If the Eagles beat the Cowboys on Saturday, it will be on the back of their offense.
After re-watching last week's game and surveying the Birds' entire body of work, that's just how it is.
In two games against Dallas this year, they've tried several different things to slow down Tony Romo and have been unsuccessful. I don't see them all of a sudden figuring out a way to force three and outs and get off the field consistently. The Eagles need the D to create turnovers and force more field goals, instead of touchdowns.
Offensively though, there have been chances. I know it sounds insane to say after they got shut out, but the Eagles actually did do some things well. Their offensive line exceeded expectations. Donovan McNabb and the receivers had opportunities for big plays. And Brent Celek proved he's a matchup problem.
But inaccurate throws, dropped passes, penalties and so on led to what turned out to be an awful offensive performance. That's the area where there's realistic room for improvement. There are chances to put points on the board simply if the Eagles' offense plays better. It's really not more complicated than that.
Yesterday we took a look at the defensive personnel and schemes. Today, we run through the offense.
The Eagles used 13 different personnel groupings against the Cowboys. The most common was a one RB, three WR, one TE set of Brian Westbrook, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Brent Celek, which was used 17 times. Here are the others, with the number of plays for each:
LeSean McCoy, Jackson, Maclin, Avant, Celek (9)
Leonard Weaver, McCoy, Jackson, Maclin, Avant (6)
Westbrook, Jackson, Maclin, Avant, Reggie Brown (4)
McCoy, Jackson, Maclin, Celek, Alex Smith (4)
Weaver, Westbrook, Jackson, Maclin, Celek (3)
Weaver, Jackson, Maclin, Celek, Smith (3)
Weaver, Jackson, Maclin, Avant, Celek (2)
Weaver, Jackson, Maclin, Celek, Smith (2)
Weaver, McCoy, Jackson, Maclin, Celek (1)
Westbrook, Jackson, Maclin, Avant, Smith (1)
Westbrook, Maclin, Avant, Brown, Celek (1)
Westbrook, Maclin, Brown, Celek, Smith (1)
And here are the numbers in terms of packages:
1 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE (30)
1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE (10)
2 RB, 3 WR (6)
1 RB, 4 WR (4)
2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE (4)
I've heard a lot of talk this week about Westbrook being on the field too much in place of McCoy and Weaver. Westbrook had 28 snaps; McCoy 19; and Weaver 16. I don't really buy the argument that the offense gets a major upgrade with McCoy or Weaver replacing Westbrook. Keep in mind that Westbrook had only five carries. And as I pointed out in Man Up, he was flawless as a blocker, giving McNabb time to go downfield (even if the Eagles didn't hit). This is a major point. The Eagles' offensive line played well last week, but there's no guarantee they'll be at the same level this Sunday. Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg need to find room for all three running backs, but I'm not buying that benching Westbrook will solve the problems on offense.
The Eagles played two running backs together just 10 times. Since he arrived, Weaver has talked about his job being to block for Westbrook. The two backs were only on the field together for three plays Sunday.
As for the receivers, I fully expect the group to play better this week. Same with Donovan McNabb. If he has time, I don't think you'll see him miss on as many throws. As I mentioned, though, the offensive line is still a concern. A lot of talent and depth up front for Dallas.
Some other notes:
* I know it's popular to point to the lack of balance on offense, and I agree that they should have run the ball more. But that was far down the list of issues. The Eagles had opportunities in the passing game. The problem was execution, which landed squarely on the shoulders of McNabb and the recivers, who were not on the same page all day.
* I've heard some suggest Michael Vick could have his biggest impact yet in this one. That would really surprise me. Can he help? Yes. But let's not forget that this group set a franchise record for points scored. It's a big-play offense that relies on a handful of difference-making plays to put points on the board. That's how it's been all season. And that's how it will be on Saturday. Win or lose.
* Below I've listed the number of plays for each of the skill-position guys from Sunday. Still to come before kickoff Saturday night will be a look at who's picking the Eagles and our final penalty count. And of course we will be live-chatting during the game.