The Eagles were outmatched on nearly every phase of the game, as the Steelers completely pummeled the team to a 24-14 victory. In the game, the linebackers could not cover or stop the run, Michael Vick played poorly and the pass protection was mediocre, just to name a few downsides. Many fans appear ready to hit the panic button and call the Eagles’ 2011 “Dream Team” simply too good to be true.
However, don’t fret Eagles fans. They may not have played their best game last week, but they will be ready come Week 1 of the regular season and fans have little to worry about.
Here are five reasons why…
What cannot be emphasized enough is the fact that the Eagles have only had their super squad together for a few weeks. Additionally, with the lockout changing the schedule of this year’s preseason, half of training camp has been reduced to walkthroughs, with the emphasis more upon understanding the plays and big picture than getting the small details correct.
With that in mind, it makes complete sense why the Eagles would play poorly after only a few weeks together.
Football is a team sport, especially on defense. Every player must work together to allow a play to become effective. And after just a few weeks, it is understandable if not every player is on the same page. No matter how much talent a team has, only teamwork can lead to victories.
Andy Reid is one of the best coaches in the league when it comes to preparation and training. He will have the troops ready in time for the season opener.
Perhaps the most alarming aspect of the preseason game was how poorly Michael Vick played, throwing three interceptions before the end of the first half. However, as atrocious as that is, it must be understood in context of the preseason.
Preseason is important, but it is important from an evaluative perspective, and not from a competitive standpoint. The record and score means absolutely nothing. With that in mind, the entire climate and mindset of a quarterback is different. For a backup or a third-string quarterback, it is still important to play as well as possible and accumulate impressive statistics to impress coaches.
For a locked-up starter like Vick, however, the emphasis is more upon getting readjusted to a game environment and testing your performance. Vick's strong play at quarterback in 2010 was not just his ability to make big plays, but also his effectiveness at protecting the football, as he threw only six interceptions last season. Knowing the importance of keeping drives alive, he was careful not to throw the ball into coverage.
Since then Vick has trained and practiced hard, so his accuracy is likely even more improved than last season. What better time to test one’s accuracy than in a preseason game against a real opponent? His priority in the preseason therefore was not to win the game, but to test plays and his own abilities.
Vick is a competitor and he will not do anything that he believes will prevent the team from winning. He will limit any lingering bad habits before the season starts and play once again at a high level in 2011.
Yes, the Eagles were outplayed entirely by the Steelers, but it should be understood that the Eagles called only basic plays. All their secret weapons will be surely kept secret until the season opener. Some plays will perhaps won't be used until the postseason.
With that in mind, it would make sense if the Eagles would struggle. The Steelers are no pushovers. The reigning AFC champions can run, pass and defend as well as any team in the NFL. Especially defend, as they took advantage of poor throws by Vick and applied constant pressure.
And with little time to develop rapport, a team that is relatively unchanged such as the Steelers and has great team chemistry would likely outplay a team of new players and a new defensive coordinator with only basic plays called.
Not to worry. You can bet offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo have many aces up their sleeves, which would be foolish to reveal to coaches in a meaningless exhibition game.
Not to make excuses for the poor showing, but it should also be understood that many key starters on both sides of the ball were absent against the Steelers.
The team stepped onto the field without Jeremy Maclin, Ryan Harris and Mike Patterson to name a few. The absence of Maclin and Harris were especially crucial.
While Riley Cooper and Jason Avant are both talented and effective players, Maclin is the go-to guy on the Eagles offense. With reliable hands, great speed and the ability to make catches in traffic, he is essential to moving the chains in this offense.
Ryan Harris, while a relatively new signing, is now one of the team’s most important players. As a right tackle, he protects the left-handed Vick’s blind side and is one of the game’s most talented young linemen. His importance is even greater when one factors in that the depth behind Harris at right tackle in Philadelphia is very thin. If Vick does not trust his blindside, he cannot be comfortable in the pocket, and will rush passes and make mistakes. This was evident as even when Vick had good protection and much time to throw, he still seemingly rushed to get rid of the football.
When all the starters return by Week 1, the Eagles should be in good shape.
As much as every player in that locker room would like to deny it, there have been many distractions for this locker room and it is fortunate that they are being dealt with now rather than during the regular season.
DeSean Jackson is still without a contract after making a measly $555,000 in 2011 despite having made the Pro Bowl twice in his three seasons and being the only player to be selected at two positions in 2009 (as a wide receiver and as a kick returner). It is certainly distracting, as it remains to be seen if Jackson will remain with Philadelphia long-term.
Asante Samuel also appears to be highly likely to go soon as well. With the introduction of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie into the Eagles roster, his role and Samuel's seem unclear. As luxurious as it is to have three Pro Bowl cornerbacks, the Eagles already have a capable nickel back in Joselio Hanson.
And there is still a gaping hole at linebacker for this team, which the Steelers made blatantly obvious. The team must continue to wonder if Samuel, one of the more vocal leaders of this Eagles defense, will return.
Throw in the talk of whether Michael Vick had a choice to join the Eagles or whether he was strong-armed by commissioner Roger Goodell and all the hoopla surrounding the “Dream Team” label give to the Eagles by the media, and you can see why the Eagles have many distractions that would delay their gelling process.
But Eagles fans should be at ease. This is all likely a blessing in disguise, as the distractions are emerging in the preseason, as opposed to during the regular season. Reid does not take kindly to distractions to team chemistry (with one notable exception) and should have the team ready in time for the first game against the St. Louis Rams.
In the end, it is just the preseason, and identifying problems is what the preseason is for. There is no need to panic about one poor performance.
Although if Vick averages three interceptions per half in the regular season, that would be a good time to start worrying.