The Eagles defense played a large role in the team's mediocre 3-3 record, but the defense is not the team's biggest weakness. It clearly still has problems. It blew two straight fourth-quarter leads and did not generate a single sack in its last three games.
But the defense has, for the most part, been much improved. Other than the defensive line, every other position has shown more production this season than in 2011.
In fact, this team would not be 3-3 today were it not for this defense. The defense halted game-winning drives from Cleveland, Baltimore and New York to give the Eagles their only wins of the season so far.
Such clutch defensive stops would not have been necessary if the offense had been pulling its weight. Juan Castillo clearly was over-matched since day one, but firing him will not fix the biggest flaw of the team. It is, rather, the offense that requires the most work.
A look at the facts alone tells the tale. Over the course of six games, the Eagles currently have the 11th-ranked offense in the NFL, a huge dropoff from the past three seasons when Philly consistently boasted a top-five offense.
And the team is ranked 31st in points scored, being ahead of only the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. Those numbers are embarrassing for a roster packed full of explosive talent, with the likes of LeSean McCoy, Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to work with.
Andy Reid promised changes, and he delivered by firing his inexperienced defensive coordinator. But Castillo was an unfortunate scapegoat. While the promoted Todd Bowles will surely be an upgrade, a change on offense would have likely had a better effect on the fortunes of the team.
Would that change mean the benching of Michael Vick? Perhaps. Vick certainly has his problems. He holds onto the ball too long, tries to do too much on doomed plays and fumbles the ball too often. But at 32 years of age, Vick is what he is. He is not going to release the football as quickly or accurately as Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. It is the job of the offensive coordinator to build an offense to his strengths.
Especially when we consider that Vick has been a victim of a porous offensive line. When Vick has comfort in the pocket, he makes big plays, as evidenced by the Giants game. But when he does not, he is forced to scramble or to rush passes. This results in turnovers.
The blame rests very largely on the coaching staff, and if Vick is to blame for the team's struggles, Mornhinweg is even more to blame. Without Jason Peters and Jason Kelce, the Eagles went from an underrated O-Line to arguably one of the worst in the NFL. But few adjustments were made to account for the poor pass protection, even when the Eagles had a full offseason to plan for Peters' absence.
Green Bay was not blessed with a good O-Line a few seasons ago, but Mike McCarthy made it work. Part of this is the fact that Aaron Rodgers is a much better quarterback than Vick is, but McCarthy is also a master of drawing up short passes. It helped account for the poor O-Line.
In Philadelphia, however, Vick is often running for his life as he waits for 30-yard routes to develop down field. The screen pass, being very popular during the Donovan McNabb era, has been all but abandoned under Mornhinweg this season. Especially when the team has great blocking tight ends in Brent Celek and Clay Harbor. Screen passes can take pressure off the pass protection as well as reduce hits on the quarterback.
The playcalling has also been very poor. There is no establishing of the running game early. There are too many play-action passes when the offense has not yet established the run. And with a late lead in the Lions game, why did the Eagles choose to run out the clock with three consecutive passing plays?
Even with a poor O-Line, this team has too much talent to be 3-3. It is not too late to make the postseason, but drastic changes must take place on the offensive side of the ball, more so than the defensive side. While the defense is improved from previous seasons, this is still an offense-based team, and it cannot rank almost dead last in points per game and still expect to win consistently.
What this team needs is a change in offensive philosophy. You run a system to fit your players, not the other way around. If Mornhinweg stubbornly insists on continuing on with his current system, it may be time for a coaching change.
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