Eagles Wake-Up Call: Using the Shanahan Method

Philadelphia Eagles right guard Danny Watkins.Mike Shanahan caught some flak for his comments following Washington’s loss to the Panthers two weeks ago where it sounded like he was conceding the season.

“Now you’re playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come,” Shanahan said. “Now we get a chance to evaluate players and see where we’re at.”

You never want your coach to sound like he has thrown in the towel with seven games to play, but it’s hard to totally dismiss Shanahan’s mindset. His team just fell to the lowly Panthers, dropping them 3-6. He has a promising rookie quarterback and a grouping around him that obviously isn’t getting the job done collectively. So you use the remaining games to decipher which individuals fit with your vision moving forward.

The Eagles, also at 3-6, will be doing much of the same thing. You play to win and hope to make a push in the division race, but as a franchise you turn off the tunnel vision to let the big picture in.

There will be a lot of evaluating going on, in other words, when the division rivals play each other Sunday afternoon. Here are just a few things the Eagles will surely be looking at:

QUARTERBACK

It’s at a time like this that I think of teams like the Miami Dolphins, who have struggled endlessly to find a solution at quarterback. Since Dan Marino exited in 1999, the landscape has been littered with guys like Jay Fiedler and Brian Griese and A.J. Feeley and Chad Henne and Chad Pennington and Matt Moore. Thirteen years of stumbling around in search of a quarterback. And now, maybe they have found the answer in Ryan Tannehill. But who knows.

If Nick Foles is the guy, then the rest of the pieces will fall into place for the team moving forward. If he’s not, then the quest is on. Whatever the judgment, it is imperative that the Eagles get it right.

DANNY WATKINS

Is this a “young” 28-year-old with remaining upside, or a chronic-ankled disappointment that will be more of a hindrance than a help moving forward? (Yes, I realize where most of you come down on this.)

WIDE RECEIVER

The Jeremy Maclin-DeSean Jackson duo is strong on paper but has left something to be desired this season.  The breakout year that was predicted for Maclin has not come to pass. There are red zone issues, and not enough proof that this tandem can thrive when the big strike is taken away. Are they victims of Michael Vick‘s turnovers and bad offensive line play, or is it an imperfect fit?

Maclin enters the final year of his rookie deal following this season.

CORNERBACK

Plenty of questions on how to proceed at this position. We explored the topic here.

NATE ALLEN

Allen has played quality ball in stretches, but injuries have been a big part of his story early in his NFL career. Can he improve his tackling and stay healthy, or does the safety position need to be overhauled altogether?

INTANGIBLES

This team has been accused more than once of not giving its all and responding poorly when punched in the mouth. If there are certain players responsible for such undesirable qualities, it’s the time to identify them.

Or, as Shanahan said, “Now we find out what type of character we’ve got and how guys keep on fighting through the rest of the season.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Kapadia has his cheat sheets ready for the game. Notes on the Eagles’ offense here, and the defense here.

A look at the latest injury report.

Not a lot of love for the Eagles in this matchup from the national pundits.

Chip Kelly has said of Foles: “I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes.” Sheil has more.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Bill Simmons picks the Eagles while pointing out how poorly they’ve done against the spread this season.

The Nick Foles era was fun for about 12 minutes, until everyone realized, “Oh, wait, they can’t block for him, either.” But back to those spread records — right now, the Eagles are 1-7-1 against the spread, making them by far the worst (only 3-6 Kansas City and 3-6 Oakland come close). Since 2007, only the 2007 Ravens (3-13) and 2011 Rams (3-12-1) covered in three or fewer football games in one season, and the 2010 Panthers (4-12), 2011 Bucs (4-12) and 2008 Jags (4-12) were the only other teams that finished eight games below .500. So history tells us that the Eagles are definitely covering two more games. Don’t tell me this season is hopeless, Philly fans. You’re definitely covering two more games!!!!!!!!

A look from the Redskins’ point-of-view from Mike Wise of the Washington Post:

Sunday is when we find out whether Jim Haslett’s defensive schemes deserve another year. If that defense, which hasn’t produced a sack in almost a month, cannot get to or at least pressure a rookie making his first start like Nick Foles — behind a Band-Aid Eagles offensive line — it will never pressure anybody.

This isn’t a must-win game; it’s a can’t-lose game. If they fall to this sorry Eagles outfit and take sole possession of last place in the NFC East at 3-7, the Shanahan era can no longer hide behind the promise of RGIII.

Have you seen what’s going on in Philadelphia? This is one of the rare instances over the past decade where Washington is facing a bigger tire fire than itself.

COMING  UP

Eagles at Washington, 1 p.m. The Redskins are 3 1/2 point favorites. We’ll have  a live chat in-game.

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