Monday, September 29, 2008


Taking the shine off the weekend- Phillies win, Mets lose, the whole lot of NL candidates looking increasingly vulnerable to a Philadelphia baseball team playing well- would take some doing.

Yet the Eagles managed it- with one of the most dispiriting losses I can remember, well, since last year when they played the Bears.

It was a complete display of why the Eagles are a .500 outfit- remaining an utter coin flip to win the wild card only due to the last-place schedule.

How can you lose an NFL game when the opponent gives you four turnovers? Well, you commit real turnovers, plus commit some ipso de facto turnovers: missed FGs are a field position killer nowadays (Yo Coach- no more 50 yard attempts ever for Akers), not a few sacks too (almost an automatic punt- plus ten yards of field position).

But a real 9-7 team is defined by situations like this: why does the offense not have a single thing it can count on as a plus week after week?

For instance, despite starting with an all-pro, the Eagles have so bungled the running back position so badly it defies description or belief. Look, Brain Westbrook is a great player- but he puts an unreal strain on your roster. He misses games- and even in the games he plays his touches are actively managed. The other running backs have to play. And yet....

Did anyone notice that once Correll Buckhalter got hurt, the Eagles did not have an NFL caliber RB on their roster? I’m not talking very limited back-up; I’m talking should not be in the League. Boy, the Dolphins stole one on Philadelphia with Lorenzo Booker. He can’t block, carry the football or catch it. He has no NFL level skills that I can observe and he doesn’t seem to know some of the plays. To wit, he isn’t a barely marginal back-up; he simply can’t play. So far, Tony Hunt is a complete bust as a first day pick. No offense Tony, but it isn’t hard to take snaps away from Buckhalter. And yet, he is last night’s absolute manifestation of the singular worst trait of the Reid administration in Philadelphia: the bigger the play- say 3rd and Goal inside four minutes- the more likely someone named Tony Hunt or Reno Mahe or Thomas Tapeh or Dorsey Levens gets the call.

Three plays from the two- and they can’t score. In the absence of Westbrook, the best player on the team is McNabb- and we take it out of his hands repeatedly to give people like Buckhalter and Hunt repeated shots? The funny thing is that the Eagles have been a good red zone team for large portions of McNabb’s tenure- but that was cause his mobility compensated foe his dearth of skill position weapons- both running and passing. He opened up options and opportunites down low.

Not anymore. He hasn’t been a top player for four years now- how much more of this ennui before Kolb deserves a look?- and don’t look now, McNabb has been pretty bad-to-average six quarters running. Bad-to-average is McNabb half the time now. And yup, he’s hurting again.

And I’m pretty tired of the rock around the defense attitude too. They get a great pass rush. The linebackers are death against the run. The corners have played well. So why does Kyle Orton trash’em for three touchdowns in the first half. Same reason Dallas did, the safeties are a real problem. Dawkins did zero last night except observe the multiple scoring strikes as he lingered in soft zones all night. He’s real vulnerable deep now. Considine defines utter bust. Mikell is a decent player- and ecnet plus bad plus bust equals problem.

So, ESPN’s number three team is all square: 2-2. They’re 0-1 in the division and 1-2 in conference- and facing an absolute must win five weekends into the season. Right now, I’ve moved from 50-50 make the play-offs to probably won’t make the play-offs. Westbrook and McNabb are already hurt; the quarterback is in real decline: up one half, down the next, more and more down efforts and hurts. Worse, they still have five division games left. They’ll be underdogs in both road games- sweeping the home triad seems very unlikely. They probably need to win at Washington just to avoid a 2-4 division mark. They’re sneaking up on five losses, without even considering the out of division games, real quick.

The defense, and the last place schedule, probably inoculate Philadelphia from real disaster. But the League so-called number three team faces a real potential end of the season game next Sunday. Lose it, and they’re two behind Washington , New York and Dallas (tie-breaker) . Either way, 8-8, 9-7 seems pretty likely.