Redskins Hog Heaven turns to long time blogging friend Tom Jackson, the talent behind the Eagles Eye blog, for the scoop on what's going on with the troubled Philadelphia Eagles. Are Redskins fans right to sense opportunity against an ancient nemesis, or are we headed to another bushwhack like the iggles last visit to FedEx Field? Tom suspects the Eagles could switch to man-coverage by the Eagles very talented secondary. That would force Rex Grossman and the receivers to win the game. Fortunately, Philadelphia's linebackers are an inviting target.
Here's our Q&A with Eagles Eye.
RHH: Two words: Juan Castillo. Your reaction?
EE: Juan Castillo: hard-working, loyal, offensive line coach promoted to defensive coordinator... Stop!!! Why? --- Although Castillo is a former linebacker himself (college, USFL), he hasn't coordinated a defense since his high school coaching days. So what was Andy Reid thinking when he promoted Castillo?
Two theories: previous DC Sean McDermott was let go after the Eagles compiled one of the worst red-zone defensive records in the league last season. It was thought that Castillo (who is loved by his players) could install a simpler system that the players would buy into. It was also thought Castillo would get more production out of the linebackers and defensive backs, while new DL coach Jim Washburn would concentrate on ramping up a 4-man pass rush that would create enough pressure on opponents' backfields to create a "happy hunting ground" for the Eagles secondary... So far, it hasn't worked very well.
RHH: What is the Eagles fan's view of the cause/s of the slow start?
EE: My armchair view of the Eagles at 1-4: To date, it's a woeful tale of blown opportunities and squandered potential on offense. Dropped passes at key moments, red zone miscues and futility, juggled pass receptions turned into deflections and INT's, numerous fumbles lost and balls stripped from runners after big gains... if it weren't all on film, you wouldn't believe it actually happened. On defense, the Eagles have failed to fill the gaps in the middle of the line, and they have been consistently gashed for huge running yardages and big-gain screen plays. Lousy tackling has made it look worse, perhaps, than it really is... but the end result is, the Eagles can't score enough points to offset the huge amount of points they are allowing.
RHH: The Eagles have an All-Madden secondary, yet they seem not to cover well. Bad mix, or have they just not jelled yet?
EE: Castillo has the Eagles' secondary locked into a Cover 2 zone concept, which relies upon excellent linebacker, reads and plays to be effective... but the LB's are missing their assignments...a lot. That means the safeties are almost always late in run support, and the talented new corners (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha) are almost always 8 yards off the ball when it arrives. Not a good recipe... Expect adjustments against the 'Skins which will create more of a man coverage scheme and possibly eight-in-the-box looks...
RHH: Did Andy Reid set out to acquire all that talent at once, or did they make a lot of offers that everyone accepted?
EE: I believe there was an all-out effort by Andy Reid and GM Howie Roseman to overhaul the Eagles defensive secondary and pass rush with a mass influx of free-agent talent to make this a "super" team... As Roseman was quoted in the offseason, "We are all in for this season"...This was a grand design.
RHH: How could the Eagles be in the same division as the Washington Redskins and not notice what happens when you load up on top-end talent?
EE: Good question. Anthony Brown has told us over and over again over the years: You can't buy a championship. We didn't listen.
RHH: What are one or two changes the Eagles must make to salvage the season? Are they likely to do it before Sunday?
EE: Only way to salvage the season now for the Eagles is somehow to win their division. That would mean having to beat Washington and Dallas twice each, and win on the road against the Giants--- and somehow scrape up 3 or 4 more wins, projecting out to a 9-7 or 10-6 record, and hoping that is good enough. It's not likely to turn out that way, but the mathematical possibility is there.
Two changes for such a miracle finish to occur must happen immediately against the Redskins: (1) Play a turnover-free game, or at least a game where ball possession is valued highest among all other variables of talent or potential big plays on offense; and (2) Fill those gaps in the middle, even if it means scaling back the "Wide Nine" pass rush and putting eight guys in the box.
RHH: How did the term "dream team" affect players psyche?
EE: I think the term "dream team" affected the fans' collective psyche more than the players'. The real wake-up call came to the players when Vick went out of the game in Atlanta with a quasi-concussion after being battered the whole game like a rag doll.
RHH: Given the start, what's your Eagles Eye expectation for the full season?
EE: Realistically, I'm smelling an 8-8 season at best. Hopefully, I'm rooting for a 9-7 finish and a possible tie-breaker scenario.
Thanks, Tom. Follow http://www.eagleseyeblog.com on the Bloguin Network for the best fan coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Thanks for having us on board, Anthony. I can tell you for certain, this is going to be a whale of a game between ancient rivals, as you put it... It's definitely a turning point for the Eagles' defensive scheme to show it can adjust to the need for change, especially with the strong running attack of the Redskins designed to crush their will to survive... If the Redskins can hold it together for this one, there's no telling how far Washington can go from here... but for the Eagles, it's pure desperation time...