The Philadelphia Eagles saved their season in a Week 6 upset at the hands of the Washington Redskins on the road. The run defense that had been an absolute joke through the first five games held a run first offense to just 42 rushing yards, with the longest run by a running back just six yards. The offense had balance, the defense played well in all phases and they didn't completely shoot themselves in the foot.
But are the Eagles actually back? Not quite. The Eagles still have to prove they can play at this level on a consistent basis. The defense strayed away from the "Wide 9" technique against the run and it paid off. Juan Castillo learned from his mistakes and made some great adjustments. In the NFL, you make adjustments and opposing coaches make theirs, and on and on it goes. Can Castillo continue to improve as a coordinator and put his talented defense in positions to make plays and get stops?
Several players need to continue improving as the season goes on and make more plays. The Eagles are in prime position to get back in contention with three straight home games against beatable teams. The time to turn it up is now.
Michael Vick has gotten off to a good start through the first six games. Vick has a 61 percent completion percentage, nine touchdowns and 1,972 total yards. Vick also has 11 total turnovers which has really hurt the Eagles early on in the season.
Vick can turn any offense from ordinary to extraordinary. In the Eagles' explosive offense, there are no limitations. This offense can put up 30 points on anyone and has weapons all over the place. When Vick is on, the offense is unstoppable. When he is off, the offense stalls and makes critical mistakes.
The Eagles offense can win games with or without the defense playing well. Vick has to take care of the football. If he can limit his turnovers and continue to make plays in the red zone, the Eagles will get back in the NFC East race.
The tight end position has been incredibly unproductive since Michael Vick took over at quarterback last season. That trend showed signs of possibly changing last week against the Redskins. Celek had four catches for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Celek has proven he is a capable receiver, but with way too many drops in the past season and a half, at times it looks like Vick doesn't Trust Celek. He trusted him more in the offense and it paid off. Celek has grown as a blocker and the offensive line has allowed him to go out more as a receiver.
Celek is vital to the Eagles' red-zone offense. He can catch the ball down the middle and he has size that the Eagles wide receivers lack. The more he is involved in the offense, the more dynamic the offense becomes.
With Antonio Dixon out, Mike Patterson is vital to the Eagles' run defense. Patterson played well against the Redskins, picking up three tackles and a sack, but with defensive tackles, stats never tell the whole story. The Redskins' 42 rushing yards does him more justice.
The Eagles' talented secondary will be a moot point if their run defense gets gashed like it did the first four weeks. Patterson is a more than capable run stuffer, especially with Cullen Jenkins lined up up next to him. He has to stay healthy and he has to be able to make an impact against the run.
So far he is off to a good start, but with Dixon out he has to continue to step p his game. Not bad for a guy whose career was in question after suffering a seizure during training camp.
Jamar Chaney had a lot of momentum going into the 2011 season after two very solid starts in the regular season last year. Some NFL analysts believed that Chaney was already one of the better middle linebackers in the league. This season has not gone according to plan for Chaney.
He's been ineffective stopping the run and has struggled in pass coverage. He's shown some signs of improvement with the adjustments Juan Castillo has made with the "Wide 9," but Chaney had just one tackle last week against Washington.
Chaney has to start locking down tight ends and running backs in pass coverage. What good are stud corners if the opposing tight ends are open down the middle of the field?
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a big-play cornerback. His speed and size give him the ability to stay with any receiver and make a big play when he picks off a pass. So far he has yet to make any big plays. Zero sacks and zero interceptions.
He will get his opportunities to make big plays as the season goes on.
Nnamdi Asomugha is back to playing press coverage and will start shutting down whichever receiver lines up on his side. Asante Samuel is a solid cover corner capable of jumping any route when you least expect it. That leaves Rodgers-Cromartie.
Quarterbacks will have to start throwing his way more and he will have ample chances to make big plays.I would expect Castillo to start blitzing more as well. When he is not accounted for in protection, quarterbacks have about half a second to make a decision before DRC gets to the quarterback.
I would expect a big second half from Dominique Rodger-Cromartie as he gets more comfortable in the defense and Castillo starts to get a better understanding of how to utilize him.