After five weeks of the 2009 season the Eagles are 3-1 and have already had to face their share of adversity. While their strong start has been encouraging, there are some signs this team may not be as good as we think they are. Without further ado, here’s a breakdown of the good, the bad, and the ugly so far for the Birds.
- Desean Jackson may have had a slow Week 5, but on the whole he has been everything Eagle fans hoped he would be after a strong training camp. There is no doubt that he is quickly becoming one of the best playmaking wideouts in the league. I don’t think I’m over-exaggerating at all when I say he and Jeremy Maclin are going to be one of the best receiving tandems in the league for the next 5-8 years.
- Brent Celek was terrific in the 2008 playoffs, and that play has carried over into 2009. He has reliable hands, runs good routes, and battles for every yard. His physical play is making him one of the most popular players on the team: think Chad Lewis with a bit more all-around skill. The guy has some hops too (just ask Ronde Barber!)
- Rumors of Donovan McNabb’s demise were greatly exaggerated. He is still clearly a top-10 NFL QB when healthy. All those fantasy football magazines that had Tony Romo ranked above him look pretty silly now, don’t they? You have to be happy with the way Kevin Kolb filled in for McNabb too. He definitely upped his trade value this offseason.
- Despite the fact that the offensive line was a MASH unit through camp, it seems like the group has developed a nice chemistry through the first 4 games. The biggest surprise? The strong play of Winston Justice. The former second-round pick out of USC was a forgotten man heading into camp, but has been impressive at right tackle filling in for the injured Shawn Andrews. Proof this Eagles O-line is among the best in the league? They have only allowed 6 sacks in 4 games, good enough for 7th overall in the NFL.
- The defense as a whole has been largely impressive (excluding that blowout against the Saints, of course.) They have allowed the third fewest yards per game to opposing offenses (behind only the Broncos and the Giants) and rank fourth in the NFL in passing yardage allowed. Their +5 turnover differential is also good enough for sixth in the league.
- Trent Cole has been a force at defensive end, racking up 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in only 4 games. Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown have 3 interceptions apiece and are a big part of why the Eagles are so good against the pass. Don’t sleep on linebacker Akeem Jordan either…he’s tied for the team lead in tackles with 24 to go along with a sack, 4 pass defenses (2nd on the team to Brown) and 2 interceptions. If he keeps playing at this level I could see him making his first career Pro Bowl appearance.
- Unlike a certain division rival *COUGH*Dallas*COUGH* the Eagles have shown the ability to put bad teams away. The Birds outscored the Panthers, Chiefs, and Buccaneers by a combined score of 105-38.
- I hate to “toot my own horn” so to speak (actually that’s a lie, I love it when I’m spot on about something), but as an outspoken critic of the Michael Vick experiment I feel like my doubts about his impact on this team have been justified and then some. Granted he has only played in two games in Philly and is probably still getting in game shape, his horrible numbers tell the story. 5 rushes for 17 yards, and 1/5 passing for 1 measly yard. More importantly there are already rumors that he wants more regular playing time and could even be traded.
The fact is, Vick hurts more than helps this team. Why put him out there when you have a Pro Bowl QB who is playing at a high level? All you do by putting Vick into the game is alert the defense that a gadget run play is coming (cause Vick is a worse passer than Kyle Boller) and knock McNabb out of any rhythm he was getting into. It’s time to pull the plug on this charade at least until Vick shows he can actually be a productive player again, which is not a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination.
- The Eagles have a big hole at safety right now. No one has stepped up opposite Quintin Mikell: Quintin Demps is in the dog house, Sean Jones has been underwhelming, and Macho Harris is still a rookie and played horrendously against the Bucs. Factor in that Brian Dawkins in flourishing in a surprisingly good Denver D and you have yourself the makings one big, fat offseason mistake.
- Brian Westbrook is clearly not healthy and it shows on the field: he is a cardboard cutout of his former self. Yes LeSean McCoy has looked good picking up some of the slack, but if the Eagles want to make a Super Bowl run they’ll need Westy playing at a high level. If that means severely limiting his touches for the time being than so be it.
- There really hasn’t been anything too horrendous about the Eagles season so far. The 11 penalties against the Bucs were alarming, but even with that one bad game they are still 15th in the league in penalties.
If there was one thing I’d be concerned about, it’d be the Eagles schedule. Four out their first five opponents are cakewalks (the Panthers, Chiefs, Bucs, and Raiders are a combined 2-17…yikes!), but from Week 7 on this team may not have another gimme the rest of the year. Just look at their December matchups: Week 13 @ Atlanta, Week 14 @ New York Giants, Week 15 vs. San Fran, Week 16 vs. Denver, Week 17 @ Dallas.
No real easy games out of that group. Considering who the Eagles have played so far (excluding the Saints loss where a healthy McNabb would have made a big difference) what do we really know about this team? The only thing that stands out in my mind is their chances of winning it all are directly tied in to the team’s health. If the big names can stay off the injured list this group has the talent to make another long playoff run. If not? It’ll be another long offseason of questions and controversy at One Novacare Way.