Of course the Birds would have to play the Giants. Of course. As if it wasn’t offensive enough that the Giants won the Super Bowl last year, now they have a chance (a four-point chance at home with a bye week in the mix) to end the Eagles’ season. It’s been a glorious and serendipitous couple weeks for the Eagles and their fans, but now we’ve to deal with the defending champs. And I’ve signed up to watch it in person.
Certainly I can feel emboldened by our previous trip to the Meadowlands. Sure, the intensity on the field and in the stands was different that day, and the Giants’ fans in our section were very polite (even before it was obvious that the Birds were beating them down), but that was definitely my best-ever Eagles experience in that stadium.
I do not expect a repeat of that experience today, either from the Eagles or the locals. This is going to be as tough as it gets on the field and in the stands (I swear I’m not going to lose my temper if I absorb a snowball in the head — I will bend like the reed in the wind!).
But here’s the thing — can we ask for much more than this? Even if the Eagles win, any matchup the following week will be a letdown. The defending champs in rough conditions in their own soon-to-be-retired stadium? With two of the best defensive teams in the league? If the NFC East has its own set of Gods, surely they must be pleased by this offering. As a fan, even if it doesn’t go our way, I consider myself lucky to have a seat for this one.
(At least that’s how I’m rationalizing it. I’ll be a complete lunatic by kickoff I’m sure. At least I can say I made a commercially reasonable effort to be an adult.)
What I’ll be shouting about:
I’m looking for someone to convince me that the Eagles will succeed on offense. The weather is going to make it difficult to throw the ball effectively. The offensive line didn’t get much of a push last week against the Vikings (though admittedly the Vikings are pretty tough against the run), the starting fullback (Buckhalter) weighs as much as I do (yikes!), and the starting running back continues to limp. Can McNabb and the wideouts be strong enough — again — to move the chains? That might be asking a lot. I dunno. It’s a bit disheartening.
Speaking of, Jon Runyan doesn’t look good. And I don’t just mean because of his hirsute appearance or cretinous manner of discourse. He didn’t move well against the Vikings last week, and I can’t imagine he’ll move any better in 28-degree weather. But hey, he’s only facing Justin Tuck, that shouldn’t be a problem. We can only assume that Runyan will have an ungodly cocktail of painkillers pumped into his bloodstream before the game and that he’ll hobble through it again. Don’t worry, Jon. Walking in your forties is completely overrated.
And then, the apocalypse scenario. Runyan or one of the guards gets hurt. Mike McGlynn is on IR. Thus would Winston Justice enter the game. That will be the point where my wife has permission to roofie me for the remainder of the game.
First tackle. First foul. First shot. First goal (1). So last week it was Brian Dawkins who established the appropriate level of violence with his brutal shot on Adrian Peterson. Who’s going to step up with a big hit early this week? Feels like it’s Sheldon Brown’s turn.
First tackle. First foul. First shot. First goal (2). Given my general level of concern about the offense’s ability to succeed against the Giants, it’s extremely important that the Eagles survive the inevitable rush of enthusiasm from New York in the first few minutes of the game. Going down by more than 10 points in the first half could be deadly.
I wish I could be more excited about the special teams. After the Minnesota game, I assumed that special teams would be an advantage for the Birds. Then I remembered how David Akers is completely spooked by the Meadowlands and how multiple field goals were blocked. Still, this will be the rookies’ place to shine today. We’ve come to expect it from DeSean Jackson; wouldn’t it be lovely if we got something special from Demps? The Giants struggle in their kickoff coverage — it could happen.
Things that do not worry me. The Giants’ passing offense. I imagine that the Eagles’ secondary thinks they can handle the Giants’ wideouts, and I imagine that they’d be correct. And I’d also say I’m especially emboldened in this prediction after pulling my little stats in defense of Tavaris Jackson the other day.
Things that might worry us. As well as the Eagles have defended the run over the past two months (really since the first Giants game), I still think they’ll have a tough time of it versus the G-Men today. The Birds didn’t get a week off, and it’s cold outside — you can imagine them wearing down a bit.
