Posted on: December 16, 2008 3:00 am

Week 5... In Deep Shiz

Originally posted 10/6/08.


There is really nothing for me to say right now other than to spit out some bitterly incoherent grunts of frustration. Not that I won't still yap on for several paragraphs as I'm prone to do (just ask my roommates). To think how things have taken a turn for the worse since my last post! It's hard to decide where to even begin in discussing/lamenting the last 2 games, particularly this most recent ridiculous pig-slop of a performance versus the Redskins. The offense was terrible; the defense was miserable. The lone gem in an otherwise revoltingly nauseating game was DeSean Jackson's punt return TD in the 1st quarter. I recall my enthusiasm after the Rams game in week 1 that we finally had a legitimate punt return threat, and my apparently-naive optimism in comparing the punt return game in week 1 of the 2007 vs. 2008 seasons. DeSean Jackson may be one hell of a punt returner, but when the rest of the team plays as atrociously as they did yesterday, it's totally wasted effort. Hell, the Eagles could rarely even force a punt in the first place for the last 3 quarters of the game.

I had the misfortune of being at the game yesterday, and the circulating fury towards Andy Reid's playcalling (and his generally being outcoached by rookie head coach Jim Zorn) was astoundingly evident in the crowd throughtout the second half. And no, I don't want to be reminded that the Phillies beat the Brewers to advance to the NLCS. Yes, I like the Phillies. No, their win does absolutely nothing to alleviate the pain and misery of the Eagles' loss yesterday. Too many things about this season are beginning to resemble last year, when you couldn't shake that feeling that they were a better team than their 8-8 record suggested, and yet that doesn't really matter at all when you find yourselves at the bottom of your division. AGAIN. Les Bowen of the Philly Daily News wrote an article today to that effect, highlighting all those unsettling things that are forming lumps in the throats of every Eagles fan, after our team once again starts division play 0-2 in a division we once owned.

Perhaps the most mind-boggling aspect of yesterday's loss was the run defense. I couldn't say enough good things about the league's top run D, even after the Birds' loss to Chicago. How does a team that was only allowing 2.6 yards per carry (against the likes of Marion Barber, Willie Parker and promising young rookie Matt Forte) give up a whopping 203 rushing yards to the 'Skins? Can that front 7 recover from such a devestating blow and rebound next week against Frank Gore and the Niners? Was I premature in buying my brand-new Stewart Bradley jersey? So many important questions now exist about the future of this team (and the future of my #55 jersey), both for the duration of this season and in coming years.

Truthfully, I have a better feeling about next week's game at San Francisco than I did going into this one, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that the Redskins of late appear to possibly be the best team in the NFC. Sure, the Eagles almost never win their last game before a bye week, but if the last 2 weeks weren't the kick-in-the-ass that these guys need, then nothing is. Maybe it's a little early to be talking about must-win games, but if yesterday's game wasn't one then this next one surely is. The 49ers aren't a terrible team, but they're a team that the Eagles must be able to beat handily if they want to remain a contender in the division.

The offense NEEDS to make a statement this week, because the only apparent statement they've made since the Dallas game is along the lines of "we can't score for shit in the red zone". McNabb started the season strong but has been faltering since. Reggie Brown and L.J. Smith were both back yesterday, so the excuses for not throwing the ball more effectively are growing thin. Brian Westbrook, the team's far-and-away most important weapon, played yesterday after sitting out last week with an ankle strain but then broke 2 ribs during the game. Frankly, if he doesn't play next week against the Niners, it could be anyone's game given the recent play (or lack thereof) on offense. And when, dear god, is Shawn Andrews coming back?

