Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Adjustments Andy Reid Must Make To Turn Things Around
The Eagles have high expectations for this season after a monster offseason that followed a very successful 2010 campaign. A 12 or 13 win season was certainly not out of the question, but after a 1-2 start the team is just trying to get back to a .500 record.
The Eagles have struggled to both convert and stop red zone touchdowns. The defense can't tackle anybody and Nnamdi Asomugha actually gave up a touchdown.
Even more serious, Michael Vick has failed to finish his last two games, which is causing mass panic in Philadelphia. Are the Eagles Super Bowl hopes already dead?
Of course not, the coaching staff just needs to change up a few things. A healthy Vick and a defense that actually tackles would be a great start. This Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers will prove to us how serious a Super Bowl contender the Eagles actually are.
Replace Casey Matthews with Brian Rolle
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The Eagles actually beat me to this one, announcing on Wednesday that Brian Rolle will be replacing Casey Matthews at weak side linebacker. Rolle did get in on a few snaps last week against the Giants.
Rolle played well in his limited role last week, picking up two tackles and covering Giants fullback Henry Hynoski deep down the field on a similar play that Brandon Jacobs was able to burn Matthews for a 40-yard touchdown reception.
Matthews has struggled in pass coverage and has had no impact against the run. The Eagles tried moving him to weak side linebacker after he struggled at middle linebacker for two weeks but obviously Matthews isn't ready to be a starting linebacker in this league quite yet.
The obvious criticism of Brian Rolle is that he is too small to be an every down linebacker, but he is actually only a few pounds lighter than Matthews. Rolle is short for a linebacker, standing at just 5'10", but that almost works in his favor. He plays with a major chip on his shoulder due to his height and it shows on the football field.
He is also very strong for an undersized outside linebacker. He finished fourth in the 2011 NFL Combine in the bench press, benching 225 pounds 28 times. That's 15 more reps than Matthews had in the same combine. He demonstrated that strength in Week 1 against the Rams when he blew up Rams center Jason Brown on a running play.
He doesn't have more experience than Matthews, as both are rookies, but he brings a lot more speed and intensity on defense. If he can cover backs and make tackles, this is a great move regardless of anything else.
It is also worth noting that the Eagles have replaced Kurt Coleman with Nate Allen. This is a sign that Allen's knee is close to 100 percent. Coleman missed several tackles last week against the Giants and had just seven total tackles through the first three games.
Get DeSean Jackson the Ball
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If DeSean Jackson is playing for a new contract in 2011, he might not got much of a raise. Through the first three games, Jackson has just 10 catches for 153 yards and one touchdown. It's easy to blame Jackson, he does have a whopping four drops through the first three games, but the coaching staff does deserve some of the blame as well.
If Jackson doesn't drop a single pass, he still just has 14 catches through three games. That isn't enough for the most dangerous receiver in football. Whether it's the deep ball, a quick slant or receiver screen, you have to get the ball to DeSean Jackson early and often.
When he gets going, the offense truly gets going. Since the Eagles drafted Jackson in 2008, they are 10-2 when he has at least 100 receiving yards in a game.
The Eagles can't achieve their goals if DeSean doesn't start achieving some of his.
Give Ronnie Brown and LeSean McCoy More Carries
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It's clear to everyone that the Eagles need to find ways of keeping quarterback Michael Vick upright. Opposing defenses have game planned around attacking Vick and it's starting to show. By his 11th start in 2010, he didn't seem to have much in the tank. In 2011 he has already failed to finish two of the first three games of the season. Needless to say, adjustments have to be made.
The Eagles have been able to run the ball very effectively through the first three weeks, rushing for 546 yards. LeSean has rushed for 345 yards and has become one of the best backs in the game. On the other hand, former Pro Bowler Ronnie Brown has barely been used. Brown has just 23 rushing yards on 10 carries.
The best way for the Eagles is to protect Vick is for him to just hand the ball off to one of his Pro Bowl caliber backs. They can't just run McCoy until his knees give out. Balance is the key when running the ball. Brown needs to get his touches as well.
If the Eagles can run the ball effectively 25 times a game, it will take a lot of pressure off of Vick while at the same time open up the deep passing game.
Let Nnamdi Asomugha Cover the Tight Ends in Man Coverage
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Tight Ends have given the Eagles pass defense fits the past couple seasons. They have never had a linebacker capable of consistently locking down an opposing tight end in man coverage and that is still the case in 2011. Tony Gonzalez torched Jamar Chaney for 83 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles' Week 2 contest against the Atlanta Falcons.
The plan was to match Asomugha against Gonzalez until Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie hurt his ankle. Rodgers-Cromartie still played but wasn't healthy enough to man up against Roddy White and Julio Jones.
Nnamdi has the physicality and size to match up with any tight end plus the cover skills to match up with anyone. The Eagles have the luxury of putting two Pro Bowl corners on the outside and moving Nnamdi Asomugha at either safety or matched up against tight ends.
If the Eagles can take away the tight end in the red zone, it would greatly improve their red zone defense which has become a major weakness.
Employ a Quick Passing Offense
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One reason why Michael Vick is taking way too many shots in the first three games of the season is the pass plays are taking way too much time to develop. Vick has been sacked four times and taken more hits then any other quarterback in the league.
A quicker passing offense would do wonders for Vick's health. The Eagles certainly have the receivers to make it work. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are just as dangerous on a quick slant as they are on a deep post route.
They key with Jackson and Maclin is to get them the ball in open space and let them use their speed to turn small plays into big plays. The quick passing game is an excellent way to counter all the blitzes opposing teams have utilized against Vick in the first three games.
The longer Vick holds the ball the more likely he has to either take an unnecessary shot or turn the ball over. Everybody on the offense will benefit from a quicker passing offense, especially a quarterback who already has a bone contusion in his right hand and suffered a concussion in Week 2.