Do we have bandwidth for one more superhero performance from 36? It is unlikely that the Eagles will be able to win without a superhuman effort from the gimpy 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook. Westbrook had enough for the Eagles to win last week, but he didn’t look consistently strong throughout the game. I can’t imagine that the Eagles win without Westbrook making at least one big play. The nice thing about Westbrook is that he completely terrifies Giants fans. In the parking lot a month ago, more than one person was still haunted by his punt return in 2003 — and then he goes and scores twice that afternoon. Seriously, he has them spooked. Also, if the wideouts don’t catch the ball, the Birds are cooked.
Hopefully they’ll score before they get to the 20. Things haven’t looked so good in the red zone of late. Huh. Guess they’ll have to score from 21+ yards out!
Actual prediction. Rational brain, you go away now, and stop reminding me how healthy the Giants are and how the Eagles have a pretty limited ceiling on offense, and how the conditions favor the rested, ball-control offense. Instead, suggest that the Eagles’ defense really might be that good, and that Andy Reid and Jim Johnson are up to the challenge today. I can’t imagine either team making it much past 20 points; let’s hope the Eagles are on the friendly side of that number. Luckily, we can all rest assured that churches throughout the Delaware valley are filled with young men and boys ignoring a series of horrific wars around the globe and are silently praying for an Eagles victory. And really, who are we to argue with the power of prayer? Eagles 17, Giants 16.
Maybe the best part of this edition of Monday Eagles hangover is that…I’m not actually hungover! At all! Note that said hangovers typically have little to do with alcohol consumption and more to do with my sensitive little bruised sports feelings. Said sports feelings are doing just fine today, thank you very much.
My day-after thoughts and bulletpoints:
Stay angry, big fella. Surely after a season-vindicating playoff win against the Vikings, quarterback Donovan McNabb would be in an ebullient mood, no? Oh wait. Someone tried to ask Dunavin how he felt about Jeff Lurie’s comments regarding his future (which were all positive) at his post-game presser, and Dunavin essentially told them that he hopes that means they’ll stop asking him about it (not with a smile) and then cut off a follow-up question with “Nice try.” He also bickered about the difference between wanting a meeting with the boss and wanting to stay in Philly. I’d give you the quote but it wasn’t included in the transcription on the Birds’ site; this is the best I’ve got:
“Do you want to be back next year?” someone asked yesterday, reminding McNabb that he had asked for a sit-down with ownership when this season concludes.
“I’m here,” he said with a smile. “Excited.
The important thing is that the quarterback continue to think that everyone hates him and the only way he can really stick it to us is by winning many football games. Keep it up!
I would never want to disrespect the Vikings by looking past them… but I kinda knew, we all did that it would come down to a rematch with the Giants.
Sheldon, I couldn’t agree with you more. That was the thinking that led me to opt out of a flight to Minnesota in the hopes that the Eagles would play the Giants in my backyard here in New York the following week. And it all worked out. Excellent. Let us also note that said ticket for the G-Men game was purchased by 11 pm last (Sunday) night.
And who says Andy Reid doesn’t pay attention to his critics? From today’s day-after press conference:
On whether he stuck with the run yesterday in order to slow their pass rush: “Yeah, we were trying to get it going. (Jokingly) I can’t even believe that you asked that question, but I kind of feel good that you did. We tried to keep it as balanced as we could so I wouldn’t have to answer that question, but that’s all right.”
Outstanding. Really. Outstanding. For everyone: the reporters, Big Red himself, all of them. Still, even Andy Reid will have to admit that answering the same question about running the ball is better than the lot of the quarterback (”Dunavin, for the twentieth time, how did you feel about being benched and will you be back next year?”).
