The Philadelphia Eagles are atop the NFC East with a 3-1 record through the first four weeks of the 2012 season. However, things haven’t been as smooth as the standings might indicate.
Though the Birds have narrowly escaped defeat in each of their three wins, they deserved them nonetheless.
There’s no doubting the Eagles are a resilient team—which is evident in their dramatic comeback efforts to this point. If anything, the team’s wins can be attributed to that.
However, the Eagles are a few adjustments away from being able to convincingly hang on to the top spot in the NFC East, and eventually maybe even the entire NFC.
The following slideshow sheds some light on the areas in which the Birds can improve in order to realize their potential and ultimately stake their claim among the NFL’s elite teams.
When it comes to Andy Reid’s play calling, you’ve got to hand it to him: Reid believes in himself. However, he does so to a fault.
This was perhaps no clearer than it was in Week 3’s loss to Arizona. Even during the first half when the Cardinals’ defense was shutting down the Eagles’ receivers and stifling Michael Vick’s play-making ability and repeatedly pummeling him into the ground, Andy Reid consistently called passing plays, as though something would change.
Even though he did eventually start to give the ball to LeSean McCoy, the game was already far out of reach.
Reid needs to learn to adjust to the flow of the game. When your game plan isn’t working and you’re down by a few scores before halftime, you need change your approach to keep your team in it.
On Sunday, Reid shocked Eagles fans with the amount of action he gave to LeSean McCoy.
Another noteworthy observation is the use of the no-huddle that worked so well for the team during Sunday's win.
I’ve never been one to focus too much of my criticism and/or praise on special teams, but I’m singing a different tune after Sunday’s win against the Giants.
Looking back at the game, it appears as though the Eagles had a problem with effort. Where were they?
I can’t help it, but two names come to mind: Casey Matthews and David Sims. These are two guys hanging on to their roster spots by a thread, and special teams is where they’re supposed to earn their checks.
When David Wilson is breaking off returns almost halfway up the field and you’re nowhere near the play, it’s time to reconsider what you’re doing here.
If the Eagles would have lost, there is no doubt that most of the blame would have fallen on the special teams unit for allowing the Giants’ to put themselves in a position to win with field position.
It’s nice to see that the Birds are taking a proactive approach to make amends here before things get out of hand by bringing in Adrian Moten (who we really don’t know much about), but it’s a problem if the special teams unit struggles again against the Steelers this weekend.
It’s great that the Birds’ O-line looked like it could hold its own against the Giants, but I’m not convinced—especially considering how bad they were before that.
It’s not easy to replace two starters—especially when one of them is the league’s best (Jason Peters)—but it’s also not easy to accept your injury-prone quarterback finding himself on his back all the time.
To be fair, they look like they’re coming together. We’ll know for sure after Sunday’s matchup against Pittsburgh.
Demetress Bell could be on the cusp on making everything click, and Dallas Reynolds is improving every week. Nonetheless, I’m not holding my breath yet.
The Eagles’ safeties, especially Nate Allen, are notorious play-action biters. When that happens, you give up your last line of defense against a big play. It was a problem against the Giants.
Also, Nate Allen’s tackling and Kurt Coleman’s frequently finding himself out of position and lost combine to pose a significant risk to the Eagle’s defense. See Allen against the Giants and Coleman against Arizona for specifics.
Don't get me wrong—the safeties have been good. But these are the kind of things that separate great from average.
However, they aren’t the only ones. Nnamdi Asomugha has been good, but he hasn’t been great. He takes up 11% of the team’s payroll, and he doesn’t earn it.
Elite cornerbacks need to be good in zone and man coverage, and Nnamdi gets paid elite money. His work ethic is tremendous, but sometimes it’s like his instincts aren’t there.
Ok, so the Eagles didn’t turn the ball over against the Giants. That’s wonderful, but it doesn’t mean they’ve turned over a new leaf. That’s also not to say, though, that they haven’t taken a step in the right direction.
The Eagles aren't out of the turnover woods yet, but against the Giants, Michael Vick was poised and rational. He didn’t take chances, and he even took a red zone sack because it was the best play. That’s saying something.
Why did this happen? Solid offensive line play certainly comes to mind.
If Vick can keep that up, the Birds’ offense will have taken a huge step forward.