Philadelphia Eagles: The NFL's Most Enigmatic Team

By Sean Cumming
October 06, 2012 2:46 pm
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Michael Vick The Eagles, if nothing else, are unpredictable this year, and that realization is difficult to argue.

Are they the 3-1 team running on luck, grinding out wins in last-minute, touchdown-scoring drives? 

Or, are they the team that was handily defeated, 27-6, by the Arizona Cardinals?

Is Michael Vick the turnover-creating machine that has nine of the Eagles’ 12 turnovers? 

Or, is he the quarterback who led the Eagles to a 3-1 start and has thrown zero interceptions in Weeks 3 and 4 after coughing up four against Cleveland and two against Baltimore?

Are the Eagles capable of maintaining dominance at home, where they are now 2-0? Can they take their 3-1 start to the season and make a deep run in the playoffs, possibly a Super Bowl? Question marks abound. 

The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to obtain their first three wins in the season by a margin of four or fewer points, and, on top of that, they are also the first team to start 2-0 and win their first two games by a one-point margin. 

Those statistics, in-arguably, pose considerable questions about the team because, until the Eagles win a decided victory, it is tough to gauge their full potential. The game-winning drives at the end of the fourth quarter are great to see for the excitement they bring, sure, and the heart and tenacity displayed by the players grinding out a win is uplifting. 

Eventually, though, luck, if only for a moment, is going to flip the coin to the other side, leaving the Eagles with a loss and question marks regarding how they are going to respond.

Can Michael Vick continue to cut down on his turnovers and make better decisions on the field?  Michael Vick already has six interceptions, which equals the number he had in the 2010 season, his most accomplished with the Eagles, when he had a 100.2 passer rating, and a 62.6 percent completion percentage ranking second in franchise history behind Donovan McNabb’s 64 percent in 2004. 

He has been thoughtful with his decision-making — at least in regards to not turning the ball over as frequently as he had in the first two weeks — but how long that trend will last is a serious question mark, especially considering the up-and-down unpredictability of his quarterback rating and completion percentage so far. 

In Week 1, Vick had a 51.0 quarterback rating, which he followed up by posting a 94.7 the following week against the Baltimore Ravens. In Week 3, he had a 64.8 quarterback rating against the Arizona Cardinals, and he followed that paltry performance by posting a 99.4 rating against the Giants on Sunday Night Football. 

His completion percentage, in a concurrent trend, has also been an up-and-down roller coaster ride.  In Weeks 1-4, his completion percentages are as follows: 51.8 percent, 71.9 percent, 45.9 percent, 63.3 percent. The peaks and valleys cannot continue repeating if the Eagles are going to make a deep run in the playoffs. 

Will this be the week Vick bucks the trend? Or, will he continue to fall into a hole a week after posting promising statistics? The turnovers and inconsistent play are one of the primary reasons the Eagles currently rank 5th in the league in total offense (417.8 avg.) yet 30th in the league in scoring (16.5 avg. per game). 

Are the Eagles the quarterback-sacking machine they were last season? The Eagles have seven sacks this season, tying them for 22nd in the league while Arizona (17 sacks), Cincinatti (16 sacks), Chicago (15 sacks), St. Louis (15 sacks), and Green Bay (14 sacks) round out the top five teams. 

Jason Babin, whose 18 sacks led the team last season, had seven sacks alone by the end of Week 4 in 2011. This year, however, after four games, Babin is leading the Eagles with 2.5 sacks, and Trent Cole (1.5), Fletcher Cox (1), DeMeco Ryans (1), Brandon Graham (0.5), and Darryl Tapp (0.5) constitute the remaining sacks. 

The Eagles kept 10 defensive linemen — six defensive ends and four defensive tackles — with the reasoning that they had a deep pool of talent — which they do — and that the team can not efficiently execute offensive lines coach Jim Washburn’s technique of rapidly cycling defenders without the combined effort. 

Four weeks and only seven sacks later, and Philadelphia fans have to be asking themselves when the sacking machine will turn on again. The defense has been generating pressure on the quarterback, and the pass rush has significantly helped the team, but they need to start accruing sacks, and this week could be a prime time. 

The last time the Eagles and Steelers met, September 21st 2008, the Eagles posted nine sacks on Ben Roethlisberger, which was then the 2nd highest sack total of his career, and, this year, the Steelers’ offensive line has been a ever-evolving jigsaw puzzle with rookies, such as tackle Mike Adams, transitioning in and out of starting.  

Are the Eagles, who are 2-0 at home, built to maintain their dominance at Lincoln Financial Field?  Overall, the Eagles are 65-41 at home under Andy Reid, but they were 3-5 overall at home last season and lost five of their first six home games before their four-game winning streak, during which they won their final two home games against the Jets and Redskins. 

Following their Week 5 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, though, they have two consecutive home games against the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons, and both teams have the ability to test the Eagles’ 2-0 streak if they play up to par. 

While the Lions have been stumbling down a slippery slope this season, they will be coming off a bye in Week 6, and that situation could present a challenge. The Falcons, on the other hand, are generally and rightfully considered amongst the elite teams of the league; they should give a heated challenge. 

The Falcons are intriguingly situated after the Eagles’ bye week, where Andy Reid has gone undefeated in his tenure with the Eagles, so the game will take on an additional layer of meaning.  The Falcons will also be the most difficult home game left on the schedule. 

The Eagles are a lot of things, and a lot of things they are not. They are both lucky, as displayed by their close wins, and have potential they have not completely displayed so far.

The next four games will constitute the primary grade for the Eagles because after playing their first nine opponents, who went a combined 82-46 (64.1%) last season, their last seven opponents finished 46-66 (41.1%) last year. Who are the Philadelphia Eagles?

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By Sean Cumming
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