What made this not the Washington game. You could argue that the offense struggled at times yesterday. They did, especially running the ball. But the difference for the team yesterday was that they caught the ball. How many drops were there? (Dawkins and Sheldon Brown don’t count. We might even argue that Matt Schoebel shouldn’t count.) And not all those catches were easy. The wideouts were actually excellent catching the ball, and Brent Celek reminded us all why it’s so important that L.J. Smith rest up for free agency. That makes a difference — sure makes Dunavin look good.
Speaking of, in re: tight ends. L.J. Smith didn’t show up in the injuries portion of Andy Reid’s presser today, and no one asked about him. Is he okay? Or has he already been sent to gulag?
Guys who are growing up before our eyes. Sure looked like Trevor Laws got more than a couple snaps on first down yesterday. And was that Chris Gocong busting throw the line and blowing up running plays? I thought that was what that Stewart Bradley fellow did? And it definitely looks like Demps is going to be trusted a fair amount against the Giants as well, given that he was on the field in the three-safety alignment against the Vikings (you know, the one where the $57 million guy gets a break?). Here’s to hoping that Demps doesn’t let any deep balls get behind him on the play fake (fingers crossed).
Sorry for the lack of posts today. We’ve had some connectivity issues, and the day job beckoned. We’ll make it up later in the week.
Well none of us are going to pretend we expected this. Sure, we could envision this, but to expect this would have been a bit strong after the Washington game. The Eagles are actually in the playoffs.
So, are they any damn good?
That’s the thing about the Eagles game today. We don’t actually know what the narrative of this season is yet. Is is the “Eagles go on a run like 2006 (Washington game is ‘just a blip’)” or is it “Eagles stumble into playoffs, but are who we thought they were”? If they win today, many many sins will be forgiven — even if they lose the following week. Then they’re good but not good enough, and that’s a lot better than we thought we’d get in mid-November. If they lose today, especially if they do so in one of the ways to which we’ve become accustomed, well, then they were essentially last year’s team with a better punt returner: good on paper, but bad when it matters.
I wouldn’t be completely shocked if the Eagles didn’t show up at all today, but I don’t think it’ll happen. Rather, I think that there’s a compelling reason why it might not happen: the Eagles defense. But more about that in a bit.
What I’ll be shouting about in re: today’s big Wild Card Game:
Your storylines. It’s a little overwhelming (and by overwhelming, I mean that it makes writing a preview really challenging) when your team makes the playoffs in re: the clear national storylines. As in, (1) Jim Johnson versus Tavaris Jackson (must include reference to total available quantity of blitzes), (2) Can the suddenly elite Eagles’ defense contain Adrian Peterson, (3) Teacher-versus-Pupil. What’s sweet is that I feel good about each of those. And the thing that worries me most is just that they go out and throw it 48 times. Andy Reid, you haunt me!
Storylines we refuse to consider. You’re not allowed to say, “This is an extremely close game in simulations with the Eagles winning just under 51 percent of the simulations. The key to the game is turnovers,” in an article entitled “Intel Report” on ESPN. Generally speaking, I think blathermonkeys should be fired on the spot for uttering the phrase, “The key to the game is turnovers.” The key to scoring is touchdowns and field goals. The key to defense is tackling. Yes. It’s all true!
Fan storyline that’s a bit odd. I assume most of you are like me in that you feel good about defense and special teams, and have no idea what we’re getting from the offense. It’s worth noting that said offense set the franchise record for points scored…and I still don’t think we’re remotely irrational for not trusting them.
The last time these guys played in January. The future Mrs. BountyBowl got us tickets for the game as a Christmas gift, circa December 2004. This was a very clever strategy of hers for currying my affections. Seemed to have worked out for everyone. F***ing cold that day, though!
Hip, whatever. The Birds paid a lot of money for Asante Samuel. Mr. Samuel has traditionally been very successful in elimination games (save for an awkward moment along the sideline last February). It’d be lovely if he felt compelled to demonstrate his penchant for the big moment against the Vikings. Also, I’m pretending that the injury thing is an illusion.
Speaking of, he doesn’t need to play. L.J. Smith has his impending free agency to worry about. Let’s cut the guy some slack and let him get healthy. It’s for the best.
