When Philadelphia traded Kevin Kolb for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, backup quarterback Vince Young anointed the Eagles as the “Dream Team” for 2011. But the season quickly turned into a nightmare, as the team crawled out to a 1-4 start.
The Eagles rebounded at the end of the season to finish 8-8, but by that point chances of making the playoffs were lost and Philadelphia had clinched being the most disappointing team of the year.
What went wrong? And, more importantly at this point, what needs to happen for Philly to turn it around in time for 2012? JasonB, who leads Bleeding Green Nation, talked with Zoneblitz about 2011 and what the Eagles must do to avoid the same problems in 2012. Here’s what he had to say:
Zoneblitz: Was keeping Andy Reid the correct move?
JasonB: I’d say so. He’s got another two years left on his contract and Michael Vick is basically unmovable for another year or two, so they might as well give this coach/quarterback combo another shot at it. Especially since they’ve actually yet to have a chance to have a real offseason in which Vick enters the year as the starter.
Things are really set up to where the team can really blow it up and start over if need be in a year or two. So really why do it now?
Zoneblitz: Juan Castillo seems to be the most maligned defensive coordinator in the league right now. Should he be back?
JasonB: I suppose it all depends on how much you blame on Castillo and how much you blame on the situation. Fact is, I can’t think of a worse spot any coach in the NFL was put in than the one Juan Castillo was handed. Here was a guy who has never coached defense, being handed the reins in a season where there is no offseason contact with players. Then, the team goes out and brings in a ton of new faces on defense. So not only does he have to basically learn on the job himself, but he’s got to integrate all these new players with no time to do so.
Then … his offense leads the league in turnovers. That’s a killer situation for a seasoned defensive coordinator. For a new one? It’s ridiculous. Despite all that though, his defense did finish top 10 in both scoring and yards.
Zoneblitz: Todd Bowles was recently brought in as secondary coach but there’s at least some speculation he could threaten Castillo’s coordinator job. What do you make of the situation?
JasonB: I don’t really make anything of it. He’s the secondary coach. I don’t really see how that threatens anything. Juan Castillo should and will get judged on how his defense performs.
Zoneblitz: What happened to Michael Vick in 2011 and will he rebound in 2012?
JasonB: I don’t know that anything really “happened” to him. I’d say earlier in the year, his INT total was inflated by some mind bogglingly bad luck on tipped balls, but later in the year I thought they were more due to some bad decisions. When things aren’t going well, Vick has a tendency to want to everything it takes to win. Sometimes that leads to some really exciting heroics, other times it leads to mistakes. He’s going to have to find a balance there and realize there’s times when he tries to do too much and that doesn’t do him or the team any good.
But as much as people have criticized Michael Vick for last year, the Eagles offense still ranked 8th in the league in scoring and set a team record for yardage in a season.
As to whether he’ll rebound, that’s obviously not a question anyone can answer at this point.
Zoneblitz: Will the Eagles bring DeSean Jackson back? Should they?
JasonB: The answer to “will they” and “should they” is probably the same. If someone is willing to pay him the “Larry Fitzgerald money” than he reportedly wants … then, no. If he can sign for something more in line with his actual value, then yes. There’s no doubt that he’s a talent and does certain things amazingly well. But he’s not a “number one” receiver and probably never will be. He can’t be relied upon on a play by play basis, but he can pop up and score a touchdown on any given play. That’s really what makes him so hard to figure out from a value standpoint.
I could see them putting the tag on him, which would let him go out into the market and at least get some idea of what he could get, then maybe could they work out a mutually agreeable deal. This will be the major storyline for the Eagles this offseason.
Zoneblitz: LeSean McCoy had a great season. Is he being used properly and can he duplicate his 2011 results next year?
JasonB: Well, I think the results say that he’s obviously being used properly. I certainly never thought I’d see a back in the Andy Reid era finish in the top two in yards and top 10 in carries. Obviously McCoy has forced a shift in the thinking. That and the arrival of Howard Mudd as offensive line coach, whose zone blocking scheme is perfectly suited to McCoy’s talents.
With the Eagles dominant run blocking line, especially on the left side, there’s no reason to think McCoy can’t be every bit as good next year.
Zoneblitz: The entire defense struggled at times, but most surprising was when it hit the secondary. What happened to Nnamdi Asomugha and the d-backs?
JasonB: There were a few things that came together here. For one, Juan Castillo had Nnamdi Asomugha playing zone early in the year when he’s been a man corner through his entire career. That might not have been a huge deal in a normal year, but when you’ve had no offseason, it’s tough to expect a player to make that drastic of a change. I thought he played better later on when the team kind of gave up playing him in zone.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who came over in the Kevin Kolb trade, was terrible playing the slot, where he’d never played before in his career. Later in the season, when Asante Samuel got hurt, DRC played in his more comfortable outside position and actually looked quite good.
The safeties were basically all very young. Another group that the lack of an offseason did no favors for. We’ll just have to see how they develop.
Zoneblitz: What do the Eagles need to do to shore up the front seven?
JasonB: All new linebackers? Seriously.
Zoneblitz: How far are the Eagles as a team from contending to make a deep run in the playoffs?
JasonB: Probably not far. Look at the Giants. A terribly inconsistent, largely mediocre team for most all of the season who kind of snuck into the postseason and got hot. The Eagles only finished a game behind them. Given the Eagles talent, it’s not entirely unlikely that they could make a similar run.
But you certainly can’t ever plan for that type of luck. So to really set themselves up, they need to fix their linebacker corps and limit the turnovers on offense.
Zoneblitz: What would you like to see the Eagles do in free agency and the draft?
JasonB: Get linebackers! Just get them anywhere!