If yesterday was “bash Andy Reid” day, today seems to be all about finding the silver lining. Tommy Lawlor wants you to know that “the Eagles are closer to being a good team than you think.” Paul Domowitch says “the worst is over.”
Let me do you the courtesy of quashing your hopes before you get too excited. This team is not, and will not, be a good team this year.
The optimists want you to believe that the Eagles turned a corner in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Bills. That after the demoralizing 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to start the third quarter, Juan Castillo’s defense adjusted and finally played up to its potential. They only let up 3 points the rest of the way.
Yet, even beside the fact that the Bills got more conservative in the fourth quarter, we’ve seen this type of one-half improvement before. Remember, against San Francisco the Eagles got out to a 23-3 lead through the middle of the third quarter. But eventually, they collapsed. The fact that in last week’s loss the defensive collapse was in the the first half rather than the second is a pretty weak argument to stand on.
Believe it or not, even a bad defense that gives up more than 26 points per game tends to keep the offense from scoring on the majority of drives. Sometimes those stops are evenly dispersed throughout the game, sometimes you manage to keep the opponent down for two quarters before letting up the lead. But at the end of the day, you’re still giving up too many points. I wouldn’t read much into one fourth quarter shutout by this defense, just because the Eagles took Jarrad Page off the field.
We hope that the youngsters who are now getting a shot, like Kurt Coleman, Nate Allen, Jamar Chaney, Brian Rolle, and Danny Watkins, will be better than the players they replaced. But none of them have shown that they consistently can be even average starters.
Perhaps the turnover rate will revert closer to the mean, but there’s no guarantee of that either. Michael Vick has been especially loose with the ball, whether throwing it to no one over the middle to avoid a sack or holding it out away from his body when scrambling. And drops have been common from every Eagles receiver.
Oh, and lest we forget, Juan Castillo is still your defensive coordinator.
The very best case scenario, in which the Eagles mostly fix their problems and rally for the remainder of the season, is unlikely. But even in that hypothetical, it’s doubtful they’d accomplish more than the 2010 San Diego Chargers, who sunk to 2-5 after some horrible special teams play. That team had a top ten offense and defense, strung together four straight wins, and still missed the playoffs at 9-7.
The 2011 Eagles are remarkably and unexpectedly bad. And it’s not hard to predict improvement when things seemingly can’t get any worse. But do me a favor. Save your optimism for next year.
Photo from Getty.