The CamelCased One. What a wonderful opportunity for young Master DeSean to go out and demonstrate he has a feel for the big moment (and redeem himself for the Washington game) than to make a play against the absolute worst punt coverage team in the league? Very tempting, no? We’d hate to think the kid had issues with the spotlight.
Jared Allen is scary, though not as scary as Demarcus Ware. I think Allen will be slightly more dangerous than Ware was last week if only because Ware’s team completely quit. But if the Birds can handle Ware, why not Allen? (That said, I think Allen is excellent.)
Adrian Peterson is scary, though not as scary as Brian Westbrook. Sure, AP (”Purple Jesus”) is a megastar guy who has a chance to be the best back of his generation. But in a game that matters I feel extremely good about a Brian Westbrook, and not just because he might be the single smartest guy on the field. He’s also good at not getting tackled!
Eagles thoughts from during the Cards - Falcons game. While I know it’s not for everyone, it sure looks like you can run your offense through a couple dominant wideouts. Those guys are good.
Eagles thoughts from during the Bolts - Colts game. This was actually painful to watch for me, if only because there were so many little plays that almost but didn’t quite go the Chargers’ way (at least until the coin toss!). Lots of dropped picks, bad bounces, that sort of thing. It’s rare that I can feel like an Eagles fan watching another team. Thanks, Chargers!
Things I’m glad I haven’t thought about in weeks. How about that David Akers! Doesn’t seem to be struggling any more. And he’s got to feel good about a dome.
No one believes in you, Donovan. I hope Mr. McNabb is on his laptop this morning reading the InterWebs just so he knows that NO ONE BELIEVES IN HIM. Nope. Not a one. And the ONLY WAY HE CAN STICK IT TO THE FICKLE DOUBTERS is to play the game of his life. That’s the only way you can really get us, Donovan. Seriously. It’ll totally piss us all off, because we don’t really like you and don’t want you to succeed.
Cardboard Box. One of the things that makes me feel confident about the game today is that I think the Eagles actually will get the speed of the playoff game. That is, there are a few guys on the field for the Eagles who won’t be intimidated by the moment and will come out playing fast. Mostly I’m thinking that Brian Dawkins and/ or Sheldon Brown isn’t going to be afraid to endanger themselves in order to announce their presence with authority in the first few minutes of the game. And now, because I can’t help it, is the link. Treat yourself.
Game prediction. I think that the defense is going to show up this week for the Eagles, and that if the Birds can get it to 20 points they should be chill. The problem is that I can’t really speak for the offense. I think they could be awful. I think it’s important that the Eagles wide receivers play well. That means getting open and it means catching the ball. Eagles 20, Vikings 13.
Not quite Cincinnati-game frustrating, and not Baltimore-game terrible, and not even Redskins-home-loss humiliating, but pretty crappy. Nothing shameful about the defensive performance (though the Redskins’ offense doesn’t conjure up memories of the Greatest Show On Turf), but the offense was a bad in all of our old/ familiar/ favorite ways.
That is, today’s loss approached the Platonic ideal of a bad Eagles game: no plays or playmakers amongst the wideouts, an abandonment of the running game, some iffy clock management, and — most importantly — a horrific performance from L.J. Smith. If they could have just managed to somehow surrender some points at the end of the first half (in some particularly surprising/ unlikely manner involving the special teams?), well, the universe just might have exploded.
After a couple weeks of strong performances, we can’t pretend that the Birds weren’t due for one of these efforts. They certainly didn’t get blown out, they just didn’t really make any of the plays that are required to win. Pretty standard, really.
Highlights of frustration below:
Welcome back, the-wideouts-aren’t-good-enough meme. The drops were bad throughout, but the Redskins dropped their fair share as well. This was a game where I wish I could have been in the stadium to see if guys were actually getting open (my guess is an emphatic no). We love the CamelCased one, but young DeSean dropped a couple that would have made a difference. He’s a rookie, yup, but he was also the best guy the Birds had out there today. I dunno. At least we’re all pretty well-versed in beating up on the wide receivers. I look forward to closely monitoring which diva pass-catchers from around the league are unhappy this off-season.
