Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Eagles Midseason Review

half way through the season and we're all still scratching our heads about this team. there have been flashes of brilliance, but there have also been flashes of ineptitude -- often within the same game, if not the same series. what's the cause of that? who the heck knows? i have my theories, just like everyone else does, but obviously i can't know for sure.

- is the team inconsistent because of the amount of roster turnover the last two seasons? could the rather high number of young players in be causing some of the inconsistency?

- is the team inconsistent because they've tuned out big red?

- is the team full of mentally weak players?

- are the players simply not as good as we/i thought they were? at the pro level, the difference between good and great is as much about frequency and consistency of great plays a player makes as it is about the ability to make the great plays at all. maybe the flashes of brilliance we're seeing are just that -- more akin to willie burton scoring 50 than allen iverson scoring 50.

i don't know, but we'll learn alot about this team the second half of the season. making the playoffs, while not impossible, is an uphill battle at best. realistically, this team needs to win 6 of 8 games against:

- washington
- tennessee
- @indianpolis
- carolina
- @washington
- @giants
- @dallas
- atlanta

it'll be tough, but not impossible. the eagles have been inconsistent, but so has every team on this list except for indianapolis.

the eagles better come out of the bye (i think they're undefeated under andy reid in the game following the bye week) and take care of business against the redskins like they should.

here are mid-season grades so far:

QB - A - a season that started off as an A+, MVP-type season has tailed off a little. except for one bad game against tampa and an erratic stretch against jacksonville, he has passed the ball very well and pretty consistently. in addition, he is looking very spry and running the ball better than he has in years. at the half way point, don's line looks like this: comp-162..... att-277..... pct-58.5..... yds-2312..... yd/att-8.3..... TD-16..... INT-5..... rush-28..... yds-200..... TD-3. the completion pct looks pretty ordinary, but then again, the eagles lead the league in drops.

RB - B - despite being limited somewhat by injury, westbrook is playing pretty well -- he's averaging 5.1 yards a carry and 10.6 yards a catch. buckhalter has been serviceable as his understudy -- 4.1 y/carry and 8.7 y/catch.

WR - D+ - stallworth started out hot, then got hurt and then nothing. brown has good numbers... but also leads the nfl in drops. baskett has been inconsistent. lewis had some flashes, but he's a 4th wideout. these guys have potential, but they're going through growing pains during a season when the eagles are counting on them to be starters. i guess it's not really their fault, but these guys have to grow up quickly for this team to win. the eagles aren't alone in their belief that receivers are a dime a dozen, however, some of the other teams seem to prefer cheap veteran receivers rather than cheap young receivers. i'm guessing this has a lot to do with those same growing pains young receivers experience.

TE - D - can't block and inconsistent catching the ball. not a lot to like from smith and schobel. even the usually steady bartrum blew a snap over dirk johnson's head.

OL - C - pass blocking has been spotty and run blocking has been feast or famine. need more consistency from these guys if the worst coast offense is going to function the way it needs to (sustaining drives).

DL - C+ - a unit that started off incredibly hot, but has tailed off dramatically. a lot of it is due to the loss of kearse, but the freak's absence does not explain why the fat guys are getting pushed around like rag dolls. cole is a star in the making and i continue to like mike patterson. bunkley is looking like a bust so far and mcdougle can't get on the field even though freak is out. (can we make a rule that the eagles are not allowed to draft a d-lineman from the state of florida unless their name is jerome brown?).

LB - B - i don't have a problem with how the LBs have played this year. trotter is suffering because the d-tackles aren't eating up blockers like they should, but dhani is having his best year as an eagle. mccoy has missed some tackles, but has made enough big plays for me to be optimistic about his future. shawn barber has been a beast in the nickel. gaither made a rookie mistake and cost the birds the saints game.

CB - C+ - injuries have hurt this unit, but they've been inconsistent in coverage and in support. they need to improve in the second half. hopefully william james will help, he was a pretty good player with the giants. it's nice to see lito back to being a playmaker on defense. he didn't play like this at all last season, i'm guessing he was hurt more than they let on.

S - D - a usually steady group has been not so steady. dawkins is still a player, but looks like he lost a step. michael lewis probably screwed himself by not taking the extension the eagles were offering because he looks like a limited player right now. considine has made some really nice plays, but is more suited to FS and playing in coverage.

