It Is What It Is
You know nothing about a baseball team after eight games, but a pro-football team can absolutely find its level. And four up, four down is the Eagles’ level.
Things always look darkest sitting on a three game losing streak- as this panicked missive from the PDN indicates. But just as I resolutely stood here at .500 after the Eagles’ big home win over Dallas, driving them to a 4-1 start, I resolutely stand here today athwart history cheerily saying “The Eagles aren’t bad, they’re merely okay.”
Put it this way: other than the quarterback, do you have any strong views about any position of the field?
Now, note the following use of the word “okay”. Offensively, the wideouts are okay- Brown and Stallworth would start and contribute many places- and many places they would not. The offensive line features somewhat declining veteran tackles and steadily improving youngsters inside- some good play and some bad play. Westbrook is a great back- but he’s hurt a lot and the secondary players at the position bring nothing despite getting to play a lot due to Westbrook unique nature- that identical brew of very good and sort of bad emerges as “okay” again.
On defense, the linebackers are okay-minus, and the secondary and defensive line okay-plus. Other than Akers, nothing on special teams helps or hurts. It too is a whole lot of okay. Honestly? Outside of McNabb, the Eagles have no glaring strengths or glaring weaknesses- they are the most okay team in terms of players and positions ever.
And that is just it. Mix okay with a great quarterback, you get a low level play-off team- a team that roars to a 4-1 start against jejune opposition. Mix it with bad quarterback play, and you get a six win team that can’t protect its home against an intermediate 4-3 team- or win on the road at all. Friends- that is the Eagles. They are good when McNabb is good, they are bad when he is bad- because they are the most neutral team going.
But, go back to first principals. Remember, the Eagles were bad last year- with real problems on both lines, linebacker and quarterback- and that is a lot to revamp in one campaign. The quarterback position fixed itself. But they’re starting three recent high drafts picks in the defensive line rotation, one on the linebacker corps, and one at safety. And three guys on their first contract are playing on the interior offensive line. That is eight “fixes” right there (editor's note: and all eight are better than their predecessors) so this a work in progress- a work that depended on some luck and a Pro-Bowl quarterback to get a rebuilding year to ten wins.
Well, luck deserted them against the Giants and the Bucs- and McNabb has been bad lately- so they are back to even. A pro team can’t throw in the towel until it reaches seven losses- so the play-offs are unlikely. But if the real goal, as I wrote pre-season, is to get respectable again, start rolling over the talent nucleus, and aviod being the NFC East's new Redskins- then there is still a lot to play for.