There’s something about Jason Campbell. Does this guy play this way every week? I mean, it doesn’t seem threatening and explosive at all, nothing vertical or down the field, but he’s a pain in the ass on third down. Those scrambles for first downs are insanely frustrating.
The Redskins’ best player. Helluva a day from the Redskins punter. Seriously — that Ryan Plackemeier did himself proud out there.
Intrigue remains in re: Big Five. McNabb wasn’t great today, but he also wasn’t terrible. He’ll take heat for this game, sure, but it didn’t look like he had a ton of help out there — from his teammates or the play selection. And he did make a couple big throws in the fourth quarter, only to get let down by the overwhelming lameness of the wide receivers. Net net, it means that we can’t emphatically ship him out of town in this week’s papers.
L.J. Smith and his personal quest to lose games against the Redskins. Was it the two drops in the first half on third down? Or the horrific missed block on the screen to Westbrook at the Redskins’ five (lots of good questions in the postgame pressers about that one)? Which specific play was the worst? I actually think that he might have been the one who was out of position at the beginning of the third quarter when the Birds burned their timeout as well. Maybe we wouldn’t get down him so much if he hadn’t also been personally responsible for goal-line mistake against the Skins in October as well. Not impressive. I hope the fans at the Dallas game remember that this will be their last chance EVER to boo L.J. in an Eagles uniform.
Other BOOOOOs. Asante Samuel for dropping that pick. Reggie Brown for being almost but not quite good enough. Sav Rocca for being outpunted.
My goal is to not spend the rest of the evening moping about and reading every word bit of Internet content on the game. I’m putting in a movie, ideally something really stupid and/ or cartoonishly violent. More tomorrow.
Just watched Andy Reid’s presser. It contained actual information!
Most interesting/ compelling thing he said: “…it’d be Kevin and DeSean” in re: who will be starting at wideout. Sorry, Reggie Brown!
Least interesting/ compelling thing he said: “I feel like I have an All-Pro tight end” in re: a question about L.J. Smith. That’s probably why you guys went after Tony Gonzalez! So you could have two All-Pro tight ends!
Are we actually using phrases like “There are enough balls to go around”? Really? Because of a win against the Niners? What about the two weeks of lousy against the Skins and Bears? Personally, I think the Eagles’ receivers are just fine — certainly not elite, but definitely competent when healthy. But this isn’t the 1992 Dream Team; I expect most fans will be content if the Eagles can muster up just a few big plays from their wideouts. I certainly don’t think we have to worry about hurting these guys’ feelings.
Of course, a healthy Curtis means that someone among Baskett, Avant and Greg Lewis is likely going to sit this week. Um, again, I don’t think this is an advanced-placement-level question: the answer is Greg Lewis. I guess he and his 172 lbs. play a little special teams, but so do brand-new linebackers.
Of course, the larger question here is what happens to young Master DeSean. I really hope that having Curtis and Brown healthy doesn’t land him on the bench, and instead is used “as an excuse to find him deep in single coverage.” That’d be sweet.
Oh my heavens! I think we might need an intervention here. I’d like all the Iggles Blog readers to note that Derek just said that he’s only been to two Eagles games! (I mean, there are legitimate reasons for this, but still.) I bet more than a few of the fans of Iggles Blog have season tickets. This is your hint to send Derek an e-mail and invite him to a game. Think of all the joy (and charts, and graphs, and lengthy defenses of Donovan McNabb) he’s brought you over the years — don’t you think you owe it to him to bring him to a game?
At the very least, the Birds organization should comp you as some sort of blogger outreach program. (NOTE WELL anyone from Birds HQ who might be reading this: I would also like to come to more games! Right here! The Bounty!)
