5 Improvements the Eagles Must Make During the Bye Week
After a dreadful start to the season, the Eagles find themselves in great position to get back in contention in the NFC East. After beating the NFC East leading Washington Redskins on the road, the Eagles head into their bye week followed by three straight home games against winnable opponents with a combined record of 6-10.
Andy Reid has a remarkable record of 12-0 games following the bye week. His coaching staff always puts together a great game plan. The next three games are crucial for the Eagles as they can't squander this opportunity to get back over .500.
The Eagles under Andy Reid have been known to get better as the season goes and 2011 is no exception. A few key adjustments and improvements during the bye week should position the birds to get back in the hunt for their first Lombardi Trophy.
Juan Castillo made adjustments heading into Week 6 and the results spoke for themselves. The Eagles held the Redskins to just 42 rushing yards and no running back had a longer run then six yards. The defensive tackles made a huge impact, picking up nine combined tackles against Washington. The linebacking core of Jamar Chaney, Moise Fokou and Brian Rolle are still struggling to make enough plays against the run.
Jamar Chaney especially has struggled to make an impact against the run as he had just one last week against the Redskins. Chaney has proven to be a solid middle linebacker in his short time in the NFL. He made two starts in the regular season and one in the playoffs last season after Stewart Bradley dislocated his elbow in Week 14.
Moise Fokou has struggled early, but displayed signs of improvement in Week 6 as he showed more discipline and maintained his lanes better against the run.
Brian Rolle has been the most pleasant surprise at linebacker. He started out as a rookie sixth-round draft pick who had to fight just to make the team, but now has already knocked Casey Matthews out of the starting lineup. His speed and tenacity make him a force at the weakside linebacker position. Rolle had five total tackles against the Redskins. Only Kurt Coleman had more with seven.
The better this unit can perform on a week to week basis, the better this defense can get. It appears that Castillo has figured out how to properly utilize his secondary, now he just has to figure out how to get the most out of his linebackers.
Incorporate the Tight Ends into the Offense More
The tight end position has been almost invisible through the first five weeks of the season for the Eagles. Clay Harbor and Brent Celek had just 148 receiving yards and one touchdown through Week 5, but Celek stepped up with four catches for 42 yards and his first touchdown of the season.
Celek had his best game of the season and Harbor was in on most of the offensive plays as well. Michael Vick is starting to trust the tight ends more and it resulted in one extra red-zone possession being finished off with a touchdown.
When the tight end spot is properly utilized, the Eagles offense can convert more third-down and red-zone possessions.
More Big Plays from DeSean Jackson
Last season DeSean Jackson had five plays of at least 50 yards. This season he's had just one play over 50 yards. The Eagles offense is extremely dangerous because of their speed, namely Jackon's speed.
Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg need to find more ways to get him the ball. Jackson is averaging under five touches a game. When you have a player like DeSean, you have to find ways of getting him the ball in open space whether it's a draw, screen, reverse or a pass. He has to get at least six or seven touches every single week.
The more touches he gets, the more a defense has to adjust to his ability which will open it up for Pro Bowl caliber players like LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin. When DeSean is heavily involved in the offense, everyone benefits.
Get After the Quarterback More
Through the first four games, the Eagles had 15 sacks and were on pace for 60 as a team. In the last two weeks, the Eagles had gotten to the quarterback just three times and are now on pace for about 10 less sacks than they were two weeks ago.
Despite the mediocre play at quarterback from Washington, both Grossman and Beck had time to complete passes down the field. The Redskins threw for 260 yards despite several dropped passes. Had the pass rush gotten to Beck in the fourth quarter, the Eagles wouldn't have needed some clutch first down runs from LeSean McCoy late to seal the game.
Jason Babin had an impressive seven sacks through the first four games but has been shut out against two mediocre offensive lines. The Eagles' secondary is capable of shutting down any receiving core in football, but any receiver will eventually get open if you give them enough time.
Some better blitz packages and a healthy Trent Cole should help. Last season the pass rush fizzled down the stretch. If that's the case in 2011, the Eagles will fall short of their ultimate goal, again.
The Eagles have been without two of the most dominant players at their position, defensive end Trent Cole and offensive tackle Jason Peters, for the last two games. Both players are expected to be ready after the bye week but it isn't a sure thing.
The Eagles need to get healthy during this three-game home stretch. The time to win is now and they need every starter to get healthy during the bye week.
Michael Vick is hurting on just about every single part of his body. LeSean McCoy is going to be counted on for 25 or more carries every single week. The offensive line is gelling, but they need all five starters together to continue to progress.
The best thing for a team during the bye week is to utilize that time off to get healthy. Football is a tough, tough game. Everybody is sore after every single game and it's essential to get healthy and fresh coming out of the bye week.
The Eagles could have every single player healthy (outside of defensive tackle Antonio Dixon who is out for the season), including defensive end Brandon Graham who will be coming off the PUP list after the bye week.
A fresh and well rested Eagles team going up against a very badly beaten Dallas Cowboys team should be a huge advantage. Andy Reid has given the team the entire bye week off and it should pay off in a big way. He is 12-0 after the bye week right?