Philadelphia Eagles Half-Year Grades: Offense
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Last year, the Eagles were 5-3 at the halfway point. This year...the Eagles are 5-3 at the halfway point.
The same play-calling issues, the same inconsistencies, and the same health concerns (Kevin Curtis and Brian Westbrook, where are you?) plague them.
Yet this season, the NFC East is wide open, and they’re only a game out of first place.
But fresh off their heartbreaking loss to the Cowboys, it’s time to see how the Eagles grade out heading into a tough second half—one that hopefully won’t include a tie against a woefully inept team.
Previous Grade: A
Oy, what a way to start.
Looking at the numbers, Donovan McNabb has been pretty good. He has averaged 223 yards per game and thrown five TD passes in the last four weeks, and didn’t throw any picks until launching two on Sunday night.
However, looking beyond that, he has clearly struggled.
For one, McNabb has had trouble with location. Many balls seem to be falling at his receivers’ feet, yet the next throw will float way over their heads.
He has been lucky that trait hasn’t resulted in more interceptions, as at least a half-dozen balls could have gone to the bad guys in that stretch.
When he’s not throwing the ball straight into the ground, McNabb still seems to underthrow a lot of passes—sort of like the interception he threw on Sunday where Jeremy Maclin was two steps ahead of the ball and would’ve had to tear his ACL to even break up the pick, let alone make the catch.
When you factor in the knowledge that two of those games came against the Redskins and the Raiders (without Nnamdi Asomugha, no less), you’re left scratching your head.
To sum up, it’s probably best to say McNabb has been solid but not consistent, good but not great.
Michael Vick, meanwhile, has been all but invisible (and has already barked about wanting out) and Kevin Kolb went from hero to waterboy because of Wildcat Fever.
McNabb needs to step it up and lead the offense through a tough second half if the Eagles want to return to the playoffs.
Overall Grade: B-plus
Previous Grade: B
Want an anomaly? All three of the Birds’ main running backs average at least 4.2 yards per carry...and yet they’re 22nd in the league in third-down conversions.
If they’re without Brian Westbrook much longer, that won’t get better.
His 66-yard scamper against the Giants notwithstanding, LeSean McCoy hasn’t had a breakout game yet. Minus that big play, he has 120 yards in the last four games, which won’t strike fear in the hearts of anyone.
He needs to step up if Westbrook’s concussion keeps him away from the field much longer.
Leonard Weaver has been a pleasant surprise the last two weeks, with 16 carries for 108 yards (including his own 41-yard TD jaunt against the Giants) in Westbrook’s absence.
Yet, somehow, he never got the ball on that Eagles drive early in the fourth quarter of the Dallas game where they failed to convert one yard on three straight rushes. Weird.
Still, Weaver is a fullback and can’t be counted on to do a lot of the heavy lifting. That falls on McCoy (and ostensibly on backups Eldra Buckley and PJ Hill), who hasn’t proven he can do that just yet.
Overall Grade: B-minus
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Previous Grade: B-plus
DeSean Jackson has emerged as the playmaker. Problem is, he only seems to make big plays.
The Cowboys held him in check (two catches for 20 yards) last week, and the offense sputtered. Yet if you dissect his numbers the previous three weeks, you see that 162 of his 241 yards came on three catches.
That’s impressive, but you need someone to do the dirty work.
It looked like Brent Celek was that guy, but he only seems to show up on the stat sheet every other week. To wit: his last four games have seen him go for 75, 8, 61 and 39 yards, all of which came on either three or four catches.
So it’s either feast or famine there, and the same with Jackson.
Jeremy Maclin has been improving each week (13 catches, 150 yards, one TD this quarter), but his skill set is too similar to Jackson’s to be that complementary receiver.
Reggie Brown, meanwhile, is almost clearly a hindrance at this point because he barely plays and they never even look at him when he does.
It’s clear the Eagles miss Kevin Curtis badly and seem unwilling to let Brown (or even Jason Avant, who only has four catches in the last four weeks) play that role in the interim.
That’s going to hurt when the opponents key in on your big weapons...which is why the Eagles lost to both Oakland and Dallas this quarter.
Oh yeah, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Alex Smith has recorded a catch in each of the last two games.
Overall Grade: B-minus
Previous Grade: B-plus
Well, the running game struggles without Westbrook, but they’ve been without
him enough lately for us to know that’s not the line’s fault—even if they can’t get enough push to convert third or fourth downs with less than three to go if their lives depended on it.
Pass protection, specifically lack of it, is their fault. And it’s quite disturbing, to boot.
They’ve allowed 15 sacks in four weeks, yet surprisingly, the lowest total came against the Giants—who might have the best rotation of pass rushers in the NFL.
To make matters worse, backup King Dunlap was abused by Richard Seymour and a porous Oakland defense missing their best cover corner racked up six sacks. That’s horrible, any way you slice it.
That lingered so badly in the Birds’ minds that Jason Peters sprained his ankle against the Cowboys yet still had to play, because DeMarcus Ware would have eaten Dunlap alive.
The ‘Boys still recorded four sacks anyway.
They need to get better, period. They’re “healthy” for the first time all season with Todd Herremans back and Stacy Andrews continually recovering, yet they’re playing worse than they did with a patchwork system in place.
Sure, that was against bad teams...but the Redskins and Raiders qualify in that category, too.
If they don’t, I pray for Brian Westbrook and eventually Donovan McNabb.
The only thing saving them from a really bad grade is a handful of huge rushing plays—two of which came against the Giants, not coincidentally—that show flashes of brilliance.
Overall Grade: C-minus
Overall Grade: B-minus
Previous Grade: A-minus
A full letter grade drop is not a good thing.
But hey, it could have been worse, I could have rounded numbers down and given them a C-plus. What else do they expect?
The line can’t block, nobody can run the ball consistently, Donovan McNabb doesn’t seem to have that extra gear anymore and their receiving corps is basically a three man unit with occasional cameos by Jason Avant or a running back.
The most telling stat? The Eagles’ five wins are against teams with an 11-30 overall record, and the only team better than 2-6 in that group is the Giants—who have lost four in a row and are seemingly on the brink of disaster.
The Eagles only face two sub-.500 teams (Washington and San Francisco) the rest of the way, and if they don’t get their act together, no miracle by the defense will save them from flirting with that mark themselves.