week and then play as they did against Dallas when they tackled poorly, blocked poorly and turned the football over twice? While Reid and his staff search for the answer, let's explore the State of the Eagles after eight games.


Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is a game-breaker as we have seen all season. He has the speed to get beyond any coverage and his route-running and hands are on point. The second-year receiver is, simply, a player on the way to greatness. He and rookie Jeremy Maclin have teamed to form a dynamic duo. It is exciting and the best part is they both have great improvement in front of them.

That quick-strike ability has served the Eagles well in their five victories. They've been able to get out early, get leads and dictate to defenses. It hasn't been that way, though, in games against Oakland and Dallas. Both teams worked hard to limit Jackson and make sure he was held in check and, most important, kept in front of the defense.

What happens when the Eagles can't go deep? What happens when they have to carve out two or three 70-yard drives to win a game? The Eagles need to gain some confidence in their execution when they dink and dunk and move the chains, when they "take what the defense" gives them. If teams are playing two-deep looks and taking away the vertical passing game, the Eagles have to adapt. They have to move the chains, and then they have to get into the red zone and score touchdowns.

There are times when the offense looks absolutely terrific. They have a plethora of options and when Donovan McNabb has time, he has been able to get the ball to the right spots. It's going to become harder to throw the football in bad-weather games -- Chicago, every home game from here on out, on the road against the Giants -- and the Eagles have to show they can run the ball when needed. The balance has been fine. It isn't about run/pass ratio. It is about execution.

Look at Sunday against Dallas. The Eagles had 14 passes and 13 runs in the first half and scored only 6 points. So much for a balanced attack equaling a lot of points. It's about execution, first and foremost.

And the Eagles aren't executing enough to win their close games. That leads to another issue ...



At Andy Reid's day-after press conference, he was asked why the Eagles are 1-8-1 in their last 10 games decided by a touchdown or less. He didn't have an answer, and there is no single reason why the Eagles look so good in convincing victories and so unsuccessful in games that end close. Why?

I don't know. The Eagles certainly need to handle fourth quarters better than they handled the one against Dallas. The Eagles led 13-10 and could have closed the Cowboys out with another score. Didn't happen until Dallas had the lead. The Eagles didn't get stops when they needed -- Tony Romo's touchdown pass to Miles Austin came on a third-and-14 play -- and they didn't sustain the drive they needed to have in the late going.

What is happening here? Against Oakland, the offense had chances to take a lead and flubbed the opportunities and then the defense didn't come up with the stops needed late in the game. Is it leadership? Is it the scheme? Talent level? Too much youth?

The Eagles must make it work with all of these tough games in the next two months. There is very little margin for error here. The Eagles have to get on a roll, or they won't be playing in the post-season.



Ten touchdown passes and 3 interceptions. On the whole, not bad at all. McNabb missed two games with the rib injury, so his numbers are pretty strong. He has run the huddle well, has kept mistakes to a minimum and, despite playing with an ever-changing line in front of him, has kept the offense scoring big points.

But then there are games like the losses to Oakland and Dallas when McNabb struggles. He and the offense needed to make one play to beat the Raiders, and didn't. Two interceptions led directly to 10 Dallas points, and a pair of fourth-quarter drives stalled before the Eagles could catch up to Dallas on the scoreboard.

Having a run of a few good games from McNabb and then a struggle or two won't work for McNabb or the Eagles. He has to play at a high level every week and lead this team through November and December roaring.

Defenses are going to come after McNabb and force him to move around in the pocket. They want to see him prove he has the quickness to escape the pressure and make plays with his feet.

This is a critical time for McNabb. With a young cast around him, McNabb has to be more of a leader than ever before. He has to be a star quarterback. So, yeah, it's fair to say that all eyes are on McNabb.



Sean McDermott hasn't been perfect as the team's defensive coordinator, but he sure has been pretty good. He uses his personnel liberally, is extremely aggressive and innovative in his scheme and isn't afraid to experiment. McDermott has been impressive, and so has the defense. The Eagles have taken the football away and they have played the run very well all year. Third downs have been so-so at times, and that is something to improve in the weeks ahead.

A concern at this point is the injury situation. It sounds like linebacker Akeem Jordan, who has been playing very well lately, is going to be out for a week or two or more with a hyperextended knee. Cornerback Ellis Hobbs could be a question mark for this week after suffering a stinger against Dallas. The Eagles have been without linebacker Chris Gocong and end Victor Abiamiri, and the depth is being tested.

Fortunately for McDermott, players like end Jason Babin and linebacker Will Witherspoon have stepped in and stepped up. Babin has made a case for more playing time, even with Abiamiri healthy. And Witherspoon has been flat-out terrific since he was acquired by St. Louis.

The Eagles are putting pressure on the quarterback, they are stopping the run and they are taking the football away. Heading into the second half of the year, the defense is leading the way for this team.


  • Too many penalties on special teams, but the coverage groups have been sizzling and both kicker David Akers and punter Sav Rocca are having really good seasons. The Eagles need to keep working on the return game and find a way to get Jackson some running room.
  • The Eagles have the fifth-most penalties in the league, something that is so uncharacteristic of Reid's teams. I say playing all of these young players contributes to that statistic above all else.
  • Brian Westbrook, Abiamiri and Kevin Curtis are expected to be at practice on Wednesday. Down the stretch, it will be really helpful to get those veterans on the field.
  • Why haven't we seen a lick of the no-huddle offense this year?
  • Winston Justice has had his ups and downs, but I would say he has had more ups and is on his way to becoming a good right tackle.
  • I would like to see more of Michael Vick, and not just handing off out of the shotgun. I want to see his speed. That the Eagles did not convert three straight plays with one yard to gain against Dallas was ridiculous. I expected to see the Wild Eagle there. I thought that's what it was for -- short-yardage conversions and goal-line situations.
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