Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Eagles' Passing Game

The passing game is absolutely killer right now. When healthy (read: William James being able to match up against guys he’s capable of covering,) this defense will be very good. They have a good interior pass rush, and Juqua Thomas provides a spark from the outside when he’s in the game. They’ve done a surprisingly good job of stopping the run, and even Considine has been playing better.

Offensively, the running game has been good. I said this last week, but I feel I have to reiterate it. They haven’t been the problem so far. Buckhalter needs some more carries. Westbrook has been as shifty and elusive as ever. The line has gelled a bit and Tapeh is making some good blocks. However, the Eagles aren’t utilizing the running game enough, and as I review what’s wrong with the Eagles’ passing attack, the first thing I talk about is related to that.

Playcalling: I know the Eagles were down for much of the Washington game, but the pass-run ratio is inexcusable. Not only is McNabb hurt and should be eased back into action, passing the ball 70% of the time never works with any QB. Defenses won’t bite on play action when there’s no reason to react to the play fake. The Eagles thrive off play action. It was absolutely huge last year. They need that part of their offense. The D-Line can pin their ears back and aggressive rush the QB. Once you get to this point, screens and draws can reel the defense back in, but the Eagles haven’t even been doing that. If Andy Reid is waiting to flip on some switch before calling more screen plays and mixing up personnel and packages to get mismatches, there’s no more time to wait.

Receiver play: It feels like I’m watching a replay of the Carolina NFC Championship, and I’m not a fan of how that one ended. Jaws mentioned this statistic ad nauseam on the broadcast, but the Packers pressed the Eagle receivers 90+% of the offensive plays in week one, and Washington probably had a pretty high number as well. They haven’t been getting off jams and they haven’t been getting separation. What’s McNabb supposed to do if no one gets open? The offense depends on getting off the line and timing, and everything is thrown off if they get bumped at the line. I don’t know what the Eagles can do except man up, get physical and make some plays so they have to back off. There are way too many drops, and I really wish that wouldn’t develop into a problem again.

Personnel decisions: It’s a bit too early to give up on Kevin Curtis, but I’ve been underwhelmed with what I’ve seen lately. He seems to have good chemistry with McNabb, but he just hasn’t played well. I thought he was going to be able to do what Stallworth did last year except in all 16 games, but I don’t think he’s going to live up to that: not that Stallworth is doing much in Mossland anyway. He was billed as a fast receiver who can make tough catches, and although he’s displayed pretty good deep speed when he’s not being mugged at the line, he dropped a key pass last night. We have good depth; Avant has been making tough catches this year, and Baskett is a big, athletic guy to have as your 4th receiver. Reggie Brown needs to get out of his funk and get back on track in his development.

Donovan McNabb: He’s not free from criticism. I know he’s getting back from a serious injury, and I’m sure that’s affecting him, but he hasn’t played well. His throws have been off the mark, both in the ground and too high. His accuracy is normally up and down, but he’s been all over the place so far. I’m not going off the deep end and saying his days as an elite QB are over, but he needs to settle in soon, and I’m confident he will.

Offensive Line: They played well against Washington, but protection was a bit of a problem against Green Bay, so I should mention it.

0-2 isn’t the end of the world. They finished 0-2 a few years ago, and they made it to the NFC Championship. However, I will say the offense needs to wake up fast. We’ve wasted a couple pretty good games from the defense, and the O needs to start playing up to their potential.

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