Eagles-Falcons Pregame ThoughtsBREAKING NEWS, Eagles, News Friday, October 26th, 2012
Andy Reid and Marty Morhinweg can’t put it off any longer. It’s time for the Eagles to make a concentrated effort to heavily involve their best player in the offensive gameplan.
When you look at Sunday’s matchup with the Atlanta Falcons, every ounce of conventional wisdom says that this is the week for the Eagles to go to a run-first offense. The Falcons are a team that you can run on. Atlanta is giving up more than 140 yards on the ground per game, ranking them among the five worst run defenses in football.
The Falcons defensive line is built to rush the quarterback, but they aren’t nearly as successful when it comes to shutting down offensive running lanes.
LeSean McCoy has had a good season so far, but he hasn’t had a game that he’s been a dominant force in. A big reason for this is that the coaching staff just isn’t interested in involving him as much as they should. The fact is, when the Eagles have given McCoy 20 or more carries this year, they’re 3-0. When he has less than 20 carries, they’re 0-3.
The coaches will point to their shaky offensive line as one of the primary reasons that they don’t run to McCoy. While it’s fair to say that the offensive line’s struggles have limited the number of ways that the Eagles can try to use their running attack, I think it’s foolish for the coaches to use the offensive line problems as a reason to avoid the running game.
I’m sure the coaches have noticed after watching the film that this line is just as poor in pass protection as they are in run blocking. If they’re going to use the logic that they can’t run the football because of the offensive line, then by that same line of thought they shouldn’t make any effort to throw the football either because the line’s ineffectiveness impacts the success of the passing plays just as much as it does the running ones.
Oh, and there’s also the possibility of howling winds and blinding rain due to the massive hurricane currently making its way up north. Poor weather conditions don’t make for successful passing attacks. Run the ball Andy, please.
The Todd Bowles Era Begins
One the biggest storylines of this game is Todd Bowles coaching his first game as defensive coordinator.
During the week, Bowles and his players have talked about mixing the defense up and making the unit less predictable.
Bowles doesn’t have an easy first assignment. Matt Ryan and the his receivers make for one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the game.
However, Bowles is a much sharper defensive mind than Juan Castillo, and the impact his previous experience with quality defensive minds and his 10 years of defensive NFL coaching experience can’t be understated. The Eagles now have a qualified individual pulling the strings of their defense, and I believe we’ll see a much improved, polished, and confident unit because of him.
How The Falcons Can Beat The Eagles
The best thing that Atlanta can do to put themselves in a great position to win is to get ahead very early in the game.
It will be critical for the Falcons to score on their first two possessions, and gain a quick double-digit lead on the Eagles. Putting Philadelphia into an early hole would make it much more likely for Andy Reid to forget about his running game, and make him put the team’s fortunes into the turnover-prone hands of Michael Vick.
The Falcons have a deep receiving corp, and can attack the Eagles in a number of ways. Julio Jones and Roddy White have combined for over 900 yards and eight touchdowns on the year. Ageless tight end Tony Gonzalez is still one of the best in the game, and has 43 catches for 430 yards and four touchdowns.
The Eagles are going to have trouble accounting for all of these players. Nnamdi Asomugha is coming off of his best game as an Eagle, but he’s going to have a more difficult time with the speed of these Atlanta receivers. Rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks has performed well against opposing tight ends this year, but I don’t know that he’ll have an answer for Gonzalez.
If the Falcons can get the Eagles to fall into the pass-happy trap, they shouldn’t have much trouble coming away with a win. The Atlanta defense is built to defend the pass. They’ve picked up 16 sacks (with defensive end John Abraham leading them with six), and also have recorded 10 interceptions.
If Reid and Mornhinweg just sit back and call pass after pass after pass, it’s going to be a long day at the Linc. The offensive line won’t be able to hold off the Atlanta pass rush and Vick will almost certainly commit multiple turnovers.
Why The Eagles Will Win
The Eagles match up pretty well with the Falcons.
A year ago they had one of their strongest offensive outputs against this same Atlanta team, and they might have won that game if they didn’t have Casey Matthews at middle linebacker or Juan Castillo calling the defense.
This is a good spot for the Eagles to be in. They’re fresh off of their bye week, which of course Andy Reid’s teams are 13-0 after regular season byes. The head coach has spent the last two weeks doing some serious soul searching, and the changes he’s made to this team during the bye have put everyone on notice that this is a make-or-break moment in the season.
After losing the last two games, many of even the most faithful of Eagles fans have now begun to doubt whether or not this team can even make the playoffs this year in a very competitive NFC. What better way to quiet those doubts and build up confidence than by handing the last undefeated team in the NFL their first loss of the season?
If the players have the proper mentality, the Eagles should win this game going away. So many of the veterans on this team have a lot to prove. Michael Vick is in the midst of an awful season, and he may only be a handful of turnovers away from a benching. Vick has spent most of the year defending himself and claiming that he has no turnover problem. This is a great opportunity for him to put some validity to his words, and put together a strong performance. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s got to go out and put up big numbers, I’d be happy if I saw him play like he did against New York. I want him to see him be turnover-free, and make sound decisions.
The defensive line is primed for a breakout performance as well. After going three straight games without a sack, I have to believe that this is the week that the drought comes to an end.
I like the Eagles to win this game. I think the matchups favor the Eagles both physically and in terms of intangibles as well.
I feel that this will indeed be a week that Reid commits to establishing a running game, and I expect to see a lot of new life from the defense with Todd Bowles now in command.
The offensive line will also have a couple of new starters this week with King Dunlap taking over at left tackle and rookie Dennis Kelly playing right guard. While neither player may be anything to get excited about, they can’t possibly be worse than Demetress Bell and Danny Watkins, so I’m at least optimistic to see how successful the new-look line will be.
The Eagles need this win, badly. After letting two straight games slip away in the fourth quarter, they’ve greatly reduced their margin for error on the season. This is the time for this team to rise up and make a stand if they do indeed have any hope of fulfilling the lofty expectations that many had set for them before the season.
Denny Basens is the editor of GCobb.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter.
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