Eagles Wake-Up Call: Offense Close To Breaking Out (Really)

Andy Reid is not used to this.

In his 13 seasons as the Eagles head coach, Reid’s offenses have finished in the top half of the league in scoring 10 times. Overall, they’ve averaged 23.8 points per game.

This year, however, has been a struggle. We’re five games in, and the Eagles are averaging 16 points per game, second-worst in the league, ahead of only the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But there’s reason to believe this group is close to breaking out.

Hey, don’t laugh. I’m being serious here.

The key is diversity. After the Cardinals game, it looked like the Eagles were only capable of playing one way – with big plays downfield. If those didn’t work, the offense looked horrible. There didn’t appear to be a Plan B.

But against the Giants and Steelers, there was a change. More balance, shorter routes, extra blocking on the shot plays downfield. And while the scoreboard only showed 19 and 14 points, respectively, there were good signs. Most notably, Michael Vick looked more comfortable as a passer. In the past two games, he’s completed 65 percent of his passes. In the second half last week, he was 13-for-18 (72.2 percent). And against the blitz, he was 11-for-15 (73.3 percent). Vick has gone 104 passes without an interception.

Those are all good signs.

Again, it’s about diversity. If challenged, can the Eagles methodically move the ball downfield? A few weeks ago, I’d have said no. After the last two weeks, they look capable.

As for the big plays, we’ve shown with the All-22 (Steelers game here, Giants game here) that they’ve had opportunities. They just haven’t been able to capitalize. If the Eagles continue to be patient and stay balanced, they’ll have even more chances.

Of course, there are a few things that could cause this offense to continue to underachieve. One would be if Reid and Marty Mornhinweg get greedy and abandon the game-plans we’ve seen the past two weeks. Another would be if the offensive line is a disaster. No one’s expecting Howard Mudd’s group to be as good as last year, but the line needs to be adequate. It seems reasonable to expect them to reduce at least some of the confusion the more they play together.

And finally, there’s Vick. If he continues to turn the ball over at this rate, the Eagles aren’t going anywhere. Vick’s had fumbling issues his entire career, but it’s worth noting that he had seven fumbles in his first three games last year and just three in his final 10. Maybe he got luckier. Maybe he protected the ball better. I don’t really know. But there was a change in the results.

In the Lions, the Eagles face a team that is unlikely to blitz a lot. And their secondary is not good enough on paper to consistently contain DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and company. Eagles receivers have shown all season that they can win even when they’re out-numbered in coverage. This is a game where they can keep running backs and tight ends in to help neutralize the Lions’ pass-rush when necessary and give Vick time to find his weapons.

If that happens, the offense could be looking at a breakout game and some momentum going into the bye week.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Here’s cheat sheet No. 2 – 10 things you need to know about the matchup between the Eagles’ offense and the Lions’ defense. If you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.

Tim compares Nnamdi Asomugha to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie through five games.

And a roundup of what the national media are saying about Eagles-Lions.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Paul Domowitch of the Daily News caught up with Jim Washburn about the defensive line’s lack of sacks this season.

“What happens is, sometimes your reputation precedes you. This is the most seven-man protections I’ve ever seen. From the standpoint of the total defensive line, we’re much better than last year, without any question. We’re rushing just as well. We’re just not getting sacks, because they’re keeping people in.”

Lions safety Louis Delmas is questionable. Details on his potential return from Chris McCosky of The Detroit News:

Delmas, who has had surgeries on both knees the last year, said whether he plays on Sunday in Philadelphia will be decided by the coaches and medical staff.

‘It’s their call,’ he said.

If it were up to him, did he think he was ready to play?

‘I can’t answer that,’ he said. ‘Mentally I am ready. Physically, I don’t know.’

COMING UP

Gameday. Tim and I will be chatting live from the Linc. Join us at 1 p.m.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

 

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  • NYCBirds

    Hope you’re right, Sheil. The big plays will definitely come if the Eagles stick with the short passes and, yes, run the ball. The other thing to consider is the O has faced some real standout defenses so far.