I just made a thread on how the Eagles’ "Big Three" coaching triumvirate needs to fired; I’m creating this thread in response to those who suggest we just need to buy better players next year and Reid & co will turn the ship around. Like the defense, despite personnel issues, the primary obstacle on the offensive end is stubbornness and lack of adjustments in the coaching department. These won’t be fixed with better players.
Much has been said about the Eagles disappointing defense. Terrible safeties, poor linebacker play. I agree with that, although I do think Juan Castillo could have done better than 36-0 in the 4th quarter of three games, even with that crew.
But I’m here to talk about the flip side of that 36-0—namely, the "0" part. This has been a running theme for years on Andy Reid offenses—starting out fast and then banging their heads against the wall in frustration the rest of the game. It was always covered up because our defense used to be able to close out games (think of the Lions game and the Texans game last year, which we managed to barely hang on to after blowing large leads and being outscored in the second half), but now we can see it in stark contrast. First I want to get out of the way the big myth people suggest will fix this problem: the "Buy better offensive lineman" school of thought.
Firstly, this isn’t MLB; you cannot buy pro bowlers at every position. Could we have a better starting offensive line? Yes. But is the current one good enough to protect Vick from getting hit 20 times per game? Absolutely. The line played well IMO on Sunday, but against defenses like the Giants and Falcons they struggled.
The problem can be greatly mitigated by better play calling. On Sunday there were 12 called running plays out of 68 snaps (that’s 83% pass, 17% run). There were only 5 called rushes in the whole second half, which the Eagles opened up with a 17 point lead. Gentleman, there are "pass-happy" offenses in the NFL, but Reid and Morninwheg are in their own little world when it comes to this fanatical devotion to the passing game in the face of all logic. Don’t want your quarterback getting hit 20 times per game? Don’t have him drop back 50-60 times per game. It ain’t rocket science.
If teams line up playing soft zone with 5 DBs time and time again against Tom Brady, Bill Belicheck will run the ball down their throats, and the Pats usually always have great pass protection. They don’t even have a running back of the caliber of McCoy, but because Belicheck’s teams take what the defense gives them, opponents are forced to play Tom Brady honest every game.
This willingness to run the ball increases the passing game’s effectiveness and takes a lot of pressure off your QB’s shoulders. It also sets up the playaction pass, which the Eagles can’t get anyone to bite on this year. Ever wonder why it always seems we’re relying on Vick or Jackson to come up with spectacular game-winning plays to close out inferior teams? Because Reid and Morninwheg regularly put them in that position. The first three quarters of the Miracle at the Meadowlands game and the playoff game against the Packers were testaments to that.
People may argue that the 49ers had a great run defense; that they haven’t given up a 100 yard rusher since 2009. Oh yeah? So what? We didn’t need a 100 yard rusher in that game. We just needed to run down the clock. If you run the ball on both 1st and 2nd down and only pick up two yards each play, you’re left with a manageable 3rd-and-6. You know how many more plays in the playbook are opened up for 3rd-and-6 versus 3rd-and-10? A lot. You can throw a slant, a simple out pattern, a tight end hook, etc…. you could even [GASP] run the ball! Not so with the Eagles, who have made a habit out of 3rd-and-10s.
You can see how this correlates directly with the Eagles' offensive redzone woes. With a short field, the defense is compressed, and DeSean can't get the depth to stretch the D and create space underneath. And again the playaction, a staple for most redzone offenses, is ineffective for the Eagles.
The other issue is the lack of different formations the Eagles use. I don’t know why Morninwheg runs shotgun on just about every damn play. A QB in shotgun gives the defense a predetermined target to attack; with a conventional dropback the rushers have to see whether it’s a 3, 5, or 7 step drop (or with Vick, a bootleg), which affects their timing and angle of attack. Having Vick under center more often would also result in better communication with the line, which means a clearer cadence, less false starts, and better ability to audible. But then again, Morninwheg/Reid don’t WANT the QB to audible, so maybe that answers itself.
I liked the little offset-I crossbuck play they ran Sunday with Ronnie Brown, which picked up 15-20 yards on two attempts. I also liked in the beginning of the game when they had Vick rolling out on the bootleg; when he is on the edge he can see the whole field and is at his best (unfortunately the first couple throws were underthrown). But these nice little playcalls dwindled as the game wore on and we were treated to an awful parade of shotgun, shotgun empty backfield, shotgun, shotgun, shotgun empty backfield…. All for nothing.
With the weapons this team has you’d think we’d see a cornucopia of formations—double tight end, split backs, trips, strong I, etc, run out of both conventional and shotgun formations. McCoy with his vision and cutback ability is great on that old Colts stretch play off-tackle, and our linemen are suited for that kind of lateral motion. They simply don’t call his number enough. And what happened to the screen game? Childress may be a disaster head coach, but when he was here he patented that screen game to the point where every other team in the league has copied it. Now it’s like a sick joke—we have no more screen game but our opponents (cough—BRADSHAW) successfully run it on us regularly.
The problem is that Reid and Morninwheg don’t probe defenses for openings or weaknesses, in their arrogance they always try to dictate the game towards the defense so the playcalling resembles a toddler jamming a square peg into a round hole. Well, the rest of the NFL has caught up to Andy's vanilla offense. This is a new decade, and I don't think Andy is going to revolutionize his thinking anytime soon.
It's time for a change.