The 15 Biggest Problems for the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles
Six games into the season, the Philadelphia Eagles are 3-3, with the second worst point differential in the NFC. They're managed to win a couple of very impressive games, including a one-point win over the defending AFC North champion Baltimore Ravens and a two-point victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, but they've also struggled in all six games. They almost suffered a humiliating loss to the Cleveland Browns in the season opener. They were blown out by former Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb and the Arizona Cardinals in week three. They lost on a walkoff field goal to the Pittsburgh Steelers in week five. And they blew a 10-point lead in the final four minutes against the Detroit Lions in week six, losing in overtime after an embarrassing three-and-out.
The bye week couldn't have come at a better time for the Eagles, who needed to regroup and get their focus back on football. The team is actually not very banged up, but an extra week of rest should be good for the entire team, especially quarterback Michael Vick, who has taken more than his fair share of hits in each game. The major move during the bye week came when the Eagles fired inept defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, just 22 games after he was given a job that he never should have come close to receiving in the first place.
That being said, here are the 15 biggest problems for the Eagles this season, and I'll be honest. It was difficult to narrow it down to just 15.
15. Dominated by All-Pro WRs
The Eagles can never figure out a way to slow down dominant wide receivers. In week three, it was Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals who torched the Eagles for 114 yards and a touchdown on nine catches. In week four, Victor Cruz, who I truly believe might be the best receiver in the league, caught nine for 109 and a touchdown. And in week six, Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions caught six for 135, including five for 107 following the start of the fourth quarter. His 17-yard catch in overtime set up Jason Hanson's walkoff field goal and led to the firing of the Eagles' defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo.
14. Nnamdi Asomugha
When the Eagles signed Nnamdi Asomugha to a five-year, $60 million deal before the 2011 season, they expected the 30-year old to continue his play as one of the most dominant cover corners in the league. He didn't play as expected in 2011, but many blamed that on the misuse of Asomugha by rookie defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. However, Asomugha isn't quite living up to his potential in 2012. He's not playing poorly. He's allowed a 72.5 opponents' passer rating and just a single touchdown. But he's not making plays. He had a real good game against the Lions last week, but other than that, all of the talk about the Eagles cornerbacks has been Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and his huge season.
13. No red zone receiver
I'm growing really sick of the Eagles' wide receivers this season. DeSean Jackson is actually having a very good season but Jeremy Maclin has been very inconsistent, plus he missed a game with injuries, and Jason Avant is having a disappointing year statistically. In the red zone, Maclin is the only one who is a reliable target. Jackson completely disappears and Avant is never going to be a guy to catch touchdown passes. The Eagles really need a big physical receiver like the Plaxico Burress of old (not the current Plaxico Burress who is well past his prime) in the draft next season.
12. Lack of big plays from offense
Where are the huge plays from the offense that we saw on a weekly basis in 2009? Yes, Michael Vick hit Jeremy Maclin for a 70-yard touchdown against Detroit. But on a consistent basis, the offense is not clicking on deep passes. The offensive line is largely at fault, as Jackson doesn't have enough time to complete his deep routes before Vick is pressured.
11. Playing to level of opponents
Through six games, the Eagles have played to the level of their opponents in almost every game. They played their hearts out against the Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, and Pittsburgh Steelers, and they appeared lackluster and unmotivated against the Cleveland Browns, and at the end of the Detroit Lions. All five games came down to the final minute, and all five could have gone either way.
10. Special teams coverage
The Eagles' kick and punt coverage this season has been so bad that I'm surprised coach Bobby Aril has not yet been fired. Sure, the team didn't have special teams ace Colt Anderson at the beginning of the season as he recovered from his ACL tear last December, and linebacker Akeem Jordan and wide receiver Riley Cooper, two of the better special teams players, missed a couple of games. But the coverage can't just blow up because one or two players is out. For the Giants, rookie David Wilson returned six kicks for 217 yards, an average of 36.2 yards per return, and his 37-yard return in the final two minutes gave the Giants excellent field position for their final drive.
