So far, the defense has been leading the way for the Birds
After four games, the Eagles are leading the NFC East in the most heart-wrenching, teeth-gnashing and expletive-filled way that I've ever experienced as a fan.
While last year's squad came to known as the "Dream Team," it lost some games in nightmarish fashion. The 2011 Eagles were soft and often came up empty in clutch situations. Whether it was dropped passes, missed tackles or running backs deciding to pass in the middle of a pile up, the Eagles dug themselves a pit they would never climb out of.
At this point last year, the Eagles were 1-3. Through the first quarter of this year, the Eagles have proven to be quite the opposite of the flashy but hollow team from a year ago: in 2012, they are a hard-nosed bunch with a clutchness and a 3-1 record to show for it.
Here are the numbers to show you just how impressive these game-winning drives were:
|Time of Possession||5:07||2:48||4:56|
|Distance Covered||91 yards||80 yards||75 yards|
|Time Left After||1:12||1:55||1:49|
For any football fan, that pattern is a thing of beauty.
As an Eagles fan? That kind of pressure-packed success is nearly unfathomable in the Andy Reid era. These Eagles are showing the type of grit and clutch execution that is pivotal come playoff time.
Now that I've gotten the more intangible aspects of this team out of the way, it's time to examine the Eagles' report card and see how they have fared overall during the first quarter of the 2012 season.
While Michael Vick has struggled mightily on occasion, he's proving to have nerves of steel in addition to his playmaking ability. The turnovers have been a problem in the first quarter of the season but should level out.
As I've said before, I don't believe that Vick has necessarily been placed in a position to succeed. If the Eagles maintain the balance they showed in the Ravens and Giants games, then they sky is the limit for No. 7.
LeSean McCoy is one of the best backs in the league and the best player on the team. If they feed him the rock on a regular basis, this team is a Super Bowl contender. So, in the words of Keyshawn Johnson: get him the damn ball!
Stanley Havili's playing time looks to be an interesting subplot for this team going forward. I like his versatility.
With DeSean Jackson settled in to a nice contract and rookie Damaris Johnson providing an additional speedy threat, this group of receivers can be very effective. However, that depends on whether Jeremy Maclin can get healthy and if Riley Cooper can emerge as a red-zone target.
Simply put, I love Brent Celek. Great hands, a solid blocker—one of the better tight ends in the league, as far as I'm concerned. When the Eagles look to convert third downs, it's Celek who moves the chains almost every time. Clay Harbor has also done well with his expanded playing time, which could lead to more two tight end sets down the road.
Offensive Line D+
Without stud left tackle Jason Peters, this team is hurting badly. Compound that absence with Jason Kelce's torn ACL and King Dunlap's hamstring issues and this could get even uglier.
This unit is the deepest and most fearsome in the league. With the emergence of Fletcher Cox and continued excellent play from Cullen Jenkins, it's hard to find any flaws.
It's worth noting that while they've only produced a mediocre seven sacks so far this year, tight ends and running backs constantly need to provide a chip before running their routes. Also, the line's ability to draw holding calls and create pressure is a key reason why this team has allowed opposing offenses to convert only 27 percent of their third downs, good for third best in the league.
Trading a fourth-round pick for DeMeco Ryans appears to be a great investment for the Eagles. The two-time Pro Bowl player has notched over 100 tackles in four of his six NFL seasons. It's not hard to imagine him having a similar year this season. His leadership and energy are invaluable.
Also, rookie Mychal Kendricks has been exceptional to this point.
Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have done a pretty good job, thus far.
However, my concern is related to how they'll handle bigger wide receivers for the remainder the year. For example, Domenik Hixon, who stands 6'2", put up 114 yards on six grabs in Week 4.
Also, rookie Brandon Boykin has played well at times, but as seen on Sunday night, teams are going to attack him until he makes them pay.
This unit makes me the most uncomfortable. I believe that Nate Allen can develop into a quality player and that Kurt Coleman is a perfectly suitable option, despite his occasional tackling issues and lack of discipline.
The problem, however, is what happens when one of them gets injured?
I would like to see Alex Henery perform better on kickoffs, especially given the troubles on the coverage team.
New punter Mat McBriar is a decent holder as far as I can see, but after one game I really have no opinion on him as a punter.
Special teams units
The return game has been essentially nonexistent and coverage has been poor. Brian Rolle's departure may not be the last.
As everyone knows, the Eagles need to run the ball consistently and the game-planning against Arizona was dreadful to say the least.
So, with my grades given out, tell me what you think. How you would grade the team so far!