A lot has happened in the first seven weeks of the Eagles season. Between the transition of the franchise from the Donovan McNabb era and 13 draft picks in April, the Eagles have had to deal with a lot of changes in their young roster.
Philadelphia is 4-3 on the year and sits one game behind the New York Giants in the NFC East. Luckily for the Eagles, they play in the NFC East which has been one of the biggest divisional busts of the season. Many believe that the Eagles are lucky to even be in the hunt at this point in the season, considering how inconsistent the team has been and how much drama has surrounded them on and off the field.
We have learned a lot about the Eagles through the first seven weeks. Anyone that follows the Eagles knew coming into the season that it was going to be a year full of questions. Many have coined this year’s team as a “rebuilding process”, whereas others still believe that the Eagles can contend with any team in the NFL. Heading into the second half of the season (and the hardest part of the season), the Eagles have a lot to improve on if they want to be taken seriously in the very up-in-the-air NFC.
So what exactly have we learned this season?
1) The Eagles have two very capable quarterbacks
Andy Reid got his wish. Much to the dislike of fans and the media, Reid has flip-flopped between starters Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick all season. They have both proven that they can lead the team to wins, but it’s their dissimilarities that make this an interesting core. They have very different styles (which I have argued in previous posts is not beneficial to the future of the organization) and have accounted for two wins each on the season. Vick played hero at the beginning of the season, but took a brutal hit on the goal line, sending Kevin Kolb back to the starting role. Kolb answered back in dramatic fashion, leading the ‘Birds in back to back wins over the 49ers and Falcons. They have combined to one of the best passer ratings in the league and I think any Eagles fan can feel comfortable with Vick or Kolb as the starter.
2) The offensive line is a joke
Much of the Eagles success on offense relies on the offensive line. They are one of the most inconsistent units in franchise history. Barred by injuries to Jamaal Jackson and Jason Peters, the Eagles have had to rely on young players such as King Dunlap and Mike McGlynn to carry the weight on the line. They are tied for second in the league for sacks allowed per game (3) and rank high in QB hits allowed. There have been flashes of potential, but week in and week out the offensive line finds a way to keep the opposing defense in the game.
3) Brent Celek hangover
For the most part, the Eagles receiving core has been pretty impressive. DeSean Jackson took one of the biggest hits of the season that has put him out for a couple of weeks. Until this past week against the Titans, Jeremy Maclin has been the most impressive receiver for the Eagles. He leads the ‘Birds with 30 receptions for 458 yards and six touchdowns and has done a sufficient job as the top receiver (with the exception of the Titans game).
More importantly for the success of the Eagles has been the lack of production from tight end Brent Celek. Coming off a Pro-Bowl caliber season, Celek was expected to be one of the best in the league at his position. He only has 21 receptions for 229 yards and two scores on a pass-happy offense that loves to go to the tight end. In the last couple of weeks he has faced problems with dropping balls in crucial moments and is losing his reputation for being a big play tight end. With DeSean Jackson now on the concussion watch list, Celek is going to need to fill in as a go-to receiver.
4) LeSean McCoy has established himself as a No. 1 running back
Without McCoy, the Eagles would probably have a losing record. He has played with cracked ribs the last couple of weeks but continues to carry the workload for the running game. He is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and more impressively he leads the ‘Birds in receptions. One of the biggest questions for the second half of the season is whether or not McCoy can handle the heavy workload during the long season. The Eagles lack a sufficient backup that can compliment McCoy. Hopefully Jerome Harrison can make more of an impact than Mike Bell.
5) Vulnerability of the secondary
Since the Brian Dawkins era, the Eagles secondary has primarily been a big-play unit. They like to take risks with the hopes of not giving up too many big plays. The problem this season is that they have given up too many of those plays. A case point would be last week’s performance by Kenny Britt, who torched the Eagles for 225 yards and three touchdowns in three quarters of play. Ellis Hobbs has been a cancer at cornerback and Asante Samuel has been relatively quiet this year. Despite recording three interceptions in the first three weeks, Nate Allen still has a lot of growing up to do. Quintin Mikell leads the team in tackles, but has been vulnerable to the long ball and tends to get beaten over the top. The Eagles defense is allowing over 22 points per game, ranking them 19th in the league. Sean McDermott is on the hot seat now and improving the secondary is the first thing he needs to do to improve his image.
6) Where is Stewart Bradley?
Two years ago, Stewart Bradley seemed like he was going to the future of the Eagles defense. Since Eagles Flight Night in 2009 when Bradley suffered a season ending ACL tear, he has not provided the same presence in the middle as he did in 2008. He is fifth on the team in tackles and has yet to create a turnover this season. At least the Eagles have Trent Cole to pick up his slack.
7) The schedule is only going to get harder
The biggest concern for the Eagles moving forward has been their inconsistency against mediocre and subpar teams. Three of their four wins have come against teams with losing records, but more importantly their losses have been ugly. All three of their losses have come to teams that are .500 or better. This is a big concern for Eagles fans considering that seven out of the next nine opponents have even or winning records. It also doesn’t help that the Eagles face the Colts coming out of the bye, a team that Andy Reid has yet to beat in his tenure.
Philadelphia has a lot to work on if they want to continue to compete in the division. They face five more NFC East games, including two against the Giants and Cowboys. Let’s see what this young team’s got.
Happy Halloween and more importantly happy Phillies World Series Parade day as it was two years ago today that Broad Street was flooded with red.