Green Blood or Not, an Eagles Bust Remains a Possibility
By Alex Biles, University of Michigan
“The Dream Team” is living a nightmare. OK, that statement may be about as exaggerated as its point of reference, but if you’re a Philadelphia Eagles fan (like me), you have to be feeling a little concerned right now about this team.
After breaking his right (non-throwing) hand in today’s loss to the New York Giants, the status of quarterback Michael Vick remains uncertain and on top of concussion problems, the Eagles have to be re-thinking the 6-year, $100 million contact they inked with No. 7 earlier this month.
Perhaps it was the stifling humidity at Lincoln Financial Field or the lack of reps Vick received in practice this week — and unrelated to the concussion he endured in Atlanta — but Philly’s quarterback looked uncharacteristically sluggish for most of his time behind center. His throws were off target and he would routinely hold the ball too long when dropping back.
The performance wasn’t quite lackadaisical, but Vick wasn’t all there.
Offensively, the sole cause for cheer was LeSean McCoy’s dazzling performance as Vick’s foil. The Eagles’ burgeoning runningback gutted the Giants defense for 128 yards. With a long of just 20, most of these runs came in chunks of 11, 12, 13 yards.
The Eagles red zone offense was particularly abysmal, with a turnover and the inability to punch the ball into the end zone from inside the 1-yard line despite multiple opportunities.
On the other side of the football, the defense was consistently unable to stop the Giants’ runningback duo of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs from continuously gashing their way into the secondary. Especially on crucial late game third downs. Piss poor tackling from the defensive backs — most notably on Eli Manning’s first touchdown pass to one Victor Cruz — certainly did not help.
Although Trent Cole had another great outing, and the line was able to apply consistent pressure on Manning, the rest of the defensive play was mostly uninspiring. Blue chip acquisition at cornerback, Nnamdi Asomugha, was beat more than once in coverage, including a jumpball that resulted in Cruz’s second score.
But the catch Nnamdi allowed was nothing compared to Casey Matthews’ blown coverage on the Giants first drive that led to a Brandon Jacobs touchdown. A rookie out of Oregon and starting at middle linebacker, Matthews was already on the hotseat coming into the game, a result of mistakes from the team’s first two games. He could very well find himself watching next week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers on the bench depending on the extent of outside linebacker Moise Fokou’s injury. The Eagles linebacking corps has been its Achilles heel for each of the last two seasons and shows little signs of improving this year.
Three weeks in, and even the most pessimistic of Eagles fans would be surprised at a team sitting at a 1-2 mark, their wings seemingly clipped.
Recent foes Atlanta Falcons and St. Louis Rams both took hits in the loss column this week — the latter going down by 30 to Baltimore — making the Eagles’ performance thus far look even less impressive.
There’s little doubt that the new collective bargaining agreement and delayed free agency period played into the Eagles’ favor, allowing them to load up their roster with a trophy case of big-time signings this summer. But ironically, this has also proven to be a double-edged sword. An abbreviated training camp, coupled with a large number of new faces (12 new starters, 7 on defense) has left the team vulnerable, as they are clearly still in a phase of meshing together.
That, and Michael Vick’s injury problems that plagued him in Atlanta have returned, causing fits for a team — and a city — whose entire championship hopes rest of the well-being of No. 7. The possibility of backup Mike Kafka saving the day seems utterly ridiculous after two of his fourth quarter desperation heaves were picked off by Giants defensive backs.
This bunch of Philadelphia Eagles may be a better team on paper than last season, but they have yet to show that they will even approach last year’s heights, let alone this campaign’s lofty championship aspirations. While it’s still very early and this team will likely improve their level of play as the influx of new players becomes a non-factor, Eagles Nation probably shouldn’t keep that panic button too far away.
Alex Biles is a co-founder of The New Student Union. Follow him @alex_biles