'Why Did I Do That?'

Jonathan Tamari:

“Some if it was, ‘What was I thinking?’ ” Pederson said, describing Vick’s reaction to last year’s game tapes. Some turnovers were out of his hands. A few interceptions came from wild tips. But “for the most part it’s just ‘Why? … Why did I do that?’ And that’s the kind of thing that we missed a year ago in that offseason.”

Sometimes your greatest strength can be your greatest weakness. For Michael Vick, his athleticism allows him to skate by on improvisation alone. It’s good to see him questioning that mentality.

Beyond 'I Goofed'

The full transcript of Andy Reid’s interview with McLane and Domo is up, and it has some juicier quotes than just the “goofed” line.

“From a coaching standpoint, we probably gave [Michael Vick] a little too much too soon protection-responsibility wise. You can’t take quite as much as we did early and do that with a guy. Even though he’s been in the league as long as he has, it’s a different (protection) scheme. If I had to go back on it, I would have backed up and just gradually fed him the stuff. You’re talking about a very intelligent guy. Very intelligent. But you can’t dump years and years of things on the table and expect him to go and perform.”

That’s the first time, to my knowledge, that Reid has admitted that a lot of the protection/decision issues were on Vick.

“The first thing that happens in this league is, if the coach doesn’t know what he’s talking about, the players are going to let you know. They’re gonna be very verbal about that. But everybody stayed on board with Juan Castillo. I thought that was a tribute to him, his coaching ability and his staff.”

In trying to tell us, “Hey, at least the players like him better than that McDermott guy,” Reid actually places Castillo in a category of coach that “doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Stunning.

Stop Drinking the Juan Castillo Kool-Aid

Jason Babin Sack Mark Sanchez

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly both fans and writers can jump-start the bandwagon after a mere modicum of success.

When I wrote yesterday about the possibility of a pro-Juan Castillo movement, I had no idea it would get started so quickly. I assumed it would take at least another week or two of solid defense, and even then it wouldn’t be particularly vocal. Apparently I was wrong.

The Eagles have put together back-to-back good defensive performances. Both games came against mediocre or worse offenses (check the DVOA) with poor starting quarterbacks. In both games the defense benefitted from early opponent turnovers and the return of Michael Vick, who guided the Eagles offense to two large halftime leads. Then the Jets/Dolphins offense, neither being world-beaters in the first place, became one dimensional and desperate through the rest of the game.

Even if you want to overlook those particularly beneficial factors, don’t you at least remember how the rest of this season has gone? Not once, but twice before the Eagles defense seemed to be going in the right direction.

After week eight the Eagles had won two straight games and limited the Redskins and Cowboys to 20 points combined. The playoff hunt was back on… until it wasn’t. The Eagles immediately lost to the Bears and Cardinals. But all was forgiven again when Vince Young led them a win over the Giants in the Meadowlands. At least until they came back the next two weeks and got blown out by the Patriots (38 points), and embarrassed by the lowly Seahawks (31 points).

So forgive me if I’m not ready to crown Castillo after these last two “everything that can go right” wins. I’d be surprised if the defense manages to keep up the pace over the final two weeks. And, not to move the goalposts, but even if they do play well (against two flawed teams they’ve already beaten) it will still be best for the Eagles to move on from this utterly failed defensive coordinator experiment.

Photo from Getty.

By the Numbers: Record-Breaking Victory

LeSean McCoy Touchdown Run

You may be surprised to hear this, but the Eagles are two more solid defensive efforts away from retaining Juan Castillo. One can see how the notion is going to start gaining momentum.

Since the Eagles left Seattle in disgrace, their defense has played two straight good games, albeit not against world-beaters. Over the final two weeks, they play two teams that they held to a combined 20 points the first time around.

Now you’ve got a “strong end to the season ” storyline that lends to the idea that Castillo just needed time to work things out, especially with the lockout. Avoiding collapse means the players will rally to this storyline, and writers will throw around the fact that Sean McDermott got a second chance.

Inside Novacare, Andy Reid’s already on a make-or-break 2012 season, so he might as well go out with his guys. Joe Banner and Howie Roseman will let Reid dig his own grave… and, voila. Juan, season two is born.

(Just to head everyone off at the pass, this is an awful idea.)

83% = Catch rate by Brent Celek. Celek’s 156-yard performance was impressive, even if he couldn’t quite punch his 73-yard catch-and-run into the end zone. In fact, it was the most receiving yards for a tight end in Eagles history since “Pistol Pete” Retzlaff in 1965. But even more important was the indication that Celek is really back, after dropping passes at a high rate in 2010.

0 = Eagles turnover margin, including the muffed punt. It’s amazing how many times these two teams tried to give the game away. The Eagles converted more of them to points, though.

20% = Jets red zone touchdown rate. Winning is easier when you don’t allow a touchdown every time the opponent gets inside the 20.

20 = Total all-purpose touchdowns for LeSean McCoy. What a ridiculously fine season for Shady. No one expected this type of historic performance.

3 = More sacks by Jason Babin. Some writers keeping trying to discredit Babin by linking him to the poor run defense. But that’s neither fair, nor particularly relevant. Even if he was a big problem against the run (which he’s not), 18 sacks evens that out a little bit.

Photo from Getty.

Calling All Asante Samuel Interpreters

Asante Samuel, as quoted by Les Bowen:

“We were top five [in turnover differential, at plus-9] last year, huh? What do you think the difference is?” Samuel asked. “You don’t want to say it? I got no comment.”

Who does Samuel blame most? Is it “the offensive line coach?” Maybe it’s those pesky front office boys “playing fantasy football with the owner’s money.” Or could he be casting well-earned blame on his teammates?

You decide.

(Via BountyBowl)

A Thin Veneer of Success

Brent Celek Eagles Giants

I know I’m the Negative Nancy of the Eagles blogosphere, unable to enjoy a close win against a division rival. Yes, the 18-play drive was neat and the defensive line played well against a bad Giants offensive line. But without a heroic strip-sack by Jason Babin with a minute left after the Giants had already driven 70 yards, we might be talking about yet another fourth quarter collapse.

Frankly, this win only covered up many of the same problems we’ve seen in every loss. Turnovers, red zone issues, missed tackles, dropped passes, blown coverages, stupid penalties — it was all still there. We even saw new problems emerge: the offense couldn’t get LeSean McCoy going until his final run of the night.

There are far more people than I expected who are re-checking playoff scenarios based on the thought, “If only they could keep playing at the same level.” Let me tell you, that level is at best .500 the rest of the way.

* * *

In other news, here’s Pro Football Focus’s charting of the Eagles pass coverage from Sunday night. We’ve talked about Nnamdi Asomugha’s problems, but if you saw Rob Gronkowski’s two touchdown game on Monday night, the linebackers should worry you much more.

Eagles-Giants Pass Coverage

Photo from Getty.