Philadelphia Eagles Disappointing Start: Breaking It Down and Turning It Around
1-4. A record that seemed impossible to the Philadelphia Eagles during preseason is now a reality through Week 5.
Everything that could possibly go wrong for the Eagles has somehow spun totally out of control.
There is no immediate solution to all of the Eagles' problems, but a team with this much talent must be limiting its potential.
The first problem that most people point to is their underperforming defense. But what is specifically wrong with the defense that has five improved starters from last year’s atrocity, and how is it going to get fixed?
Let’s go into further detail and dissect the collapse of the “dream team” and how they can manage to right the ship.
The Linebackers Are Terrible...
The main thing that the Eagles did not fix over the offseason was their linebacking corps. They lost veteran middle linebacker Stewart Bradley to free agency and expected fourth-round pick Casey Mathews to fill in with a smooth transition replacing him.
Problem is, Mathews didn’t even stand out in college and was only drafted because his brother is a Pro Bowler on the Packers.
Casey forced only one fumble in his college career, and recorded only nine sacks, five fewer than his brother had in total only last season.
For the Eagles to throw a rookie out into arguably the most important position on defense with absolutely no backup plan is a disgrace.
After playing horribly in the first three games of the year, Mathews was replaced by sixth-round pick Brian Rolle leaving the Eagles with two seventh-round picks and a sixth-round pick as their run stoppers for the season.
...But a Trade Can Help Fix It Up
A solution to improving the Eagles linebacking corps is to trade Asante Samuel or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for help behind the line. The Eagles have three Pro Bowl cornerbacks on a team that starts only two, which means that DRC has been held as only a third-down player this year.
With wasted talent like DRC on their bench, the Eagles might as well ship one of these excess players to a team with secondary problems such as the Oakland Raiders, who lost their best corner Nnamdi Asomugha to the Eagles.
The Raiders would send over veteran linebacker Kamerion Wimbley in a trade that would strengthen each team’s weakness.
Focus on the Fundamentals
The Eagles defense was so bad at stopping the run against mediocre running back Fred Jackson that 59 of his 111 rushing yards came after first contact.
This stat calls for the Eagles to go back to practicing the basics, starting with tackling and ball security.
All three of these fundamentals have been killing the Eagles all season. They have lost the game twice due to receivers Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin losing the ball driving deep into their opponent’s territory at the end of a game.
The Eagles have also had their fair share of stupid plays, most notably Juqua Parker’s offside penalty against the Bills when everybody in the stadium knew the ball wasn’t going to be snapped.
Whether it takes tackling in practice or lining up and not jumping on the no-call, the Eagles have to fix up these basic football skills.
Also, somebody has to tell Michael Vick to stop running with the ball in his hand as if he is going to throw it. This ball-handling strategy Vick has makes it too easy for defenses to pick up easy strips.
Find a Leader
The Eagles’ defenses in years past have had leaders such as Brian Dawkins and Jeremiah Trotter who would pump up the Eagles to do well.
After management strangely got rid of Dawkins following the 2008 season and he became a Pro Bowler the year after, the Eagles haven’t had any leaders who drive or inspire their teammates to play well.
There are many candidates on the Eagles D to become leaders, but none of them have stepped up yet.
If this doesn't happen, nobody will play with any motivation.
Get off the Field After a Loss
What irks me the most about the Eagles' atrocious start is how happy the team seems moments after they lose a game.
Right after the final whistle blew in Buffalo, Michael Vick and Jason Avant were seen laughing and joking with the Bills players, even though it was their faults for the most part that they lost the game.
Players should not be happy after a devastating defeat; they should be motivated from the loss and be determined for the result not to repeat itself the next week.
Real leaders would enforce this type of attitude onto their teammates, not encourage activity such as not caring after a loss.
Don't Fire Andy Reid...
Part of this indetermination to play the game right can rest on the coaches’ shoulders.
When a team this talented is underperforming the way the Eagles are right now, things need to change.
Firing Reid is not an option right now because the Eagles still have hope of making the playoffs.
Getting rid of a head coach and his system is a long-term decision, and getting rid of him in midseason would just lead to a complete disaster for the remaining games of the year.
If the Eagles finish the season as horribly as they have started it, then the firing rumors will be swirling.
...But Get Rid of Juan Castillo
What the Eagles can do as a short-term solution is fire new Defensive Coordinator Juan Castillo in hopes that the defense still has time to learn from a knowledgeable coach.
Defensive players cannot learn anything about defense from an offensive line coach, and it is time Reid admits that his little experiment has failed miserably.
Castillo’s schemes are sucking the talent out of players such as Asomugha and Samuel who have flourished under every defensive coordinator besides the very one coaching them now.
Abandon the Wide-9
New defensive line coach Jim Washburn needs to abandon the wide-9 technique that he has been implementing on the line because it opens up too many running lanes.
When a team can successfully run more times than pass in a game as the Bills did (35 runs opposed to 27 passes), then we know that change is in order.
The Eagles defensive line is already talented enough with three Pro Bowlers in Trent Cole, Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins that it can sacrifice a bit a pressure on the QB to give the linebackers a little more help against the run.