They dubbed themselves the “Dream Team” in the preseason. They brought in the top free agents, traded for a Pro Bowl cornerback, and returned the most explosive quarterback in NFL history.
This was the Philadelphia Eagles before the season started, and they were expected to challenge the Packers for NFC supremacy. However, the Eagles currently sit at 3–6, last in the NFC East, needing a miracle to even make the playoffs. Not to mention that neither their star player — quarterback Michael Vick — nor their best wide receiver to date — Jeremy Maclin — will be playing this weekend. As of right now, the Eagles look nothing like a team that could compete with the Packers, let alone compete with half the league. So, what has gone wrong for a team that is so talented?
First off, the main problem is Vick’s health. Vick, who is known as much for his running abilities as his passing abilities, electrified the league last year with long runs and a newfound ability to make accurate, deep passes. His elusiveness is well noted and he is almost never out of a play, even with a 300-pound lineman bearing down on him for a sack. However, the problem with his style of play is that he gets hit far too often, as evidenced by his history of injuries, especially this year. In the past nine games, Vick has suffered from two cases of bruised ribs, a fractured right hand, and a concussion. That’s four injuries in nine games. Obviously, that is not a very good ratio. Although Vick has played most of the games this year, he is clearly not as effective as he was last year. He already has 11 interceptions and two fumbles, which puts him at more turnovers this year, plus his passer rating has gone from over 100 to a mere 79.3. Although Vick is a reason for the Eagles’ terrible season this year, he’s not the only culprit.
A common NFL cliché states that “it all starts up front.” Basically, one of the keys to having a good offense is to have a strong offensive line, and to stop the run on the defensive side. The Eagles have neither a good offensive line nor do they stop the run very well.
The offensive line has had Vick running around in the pocket since the first week, even with the hiring of a new offensive line coach, who was supposed to instill confidence. In fact, Vick has complained that he hits the ground too much in the pocket, a snide comment at his offensive line. Without good protection, there is no way that the Eagles can even get the ball, making them high-priced bystanders. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles can rush the passer, but they can’t stop the run. This year, they have been gashed by the likes of running backs Matt Forte and Fred Jackson, and whenever they give up a 100-yard rusher, they are bound to lose. Although they are ranked 17th overall in rush defense, it is a known problem for the Eagles, and teams will always go for the run game first when facing them.
Lastly, the Eagles are not utilizing their players correctly. Their free agent cornerback, Nnamdi Asomugha, is known to be one of the best man-to-man cornerbacks in the league. However, the Eagles seem to not acknowledge this, as they consistently play zone coverages, which does not utilize Asomugha’s skills. He has repeatedly had trouble making tackles and covering his own zone, and was the culprit on a 60-yard pass to the New York Giants’ Victor Cruz earlier this season. With a team that is known to have great cover corners, one would think that the Eagles could alter their defense to play to the skills of their players.
However, they continuously throw out the same defense, and they have given up more than 20 points in all but two games.
Looking at the Eagles, they should be one of the best teams in the league on paper. However, they fail week after week with bad execution, mental toughness, and coaching. I would not be surprised if Eagles Coach Andy Reid hears some firing rumors after the season, considering this was supposed to be a Super Bowl or bust year. They also have to deal with the potential contract scuffle with wide-receiver DeSean Jackson, so it will not be a fun off-season for the “Dream Team.”