K/P - D - akers started off the year slow and johnson has been among the worst punters in the league.

ST - D - return teams have been ineffective and coverage teams have had breakdowns at critical moments

COACHING - D+ - has been a mixed bag just like the rest of the team. have outcoached the other team in some games (giants, dallas), have been outcoached some games (new orleans, tampa). these guys need to get the team to play with much more consistency and far fewer penalties. despite what some people in the media and on this site maintain, i fail to see how you can attribute the coaching deficiencies to being "stubborn". to do so implies that andy and the staff know how to fix things but refuse to do it. disagreeing with your opinion or my opinion does not make them stubborn. simon mentions that andy needs to change his game plan more. i agree with that, but to attribute it to stubbornness means you think andy doesn't think he needs to change his game plans. you might as well be saying that winning is not his top priority (i believe it is). for all we know, andy actually thinks he does change things up enough. i think the issues we're seeing with the coaching are more likely a result of him/them just not being good enough than they are a result of him being stubborn. regardless, imo he's earned the right to try to work things out. 3 NFC championship games and 1 SB appearance means he gets at least this season and the next from me to do it his way.

Overall - interestingly enough, the grades above average out to exactly a "C", which is fitting considering the team is 4-4. i continue to hold out hope that the team can finish strong at 10-6 because i have to as a fan. do i think they can do it? i think they have the talent and the QB to do it. do i think it will happen? maybe.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree completely on the coaching and special teams, those were two advantages the Eagles had the past five plus years that haven't been there this year. I'm suprised at how undisiplined the special teams are, I always have thought highly of Harbaugh. He must be exasperated with the young players.

The young players on this team are hurting in every phase: drops and stupid mistakes on offense, lack of production on defense, and lack of disipline on special teams. The young players seem to think they were on this team when it was achieving, they don't look hungry like young players should.

The lack of disipline or intelligence is on the coaching staff, especially Andy. He's turned this roster over into what he wanted with players mostly of his own choosing. Now, he's stuck with them for good or bad. I personally would like to have seen him lay into them for their sloppy play, sometimes kids need an authority figure and some disipline. He doesn't need to treat them the way he treated Troy Vincent and Deuce. They have to earn that.


8:50 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with you on two points, though:

Westbrook has been an A-. If you combine his rushing and receiving DPAR, he's a top five back. Rushing DPAR alone he's #6 among starting backs, despite way fewer attempts. He's also the only skill player other teams have to game plan against, he's the X-factor that keeps the offense on schedule when Andy gives him his touches.

The linebackers are a C for me, they simply don't make plays. They have a total of one pick (on a deflection), half a sack, and three tackles for a loss. THREE! They're averaging a play every other game. That is beyond unproductive. They don't give up big plays in coverage, but they don't break up passes, either. They have 9 passes defensed, and the scorekeeper at the Linc is notoriously liberal with that stat (check out the eagles chapter in Pro Football Prospectus 2006). They need to address the strong side this offseason, I say give Adalius Thomas anything he wants this summer.


9:15 PM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

Westbrook has been an A-

probably a fair grade for him, but i was grading the RBs overall. also, with westbrook, you have to factor in his injury, his drops, and his fumbles.

The linebackers are a C for me, they simply don't make plays.

i can see what you're saying, but i guess for me it's a question of expectations. JJ doesn't expect, nor does he place his LBs in a position to make plays in the backfield. it's weird, i know, because he talks about wanting his LBs to "play downhill" and attack. but when you watch the game, he really has these guys playing pretty soft. he always has. they're preventers more than playmakers.

under andy/JJ, what's the best linebacker corps the eagles had? it might have been 2002 -- with emmons on the strong side, s.w. barber on the weak side, and a gardner/kirland platoon in the middle -- or it might have been in 2001 -- with mike caldwell as the will, 'los as the sam, and trotter as the mike.

emmons and trotter were both very good players in this defense, but neither made a lot of plays in the backfield. the most sacks emmons had with the eagles was 3.5, same for trotter.

i can see how and why you give them a C, but i think in the framework of what they're being asked to do, they've played better than that... but B might be a little generous.

