Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Changes To Save the 2011 Season
This Eagles season has gone from promising, to disappointing, to humiliating, to just downright pathetic in only four weeks. And with the Eagles standing at a dreadful 1-3 record, few good things can be said about this team.
The problems with the team are endless. There's plenty for Eagles fans to be disgusted with, but it would appear to many that this season is over before it really truly began.
Fortunately for the Eagles, the NFC East is the weakest it's ever been, perhaps in a decade. The New York Giants are weakened and not quite as good of a team as they were in the past. The Dallas Cowboys are underachieving. And the Washington Redskins, despite a good start, are still led by Rex Grossman. Ever since his 305-yard performance in the season opener, Grossman has now thrown four touchdowns to five interceptions in his last three games.
This division is weak enough that if the Eagles get their act together, they might just be able to sneak into the postseason.
Here are five changes that must be made to get the Eagles into the playoffs...
1. Fire Juan Castillo
Joseph Labolito/Getty Images
Andy Reid's decision to appoint his offensive line coach, Juan Castillo, to the position of defensive coordinator was at the time shocking and puzzling. Now, a few weeks into the 2011 season, we see that the decision was more than that.
It was foolish and made absolutely no sense at all.
Lesson learned. Never appoint a friend to one of the most important coaching positions on your team who has no NFL experience coaching the defense. And now this problem must be fixed before things get out of hand.
Castillo looks like a deer in the headlights out there every Sunday, as he fails to adjust his game plan when opposing teams clearly have his schemes figured out.
He makes players on the defense fit his scheme rather than changing his defense to fit their strengths, such as making Nnamdi Asomugha play zone coverage as opposed to man-to-man and placing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at the nickel rather than trading Samuel for a linebacker.
And overall, the players on defense look ill-prepared and lost, as they are exploited for big play after big play, made worse by poor tackling.
Jim Washburn seems the logical choice to take over and, as a defensive line coach, he may know how to generate better pressure on opposing offenses. But it is clear the Eagles must cut ties with Castillo if they are serious about contending this season.
2. Use Ronnie Brown More
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Yes, Ronnie Brown had a pretty bad play today. He tried to throw the ball into the end zone while being tackled only to fumble it.
But regardless, it is surprising that Brown is not being used more. Especially when we consider that he was a starter for many years and with a unique combination of strength and quickness, is arguably a more balanced running back than McCoy is.
Today, LeSean McCoy was effectively game-planned against and averaged only two yards a carry. As a result, Brown should be used more as a change-of-pace running back, especially in areas that the Eagles have consistently struggled, such as the red zone or in short yardage near the end zone.
Brown has the potential to be a big-bruising back. The team must get the ball into the end zone whenever it has the opportunity, especially when they have a rookie kicker who is showing some growing pains.
3. Use Jason Avant More on Must-Score Drives
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
As much as I love Jeremy Maclin, a player I believe to be highly underrated, Maclin has done much this season to hurt this football team.
He dropped a very accurately thrown pass to end the Eagles' hopes of a comeback against the Atlanta Falcons, and he fumbled the ball against the 49ers when the Eagles were in field goal range to potentially win the game.
This may be as much of a message to him to step up as it is football strategy, but it is time to get Avant more involved on drives that must end in a score.
In the past, Avant has consistently bailed out the Eagles whenever they needed a big catch or a big play to keep the momentum going. He has the best hands on the team, and it was once argued he had the best in the NFL.
I'd hate to call you out Maclin, but we can't have you dropping the ball in situations when a catch is absolutely needed.
Instead, we should find a way to get the ball into Avant's glue-like hands.
4. Get DeSean Jackson More Involved
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
It seems that the Eagles offense takes a huge hit when they do not have Vick to DeSean Jackson bombs. And while there have been a few deep passes to Jackson this season, Jackson seems to be scoring fewer touchdowns than in seasons past.
It may be because teams are playing their safeties deeper, thus making it more difficult for Jackson to burn them. But Jackson is the most potent playmaker on the Eagles roster.
And to win ball games, it often comes down to getting the ball into the hands of your best players, somehow and someway.
For players with more size and strength, such as Calvin Johnson, this may be as simple as lofting them the ball, even in triple coverage. But for a player who relies primarily upon speed, such as Jackson, Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg should devise more screens, end-arounds, end-reverses or just simple running plays. Anything to just give Jackson the ball and let him make big plays.
At 1-3, this Eagles team is in desperate need of big plays, and fast. Anything to spark this slumping team and give it some momentum.
5. More Aggressive Defensive Playcalling
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
It's time that this Eagles team went back to its roots: The defense drawn up by the legendary Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, which took the Eagles to 11-plus wins every season and deep postseason runs.
This Eagles defense needs to blitz more and confuse the quarterback.
This will likely be implemented more if the first slide of this article is followed, and a coach such as Jim Washburn was appointed to lead the defense with a penchant for getting to the quarterback.
But the problem with this defense is that its strengths are not utilized enough, and its weaknesses are too easily exposed.
It is too easy to run the ball on the Eagles, and too easy for the quarterback to find the open tight end, or open receiver to move the chains.
We have the best cornerback corps in the NFL. Both Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel can keep up with a receiver, for at least a few seconds. And that is all that may be needed for speedy playmakers, such as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, to get to the quarterback or to disrupt his timing.
Constant pressure makes it easier for the rest of the defense to do its job. It is time to pick up where Johnson left off and to once again make this one of the most aggressive, and most feared, defenses in the league.
Combine that with all the speed on offense and this team can still salvage its Super Bowl dreams.