Monday, September 08, 2008

Soft Pedaling Excellence

The Phialdelphia Daily News chooses to sort of soft pedal it: “Well, That Was Impressive”.
So, Andy Reid intoned that beating the St. Louis Rams, 38-3, while not allowing them a single third down conversion (they were 0-for-11), and while accumulating 522 net yards, was "a good way to start the season."

Yeah, kinda.
But heck, that was heartening. Particularly in light of last year’s opening week follies.

But, as the glow fades a bit, I am inclined to put it in last year’s Detroit bucket. The judgment on the Eagles’ talent level may still be out. But long ago, we realized that the Eagles are a competently managed product. And one of the advantages of franchise wide competence is the Eagles will occasionally drill these bad, rebuilding outfits just through sheer familiarity and football IQ.

Like everyone, I get frustrated with the Eagles for always prioritizing linemen on draft day, while their skill position prowess remains unaddressed. But the Rams were proof positive of the team wide rot that sets in when you can’t block people or get unblocked. They have a lot of competent pros manning the eligible player positions- but they can’t do anything on offense cause the offensive line stinks: one rushing first down?.

Even worse were the problems Philadelphia presented on defense. The Eagles were able to spread the field at will. Philadelphia could block four base pass rushers with five guys. They played lots of different wide-outs lots of times, the tight end was thrown to a lot (i.e. not merely protecting the quarterback). Westbrook was not part of the passing attack at all; they were largely content to keep him inside the tackle box and keep an eighth defender near the line of scrimmage. The Rams, even with the aforementioned eight in box routinely, still couldn’t win the line of scrimmage. Add in a sharp quarterback, coupled with the single coverage that having the safeties down in the box creates- and rookies like DeSean Jackson, and NFL non-entities like Greg Lewis and Hank Baskett, start having 100 yard days.

And let's not forget the excellent special teams. It is amazing how downhill the game is when the punter gets the ball down repeatedly inside the twenty (Qunitin Demps had a great day on teams- gosh are the Eagles loaded with Dbs who can run), the return game generates a big play, and the place-kicker both makes the field goals and puts the ball in the end zone on kick-offs. In the first half, every time you looked up, it was 1st and 10 Rams from their own ten, fifteen or twenty. And, as I wrote in my preview, I am not sold on DeSean Jackson as a sixteen game receiver yet- as a punt returner he’s real trouble.

In summation, the Eagles played well. In the absence of turnovers, it is hard to win an NFL game by five scores- so kudos. But again, like last year’s massacre of the Lions, I’m more prone to think the Rams are just a mess, caught on the road in a bad spot, against an Eagles' team way head of them in terms of continuity and preparation. For a better barometer, we’ll see how they fare againt the pretty darn good Cowboys outfit next Monday night.