10:11 PM EST  
Anonymous freefloyd said...

Our grading is uncannily similar. See However we differ in two significant respects.

(1) I give the LBs a low grade because I see that Johnson is using Dawkins as an extra LB to cover for their inability to play. Trotter's play has begun to show its years, McCoy is out of position frequently, and Michael Lewis has been forced into a FS role on many (most?) downs. This assumption lowers my coaching and LB grades while raising my defensive secondary grade.

(2) The Eagles' insistence on passing at a rate of 70% of 1st downs has led to just about every general negative trend we've seen. It creates an explosive/erratic (the right terms depends on W and L) offense. It creates an offense with a serious obstacle to controlling the clock. The Eagles are fairly balanced on 2nd and 3rd downs which only makes the problem worse, since 2nd and 3rd down conversions become less likely with running after reaching a 2nd and long. So our defense ends up on the field a long time, and players get tired, and players get frustrated and get caught with dumb penalties. They don't look alert because they are tired. And ultimately confidence in coaching breaks down, and voila, you have the 2006 Eagles.

I believe this situation described in (2) is a product of terrible stats analysis and strategic game modeling. It's an example of how a sabermetrics-ish approach to football can go terribly wrong. It can lead coaches to believe they have something really smart when in fact what they have in their hands is something really dumb.

How passing at such a clip on first down is a huge handicap is rather complicated. It involves advanced analysis techniques ("game theory," anyone?) and is partly based on a revision to a paper analyzing the "passing premium." I do hope to write a paper on the topic soon and use the Eagles as my example.

2:35 AM EST  
Blogger The Big Dog said...

I think the grading system is accurate. I have no second guesses with anything. I just want to defend my "stubborn" or "arrogant" assessment. When I think of Big Red, the first word that comes to mind is arrogant. It does....I think all head coaches in the NFL need to have an ego. However, I think that personal ego can be one's downfall. But I disagree with your slant that stubborn means not wanting to win. Of course I think Big Red wants to win and he is a brilliant coach that has a track record that validates his greatness. Big Red, I believe, is extremely over-confident in his abilities, to the point where, in my opinion, he is unwilling to deviate from himself. Football games are not cookie cutters. You can not win by carting your "system" out week in and week out and expecting the best results. I personally think that every game within a season is a battle with the season itself being a war...AND YOU MUST be flexible within each game to adapt to what the other team has adapted to you to adapt to them....being one big game of powerful and fast men playing cat and mouse with the better football players beating the lesser. I don't think Andy thinks like this....I think he thinks he is a Chubby Bill Walsh with this innovative offense that can show up and you must stop...all good if you have studs at every position, which the Eagles don't...kind of like Ed Wade, every year if every player had a stellar year they would be contenders (ie a team that is good on paper)....and I think Andy needs to really focus on the team as a whole and give, gulp, Morniweg autonomy on offense....if I were Big Red now I would do this:
1. Get your best players on the field both on offense and on defense. Offensively, I would get my 2 best receivers on the field, which I think is Stallworth and Reggie Brown. One TE--LJ, 2 RBs, which would be Buck and Westbrook, forget Tapeh, useless in this offense. This way, you have your best true runner between the tackles on the field, but still have your best threat, Westbrook. This way Westbrook can also go in motion and in the flank. Defensively, you can stay with the rotation up front. I would get Barber on the field more often, put Considine back at FS, put Dawk at SS, and get Lewis, who is a tough hitter, but suspect in coverage on the field as a LB (he is big enough)....William James, Hood, Brown and Lito spelling each other.
2. Big Red steps back and oversees the whole operation...and can focus more on the defensive side.
3. Put Westbrook in to return punts and kick-offs....they don't have anyone here. That puts a threat and gets more touches for your weapon.
4. Attack on offense and defense.
5. I don't care what anyone says, half-time adjustments are important and necessary.