Cheers to the SAWX for their big comeback last night. Though I can’t help but note that there really isn’t a good answer in re: which city the Phils face in the World Series — it’s essentially the two cities respsonsible for the Worst Eagles Experiences of the last decade (being, of course, the 2002 NFC Championship/ Final Game at the Vet and Super Bowl XXXIX). Depending on your inclination with these things, it’s either a win-win or a lose-lose. I’d like to suggest some sort of Flyers-esque “Vengeance Now” value prop for the local marketing efforts, but I think the Phils are a little too PG for that.
On to the football, first with some comments on your replies to my questions.
WHOA. Damn skippy you need to be careful what you’re saying in re: Darren Howard! It certainly isn’t outside the realm of possibility, but man, that’s quite a bit to suggest. I mean, I obviously love an elaborate conspiracy theory as much as the next fellow, but the Occam’s Razor answer seems a bit more plausible; can’t we just assume he signed a big contract, loafed around and then finally got in shape when he was worried about his job? I mean, that’s what I would have done….
But while we’re on the topic, were there ever rumblings when Dunavin showed up for work a couple years as Bulky Donovan? Or was he just lifting too much? I mean, McNabb is obviously a guy who’s going to need to be careful about the waistline once he’s done playing; maybe he’s just big-boned? Also — and you’ll love this one — I’m sure you read the section in Pro Football Prospectus about how remarkably healthy the Cowboys have been over recent years…don’t tell me it didn’t lead you to wonder if there was a little something-something added to the salad bar at Valley Ranch.
Thus concludes the Unfounded Accusations portion of today’s post.
Also, you should really be more careful about what you say about David Akers. You know he’s sitting on his couch right now sporting his fashionably rimless spectacles, catching up on Mad Men, and hitting F5 on Iggles Blog. At the rate you’re going, you’ll never get another interview out of those Reebok people.
And now for your questions of me.
1. Favorite / least favorite Eagles and why? No cheating by picking old-timers, I’m talking current roster.
This is actually a pretty easy question. It’s Sheldon Brown by about two touchdowns. My reasons: (a) I’ve always had a fondness for big-hitting DBs, and he’s been the biggest-hitting DB for the past three seasons (with apologies to Dawk; the days of the Dawkplex are past); (b) he actually speaks honestly and intelligently to the press, and doesn’t appear to be completely full of sh*t — it’s like he skipped media training; (c) he plays every week. That counts for a lot. So yeah, I’m a big fan. I’m actually staring at a framed copy of the SI cover photo of him drilling Reggie Bush (”Cardboard Box“) right now.
2. Fill in the blanks: “The Phillies winning the World Series would feel like __________. The Eagles winning the Super Bowl would feel like __________.”
You know, this is a really hard question to answer without sounding like a complete pervert, so apologies in advance for my answer (which draws upon the amount of time I spend on airplanes): “The Phillies winning the World Series would feel like getting a surprise upgrade to first class for a seventeen-hour flight to Australia. The Eagles winning the Super Bowl would feel like getting a surprise upgrade to my own private jet for a seventeen-hour flight to Australia, only we’re not going to Australia, we’re going to a special island in the South Pacific where cheesesteaks grow on trees, clothing has been outlawed, and I am about to be named emperor.” (Too much?)
3. You’re really not going to ask about Tony Hunt?
Okay, so tell me about Tony Hunt. I just assume he’ll end up in Minnesota, right? You can just ask him, right? I assume he’s spending his time off chilling at your place? He’s playing XBox right now?
4. Over the past 10 months, the Eagles have been linked by rumor to approximately two dozen players not currently on their roster. Of the guys who actually changed teams — yes, we all wanted Larry Fitzgerald — who are you most annoyed about not getting? (NOTA is an acceptable answer if you show your work.)
Let me get the obvious and popular answers out the way first: the answer isn’t going to be a wideout, so we can cross off Randy Moss and Roy Williams. My answer might have been different six months ago, but that was before young Master DeSean was dropped at our doorstep. The Moss thing was especially tempting, more so than Roy Williams. I’m just not as completely obsessed by this position as your average Birds fan. I mean, I guess I could say Jared Allen because, well, he’s Jared Allen and it remains relatively difficult to find dominant defensive ends. But I don’t know if that was actually ever in play. (The Skins can have Jason Taylor, though.)
