This season has been a disaster for the Philadelphia Eagles, but it can be salvaged. While the world, and most Eagles’ fans, are screaming for head coach Andy Reid’s head, the true essence of the Eagles’ issues is Heart. They are severly lacking it.
All of the Eagles’ struggles can be attributed to those physically dominating plays that they no longer make. The Eagles are allowing six yards per play which ranks them eighth in the league.
They allow an embarrassing 5.3 yards per rush and 25.2 points per game. However, this only tells part of the story. The biggest problem for the Eagles lies within the red zone. When their backs are against the wall, the defense goes from ugly to putrid.
Opponents are scoring 80 percent of the time they enter the red zone against this group. Eight out of 10 times teams enter the 20-yard line they are walking away with some type of points against the Birds. This has to stop.
The red zone is all about toughness and that is something this team has been lacking since Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Dawkins, and Michael Lewis left. It is a mentality that is not exuded from their head coach. Andy Reid is a lot of things and tough is not one of them. Asante Samuel is a lot of things and tough is not one of them. This can be said about the entire secondary.
So why not bring in two guys who are tough enough? For all of Michael Lewis’ pass coverage deficiencies, and lawd knows there were plenty of them, he was physical at the point of attack.
Raise your hand wherever you are if you are tired of watching Kirk Coleman be the first on the scene and last to hit somebody. Raise your hand if you, as a proud Eagles’ fan, laughed as Frank Gore DRAGGED Asante Samuel across the goal line last Sunday.
Michael Lewis may not have been able to cover peanut butter on bread, but at least he would smack fire out of somebody. This attribute is blatantly missing from the 2011 Eagles. More importantly, this attribute is REQUIRED if the Eagles want to win these games. Lewis was last seen in St. Louis and is currently a free agent.
Now Brian Dawkins has played in all four games for the Broncos but is not a starter, so the Eagles would not have to give up much to secure the safety. Last season he started 11 games at strong safety, which is the position he would be brought back to play, and finished the year with 55 tackles, two sacks, and two forced fumbles.
Nate Allen at free safety had 12 less tackles and one less forced fumble in 13 games. This year Allen has yet to recover from his injury and looks at times, dare we say scared of contact? Kirk Coleman is a decent special teams player and has confirmed through his play he is not the answer at safety. If anything he is the reason for our frustrations.
Aside from the on-the-field contributions, Dawkins would bring a sense of accountability that is lacking. It is no mistake that the secondary played with fire when he was here. Guys like Rod Hood, Quintin Mikell, and Joselio Hanson played above their heads because they were taught from day one to work hard in all facets of their game, not just the glorified ones. That's the missing element here.
Lewis and Dawkins provide help on the field and an attitude off it. They had a level of expectation that just is not there on Sundays anymore. On the field, both players would be used the way Steve Atwater of the Denver Broncos late in his career and Leroy Butler of the Green Bay Packers during their Super Bowl years were used.
The Eagles would utilize them as an in the box quasi-linebacker/safety. The two would be in place to provide extra run support and coverage on the tight end, with the focus on run support. Both players would allow Castillo to put the current group in a better position to utilize their strengths as players.
Defensive Coordinator Juan Castillo is using free agent acquisition Nnamdi Asomugha wrong. He is not a zone player. He made a name for himself as a man-to-man corner and word on the street is he was pretty good at it.
Castillo needs to allow Asomugha to lock on one receiver all game. Then put Samuel in zone coverage (where he flourishes) and allow him to play in space. This enables Samuel to watch the quarterback and use his ball hawking skills. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s speed has to be on the field. The kid is a competitor and should be used in some sort of over the top coverage.
It would be a lot simpler to implement Dawkins into the starting lineup then one would think. Dawkins would take the place of the aforementioned Coleman immediately. Then, once Lewis got in game shape and was brought up to speed, he and the Eagle great would be interchangeable.
I know what you are thinking, but the safeties the Eagles have suck to the highest of sucktivity (honestly their is no real word to explain how bad they have played) and the linebackers need discipline. The Eagles use to put players in a position to succeed. This was a staple in the Jim Johnson, Buddy Ryan, and Bud Carson led defenses. They managed to hide every player’s flaws and find ways to emphasize each player’s best quality.
Castillo thus far has not done that. Just by putting Coleman on the field in any capacity, outside of special teams, puts him in position to fail.
The Birds are suffering from the “ham, no burger" syndrome. They have some of the parts but not what is needed to finish the meal. They have cover corners that need physical safeties. The current group of safeties are not missing the tackles, but instead they are getting ran though.
All three losses exposed the lack of physical toughness in this secondary. Gonzalez’s two touchdowns in Atlanta, Cruz’s 78-yard trot to the end zone for the Giants and Gore carrying Samuel into the end zone all said the same thing.
The Eagles need a change, for better or for worse.
That change needs to happen expeditiously or the season is lost. The Birds have two more games before a much needed bye and the trade deadline is just 13 days away. It would be difficult to add new faces to your defense this late in the season, but not impossible.
The addition of Dawkins more than anything would give a boast of confidence to a defense that should be disgusted with their play. This defense should have expected more of themselves, however it is time to bring in a veteran who will demand more from them.
A veteran who was level of play was not wanted at one point but whose heart and courage is needed now more than ever.