Five Changes the Philadelphia Eagles Can Make to Compete Next Season
AP Photo | KATHY WILLENS
A long time ago, before the NFL season began, analysts and journalists alike were enamored with the Philadelphia Eagle's roster. Even if we were Eagles fans or not, we had to sit through interview and discussions where many totted that the Eagles were the "Dream Team". With a stacked roster at almost every position, it seemed almost impossible that the Eagles could fail, come the regular season.
This was a long, long time ago. Twelve weeks into the regular season and us sports fans have had to deal with horrible pun after horrible pun now that the Eagle's season has imploded upon itself.
The Philadelphia Eagles have the talent to go undefeated, yet they have not. While this year is almost over for the Eagles, next year looks even brighter, if viewed at the right angle.
Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg Need to Change Their Coaching Style, or Leave
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Andy Reid has never been a bad coach. I've never been a Reid fan, and in fact only weeks ago I thought he was terrible and for the future of Philadelphia needed to be fired immediately. Now, though, I can't help but feel sympathy for him when I look back to what he has done for the Eagles in the past. He's been good to the Eagles; taking them within minutes of winning a superbowl. However, as it seems now, Andy Reid, and his offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, are not getting it done in Philadelphia.
At the end of the season, Andy Reid will have made the playoffs two times out of last three seasons. His playoff win average will also be an abysmal .000, losing both wild card games in 2009 and 2010. In 2008, his Eagles team reached the NFC Championship game, but the 2008 squad and the current Eagles squad are very different. What Reid and Mornhinweg are doing right now in Philadelphia is completely unfit for the strengths of the team. The best kind of coaches adopt their coaching style to fit the team they are coaching. Andy Reid has shown he is unable to do this, and Marty Mornhinweg is also responsible as offensive coordinator.
A new coach would shed a lot of light on the franchise and hopefully adopt a style more suitable for the current strengths and weaknesses of Philadelphia as a team.
Retooling the Offense Around LeSean McCoy
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LeSean McCoy could be the heart and the soul of the Philadelphia Eagles team. Averaging 5.5 yards per carry this season, he has matured exponentially each season since he was drafted by Eagles in 2009. For some reason, the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff does not seem to realize this.
Twelve games into the season, Philadelphia is ranked second in the league in rushing yards per game with 157.1. While this stat includes Michael Vick's rushing totals, they have been able to keep within the top 2 since Michael Vick was injured a couple of weeks ago. The Eagles are also currently averaging 5.5 yards per attempt as a team, ranked #1 in the NFL. Again, while this includes Vick's numbers, the picture becomes clearer once you examine the attempts. While ranking within the top 2 of the NFL in Rushing yards and average per carry, Philadelphia ranks 8th in rushing attempts per game, which includes Michael Vick's attempts as well.
As a rusher, McCoy is averaging 17.9 carries per game. To put that in perspective, Adrian Peterson is averaging 18.6 attempts per game currently, and Frank Gore is averaging 18.7 per game. During his 1.7k yard season, Adrian Peterson averaged 22.7 attempts per game. While increasing his attempts by only one or two per game would not do much, giving McCoy four or five more attempts per game could potentially put the Eagles over the top. It could also potentially erase a mistake made by Michael Vick, as well as prevent future ones if defenses had to constantly blitz the Eagle's offense in order to stop the run.
To put things into perspective, when the Eagles faced New England two weeks ago, Vince Young threw the ball 48 times. Not even this tells the whole story; any one of the six times Vince Young rushed the ball could have been a pass play where VY decided to run instead of pass. The Philadelphia Eagles, with LeSean McCoy averaging over 5 yards per carry, decided VY throwing the ball fifty-plus times and McCoy rushing only ten times would somehow win them the game.
The Philadelphia Eagles could find success switching to a run-first offense now. When LeSean McCoy has 20 or more attempts per game, the Eagles soar with a 3-1 record. When he rushes for under 20 attempts per game, they are an astounding 1-7. Their only victory came opening day against St Louis, where, with only 15 attempts, McCoy rushed for 150 yards, an 8.1 average, and a touchdown.