9. Can't play full 60 minutes
Not once have the Eagles played a complete game this season. They'll start out slow and sluggish, then they'll usually rally in the final few minutes to win it. You never know what you're going to get in the middle 45 minutes. That's unacceptable. I remember when the Eagles used to win games 24-10 and 31-13. Boring games that were over by halftime. There's been none of that this season.
8. Beginning schedule
You can't deny that the schedule has been tough. The Ravens and Giants are two of the top teams in the league this season. The Steelers and Lions were desperate teams coming off a bye. The Cardinals were in their early season hot stretch. Only the Browns were an easy game, and the Eagles almost blew that one.
The Eagles have really had some issues with playcalling, and I think it's time for Andy Reid to take back the playcalling duties from offensive coordinato Marty Mornhinweg. One of my biggest issues is the goal-line playcalling. Rolling Vick out hasn't worked. Neither has running Stanley Havli or Bryce Brown up the middle. Even LeSean McCoy hasn't always been able to get the necessary yardage. And it doesn't help that the Eagles don't have a physical receiver, as mentioned earlier.
6. Defenses can't create turnovers
The Eagles have had a pretty impressive defense this season, but they haven't been forcing turnovers like they should. They've intercepted seven passes and recovered one fumble this season, but four of those interceptions came in week one against rookie Brandon Weeden, who was making his NFL debut. That's just four turnovers in the past five games. When you look at it that way, it's impressive that the Eagles have even gone 2-3.
5. Lack of depth
Great teams can win games when they lose key starters for an extended period of time. The New York Giants come to mind. The Eagles, however, have not been able to do that. Jason Peters went down for the year and the Eagles haven't been able to even adequately replace him, flopping between veterans Demetress Bell and King Dunlap at left tackle. Dallas Reynolds hasn't been able to replace Jason Kelce. And when Nate Allen went down at safety against the Lions, Colt Anderson turned in an awful performance, likely costing the Eagles the game.
4. Defensive coordinator
Well, this problem might be fixed now. But since we're talking about the 15 biggest problems for the 2012 Eagles, and a game has not yet been played without Castillo as the defensive coordinator, it makes this list. I'm excited to see what Todd Bowles, previously the team's defensive backs coach, can do in the final 10 games. At least the players respect him and are a lot more willing to listen to him than they are with Castillo.
3. Three-fifths of offensive line
Evan Mathis has had a great season at left guard and Todd Herremans has been pretty good at right tackle, for the most part. But three-fifths of the offensive line has been a total disaster. Bell/Dunlap have been the Achilles heel of the offense, and Reynolds hasn't been able to replace Kelce. At right guard, Danny Watkins is doing everything he can to show that he is a first round bust. The fact that he is already one of the older players on the team doesn't help either. As a result of the poor offensive line play, Vick has spent most games running for his life, and even LeSean McCoy isn't breaking off the big runs he did last year. He's averaging just 4.1 yards per attempt. Oh, and forget about screen passes this year.
2. Defensive line
I literally can't describe how surprised and disappointed I am by the Eagles' defensive line this season. I remember before the year when I said, and I quote, that the Eagles' defensive line might be the strongest group of players for any team at any position in the league. Instead, it's been one of the weakest, and to make it even more embarrassing, there have been no major injuries. Trent Cole, Jason Babin, and Cullen Jenkins are struggling through awful seasons. Phillip Hunt has failed to turn into the breakout player we all expected. And Derek Landri has been very inconsistent. Only Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham have been getting the job done.
1. Michael Vick's turnovers
If you put Donovan McNabb at quarterback, the Eagles would probably be 4-2 and averaging about 24 points per game, as opposed to 3-3 and 17 points per game. McNabb took a lot of heat for his bounce passes, but he didn't fumble a lot and was almost never picked off. He would have beaten Cleveland in a blowout. He definitely would have made enough plays to beat Detroit. And he would have won at least two of the other four. Vick is the most inconsistent quarterback in the game. He can be electric and unstoppable, or he can be a turnover machine. You literally never know what you're going to get with him. If he doesn't pick up his game in the next 10 weeks, and I mean really pick up his game, he will be on a new team in 2013.