Thursday, July 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Eagles midseason report card

Midway through the NFL season the Eagles find themselves at 5-3 and in second place in the NFC East. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)
Midway through the NFL season the Eagles find themselves at 5-3 and in second place in the NFC East. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)

Daily News Eagles beat writer Les Bowen provides his midseason report card:

Quarterback

The o-line is in constant flux and the key weapons tend to show their youth at times — big variables in evaluating Donovan McNabb, but is it unreasonable to expect more poise and consistency from an 11th-year starter? I'd really hoped the contract adjustment and offseason dialogue with management would do more to restore the old mojo. By "poise," I mean shaking off the mistakes, making something good happen when momentum drifts the wrong way. Midseason 95.5 passer rating is a good number, 58.9 percent completion not so much. Given the promise Kevin Kolb showed during his two-game cameo, it will be interesting to see what happens if this season dissolves into futility (though I doubt that'll happen). If you're still waiting for the Eagles to unveil some breathtaking innovation that will make the Michael Vick move worthwhile, I have some bad news for you; that awkward-looking QB draw seems to be the best they can do. Grade: C

Running back

Sure is a good thing the Eagles drafted LeSean McCoy. This offense could be a disaster right now if they hadn't, with Brian Westbrook healthy and sharp for exactly one complete game in the first half of the season. In the long run, McCoy will be a solid replacement for Westbrook, but as McCoy would be the first to tell you, he isn't that right now for a team with serious aspirations. Watch him misread the blocking or drop a screen, the way he did Sunday night, and you realize he's a 21-year-old rookie. An effective Westbrook seems essential to playoff success, this year, anyway. Leonard Weaver, signed to a 1-year deal almost as an afterthought, has been a godsend. Eldra Buckley has been strong on special teams, hasn't gotten the ball much. Grade: B

Offensive line

This unit is not at all what management and coaches projected in the spring, but whose fault is that? They're the ones who signed Stacy Andrews right off ACL surgery, and decided his brother Shawn was sound enough, in every sense, to entrust with the right-tackle spot. The signing of Jason Peters, I can't fault. He's been a little inconsistent, but Peters clearly has a lot of talent and he plays hurt, plays hard. Mix in Todd Herremans' training-camp stress fracture and this could have been a disaster, so you have to acknowledge that it hasn't been, and give credit to Juan Castillo and to soldiers such as Nick Cole, and yes, the unsinkable Winston Justice. But there's a lot of room between "not a disaster" and the dominant group the Eagles thought they were assembling. Grade: C

Wide receivers

The Eagles haven't had two young receivers as good as DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in a very long time, maybe forever. Jason Avant is clutch and underused. This group sure could use the veteran presence of Kevin Curtis, though. Guess Reggie Brown will be hanging out until his cap number drops enough for the Eagles to cut him. Can't they put him in the radio booth or something, as the Sixers did with Todd MacCulloch? Grade: A-

Tight ends

Breakout year for Brent Celek, whose amazing ability after the catch has been highlighted. Blocking in pass protection still a little hit and miss, though. Too bad Cornelius Ingram went down. Alex Smith is a workmanlike backup, fights the ball a little. Grade: A

Defensive line

This has been one of the team's strengths, with only occasional lapses. Trent Cole seems headed for a career year with 7 sacks already, even though opponents really scheme against him. Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley are quietly solid. Jason Babin and Anthony Dixon were good training-camp pickups. It would be nice if Victor Abiamiri could stay healthy a while. Maybe Sean McDermott could show a little more faith in the group, order up fewer gimmicky fronts and exotic blitzes. Those seem to cause as much confusion among the Eagles sometimes as they do among opponents. But 27 sacks is second in the league. Grade: B+

Linebackers

Like the o-line, this group has been wracked by injury. The Will Witherspoon trade just might have staved off disaster. Chris Gocong really needs to come back strong from his quad and hamstring injuries, especially if Akeem Jordan is going to be out a while. You can second-guess the decision not to more aggressively seek better depth here in the offseason. I hope, for Jeremiah Trotter's sake, that he really is still shaking off rust. Grade: C-

Defensive backs

Lots of talent here, lots of interceptions, but too many third-and-long conversions, too many big plays given up. Asante Samuel seems to set the tone, and his tone is uneven, prone to big plays either way. The decision mid-training camp to saddle fifth-round rookie Macho Harris with the weight of replacing Brian Dawkins was a head-scratcher, as was the previous decision to start camp with Quintin Demps in that spot. Sean Jones, whether he understood the defensive scheme or not, was always the logical guy to emerge as the starter. Quintin Mikell, Sheldon Brown and Joselio Hanson play with a lot of heart. Grade: B

Special teams

David Akers is having a tremendous year, even if he did have a hand in that loss in Oakland. Ten field goals of 40-plus yards is pretty strong. Sav Rocca could be more consistent. The cold-weather games, where he traditionally struggles, lie ahead. Coverage teams have rounded into shape very nicely, returns have been a strength. Penalties are still a significant concern. Grade: B

Coaching

This team should be at least 6-2 right now, probably 7-1 and cruising. The fact that it isn't, I put right at the feet of Andy Reid. The shortcomings remain the same: not enough balance in the offense most days, inability to adjust on the fly, poor time management. Reid deserves credit, of course, for assembling a group that might be capable of being 7-1, a youngish bunch that has a future, even if that future comes with Kevin Kolb running the show. For that reason, if the Eagles make the playoffs, Reid will get, and probably deserves, a contract extension. But we're handing out a midseason coaching grade, and Reid is responsible for the coordinators and position coaches, since he hired them. Moise Fokou doesn't know he can't cut-block during an interception return? Jeremiah Trotter can't just step right onto the field after nearly a 2-year layoff and cover a tight end deep? You often need a timeout to transition in or out of the Wildcat? Grade: C-

Overall grade

Like their 5-3 record, just slightly above average: C+

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