8:48 AM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

AND YOU MUST be flexible within each game to adapt to what the other team has adapted to you to adapt to them....being one big game of powerful and fast men playing cat and mouse with the better football players beating the lesser. I don't think Andy thinks like this....I think he thinks he is a Chubby Bill Walsh with this innovative offense that can show up and you must stop...

i can see where you are coming from with this, but i think you're being selective with your analysis. how do you explain that the eagles are among the leaders in 3rd quarter scoring? or specifically scoring on the first drive of the second half? how is that not as a result of making the exact adjustments that you're talking about and being flexible?

does he get outcoached? yes, he does sometimes. does it mean he's being stubborn? i don't see the connection. we'll just have to agree to disagree, i guess.

4. Attack on offense and defense.

i'd like to note that in the NFL, this traditionally means pass the ball and rush the passer.

5. I don't care what anyone says, half-time adjustments are important and necessary.

exactly, and this in one area the eagles coaches have done extremely well this season.

9:17 AM EST  
Blogger The Big Dog said...

Okay, we'll agree to disagree. Does anyone else in Scrappland think that Big Red is stubborn and arrogant? Is it just me???
I don't think that half-time adjustments are their strength in any way, shape, or sir, don't buy it. Some games they adjusted nicely...but I am talking offense and defense. I actually should have stated in-game adjustments as well. I actually think they have adjusted worse on defense than on offense, that is why I wanted Big Red to get more involved in defense....BUT as I stated he is stubborn....Again, we'll agree to disagree.....

I don't think attacking on offense means passing....I think attacking on defense means blitzing, yes, but you don't necessarilly have to throw to attack. I think it's a component,yes, but I think an aggressive ball-slamming offense mixed with well timed play action passing game (or just various 3-7 step drop backs) is aggressive, especially when your lineman get after the defense, rather than sitting back and pass blocking for 5-7 step drop back passes, replete with dink and dunk passes forcing numerous 3 and outs.

One thing that I do agree with you on though, is that R Diddy is a football sage and I wish he was our GM. Or Jaws, who is great, but kind of a buffoon.

9:41 AM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

I think an aggressive ball-slamming offense mixed with well timed play action passing game (or just various 3-7 step drop backs) is aggressive

we're moving into semantics a little, but what you describe is typically described as "smash mouth" football, i.e. traditional, i.e. conservative football. it's what the steelers ran last year on the way to the superbowl, in part, to keep from putting the game on the shoulders of their young QB.

now that they're running a more "attacking" offense, that same QB and the offense as a whole is struggling.

that traditional worst coast offenses have not necessarily been "attacking", you're definitely right about, but the worst coast offense the eagles run probably errs too much to the side of chucking it downfield right now. if anything they're too aggressive and too attacking.

i'd like them to tone it down a bit and get more traditional.

10:56 AM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

big dog, i just want to add that i respect your opinion about football. i just happen to disagree with this notion (started by the media because andy doesn't "share") that he is arrogant.

i don't find him either overbearingly proud or self-important. i think he's guarded and untruthful to the public, but not arrogant.

11:50 AM EST  
Blogger The Big Dog said...

No offense taken. That is our divergent opinion. I don't think he's arrogant in a "hate your arrogant co-worker" way....more of a "wow, he could have made that decision, but he chose his way" kind of arrogance....maybe there is a better choice of words I could use, because I think Big Red is a good guy. And I don't dislike his handling of the media at all. One day, and this day will come, Bumble, Ben, you and I will drink cold grogans and discuss...

1:09 PM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

that day will be dec 4, tailgating at the carolina game with you, bumble, phil, steve, joe, myself, and others.

1:12 PM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

captain will be there too

3:17 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes he will. Are we all cutting out of work early that day ??


3:45 PM EST  
Anonymous Phil said...

Mr. Dog, the only way I think Reid's arrogance has hurt this team so far this year has been his decision to only use half his playbook for most of our games. NO was the perfect example where it seemed like they didn't want to show what they could really do.

I'm torn on the aggressive, down the field passes. On the one hand, we've got the WRs with enough speed to make it work. On the other hand, we've got the WR without an ability to consistently catch a football if it smacked them in the chest.

Looking forward to 12/4.

4:43 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not a lot to disagree with on this post Mean man. I am digesting and will respond when it all sinks in.


PS-My brother-the mean guy-often refers to me as the Bull for my fading hairline, expanding waistline, and propensity to hit it out of the park or whiff like a champion. I could find lesser pro athletes to be comapre to than the owner of Bull's barbecue.

10:12 PM EST  

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