Philadelphia Eagles' Slow Start Means Trouble and Here's Why
Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles opened the season by going 1-4, eventually falling to 4-8. The team went on a run to finish the season at .500, but it was not enough for a playoff berth.
This year's Eagles team opened the season in a similar fashion. The fanbase should be very concerned right now, because another season like 2011 could signify big changes for the franchise.
Granted, this year's team enters the bye week at 3-3, but the Eagles have not looked like the dominating team that they want to be, and if New York Giant Ramses Barton doesn't commit offensive pass interference in the fourth quarter of their Week 3 matchup, the Eagles could easily have entered their bye week at 2-4.
Aside from the loss in Arizona, Philadelphia's losses have been close games. But that isn't much consolation to the team or its fans. That's because they know that when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter, the best teams step up and win.
So who do you blame?
The team fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo after their most recent fourth quarter collapse against the Detroit Lions. Obviously a winning team cannot allow long fourth quarter drives at the end of games. Todd Bowles, who sports an impressive resume, will try to change the culture of this defense, but the schedule is not going to get any easier.
And Castillo wasn't the only problem in Philly.
Michael Vick's play is very concerning right now. He had not completed a pass over 50 yards until last Sunday. He's thrown eight touchdowns, but has committed 11 turnovers. Furthermore, an elite NFL quarterback is supposed to be someone who can come in on the final drive and and carry the team down the field.
Michael Vick has not been able to do that.
The season is still young, and the Eagles are currently .500, but if they don't right the ship and begin to win consistently, Philadelphia will be in for another long winter.
But have they shown any indication that they will turn this season around?
Fourth Quarter Defense
The Eagles have allowed two fourth quarter comebacks in a row
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Overall, the Eagles defense has not been terrible this year. They haven't been great either, mind you, but their numbers alone weren't bad enough to warrant the defensive coordinator's firing.
They currently rank 18th against the pass and 16th against the run. Despite the middle-of-the-pack yardage stats, the Eagles have been good at getting to the quarterback and forcing turnovers.
The issue with Philadelphia's defense is the devastating fourth quarter drives that they've given up to other teams. In the past three weeks, the Eagles are 1-2. As I mentioned earlier, they could have easily gone 0-3.
Let's take a look at the opposing teams' last offensive drives in those games (sorry Eagles fans).
In Week 3 against the New York Giants, Eli Manning had less than two minutes to work with. The drive began at the Giants' own 35-yard line. In just over a minute and a half, the Giants were inside Philly's 30.
If it weren't for a questionable call by Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin to throw the ball, a play which resulted in a penalty that knocked the Giants out of field goal range, New York would likely have won the game.
The next week in Pittsburgh, the Steelers got the ball at their own 20 with six and a half minutes left in the game. The Eagles' defense proceeded to allow Ben Roethlisberger to march down the field and compose a 14-play drive that expired the clock and allowed the Steelers to kick the game winning field goal.
Last week, the Lions got the ball back with two and a half minutes left at their own 32. Matthew Stafford marched his team 67 yards to kick a game tying field goal to force overtime.
Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford are very good quarterbacks with reputations for clutch fourth quarter performances.
But who do you think the Eagles would have to face in the playoffs? If they can't stop them now, why will they be able to stop them then?
That is, if the Eagles make the playoffs at all.
Michael Vick's Performance
Michael Vick has not been himself this year
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Michael Vick is considered a game-changer, but he's recently been changing the game in favor of the wrong teams.
His yards per completion average is the lowest it's been since he took over the starting job. His eight touchdown passes are alright, but his eight interceptions are glaring.
He's not looking very good running the ball. He's averaging five yards a carry, two yards less than last year. He's only gotten into the end zone once, and he's put the ball on the ground six times. He only lost it three times, but last season Vick fumbled the ball seven times all year.
Last year, when the Eagle's got off to their slow start,Vick's play could not have been blamed for the losses. He only threw multiple interceptions twice all season. He's done it three times already in 2012.
Looking at the big picture, Vick's passing numbers haven't been all bad. He is in the top 10 in passing yards. His offensive line, however, is not making it easy for him. Only one quarterback in the top 10, Aaron Rodgers, has been sacked more than Michael Vick.
Vick, however, is expected to be able to cope with poor line play. His dazzling speed has allowed him to avoid trouble in the past. The issue may be due to his attempt to become a better pocket passer.
His struggles avoiding sacks may also be due to his age. He turned 32 over the summer. While that's not too old for a quarterback, it is the age when running backs begin to break down in the NFL. Vick has played much of his career like a running back, and it's not like he's always been free from injury.
Whether those injuries are now beginning to leave a permanent mark on his talent or not, there's still no excuse for the turnovers he's been committing.
From this point on, Andy Reid is coaching for his job
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In 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles were able to turn on the afterburners and make a disappointing season look respectable.
Heading into this year, many considered the Eagles Super Bowl contenders. Most were surprised to see that the Eagles were considered favorites to win the NFC East over the Super Bowl champion Giants.
The Eagles may have beaten the Giants head-to-head, but Philly has certainly not looked like the better team.
Philly will face the Atlanta Falcons in two weeks. Any Reid is 12-0 after bye weeks during his tenure with the Eagles. The Falcons are undefeated. Something is going to have to give.
By next Sunday, Todd Bowles will have to get this defense on the right track. He will have to keep them disciplined and unforgiving. The team cannot afford any more close losses because the defense couldn't hold on.
Michael Vick is going to have to work on his game as well. He cannot continue to put the defense in holes.
It's been a vicious cycle for the Eagles. Vick tries to do too much, turns the ball over, the defense caves and Vick tries to do too much again. Coach Reid will have to fix that.
If the Eagles lose to Atlanta, they will fall below .500 for the first time this year. It would also be Philly's third straight loss. If Andy Reid allows that to happen, it will be the beginning of the end of his career with the Eagles.