Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Daytona 500 Can't Get Here Soon Enough

What a mess that was. I only had my pizza from Firehouse to keep me happy. Obviously, initial observations center around things like NASCAR can’t get here soon enough and at least the Flyers are playing better. Still, the Eagles got their shots in! DeSean Jackson’s witty twittering, employees spitting on the big star and McNabb’s idiotic pre-game air guitar stylings- classy! Speaking of useless and air guitars, the Jets ran right at and right over our useless friend Dhani Jones all game long.

I’ll post the satisfying bitter recriminations later in the week. I will cheerily mention who needs to pack a bag- both the obvious (Michael Vick) and not so obvious (Sav Rocca). But my father offered an encouraging start: how about defensive coordinator Sean McDermott? Can you name a player who got better? Just what concrete examples can he offer of the team’s defense being elevated as a collective?

Look, Dallas is just better right now than Philadelphia- and some of the match-ups they present are additionally problematic.

On defense, the Cowboys have a very good defensive line- which goes at the Eagles biggest problem (outside of linebackers), the offensive line. Most teams fail when forced to play the guys that populate the sixth, seventh and eighth offensive line roster spots. The Eagles survived, even thrived, scoring the most points in franchise history, until they faced a real quality defensive line.

The Eagles all season covered up for the line’s inadequacies with player consistency- at least guys like Justice, Cole, Jean-Gilles have been around the team for awhile. Individually they are all very competent back-ups. So they got away with it until Jamal Jackson got hurt two weeks ago- forcing the eighth roster spot into the game and an additional guard to center switch. A further weakening of two interior line positions was not helpful facing this Dallas defensive line. And getting that eighth guy on the field was problematic earlier in the season too- remember Oakland? Second, they relied on the young skill players to make big dazzling plays in lieu of moving the ball consistently over a dozen snaps.

Unfortunately, Dallas could overwhelm these multiple offensive line substitutions while only rushing four. Add the fact that RB McCoy and TE Celek can’t block anyone- thus freeing up guys to double WRs Jackson and Maclin- and there went the big play potential.

The defensive shortcomings are more personnel related. The Eagles have zero linebackers who grade out as above average. They all, without exception, stink- although Witherspoon might be close to okay and Foiku is a rookie pressed into service. Regardless, Dallas has the weapons here to exploit this mess- good running game and a marvelous tight end in Jason Witten. The safeties stink too- although Macho Harris is a problem of experience rather than incapacity. He can run and hit.

Add in the fact that Tony Romo is a better quarterback than McNabb, at least this bad, slumping version of Donovan who cannot lift the status quo, and Dallas is multiple scores better.

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