Throughout this season, the Philadelphia Eagles‘ Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg have struggled to find the balance between their two most important players on offense, running-back LeSean McCoy and quarterback Michael Vick. However, once Vick was knocked out of the Dallas Cowboys‘ game last week, that balance became irrelevant in the buildup to this week’s Washington Redskins matchup.
Instead of starting Vick this week, the Eagles will be led into Washington by rookie quarterback Nick Foles.The 23-year-old played in relief of Vick last week, but couldn’t prevent his side falling to a home loss. Even though the Eagles lost that day, there was very little about Foles’ performance to suggest he cannot play in this league. Foles threw for 219 yards, a touchdown and an interception while completing 22 of 32 passes.
Even though it was the youngster’s first career start, it wasn’t much of a surprise that he had some success. Reid has a history of helping backup quarterbacks to make easy transitions from the sideline to their first action on the field. In recent seasons, Kevin Kolb and Vick had both replaced prior starters to varying degrees of success. While it would still be irresponsible to expect Foles to immediately act as a starting caliber quarterback, his impact on the Eagles’ mindset alone should improve the offense as a whole.
Prior to being injured, Vick wasn’t playing efficient football. Vick had 11 touchdowns to 14 turnovers in nine games and had led the team to a 3-5 record, excluding the start against the Cowboys when he threw just nine passes. Vick had been a mirage under center all season long. His arm strength and playmaking ability remained, but he proved incapable of carrying an offense with his intelligence or awareness. Playing behind an offensive line that is amongst the worst performing units in the league, it was no surprise that the Eagles had a losing formula when they didn’t rely on McCoy to carry the offense.
Even though Reid was searching for the right balance between his talented quarterback and all-pro running back, more often than not he bought into the mirage under center, opposed to the dream in the backfield. Reid is a head coach who prefers to pass the football, he always has throughout his career. No doubt his ability to get the best out of his quarterbacks leads him to that philosophy, but when faced with the choice between Foles and McCoy, philosophy should be buried in the sand.
With Foles under center, McCoy won’t necessarily get more touches, but he should get higher quality touches earlier in the game. Throughout this season the Eagles have relied on the passing game in the first half, to set up the running game in the second. That approach should be inverted now, and with McCoy averaging 4.4 yards per carry, it will be difficult for Reid to take the ball away from him, despite his own personal preferences.
A greater commitment to the running game early in the game will help the cover some of the cracks in the Eagles’ pass protection. They may still be a group of underachieving, average offensive linemen, but with a better gameplan the Eagles can at the very least put them in a better position to succeed. Instead of asking them to pass block at least 30 times every game, maybe the majority of those snaps can now be run blocking opportunities. There are very few offensive linemen who prefer to pass block over run-blocking. A simple change in mentality can work wonders for individual performance, while a commitment to running the football should lift the belief and optimism of the unit together.
If the Eagles can get the very best out of McCoy, while allowing Foles to hit his playmakers, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, off of play-action, then the Eagles have a winning formula on offense that will also help the defense by taking time off the clock. Reid may be destined to be a free agent at the end of this season, but that’s the great thing about the NFL.
You control your own destiny…