I actually would have been pretty psyched if the Birds could have nabbed Jeremy Shockey. There. I said it. He’s better than L.J., and would have played like a complete psychopath against the Giants. But my actual answer — and admittedly, this is very fresh — is Tony Gonzalez. DOOOOOOOOOOOD. That’s pretty much exactly what the Birds need. A red-zone beast who’d be reinvigorated on a new team? Plus he’s a veteran guy who’s a non-idiot and seems like he has the personality and temperament to handle the Illadelph? Also, he comes with a lovely commitment partner.
Also it’s worth noting that I really like the guy they did get: Asante Samuel. This is just the beginning of the Asante Samuel era in Philly. This guy definitely counts as a playmaker, and he’s not going anywhere. Seriously. He’ll be a “real Eagle” soon enough.
5. I cheated on your bonus question, but now I’m kind of interested in hearing your answer to it. I’m rubber, you’re glue …
First off, I know I thought that the Eagles would lose to the Nerdbirds before the season began, but I herby update my opinion on this topic. Seattle has to be the most disappointing team in the NFL right now. The Eagles had better win that game. Of course, none of us care about that because, well, no one cares about the Left Coast teams (nor should they — West Coast teams are, as well know, soft). Let me throw a couple random ones out there:
a. Shawn Andrews doesn’t play another game for the Eagles this year, and spends the off-season musing about retirement.
b. Dallas misses the playoffs. Wade Phillips is fired shortly thereafter. Jason Garrett is named the head coach. Wow. That was awesome to type.
c. Washington makes the playoffs. I can’t believe I’m typing that, but playing solid defense and running the ball can get you pretty far in the NFL. And for the life of me I’m not going to say nice things about the Giants.
d. Brian Westbrook never really gets healthy and rushes for fewer than 900 yards on the season (he’s at 194 after six games, so I’m saying he doesn’t break 70 yards/ game over the remaining ten).
e. Finally, at long last: Donovan McNabb starts 16 games, and, GASP, is welcomed back as the Eagles presumptive starter for 2009!
Good news for the Birds: it looks like Reggie Brown has been cleared to play tomorrow against the Steelers.
At least you’d think it was good news — Reggie Brown was a presumptive starter for the erstwhile wideout-challenged Birds, and surely he must be an upgrade over the backups who’ve been out there the past couple weeks? But the buzz in more than a couple places is that Brown’s return really isn’t such a big deal at all. In fact, given that DeSean Jackson has been lining up at Brown’s “X” receiver position (Editor’s Note: I don’t really know what that means), some have wondered if there will really be a role for Reggie Brown.
While I’ve had my issues with Reggie Brown in the past, the guy has actually made some plays in the past. And whilst I obviously eat up any and all rumors regarding his “rocky relationship” with Donovan McNabb, Reggie Brown is definitely a better NFL player than Greg Lewis, Hank Baskett and Jason Avant. The issue is young master Jackson, who’s, um, apparently pretty good, and certainly a lot more exciting than Brown. It’s tough not to be distracted by Jackson; he’s a much brighter/ shinier object than boring old Reggie Brown.
All that said, Brown getting back on the field is good news. The passing game has been delightfully vertical so far, and adding one more solid wideout can only increase the offense’s upside.
In a season debut that contained about eleven-and-a-half minutes of actual tension, the Eagles crushed the Rams to the tune of 38-3. Thirty-eight to three! This was a lovely afternoon — big win for the Birds, and minimal anxiety for the fan base. We have all week to debate whether this result was due to the Eagles’ sweetness or the Rams’ crapulence (I suspect the answer will contain “a little bit of both”), but for now, I’m just happy to have a spring in my step tomorrow morning.
