The Three Stooges or the Three Wise Men?
For the 5th time in the Andy Reid era, the Philadelphia Eagles are off to a 3-1 start after the first quarter of the season. Usually, a 3-1 start is cause for excitement and confidence as we head into the meat of the schedule.
However, this is perhaps the diciest-feeling 3-1 I've ever felt in all my years of following the Eagles.
For the most part, the excitement is there. We've had three 4th-quarter comebacks to win games in the final minutes and beat two quality opponents (Baltimore and New York).
But, where is your confidence level about this team right now?
There are the glass is half-full and glass is half-empty ways of looking at this team right now. Let's summarize what we've seen so far through 4 games...
Reasons for optimism:
- The offense is ranked 5th overall in terms of total yardage.
- The defense is ranked 6th overall in terms of total yards given up.
- The defense appears greatly improved over last season and has come up big in situations that they buckled in last season.
- They've shown character in never giving up and pulling out games in the end.
- Michael Vick is coming off of a good game against the Giants in which he was able to beat blitzes and not turn the ball over.
- They've beaten quality teams in the Ravens and Giants.
- The Eagles are first in the division and the NFC East appears ripe for the taking.
- Andy Reid's teams have historically gotten better as the season progresses.
- Lady Luck seems to be on their side this year.
Reasons for pessimism:
- The offense has struggled in 2 out of 4 games.
- The special teams have been horrible.
- They barely beat a very green Cleveland team and were lucky that a Browns defender dropped an easy INT in the end zone during the game-winning drive.
- They were lucky that Lawrence Tynes missed a game-ending field goal...twice.
- They were lucky that Jacoby Jones' TD was called back due to a penalty.
- They were destroyed by Arizona.
- In essence, this team could just as easily be 0-4 if not for the aforementioned "lucky breaks."
- The offense turned the ball over 12 times in the first 3 games.
- Michael Vick turned the ball over 9 times in the first 3 games.
- Their turnover ratio is at -5 right now.
- The offense is ranked 5th in yards but just 29th in total points.
- Vick is still an injury-prone and turnover-prone QB.
- They haven't put a complete game together yet (offense, defense, special teams).
- They've only "barely won" in all 3 of their victories.
More after the jump...
I'm not trying to bring anyone down or rain on everyone's parade here, but there seems to be more reasons for pessimism than there is optimism right now, even though the team has a sparkling 3-1 record and are atop the division standings.
That's why this feels so odd to me. We're winning, but it doesn't really feel like it.
The Eagles have started 3-1 under Andy Reid four other times: in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2009. Out of those 4 years, the only season they did not make the playoffs was in 2005, when the crazy train known as Terrell Owens crashed and burned mid-way through the year.
Also, they had more convincing victories in those years. They didn't just "squeak by" their opponents for the most part.
So, what do we make of the Eagles so far this season? Are they a legitimate contender? Or are they a house of cards where one false move will bring the team crumbling down?
The way I'm approaching things right now is described as "cautiously optimistic."
The defense has been consistently good over the first four weeks so my confidence in that unit is solid right now. It's the offense and special teams that I'm most worried about.
They have to continue with the turnover-free football while Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg need to keep calling balanced games. It cannot be overlooked that the offense has looked its best this year when the run/pass ratio -- particularly in the first half -- has better balance (see Baltimore, New York games).
Ultimately, the team has some problems, but these problems are correctable (i.e., turnovers and calling a more balanced run/pass ratio). The offensive line should get better as they go and the wide receiver corps will fill out better once Jeremy Maclin returns to form and Riley Cooper gets involved.
The special teams will also improve with the return of Riley Cooper along with the subtraction of Brian Rolle and subsequent addition of Adrien Moten. Bobby April will right the ship with the coverage units, though we could use more production in the return game.
So, as long as dumb and dumber don't revert back to their extreme pass-happy ways (which lead to sacks, injuries to Vick and turnovers) and the rest of the team can secure the football, this team will get even better and be able to compete with anyone.
Unfortunately, that's a tall order given the history of Reid, Mornhinweg and Vick. And that's why I still feel uneasy about this team.
I need to see that they can do this...consistently.