Time for the Eagles to Start Over?

Time for the Eagles to Start Over?

There is plenty of noise coming from the "Fire Andy Reid" camp, and their numbers are climbing. This is Philadelphia, and Reid is rapidly closing in on his 13th season without producing a Super Bowl championship, so it's safe to chalk this up as the natural course of things. Even Reid's most vocal supporters have to see the writing on the wall, particularly as this season spirals out of control.

Criticism of Reid has been building for years, and it's reached a point where it's hard to imagine him surviving a 5-11 or 6-10 finish. The blame ultimately falls on the head coach, and the public outcry would be unbearable.

Barring some kind of incredible turnaround, your wish should soon be granted.

But what surprises me is where the accountability seems to stop. It extends to his staff, especially Juan Castillo, who was thrust into a no-win situation after his promotion from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator. It moves up the chain of command to Howie Roseman, who became the organization's head talent evaluator after two years in the personnel department. Heck, it goes all the way to the top, right to Joe Banner and Jeffrey Lurie, despite the fact that all the owner did was open his pockets so the team could sign every available Pro Bowler this off-season.

That's it? Fire Andy Reid, and Castillo along with him, and this operation is fixed. Kick Howie the accountant out of personnel, and finally, put Banner and Lurie on the first train out of town, and we the fans can start counting the Lombardi Trophies.

It sounds all well and good... but what about these players? You know, the guys who have been bumbling about the field, committing stupid penalty after stupid penalty, turning the ball over repeatedly, dropping perfect passes like this is a game of hot potato, and taking every opportunity to run their mouths in the media or all over their Twitter accounts -- shouldn't we fire most of them, too?

And it's not just the Vince Youngs and Steve Smiths, extraneous parts the Eagles could rid themselves of in a heartbeat without thinking twice. Nor is it simply the Kurt Colemans or Brian Rolles, developing players pressed into action basically because the team couldn't come up with any better alternatives.

It's DeSean Jackson. It's Jeremy Maclin. It's Nnamdi Asomugha. It's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. It's Michael friggin Vick. It's many of the very players who are supposed to be the core of this team -- they are supposed to be STARS.

What you really need to be asking yourself is whether or not this franchise needs to almost completely rebuild.

The time has come to start sorting out who needs to stay and who should go, because it might not be as easy as dumping Reid. A new head coach may not be able to turn this thing around. Bill Cowher isn't going to be the coach who gets the most out of Vick. Jon Gruden isn't going restore this defense and its personnel back to the days of Jim Johnson. Which coaching candidate has the patience to teach big-boy NFL players the pop-warner fundamentals of catching and securing a football?

Andy Reid's days are probably numbered. At this point, that's not too difficult to come to terms with. But then the front office better draft a quarterback this April. No coach in the NFL has gotten more out of quarterbacks from Vick to Donovan McNabb, and A.J. Feeley to Kevin Kolb over the past decade, so there is no reason to believe Vick's growth, which is already stunted in the first place, will continue under a new coach, new system, and new philosophies. The Eagles should start grooming his successor for 2013, when the front office can at least entertain the notion of getting out from under Vick's enormous contract.

They better slap the franchise tag on DeSean at this season's conclusion, and begin shopping him around for extra picks in this year's draft. They better trade Asante Samuel for real this time, because there are lots and lots of pieces that need replacing. They better stop messing around with Jim Washburn's Wide Nines defensive front, unless they are going to miraculously come up with some linebackers who can shed blocks. They shouldn't be in too big of a rush to offer extensions to Maclin or DRC, either.

That may be only the tip of the iceberg. Very few things are working here.

What is working is LeSean McCoy, one of the best running backs in the league. What is making progress is Howard Mudd's offensive line that's opening huge holes for Shady, anchored by one of the best left tackles in football in Jason Peters. But sadly, somehow, that's all. A small number of individuals have consistently performed. A handful have shown promise, and maybe just need to be given a chance, or utilized in the right scheme.

Any way you look at it though, a new coach is going to want his guys. The Eagles might find themselves dumping young or quality players who wind up going on to have perfectly fine pro football careers, simply because they don't fit in the new system and new philosophies.

If you think Reid should go -- and honestly, who doesn't right now? -- realize that it might come at the cost of starting over. Obviously it's not impossible to find a head coach who can walk in and doesn't have to make drastic changes, such as installing a 3-4 defense that wouldn't fit the personnel, or drafting a quarterback in the first round when there are other options already on the roster.

But if you believe that can happen here, you are placing too much of the blame on Andy Reid, and only fooling yourself that this team has great players who are merely poorly coached. We were wrong about the level of talent inside that locker room. Make no mistake, these 53 players stink, with few exceptions -- and the Eagles, with or without Reid, are further than they've been from competing for a championship in a long, long time.

FIlm Review: What led to Eagles' poor run defense against Washington?

FIlm Review: What led to Eagles' poor run defense against Washington?

The Eagles have vowed to get better. 

They desperately don't want to have a performance from their run defense like the one against Washington, when they gave up 230 yards on the ground. 

Head coach Doug Pederson said the run defense is "a pride thing" and the guys responsible for the performance, Jim Schwartz included, say things will get better. The defensive coordinator cited bad angles as a reason there were so many missed tackles on Sunday afternoon. 

In all, the Eagles missed 10 tackles and gave up 156 yards after contact — both more than they had given up in the first four games of the season. 

