At this point last season, the über-talented Philadelphia Eagles were 1-4 and looking for answers. And although they're in much better shape at 3-2 and in the top spot in the NFC East right now, it still feels as though the Eagles are trying to bury bad habits and overcome mental mistakes.
We look at those problems and more in a state of the union breakdown of where Andy Reid's team sits through five weeks.
What They Should be Thinking
Michael Vick has turned the ball over more than 25 entire teams have. He lost two more fumbles Sunday, raising his total to five in as many games, and probably costing the Eagles a victory in Pittsburgh. The overall turnover total of 14 ranks 31st in football, and is a huge reason why the team has the second-lowest scoring offense in football, on a per-game basis.
Of course, a lot of that has to do with the joke of an offensive line. It really, really misses Jason Peters and Jason Kelce. Demetress Bell and King Dunlap have been unreliable, Dallas Reynolds is in over his head and even Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans haven't been themselves. Danny Watkins has regressed, if that's possible.
Only two teams have given up as much pressure as the Eagles have, according to Pro Football Focus.
It's harder to be pessimistic about the defense, but it's still pretty concerning that Nnamdi Asomugha continues to struggle. Last year, he had an excuse because he adapted to a new defense.
This year, he's getting beaten far too often in man coverage. That wouldn't be hurting so much if the pass rush could get the job done. After leading the league in sacks last year, the defense has just seven this season, which ranks 28th.
Vick has led four fourth-quarter drives from behind in five games. He has a respectable 90.2 passer rating when blitzed this year (per PFF) and he's now gone back-to-back in games without an interception for the first time since his MVP-caliber 2010 season.
In those games, against two solid defenses, he's completed 65 percent of his passes and has a passer rating of 101.8. And on both of his fumbles against Pittsburgh, Steeler defenders made great plays.
King Dunlap is getting healthy, which should at least give us another option at left tackle if Bell continues to lack consistency. And the reality is that offensive lines require time to develop the chemistry necessary to succeed.
This unit should get better each week.
The pass rush isn't getting sacks, but at least it's still getting pressure. Brandon Graham has laid five hits on quarterbacks, and it's only a matter of time before Graham, Trent Cole and Jason Babin start putting up big sack numbers again. When that happens, life should be a tad easier for Asomugha. And it's important to remember that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has emerged as not only the best cover corner on the team, but also one of the best in the league.
What I'm Thinking
Stock Rising (offense): DeSean Jackson
Jackson didn't have his best game against Pittsburgh, but he was a force against the Giants and the Ravens, catching 13 passes on 18 targets in those victories (via PFF). Thus far, the 25-year-old Jackson is on pace to set career highs for receptions and yards.
Stock Rising (defense): Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Only two cornerbacks have higher PFF coverage ratings this season than DRC. He's been thrown at 27 times and has surrendered only 12 receptions. He's yet to give up a touchdown, and opposing quarterbacks have an average passer rating of just 26.4 when throwing in his direction.
Rodgers-Cromartie took a lot of heat for coverage lapses last year, but he's excelling as a press-man corner in Year 2 with the Eagles.
Stock Dropping (offense): Evan Mathis
Vick is an easy target here, too, but Mathis was without a doubt the league's best guard last season and he's been pretty average thus far in 2012. The 30-year-old has surrendered six hurries and three hits after giving up only 12 and three respectively last year.
Stock Dropping (defense): Nnamdi Asomugha
In one of the worst performances of Asomugha's career, Antonio Brown went to work on him Sunday, catching five passes on only six targets against the man formerly known as the NFL's top shutdown cornerback.
And through five weeks, PFF ranks 64th out of 100 qualifying NFL corners. In his final year with the Raiders, Asomugha was beaten 13 times all season. This year, he's already been beaten 12 times.
With a series of tough games following the Week 7 bye, it's crucial that the Eagles stay out in front in the NFC East with a victory at home against the struggling Detroit Lions Sunday. If Vick's fumbling habit is still a problem and that plays a role in another loss, it's possible—but still unlikely—they consider a change under center. I wrote Monday that I don't believe that's a good idea.
It's equally as important that they begin to get more consistency from the offensive line and increase their sack rate, so this isn't necessarily a quick-fix situation. With all of their glaring flaws, it'll be tough for Philadelphia to keep up with the Giants, but there's a lot of time for things to change.
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