Especially on offense, the Eagles barely resemble the team we saw just a few years ago, the one that nearly defeated Arizona for a trip to Super Bowl XLIII.
That change was inevitable and Andy Reid may have made the right decision dealing away Donovan McNabb. There seems to be a huge youth movement in the city of Brotherly Love. And that's ok.
Still, the Eagles playoff hopes are already on shaky ground. Every one of the NFC East teams is a contender but, after returning from San Francisco, the Eagles will face arguably the league's most difficult schedule.
The head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles has to post a better record against the Dallas Cowboys. Last year, Philly lost all three games against the Cowboys. And since 2007, Reid’s team is 2-5 against their NFC East rival.
They catch a break this season in that both games come very late in the season: Weeks 14 and 17. But they weren’t very good against Dallas at the very end of 2009. In the final game of the regular season and Wild Card game, they were crushed by a combined score of 58-14.
It’s hard to look at the decision to deal McNabb and not think it was a case of Reid puffing out his chest: “I’m a good enough coach that I can deal away No. 5 and replace him with an unproven Kevin Kolb. Even with McNabb, I’ll defeat Washington twice next year.”
Well, he’s already half wrong on that front. Five weeks from now comes his chance for a split.
McCoy is a supremely talented running back. And much more capable of being an every down, between-the-tackles runner in the traditional mould.
For better or worse, he is not Brian Westbrook. Yet, Reid seems to have just inserted McCoy in Westbrook’s role without all that many tweaks.
Last year, McCoy played in all 16 games and carried the ball just 155 times. This year, he’s averaging just 12 carries per game. His broken ribs are an unfortunate turn of events but that type of injury doesn’t suggest he is “injury prone.”
That could happen to anyone. When he comes back (healthy) Reid should try to pound him a little more. He’s not a finesse runner.
Regardless of whether or not LeSean McCoy is the most durable running back in the entire NFL or if he is made of delicate glass, Mike Bell was not the right choice to be his understudy.
Although he certainly fits the Brian Westbrook capsule that Reid desperately wants he can never stay healthy. Reid entered the 2010 season with so many question marks. If he truly wanted to compete for the NFC East, he needed to bring in a better second option.
Chester Taylor was out there. And he fits the Westbrook-type need, perhaps even better than Bell. And with a very young offense (Kolb, Maclin, DeSean Jackson, McCoy) a nine-year veteran like Taylor would have made sense.
If Reid wanted to go with Kevin Kolb as his clear-cut starter this season, that’s fine. If he wanted to go with Michael Vick as his clear-cut starter this season, that too is fine. If he couldn’t make up his mind either way, and wanted to wait it out, that also is fine.
But he had an obligation to bring in some kind on reliable option as the emergency quarterback. You can’t have a rookie quarterback in that spot when you have a completely unproven commodity (as a starter, at least) in Kolb and a player like Vick whose running can lead to injuries.
Essentially, Reid’s No. 1 and 2 options this season were gambles. The third one cannot be as well.
Something just seems off with the Philadelphia defense this season. Last year the death of Jim Johnson was so stunning that slipping from fourth in points allowed to 19th in 2009 could be understood. This year they are tied for 18th.
Credit Reid and company for drafting a young defensive end in Brandon Graham. His pass rushing skills are an improvement. But if they thought trading for Ernie Sims would seamlessly move into that unit that was another big gamble.
The unit ranks 27th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed and holes continuously opened up and, for the Redskins runners last week, holes continuously opened up at the second level.
It is possible that getting Kevin Kolb ready just took too much attention away from Reid this offseason.
In four games this season, the Eagles have committed 34 penalties. That’s an average of 8.5 per game. They have yet to play a game this season in which they haven’t been flagged for at least seven penalties.
That falls at the feet of the head coach.
Although the season is still very young, the fact that the Eagles have dropped two games at home already (and two Conference games) is a considerable problem.
Playing .500 ball at home almost guarantees being left out of the postseason. And look who still has to come to Lincoln Financial Field this season. The Giants and Cowboys games are now going to be must-wins. That leaves the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons, the Vikings, the AFC South-leading Houston Texans, and Peyton Manning’s Colts.
It’s not entirely inconceivable that the Eagles finish up with a 3-5 home record. That will certainly keep them out of the playoffs.
Historically, offensive line coach Juan Castillo has done a magnificent job. A good portion of the unit is comprised of undrafted or small-college players whom Castillo has turned into pro bowl caliber players.
On this year’s edition, starters Nick Cole and Jason Peters were undrafted out of college and Right Tackle Winston Justice is the only player selected before the fourth round.
For whatever reason, the offensive line has struggled mightily in 2010.
Looking purely at the statistics, there is nothing wrong with the running game: their 5.5. yards-per-carry is the best in the NFC. Of course, Michael Vick’s legs deserve most of the credit for that.
And surrendering 15 sacks in four games is far below average.
The Eagles would never fire Reid in the middle of the season especially that has been grounded in transition. He is the most successful coach in his franchise's history. But so was Mike Shanahan.
Ownership will give Reid more time to let his extremely young, yet extremely talented offense gel.
But at 2-2, the Eagles must improve fast. A trip to San Francisco should serve as a nice respite while they wait on Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy to return. And a 3-2 start to this supremely tumultuous season isn’t a disaster.
Still, no matter what, Reid’s Eagles are not performing as well as they should. It's early enough that the Eagles can still turn it around. They have the players.