Michael Vick Has to Improve His Game
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As of right now, Michael Vick is a potentially amazing quaterback having a bad season. On the year, he has a 60% completion rate and 2,100 yards in 9 games. In those nine games, he's rushed for over 500 yards and has a rushing average of 8.2 yards per attempt. However, he is averaging more than one interception per game–11 on the year. This is a far cry from his resurgence last year–only six interceptions to go along with 21 touchdowns on the 2010 season. Also notably is that Michael Vick has already missed several games due to injures.
If Philadelphia expects Michael Vick to be their every game quarterback, they are sadly mistaken. Throughout his entire NFL career, Vick has only played all 16 games once, in 2006. He's aged quite considerably since then, and it's doubtful that he can continue pull out another all-start season they way he's playing.
Thankfully, Michael Vick has already promised to learn how to slide, instead of fighting for additional yards. While this might be enough, Michael Vick also has to fix his new interception problem. While he complains readily that he is hit often, the Eagles have one of the lowest sack totals in the league. If Vick allowed himself to be sacked more often instead of throwing a pass that might be picked, the Eagles would often be better. Michael Vick has to relax in the pocket and make an educated decision whether throwing the ball, rushing the ball, or taking a sack is the right move in every circumstance. He's shown he was able to do this in 2010, and he needs to return to this mentality.
If Vick does spend several weeks next season sidelined again, making sure they can keep around a good backup quarterback is a necessity. They do not need a great quarterback - Vince Young as he is is fine. There are plenty of quarterbacks that could fit in good when Vick is down, and several that would be more comfortable handing the ball off to McCoy instead of passing it often. If VY isn't the answer, there is tons of potentially tolerable back up options available.
The Defense Needs to Be More Disciplined
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There is no excuse for the Philadelphia Eagles to be ranked where they are right now defensively. One of the main reasons that the Eagles received so much hype this year was because of their signing of Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the most talented cornerbacks in the game. They also brought in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and managed to keep Asante Samuel. Their loaded secondary was where the hype for the Eagles "Dream Team" started, and as a unit defensively, they are not producing up to their talent level. They have the potential.
Last year, without Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie, they ranked 12th in the league in overall yards allowed per game. They managed to snuff the run for only 110 total rushing yards per game. They also allowed 216 yards per game through the air. While not the best team in football defensively, they were good enough to compliment the high-powered offense they had last year.
The main problem last year, as well as this year, is that the Eagles allowed an astounding average of 23 points per game to their opponents. This was manageable last year behind Michael Vick's major offensive breakthrough. This year, with Michael Vick struggling and the Eagles being unable to put the points on the board that they were last year, the defense needs to become the main strength of the Eagles as a team. The defense has the talent to become a better squad and they have shown that they are definitely capable of posting better numbers next year.
If the Eagles defense improves to the point they are holding teams to below 20 points a game, it would free up the entire offense and take the pressure off of Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson.
They Need to Take Advantage of the Offseason
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The Philadelphia Eagles are an enormously talented team which is suffering from the lack of an offseason that would have allowed them time to tool their offense. While this is not an excuse for the way they preformed this year, it definitely did not help. None of these slides detail a change that needs to be made that would require time or effort. Simply put, the Philadelphia Eagles is the kid in class who always fools around, but is really smart and could put the work in and be a great student.
I've been speaking about the Eagles during this article like their NFL season is over. While they face an enormously tough up hill battle to even get within the hunt to make the playoffs, they still have four games left that they could use to show the fans what is to come next year. If the Eagles players and the Eagles coaching staff make these changes before this Sunday, they could come out of the final four weeks with a 4-0 record. Ending the season at sub .500 is a lot different then ending it at .500.
Their practices now, or during the off season after this year should be about disciplining as a unit. Andy Reid (or whoever after), has to give the message that bad play by great players will be intolerable. A great way the Eagles coaching staff could display this message is through LeSean McCoy. Giving him more carries per game would show the rest of the players that determination will be rewarded. Rousing the Eagles to the point where they can play like the elite team that they are destined to be is the most important part of fixing the problems the Eagles have as a unit.