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Philadelphia Eagles First Quarter Evaluation

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The 2010 NFL season is already one quarter over and the Philadelphia Eagles are one of many teams that still have a lot of unanswered questions. What do we know so far? Where must the Eagles get better?

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 03:  LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball past Rocky McIntosh #52 of the Washington Redskins on October 3 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 03: LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball past Rocky McIntosh #52 of the Washington Redskins on October 3 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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We are now a quarter of the way done with the 2010 NFL season.  At this point we should start to have a feel for what kind of team the Eagles are going to be this year.  Unfortunately 2010 has been such a strange year that I don't think we do know much about the Eagles.  I heard someone on the radio recently talking about the league overall and saying that it feels like the NFL just went through an extended preseason.  There's some truth to that. 

The only undefeated team in the league is Kansas City at 3-0.  Dallas and Minnesota have combined for two wins.  Joe Flacco is one of the lowest rated quarterbacks in the entire league.  Rookie Sam Bradford has led the Rams to consecutive wins.  Arian Foster leads the NFL in rushing and averages almost three yards per carry more than Chris Johnson.  The Colts lost two games all of last year.  They've already got two losses in their division.  Packers linebacker Clay Matthews is playing like he's Lawrence Taylor and Dick Butkus combined.  Bill Belichick's defense can't stop anyone.  This really is a strange opening month. 

Back to our beloved Eagles.  We sit at 2-2.  I was hoping for 3-1, but we tend to open seasons slowly so the record isn't all that surprising.  We've got a young team and that shows in our play.  We're making a lot of execution-based mistakes.  Those can be cleaned up if the coaches do a good job and the players learn their lesson.  We'll see how that goes.  We have shown improvement within games, so that makes me optimistic.  The biggest thing for us is not digging a hole that we have to climb out of. 

One of the problems with slow starts is the defense.  The guys have been gashed, especially on the ground.  We adjust and play better, but we've got to find a way to come out strong.  Against Washington it felt like we were flat on defense.  In other games we were caught off guard by misdirection plays.  Once we got a feel for what was going on, the problems got solved. 

There are stretches within games where everything comes together and the defense looks great.  The pass rush was outstanding early against the Packers.  The second half run defense against the Lions was really good.  The defense was dominant for long parts of the game against Jacksonville.  You can see the potential.  Sean McDermott has to be frustrated by how Jekyll and Hyde we can be.  Still, that is better than a group that struggles all the time.  I'm optimistic about our defense, but I can't say anything definitively about them right now. 

The offense is also erratic.  The quarterback shuffle has obviously had a major effect.  Michael Vick has played 11 quarters.  Kevin Kolb has played five.  Vick is absolutely the better player so far.  The offense came alive under him.  Kolb has been pedestrian, to put it mildly.  He can move the ball, but slow and steady didn't get the job done against Washington. 

I know we've got some great skill players.  We have seen moments where the offense looked as explosive as ever.  I do think this side of the ball will be a strength for the team.  Vick is playing very well.  I fully expect Kolb to get better, although there's no guarantee that will happen.  He's got to snap out of his funk and play as he did last season. 

The biggest issue for me is still the offensive line.  This group has shown some improvement over the last couple of weeks, but is still not getting the job done.  We're no longer giving up a ton of sacks, but there are way too many penalties and the sloppy blocking is hurting our offense.  Right guard has been especially troublesome.  Nick Cole really struggled.  Reggie Wells didn't set the world on fire.  Max Jean Gilles gave us our best play last week and that was a pretty mediocre performance. 

The line has been hurt by the shuffling at right guard, as well has having a young guy at center who's learning on the job.  Mike McGlynn is doing some things well, but he's also made his share of mistakes.  Combine that with how much pass blocking we do and you can see where some problems arise.  Our running backs only have 63 carries all year.  A fair amount of those are draw plays, where our guys are doing more positional blocking than firing off the ball.  That makes it tough on the line.  Good line play comes from a group getting a chance to work together and a good way to do that is run blocking.  Our guys don't look like a cohesive or confident group right now.  We have three good starters.  I hope McGlynn gets better the more he plays.  Right guard is the one spot I just don't know about. 

The overall special teams play has been disappointing.  We've given some big plays, but haven't gotten any of our own.  Coach Bobby April is still trying to fix the coverage units.  Sav Rocca and David Akers have been outstanding. 

Let's talk for a minute about some other players that have stood out.  The best thing to happen on offense is the emergence of LeSean McCoy as a star running back.  His numbers are good (they'd be even better with more carries) and he absolutely passes the eyeball test.  McCoy is stronger and running better.  He's actually broken a few arm tackles this year.  He's still an elusive player with big play potential.  McCoy is blocking well and catching the ball well.  He's become a complete back. 

Fullback Owen Schmitt replaced Leonard Weaver and has proven to be a good receiver.  Schmitt has seven catches for 70 yards in three weeks.  That's impressive.  He still needs to get better as a lead blocker. 

Rookie Nate Allen is tied for the NFL lead with three interceptions.  He's been outstanding even aside from those plays.  Allen can cover, play the run, and blitz.  He looks like a star in the making.  We were lucky to have Brian Dawkins for 13 years.  I don't know that Allen will be at his level, but he looks like he's going to be outstanding in the deep patrol. 

Trevor Laws moved from the brink of getting cut to a guy that now gets regular playing time.  He was good against Detroit and then outstanding in Jacksonville.  It's great to see him giving us a good presence in the middle of our nickel defense. 

Trent Cole is arguably playing the best football of his career.  Juqua Parker is on pace to put up great numbers despite being a backup.  Darryl Tapp came to life in the last couple of weeks.  Rookie Brandon Graham isn't filling the stat sheet, but he's making an impact.  He's had at least two of his pressures lead directly to interceptions. 

The one area that must improve is our linebackers.  We all hoped that the return of Stewart Bradley would have a major impact on the defense.  It hasn't.  He has his moments, but hasn't been the impact player that was expected.  Ernie Sims has been up and down, but hasn't developed into the kind of playmaker we wanted.  Akeem Jordan at SAM is all over the place.  He was very good against the Jaguars, but bordered on awful against the Skins.  Now Jordan is in danger of losing his job to Moise Fokou, the man he took it from back in the summer. 

The good news for Sybil, I mean the Eagles, is that the NFC East is still wide open.  None of the four teams is all that scary right now, except to their own fans.  The whole NFC is wide open right now.  I'm not expecting a Super Bowl run, but I still think we can challenge for the division title.  And once you get into the postseason...who knows what can happen.   The goal at this point is just to win some games and get headed in the right direction.  After all, the NFL season is a marathon and not a sprint.  Many miles to go, before we sleep.