Philadelphia Eagles' Biggest Roadblocks En Route to the NFC East Title
The Philadelphia Eagles are almost at the halfway mark of the 2012 regular season.
To this point, we’ve seen a team with a quarterback who can’t protect the ball, an offensive line that can’t protect the quarterback and a defensive line that has been an overrated group of underachievers.
If this team is even thinking about making a run at the NFC East division title, there are a few key areas that need to be addressed—immediately.
The following slideshow will outline a few of the roadblocks the Eagles will encounter on their path to the NFC East title.
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We’ve seen the Birds drive down the field and into scoring range only to bear witnesses to a missed blocking assignment that led to a big hit and a fumble, the quarterback drop the ball or have it swatted away because he wasn’t protecting it, a botched handoff or snap or an interception.
If the Eagles want to win the NFC East this year, the culmination of their offensive drives—especially in the red zone—will have to result in points on the board.
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Look at the Eagles defense going forward this way: It’s the same deck of cards with a new dealer.
Executing on defense for the Birds means sacking the opposing quarterback. It means staying on your man and preventing catches by putting your hands between your opponents’ when the ball is coming down—not by committing pass interference.
The only standouts, so far, on defense have been DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. Where is this fearsome defensive line? Why have the likes of Matthew Stafford and Ben Roethlisberger finished their games against the Eagles with clean jerseys?
Jim Washburn is still the defensive line coach. The Eagles will still be working out of a Wide 9, which has been ineffective to this point.
We saw it work last year, and this year, the Birds have the linebackers to back it up. So this is a matter of the players holding up their end of the deal and executing.
Five Division Games
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The Eagles have only played on division game to this point.
Also, the Cowboys haven’t been much to write home about this year—but they’ve had the Eagles’ number in the past. They pose a significant threat to the Eagles because of their recent history and the fact that the two teams play each other twice going forward.
The Eagles haven’t played Robert Griffin III, yet. However, given the weakness they’ve shown on the defensive line to this point, it’s reasonable to assume that the team may not fare too well against RGIII.
RGIII has the ability to take a game over in the air and on the ground, and the Eagles haven’t done much to slow down opposing quarterbacks.
Unless the Birds defensive line dramatically improves in the next couple of games, Week 11 and Week 16 could prove disastrous for the Birds.
LeSean McCoy's Touches
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Over the past few weeks, Andy Reid has relied more on his running game—that’s a good thing.
If the team wants to continue to succeed, the head coach will have to keep doing more of the same thing.
However, Reid isn’t always giving the ball to LeSean McCoy.
In each of the Eagles’ three losses, LeSean McCoy hadn’t gotten the ball nearly as much as he should have.
Against the Lions, McCoy carried the ball 14 times. Granted, it was only for 22 yards; but, if you remember how ineffective he was during the first half of the Giants game and how effective he was in the second half, you could make a case that McCoy should have gotten the ball more.
Shady got the ball 23 times against the Giants and 25 times against the Ravens. The Eagles won both of those games.
Bryce Brown, no matter how much potential he has, is not good enough to be taking touches away from LeSean McCoy, no matter what.
Michael Vick's Turnovers
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Michael Vick has to stop turning the ball over, period.
We saw him carrying the ball in front of him against the Lions, so we know the effort is there. However, he made two bad throws that resulted in interceptions. The worst of these was in the third quarter on a deep ball to DeSean Jackson that Lions defensive back Chris Houston picked off.
If the Eagles are going to win, Vick is going to be the guy who leads them. Aside from the turnovers, he’s been outstanding. Giving the ball up to the opposing team can be the difference between winning and losing.
Although he is not directly responsible for the losses against the Steelers and the Lions because the defense gave up the lead in both cases, the Birds could have had more points on the board.
There’s no definitely saying that they would have scored more, but the potential to do so was there. And where there is potential, there is an opportunity. It’s Vick’s fault the team hasn’t scored more, even though it’s not his fault they lost.
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Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg call the same plays often throughout the course of a game.
In the interest of briefness, I’ll provide two examples.
First, against the Giants, we saw the Eagles feed the ball to LeSean McCoy out of an I-formation several times that got them to the goal line but not in the end zone.
Why didn’t they change the play at the end? Instead of ending up with seven points, they ended up with three.
Against the Lions, we saw both Jason Avant and DeSean Jackson run a deep slant route that twice resulted in an interception.
The problem with this is that it was the same play. The first time it was to Avant for a pick. The second time it was to Avant for a completion. The third time it was to Jackson for a pick. Those are the three instances in which someone caught the ball.
However, that kind of redundancy isn’t the only problem with the play-calling.
Why is Jeremy Maclin always on a comeback route? Why do the Eagles pass during running situations and run during passing situations?
Is the first quarter of every game scripted? If so, perhaps, Andy and Marty would serve the goal of winning the game better if they made their play-calling judgments based on the flow of the game and not a script.
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This has to do with the cowardice Andy Reid and his coaching staff exhibit during the closing moments of the fourth quarter when they’re ahead on the scoreboard.
The Eagles lost to the Steelers and the Lions because they played zone defense and got beat.
Roethlisberger attacked Brandon Boykin, and Stafford attacked Colt Anderson.
The defense cannot let up and try to prevent the other team from scoring in a different way than it had all game.
The Eagles’ defense has come under a lot of scrutiny because of its inability to close out games. And even though it hasn't lived up to its expectations, it's been put in positions in which it cannot succeed.
The Eagles should consider staying in press coverage throughout the course of a game—even in its closing minutes while trying to preserve a lead.