A few random observations (note: contains very few complaints):
I guess we can’t complain about Dunavin not throwing the deep ball. Wow. I was just hoping for one or two shots down the field. McNabb was more than comfortable launching 25-yard patterns all afternoon — and it didn’t hurt that (a) the Rams got barely any pressure on him and (b) dudes seemed to be insanely open. Greg Lewis, Hank Baskett and Jason Avant remain Greg Lewis, Hank Baskett and Jason Avant, but I guess even second-tier pro wideouts can get it done if no one covers them.
The papers are gushing about DeSean Jackson; I’m cautiously opimistic. He certainly looks solid for a rookie, and 5 seems to like him a ton (sure saw a ton of balls on the opening drive, and wasn’t even open on the big gainer on said drive). I definitely think he counts as a weapon, and I’m psyched, but I’m not panting. That is, it wasn’t like Week One in 2004 when T.O. caught three TDs against the Giants; a certain degree of moistness remains absent. (All that said, keep it up kid!)
Cardboard box. I wasn’t sure if the Sheldon Brown hit had made youtube yet. Silly me!
Speaking of the defense, if I was nitpicking I’d complain that they didn’t score on their own. Could have been at least three picks out there, and the one Samuel dropped was a pick-six waiting to happen. I worried that the Eagles might struggle a little with Jackson around the edge. Not so much. Also, and maybe it was the reception on the television or something, but did Darren Howard have a big game? The Rams are going to struggle this year, aren’t they.
Shovel pass! How can defenders be surprised when they see the split-back set from the Eagles at the goal line? In this day and age! They have video recording equipment to capture game film, correct? They knew that it was coming, no? It’s just that they couldn’t stop it?
B-West with the fumbles? At least he had the good taste to fumble out of bounds the second time, but didn’t Westbrook fumble on two consecutive plays? Bizarre. And really, that might be the only legitimate complaint I can offer.
Count me among the Eagles cognoscenti who thought that the whinging about the state of the wide receivers corps was the surefire sign of an unsophisticated Eagles/ football fan. Sure, everyone WANTS to have a top-flight wideout, but everyone should also want to have a top-flight corner, defensive end, running back, etc., and well, you can’t have everything. Those who insisted that the Eagles upgrade at wideout were still living in 2004 and hadn’t reset their expectations.
(Of course, we’ll discount the part where Andy Reid took a run at Randy Moss in February and where I’ve been lusting after Anquan Boldin. That means nothing!)
So don’t I feel a bit silly right now as the Eagles enter Week One without the services of their two presumed starters at wide receiver. Sure, they’re still 7.5-point favorites (can we really lay ALL those points on an Andy Reid team opening weekend?) and the backups are at least familiar with the team and the offense (with the exception of wunderkind DeSean Jackson), but, um, shouldn’t this be cause for concern? I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t having horrific visions of Green Bay last September, and a Birds team that thought it could play without a punt returner.
I’ll admit that I have no idea who’ll actually catch the most balls on Sunday. I needed to grab a Birds WR off the waiver wire (DeSean Jackson was already on a roster) in one of my imaginary football leagues, and I really didn’t know who to take. Seriously. I was at a total loss. AND I READ THIS FREAKING STUFF NON-STOP. My final analysis was that Avant was the best imaginary football bet (for some imagined red-zone value), even though the team seems to be higher on Baskett? Anyone? Seriously, I’m baffled here.
We can only dream, as Rich Hoffman did earlier this week, that the absence of the starting wideouts will convince Andy Reid to play Big 8 football circa 1985. If nothing else, it’ll help resurrect the “Eagles should run more” meme that’s been so noticeably absent this off-season. Though I guess it’s tough to b*tch about playcalling when the Eagles haven’t called a play since December 2007.
(My bad being offline the past day or so — lots of airplanes and not much free time. We got some catching up to do this weekend!)
Yup, I actually believe that the Eagles are going to win the Super Bowl this year. And every year. Welcome to my sports feelings. Also this site has been inactive since 2009, but I'm still leaving it here.