And while I'm ranting about how the Eagles are sucking at nearly every area, what in the hell is wrong with David Akers? Scratch that- I don't actually care what is wrong with him. I don't care if it's his leg, his psyche or anything else. I just know that he is absolutely worthless beyond 40-45 yards these days. Was I the only one cringing when they brought him in to attempt a 50-yarder yesterday? Was I the only one who would have bet their life that he was going to miss? Was anyone else praying Andy would just punt the ball and try to pin the Redskins inside their own 10? I'd actually rather see the Eagles go for it on 4th and, say, 20, than have Akers try a FG from beyond the 30 (or heck, maybe even the 25). The minute he stepped on the field, I knew the 'Skins would momentarily be given the ball at the 40; sure enough, he missed, and Jason Campbell proceeded to drive the team down to the Eagles' 23 where Shaun Suisham kicked a 41-yard FG. And then just in case us Eagles fans didn't get the point, he eventually kicked 2 more, of 48 and 50 yards, reminding us how nice it used to be to have a reliable placekicker. Oh, those were the days...

Since I've done nothing but whine the entire post so far, I will end with some optimism: I do see things going up from here, although whether it's too little too late is yet to be determined. I should also note that my optimism springs more from the Eagles' upcoming schedule far more than from my optimism that this team will suck less down the road. True, we still have 4 division games in the second half, but 2 of those are against the Giants- although I have no doubt that both will be hard-fought, tough games, I feel better about playing the Giants than I do the Cowboys and Redskins. The Cowboys-Steelers-Bears-Redskins stretch was by far the hardest chunk of the season. And who do they have left to play outside the division? 49ers, Falcons & Seahawks are the next 3... I'm already salivating over that stretch of games. Then later they've got Cincy, Baltimore, Arizona and Cleveland. Not to say that they'll go 7-0 in those games, but the Ravens and Cardinals are the only 2 teams that really pose much of a threat, and the Eagles are more than capable of beating both of them. Therefore, if they can at least somewhat boost their level of play, hope still remains. And let's not forget that Kevin Curtis, who had over 1100 receiving yards last season, will be back either this coming week or after the bye.

Let's just hope the Birds play well on at least one side of the ball next week.