Washington's rushing yards came in some big chunks. Here's a look at some of the key running plays from Sunday as we try to figure out what went wrong: 

This is a key 3rd-and-7 from the Washington 13-yard line. On this drive, Washington ends up scoring a touchdown to go up 14-0, but it doesn't happen without this key third down conversion. 

The Eagles collapse the pocket and force Kirk Cousins to his left. That's exactly what Schwartz said he wants, to force the quarterback to his non-throwing side. Everything at this point is working out perfectly. 

Here's the angle that's really troublesome. At this point, Nigel Bradham (circled in green) has Cousins in his sights, while Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham (farther behind) are in pursuit. Curry and Graham seem to let up in their pursuit when it looks like Cousins will go out of bounds. But he doesn't. 

Schwartz talked about bad angles, and this is the perfect example from Bradham. He overshoots it and when Cousins makes his cut back inside, all of Bradham's momentum is heading toward the sideline. Curry ends up making the tackle but tackles Cousins forward for a big first down. 

This next play was just a little counter draw that ended up going for a huge 45-yard gain. Rob Kelley takes the handoff, which looks to be going right. The entire Eagles' linebacking group bites hard. Still, right end Connor Barwin is free and has a chance to make the play. 

He doesn't. Just a missed tackle. 

Kelley finds some open field. Rodney McLeod is the next guy to beat and Kelley simply turns him around. You'll see Mychal Kendricks enter the frame. Kendricks showed great recovery speed to get back in the play and has a chance to finally bring the running back down. 

Nope. Can't do it. Eventually, McLeod recovers to bring him down. 

This last play ended the game on Sunday. The Eagles punted the ball away with the hope that their defense would stop Washington and give them the ball back. Instead, Matt Jones broke off a 57-yard run on 3rd-and-7. 

Jordan Hicks over pursues, probably thinking the run was going wide. But he loses his gap and Jones is off to the races. 

Once Jones gets past the first down, it doesn't really matter that it was a 57-yard run. It could have been an 8-yarder and the game was over. 

So what did we learn? 

Well, Schwartz was right. Angles absolutely killed the Eagles on Sunday. But when they have a guy wrapped up, they need to bring him down. Sure, that's not Earth-shattering, but they couldn't do it on Sunday and it led to a loss. 

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

The Sixers struggled to carve a clear role for Jahlil Okafor last season as he and Nerlens Noel split time out of position in the frontcourt. Brett Brown has a more clear picture of how to utilize Okafor in his second year, highlighted by goals and a shift to the bench. 

Okafor has been sidelined from preseason action because of his right knee. He underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in March and aggravated it during the final training camp scrimmage. 

Okafor said he felt “pretty sore” after scrimmaging Monday, his first since camp, and he was better after going through individualized training and work in the water on Tuesday. This setback has forced him to exercise patience. 

“I know I told you guys I wasn’t frustrated a few weeks ago, but at this point it has been frustrating because I’ve been doing all the right stuff and I want to see me back out there sooner,” Okafor said after practice Thursday. “But I can’t rush my body, I can’t rush my health. ... I would love to have the opportunity to be there for opening night and play in front of our fans. Right now it’s looking like that’s probable."

The Sixers plan to use Okafor in a reserve role to start the season. Okafor expects to be on a 12- to 15-minute restriction, similar to Joel Embiid, when he is cleared to play. 

“I think about it all the time, but I talk to him. We’ve talked about this for months,” Brown said of Okafor's coming off the bench. “It’s not anything that is going to surprise anybody. He’s been fantastic. ... I talked with Jahlil about a lot of things and that could be, to start the year it will be, a scenario.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in 2015, started 48 of his 53 games last season. He is approaching this year with realistic expectations given his restrictions and is not concerned about being out of the starting five. 

“I’ll be fine,” Okafor said. “That won’t be a tough adjustment for me. I came off the bench a couple of times last year.”

Brown’s focus is not necessarily on how Okafor starts the game, but how he finishes. He would like Okafor and Embiid to be able to play together at the end of games to give the team a fourth-quarter boost.

“If it ends up you’ve got Jahlil coming off the bench and he’s going against backup five men, you think you probably have an advantage there,” Brown said. “If he does anything, he scores the ball, he scores buckets, he gets points. You can see how that can be a really nice role for him and for us.”

Okafor led the Sixers in scoring last season with 17.5 points per game. Brown, though, is focusing on his defensive improvements. The Sixers are looking to play an uptempo system in which they will need Okafor to hustle on defense each possession. Okafor slimmed down and added muscle this summer to prepare for the season. 

“He has to be elite in two areas to me,” Brown said. “Transition defense first — A-plus-plus-plus, get back. If you’re tired, if you’ve got to conserve energy, it’s not that way. It’s running back on offense. We have to get him back on defense.

“Then he has to be better skilled, better drilled by me, [a] high level of accountability with pick-and-roll defense. ... You can go over to defensive rebounding (as) a close third, but those two things happen the most.”

Okafor expects to be more effective on the defensive end after getting adjusted to it as a rookie. 

“(I want) to be smarter on defense, knowing where to be,” Okafor said. “My first year playing in the NBA, it was just a lot going on. Everybody was so fast.” 

Brown sees a focused 20-year-old who is more disciplined and ready to embrace whatever role he is given this season. 

“I can’t wait to coach him this year," Brown said. "I think he’s going to come back and have a great year. His body tells me that, his attitude tells me that. He’s in a good place personally."