It's amazing how quickly things can change in the NFL. The Eagles looked like world-beaters after their week 1 thrashing of the Rams. They looked like Dallas' equal in their Monday night shoot out in week two. After beating the Steelers they looked like a battle-hardened bunch who would pull out tough wins against tough odds. Now, they look like a team that just isn't quite good enough coached by a staff that seems out of touch and rigid. It looks like the Chicago game may just have been the beginning of the end.
After the jump we'll take a look at where this team stands 5 weeks in, if there's a possible light at the end of the tunnel and maybe even assign some blame.
|1||St. Louis||Win, 38-3||1-0|
|2||@ Dallas||Loss, 41-37||1-1|
|4||@ Chicago||Loss, 24-20||2-2|
|6||@ San Francisco||--||--|
|10||New York Giants||--||--|
|14||@ New York Giants||--||--|
Two wins, three losses. Impossible to come back from? No. Nothing's impossible. Look at the schedule, the next three games should be wins. This team should be 5-3 going into the week 10 showdown with the Giants. Of course, this team should be 4-1 right now, so should be doesn't really mean much.
We have to face facts, Brian Westbrook is the best thing about this team. He's probably the best all-around running back in the league. When he's on the field, this offense looks good. When he's not on the field, we're left with a below-average offense and a coach who is either unwilling, or unable to adjust to his personnel. His shortcomings are muted when #36 is out there turning nothing into gold. Otherwise, the offense sputters and fails.
From a roster management perspective, is this forgivable? There are plenty of teams out there who can't overcome an injury to a key player. While pinning your hopes on one guy's health in this league is absolutely an iffy proposition, to an extent the salary cap makes it unavoidable sometimes. This Eagles front office has always been very good at managing the cap, although the few big money bets they've made in free agency have yielded mixed results, at best. (T.O., Kearse, Darren Howard being the bad, Runyan, possibly Asante being the good). There have definitely been mistakes made, and there's been a certain level of arrogance (our wide receivers are fine), but I'm not sure how much of the blame goes to the personnel decisions and how much really belongs on the shoulders of the coaches. At this point, I think we've gone far enough down the blame road for this week, let's shift gears and look at the schedule in front of us.
San Fran is not a good team. So far, they're 1-2 at home, with the losses coming against the Cardinals and the Patriots. Their two wins have come against two horrible teams, Seattle (33-30 in overtime) and Detroit (31-13). I'd hardly classify Candlestick as a hostile environment. There isn't much about San Francisco that's hostile, outside of the windy nights in Candlestick. J.T. O'Sullivan is basically an Arena League-level QB, a 50 year-old Isaac Bruce is their main receiving threat. Pretty much the only weapon they have on offense is Frank Gore. Unfortunately, he's healthy and will play, which gives the Niners one more offensive weapon than the Eagles have.
Still, the defense should be able to win this game on their own. A win here, followed by the bye week, and maybe Westbrook is back for the Falcons game on the 26th. With Westbrook back, that game should be a win as well. Then it's a trip out west to take on the aforementioned pitiful Seahags. Again, should be a win.
This team has 4 weeks, 3 games to get it's act together. 3 chances for Andy Reid to figure out how to get the ball to DeSean with room to work. How to get LJ Smith involved in this offense. How to get Booker involved in the offense, and what type of run plays to call for Buckhalter. On the other side of the ball, Jim Johnson has three games to realize that this defense works best when it's blitzing. I'm not sure why it should take 3 more games to realize this, but nonetheless, it has to be done.
These three games must be wins, and this team must figure out a way to pull out close games by week 9 against the Giants, otherwise we're going to have to start looking toward next year's draft very, very early.