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Familiar woes among Eagles preseason problems

Posted by Dany Sloan On August - 24 - 2010

Lots of people have been talking about how bad the Eagles looked on Friday. After looking back at a few key moments and letting things fester for a few days, I agree…and disagree. The key issues remain some of the team’s classic, perennial issues – converting for a touchdown inside the redzone, penalties, and the offensive line’s inability to effectively protect the quarterback.
While the team had other problems, these are the big ones that were apparent in the first half, which was when the first team was on the field.

It’s easy to say that the Birds need to get their shit together and execute these tenets of an upper echelon football team, but many of the issues run much deeper.

The offensive line is not quite decimated, but it’s not the line that the team should be putting on the field. Starting center and keystone Jamaal Jackson is recovering from his ACL tear faster than expected, but he’s still unlikely to play at all during the preseason. Mike McGlynn has been good, but he’s not what the team needs at this point. Jackson knows the line and his blocking skills are impeccable.

Additionally, Todd Herremans sat out once again, presumably not because he can’t play but because the team is being very careful with him due to his recent injuries. He’ll likely be playing against the Chiefs this week in Kansas City. Arguably the strongest member of the interior offensive line, he’ll help to offset issues brought on by the terrible Max Jean-Gilles. While McGlynn and Stacy Andrews have their own spate of issues, but the recently lapband-equipped left guard should not be playing with the first team. Defensive backs all too often run circles around him, and the excellent Bengals defense took advantage of this.

Most importantly, before you decry Andy Reid for abandoning the run, just remember that you would do the same thing if you were getting no support from your O-line.

The penalty situation is a funny one – like not funny as in “ha ha,” but funny in a “this happens all of the time” way and why the hell haven’t
you guys learned from your mistakes yet?

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for just over two years, and each Sunday I watch the game at a Philly sports bar in Santa Monica called The Shack. Not to get too far off track here, but it’s nice to be surrounded by people from back home and fans that understand the complex love/hate relationship we all have with this team and Andy Reid. Nothing exemplifies this more than the stupid penalties the Birds consistently commit. After two years of regularly going to this bar, the hooting and hollering that happens after these blockhead plays is ingrained
in my psyche.

Will this year be any different? While there is hope, I don’t expect the team to flip a switch and make everything better. Just like calling for a pop fly in baseball, this is stuff you learn when you’re a kid. It should be easy.

Over two preseason games, the Eagles have not scored one touchdown. Not one. While penalties can explain a fraction of these red zone failures, and the offensive line question marks likely make up most of the rest, it seems that this is more of a procedural problem than one of culture or mentality.

While sometimes honesty can bring pessimism to the forefront, I am feeling optimistic about the Birds turning things around inside the 20. This shiny new offense will hit their stride soon as Kolb becomes comfortable with who to use when. Also, as the offense line comes together, the run game will improve.

The three things that have held the team back from scoring a TD so far have been penalties, the offensive line, and fumbles, all of which can easily be addressed in practice. I am not worried about turnovers as that has never been the M.O. of this team. If I had to choose one thing that fans needed to seriously worry about, it’s the offensive line. Of course this is fodder for a (much, much) longer piece, but why Reid and company didn’t address this huge issue in the draft is beyond me. When your starting center and left guard are injured, young talent needs to be seriously considered.

The big issue Friday night were the illegal formation penalties which happened not once, not twice, but four times. Completing ignoring the old adage “learn from your own mistakes,” the team even caused a Jason Avant TD to be pulled back. Jason Peters was responsible for two of these penalties. Although this can be attributed to a preseason mindset and just trying to work out kinks, this needs to addressed in practice.

So was there some bright spots from this young team? Of course there were.

Young Captain Kolb looked great under pressure, both scrambling and getting rid of the ball early. Newly anointed starting left defensive end Brandon Graham reacted well to pressure and expertly helped to shut down the run game. All of those early predictions that he could be the Defensive Rookie of the Year don’t seem so far-fetched any more.

DeSean Jackson remains the de facto man at wide receiver. He isn’t pulling down those massive deep catches of yore, but most importantly, he’s using his speed to outrun secondaries and consistently get open. He nabbed four catches for 74 yards this past Friday against a very tough defense.

Other guys that look good include Sav Rocca (early indications point to him having a better season), David Akers (a model of consistency), Trent Cole (often unnoticed, but always great), and finally, Stewart Bradley. His huge hit on Ochocinco got the receiver talking (whining, if you want to be specific) and he’s emerging as a true defensive leader, one that was sorely missed last season.

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