Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dumbness, Poor Play and Laziness

I personally did not glean much from the Eagles' much harder than it had to be win over a game Denver outfit. A mixture of dumbness, poor play and laziness (what is it with the tackling in the secondary?) allowed Denver to creep back and tie the game late. But the cruel lessons of the NFL asserted themselves at last. The Eagles have a franchise quarterback, who despite playing terrible for an entire half, generated big plays in subsequent late possessions. McNabb managed to flip field position once (with a third and forever scramble), then delivered the subsequent kill shot with a third down strike to Jeremy Maclin down field. Conversely, Denver went three and out on their sandwiched possession.

The win moved McNabb out of the line of fire and poor Macho Harris right in. I tend to give him a pass. The personal foul he was assessed was a poor call- and while he did fumble a big kick-off, well, he is out there, right? In a League where people are all moaning about the failure of late round draft picks to contribute, Macho is a fifth round pick out there returning kicks and actually playing safety. It isn’t like the Eagles are hiding him. But the flip side of having rookie draft picks play and contribute is they make dumb errors.

Folks seem pretty sanguine about the Eagles’ loss of center Jamal Jackson for the season. Yes, Jackson isn’t very good. Center is probably the most unappreciated regular position on the field- so like most teams, the Eagles cut salary cap corners here and play an undrafted free agent.

But it has potential to be a problem. I hate when teams shift offensive lineman around to cover a new gap. Consequently, when sports writers dismiss the shift of Cole from guard to center because “the Eagles think he is better suited to play there”, to me that is code for a secret longing to hide him. The new guard, Jean-Giles is adequate merely for a replacement. Give me a break, please, about Andrews returning to save the day. Right now, Andrews is up there with King Dunlap as players I trust. I dunno- this arrangement reminds me of the Eagles 2004 Super Bowl appearance where they were undone by poor interior line play. Basically, the Eagles have weakened two interior line positions to plug one hole.

Look, the Eagles are playing well and are certainly in the mix to win the NFC. But a big part of the renaissance has been the stability, in the second half of the season, of the offensive line- and that stability is out the window. And the first half of the season did not inspire much confidence in Philadelphia’s ability to manage a variable offensive line situation. Adding a pair of real generic offensive line starters now, wedded to the NFC-wide suspect defense, confirms something I wrote two weeks ago: the Eagles are good, good enough to lose another NFC Championship Game.

Nothing this week has moved me off that opinion.

I think they need to upset Dallas as a minor underdog this week to have real Super Bowl aspirations. The Eagles need help- there is not enough here, right now, to win three road games against decent outfits. Cashing in last night’s gift from the Vikings, getting a home game and a bye, cuts that task and the challenges facing the defense down to something the Eagles might be able to manage via a singular offensive explosion in an NFC title game.