Category: NFL
Tags: Eagles, Redskins
Posted on: December 16, 2008 2:48 am

Post-Draft Thoughts, NFC East Grades

Originally posted 4/27/08. Well, the 2008 draft is now over, and Mel Kiper has already run off to start compiling his 2009 predictions. Only time will tell what kind of impact these new guys will have on the team. However, despite some of my earlier gripes, and the trade-downs that made sure I didn't get to witness an Eagles pick for almost 5 hours, I'm generally pretty optimistic about these draft picks. Here are a few quick thoughts: . 1) O-Line - My biggest concern - aside from the whole #1 WR thing - was the o-line; despite failing to address this in the first 3 rounds, the Birds picked up 3 OLs in rounds 4-7. What remains to be seen is whether any of them will be the next Runyan or Tra Thomas- we need quality over quantity here. 7th round OT King Dunlap apparently had some problems throughout his senior year that lowered his draft value. The other 2 OL picks are listed as guards, but 4th rounder Michael McGlynn has decent tackle experience, so it should be interesting to see whether these guys are worthy of eventually joining Shawn Andrews in maintaining what has consistently been one of the NFL's best offensive lines. . 2) DeSean Jackson - Unlike my friend Bob, I'm not yet running out to grab a DeSean Jackson jersey (which, to be fair, I could use considering the miserable shape of my well-worn Westbrook and McNabb jerseys); nevertheless, I can't help but get excited about this pint-sized little guy. I also can't help but constantly think of fun new words to describe his height impairment (I apologize to any midgets I have or will continue to offend, including Chris who ironically is a "Giants" fan...just kidding, Chris isn't THAT short...). ESPN Scouts Inc. takes note of Jackson's size and his need to improve his route-running, but they also acknowledge his ability to stretch the field which is certainly something the Eagles could use. Plus, I hardly need to stress the importance of the Eagles finding a return man. Jackson has ridiculous speed and explosiveness... is it too soon to use his name in the same sentence as Devin Hester's? . 3) Lito Sheppard - He still hasn't been traded. On a related note, neither has Chad Johnson. To reiterate, I'm not opposed to keeping Sheppard- I believe he's one of the top CBs in the league when healthy. HOWEVER... he has not been healthy in the past 3 seasons, and he is not happy with his current contract, so if the Eagles were to keep him (assuming they do not agree to rework his contract, which they won't) he wouldn't be a happy camper. Of course, the fact that he hasn't been traded yet suggests that the Eagles haven't gotten any decent offers, meaning Sheppard's value is not as high as he (and the Eagles) think, so maybe he can be humbled into complacency. One other thing to consider, before I shut up about the Chad Johnson thing for the time being- the Eagles obtained an additional 2009 1st round pick from the Panthers via their 1st round trade-down; is it possible that the Eagles are thinking about packaging that pick with Sheppard (or other '09 picks) for a trade? Just a thought. . 4) Lorenzo Booker - The Eagles traded a 4th round pick to Miami for RB Booker. Is this the end of Tony Hunt? Or Buckhalter? Even though Booker is not a big, short-yardage RB like Hunt, the Eagles didn't seem too inclined to use Hunt last year which makes me wonder if they're not crazy about him. I think he's got some nice potential, but as a Penn State alum I may be biased. He was drafted to give us that much-needed bulldozer of a 3rd and short/goal-line back, yet was rarely utilized. Don't get me wrong, Westbrook has done an impressive job of somersaulting over the pile in those short yardage situations, but considering he's getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 touches a game you'd think Andy and Marty would have thrown Hunt out there more often. I actually thought Buckhalter did a solid job last year after missing 2 entire seasons before that, but he didn't get a lot of playing time either. It might have something to do with his total inability to block, as was shown during the first Giants disaster/game. . NFC East Grades: . Skins: Yeah, they drafted 3 receivers as their first 3 picks (2 WRs and a TE) but I like this decision. TE Chris Cooley and RBs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts were seemingly the only ones who could catch the ball this season (particularly in the endzone) so they definitely needed some fresh WRs. Yes Randle El, we're so impressed that you played QB in college and can throw the ball once in awhile, but why don't you catch something for a change? Anyway, 2nd round WRs Devin Thomas (Mich St) and Malcolm Kelly (Oklahoma) should be great additions, and 2nd round TE pick Fred Davis (USC) should be a good back-up to Cooley. Grade: A- . Eagles: They didn't get the big-name 1st round pick I was hoping for after trading out, but I can't be too upset considering that 1st round pick they got for next year. I also like the DeSean Jackson pick despite my earlier concerns about drafting a WR too high. The Eagles seem very excited about the Trevor Laws pick up, and he should be a good addition to the DT rotation. And they addressed DE and OL, but did they wait too long? Grade: B+ . Giants: Mel Kiper thought Arkansas State's Tyrell Johnson was the best safety in the draft, but I like their Kenny Phillips (Miami) pick-up in the 1st round and it was definitely the position they most needed to address. And despite Mario Manningham's character concerns, he was still a good deal in the 3rd round. Will he be a problem off-the-field? I'm not sure whether USC's Terrell Thomas was the best CB available at the end of the 2nd round, but he's got good size. Grade: B . Cowboys: RB Felix Jones should be a good back-up to Marion Barber, although I agree with Taz that Mendenhall would have been a better pick. Jones appears to be yet another Cowboys RB who can't carry the workload himself, but he'll be a good number 2 for now. I like their decision to trade up a few spots to pick up CB Mike Jenkins, and his ability to play safety is a bonus considering how crappy Roy Williams is, no matter how many Pro Bowls he goes to. ESPN says that TE Martellus Bennett was a great value pick in the late 2nd round, but I'm not sure whether I agree with their decision to use this pick on a TE even though they did trade Anthony Fasano. Grade: B
Category: NFL
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