You could hear a pin drop at the end of Sunday’s loss to Dallas. The fan-base and players have the same level of apathy about this team. The biggest problem is that no one knows what the exact problem is. A trickle down effect of immense proportions starts with Andy Reid and hits Juan Castillo, Michael Vick, King Dunlap, Nnamdi Asomugha, and many more within the franchise. And believe me, there is a lot of justified blame to go around, not just for the Eagles 3-6 record as a whole, but the absolutely abysmal performance yesterday against divisional rival Dallas in what might have been the final meaningful game of the season.
Michael Vick, the limited amount of time he was in the game, seemed to finally avoid making critical mistakes that had cost the team field position and points in the previous games. Vick led the Eagles to their first touchdown on the opening drive of a game all season. The Eagles are the last team in the NFL to do it this season. Imagine that for a minute, that the Eagles offense with Vick, McCoy, Jackson, Maclin, and Celek did not score a touchdown on the opening drive of a game in their first eight games.
The offensive line did nothing to help Vick early in the game and despite avoiding getting rookie Nick Foles a free trip to the infirmary for much of the game, began to break down late in the game when the pressure was too much for Foles. The biggest culprit(s) was the tackle(s). Demetress Bell and King Dunlap are just not cutting it at protecting the outside of the line. King Dunlap’s days are numbered as an NFL lineman and the spotty play as an offensive lineman aside, his play on the punt return for a touchdown was perhaps the most tell-tale sign that these players are apathetic about anything other than themselves. Three penalties were called against the “king” and he nearly got a job as a Cowboy when he took out Jeremy Maclin on a busted wide receiver screen. I suppose there was also the Eagles 43 yard field goal attempt in the 3rd quarter in which Dunlap evidently forgot that he was playing and cost the Eagles a timeout.
Brent Celek following the loss to the New Orleans Saints tweeted, “I’m not looking for sympathy. Fans rightly hold us accountable. My performance was crap, but I promise u this will change”. Well Brent, we’re still waiting for this performance to change. His blocking has been atrocious, and if Nick Foles is going to be playing against Washington (which all signs point to) then Clay Harbor will be on the field much more in order to chip and block a good yet injured Redskins front seven.
Nnamdi Asomugha. Let’s just summarize his tenure as an Eagle in one play. Felix Jones’ touchdown reception featured perhaps some of the worst tackling this side of Pop Warner football. Asomugha, the prized free agent acquisition, was at the heart of it with a clear shot at stopping Jones. Needless to say, he didn’t and Jones scored on the play.
DeMeco Ryans has gone AWOL since the Eagles have been 3-1. Perhaps the Houston Texans fleeced the Eagles on a trade, even if it was just for a 4th rounder.
Andy Reid. Andy…Andy…Andy. I’ve been a huge supporter of Big Red during his tenure as the Eagles’ coach and have rarely wavered on my support for Reid. However, it seems painfully evident that the game has passed Reid by and he’s incapable of in-game adjustments and utilizing the talent he has at ALL positions. LeSean McCoy has not received 20 or more carries since the Eagles last victory against the New York Giants. In fact, the only time the Eagles have won all season has been when LeSean McCoy has gotten 20+ rushing attempts. Imagine that for a minute. Following the game, McCoy said when asked what is wrong with this team simply, “If we knew, we would be winning. It’s something that we cannot find. We are still searching for that solution.”
When rookie Nick Foles entered the game, evidently it never dawned on neither Reid nor Morningwheg to make the playcalling different to benefit the young signal caller. Said Reid about how different the play calling was from the sidelines, “Really not different. We used the same plays.” I’m sorry, but the same plays? Andy, the Eagles offense with Nick Foles is immensely different than Eagles offense with Michael Vick. You’ve got to do better there.
This leads us to the fork in the road that I mentioned prior to the game against Dallas. The Eagles now are tied for the 2nd worst record in the NFC with the Washington Redskins, whom the Eagles face this Sunday at FedEx field. With Michael Vick suffering from major concussion-like symptoms, Nick Foles will most likely will get the start not only for this game, but also the remainder of the season. Some, such as Yahoo! Sports writer Jason Cole wrote Monday “it’s a pretty strong bet” Vick will be rested for the balance of the regular season citing at least two Eagles’ sources. This could mean that Michael Vick has played his last snap for the Philadelphia Eagles as his contract can be voided immediately following the 2012 NFL season.
For Nick Foles, I felt that his first NFL game was about as good as one could realistically expect considering he came into the game cold and faced a divisional rival in a must-win game. Foles showed poise in the pocket despite throwing some ill-timed throws that Dallas took advantage of. Many people overreacted both positively and negatively to Foles’ touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin. Some didn’t view it as a great play because of the busted coverage by Dallas. However, that is the job of an NFL quarterback…to make a play when the defense commits an error. Now this does not mean that the Eagles quarterback situation is solved, but it does show that Foles has a cannon for an arm, has more mobility than previously thought of, and can’t possibly do any worse on a team that is clearly not playoff material.
And as for Andy Reid, many believe that he will be fired at the end of the season. While the ends would certainly justify the means, I am skeptical only for one reason. If Nick Foles shows glimpses of talent, and in the case of Jeffrey Lurie glimpses might need to be huge visions, then the conventional thought process might go out the window. Andy Reid could easily make the case that the offensive line was decimated by injuries, Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator faced an uphill battle halfway through the season, and that Reid’s proven track record of establishing and grooming quarterbacks would be enough to give him a year-to-year contract with Foles at the helm. That’s an extraordinary what if scenario, but we have seen stranger things from this Philadelphia Eagles team. And while the brunt of the blame should be placed on Reid (and deservedly so), it comes down to players making plays. Reid “has to put the players in a better position” and the Eagles “have to do a better job there”, but perhaps Cullen Jenkins said it best following the loss.
“We are just not coming up with plays when it counts. That is a big thing and when you look at any championship team, they go through tough stretches, but when they have to make a play, they do. We have to figure out a way to do that.”