THE EAGLES at the midway point this season are in a familiar spot - 5-3, just like last year at this time, still in decent shape to make the playoffs, but less consistent and more frustrating than their fans had hoped. Here's an assessment of where they've been and where they might be headed.
Five things to savor:
1. DeSean Jackson: How long have Eagles fans waited for a game-changing, breathtaking wideout? Too long. I was talking to Eagles great Mike Quick recently, and he said that every time Jackson gets the ball, he's on the edge of his seat. That's high praise.
2. That 40-17 win over the Giants: It was the most lopsided Eagles win in this intense rivalry in 13 years. Lots of highlight moments from the Birds' young playmakers.
3. Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy: Remember the days when skill-position players drafted here needed a year or 2 to contribute? Andy Reid has changed his thinking on this topic, at least, and he's actually drafting skill players capable of playing right away, which might have been a big part of the problem. Maclin is coming off a tough game against the Cowboys, but he has shown plenty of promise. It's probably even tougher to contribute in this offense as a rookie running back - Brian Westbrook didn't - but McCoy, despite some understandable rough spots, has carried a bigger load than anyone anticipated when training camp opened.
4. Brent Celek with the ball in his hands, the first-down marker in his sights: Still waiting for the No. 87 jerseys to start dotting the Linc seats. Has to happen. Can't imagine there is an Eagles fan who doesn't appreciate the way this guy plays.
5. Trent Cole hunting down Jason Campbell: The Eagle who looks most at home standing out in a field wearing camouflage gear was double-teamed and sometimes triple-teamed by the Redskins. He still sacked Campbell twice.
Five things to forget:
1. Last Sunday's game: Not as inept an effort as the Raiders loss, but even more frustrating, partly because it was a loss to such an intense rival, partly because we've seen the movie so many times before. Confused playcalling, wasted timeouts, dull-edged play from the quarterback, no bounce-back ability after a tough break on a fourth-down spot.
2. The Raiders loss: More ridiculous with each passing week. When Jason Peters went down early, you saw the scrambled o-line at its worst. And Donovan McNabb at his worst. Two-for-16 on third-down conversions!
3. The Shawn Andrews drama: His back was fine all spring and summer, until the day came to go to work at Lehigh, when it wasn't. It was in terrible shape from then until the window for possibly having to play preseason games closed, when suddenly it was fine again. First practice the week of the season opener, what do you think happened? Gosh, such terrible luck this poor fellow has had. You know his teammates are worried sick, Shawn out there in California by himself. Maybe they'll try to look him up this weekend.
4. Jeremiah Trotter chasing Zach Miller: Trot's going to catch him any day now. Sad sight, bad spot for one of the franchise's all-time warriors. Probably not his fault that he ended up there; says more about the people who made the decision to bring him back and put him out on the field so quickly.
5. The Wildcat: Aren't you amazed by how dynamic it has been, the added dimension in the red zone? Oh, wait. Must be thinking of some other team. The Cowboys, perhaps. I was a little surprised back last spring when I started hearing how intrigued Andy Reid was with the idea. Now I understand - it's yet another way to overcomplicate things and burn timeouts. What's not to like?
Five things to look forward to:
1. Rematch with Dallas, Jan. 3: As we've mentioned previously, Andy Reid's teams are 6-5 in the first Dallas game of each season, 8-2 in the second.
2. A healthy Brian Westbrook: And we'll see it, right about the time we all get universal health care. Problem is, a prime-time version of Westbrook is something the Eagles need if they're going to beat good teams and seriously contend for the Super Bowl.
3. The Kevin Kolb era: Not to wish anything bad for Donovan McNabb, but if this season goes south, that's clearly the next thing to try. Kolb is steady and solid. Don't know if he's going to be a star or not, but at this point, just having a new set of weaknesses to dissect after every loss will be welcome.
4. Andy Reid's new contract: What, you're not excited? It's coming, though, ready or not. Whether you think he deserves it might depend on whether you are looking at his record or at the final 5 minutes of a close game.
5. First Pro Bowl berths for DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek: If there's any justice. Of course, there might not be - Celek plays a position loaded with stars, Jackson's numbers don't really tell the story of his incendiary, game-changing ability. *
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