2010 Eagles Met, If Not Exceeded Expectations

2010 Eagles Met, If Not Exceeded Expectations

The negative reactions are understandable and natural. Once again the Eagles will not be crowned world champions, and until they finally cast off the proverbial monkey, there will always exist a void inside many fans. Another season has concluded with disappointment.

As the initial gloom subsides, and we begin to put a wrap on the season that was, it's time to acknowledge this outcome was not even remotely surprising. Nobody predicted the Eagles would go all the way. Most people thought they would miss the playoffs and finish below .500.

This team was incomplete, and everybody knew it. Why such outrage after they came up short?

Play the blame game if it makes you feel better. Question why Michael Vick was targeting Riley Cooper when it mattered most. Point your finger at the receivers who dropped the ball. Shake your head as Winston Justice regresses right before our very eyes. Ponder how the front office can fix a defense that was historically bad in the red zone, and not great anywhere else. Ask how David Akers, in the midst of one of his best seasons, blows two makeable field goals. Criticize Andy Reid for, among other things, being Andy Reid.

Then breathe.

The Green Bay Packers are a better team. They entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations, and the Philadelphia Eagles did not. Neither club wound up anyplace we didn't assume they would five months ago.

In professional sports, it's nearly impossible to compete for a championship every season. Somewhere along the way, barring flawless scouting and/or unlimited resources, every franchise inevitably must go through a period of transition. Sometimes it can take years, with one or more complete overhauls of the roster, coaching staff, and front office.

That's the traditional definition of rebuilding, which was supposedly happening here this season. The Eagles jettisoned the majority of their aging veterans, most notably the starting quarterback, and filled out their roster with a league high 13 draft picks. Even if the organization didn't outwardly say it, the moves marked a purposeful shift in direction.

Yet despite the notion they were "rebuilding," the Eagles still won 10 games and went to the playoffs. They matched the loftiest of goals set by prognosticators, and squashed the popular opinion they were not contenders.

Given the circumstances, that sounds like a successful season.

Obviously it's not successful in terms of winning the ultimate prize. If you're of the mindset that is the only way the campaign can be described as successful, I can't help you.

By any realistic standard, the Eagles had a quality season. They beat some long odds to go as far as they did. Between the youth movement, changes under center, and a bevy of injuries, most NFL teams would have crumbled.

The Eagles won the division like that, which suggests good things are still to come.

Yes, they have holes, or in some cases just tough questions. Right at the top of the list is what to do with their quarterbacks. They have needs along the offensive line and throughout the defense. Several key players are free agents, such as Stewart Bradley, Quintin Mikell, and David Akers. Marty Mornhinweg could be named the head coach in Cleveland, and Sean McDermott's performance will come under increased scrutiny.

Those holes and questions were always going to be there at the end of the season though, because they already existed when it began. Nothing suddenly changed on Sunday. The Eagles needed a right corner whether they advanced or not. They were going to draft some offensive linemen either way. There are difficult personnel decisions during any off-season. These issues surely did not catch anybody off guard.

They were just as imperfect in a loss as they were before the game, and before the season began. A deep playoff run was always a longshot.

Now the Eagles have another off-season to address those needs, and complete the sweeping changes that actually have been in progress for years. They'll use free agency and the draft to fortify those positions, like they would after any other season. Plus, a promising collection of young talent and prospects will have another year under their belts, returning in 2011 much stronger, healthier, and wiser.

Until then, while it may be hard to shake the fact that you're dissatisfied with this finish, it deserves to be put in proper perspective. Nobody on the coaching staff deserves to lose their jobs over this effort. By not only avoiding a total collapse, and instead taking back the NFC East and earning a home playoff game in the process, the Eagles put next season's opponents on notice. With the right moves, and a little luck, the Eagles can take a step forward from this and perhaps rejoin the rank of the elite.

If there is a next season.

Source: Eagles CB Ron Brooks to have knee surgery

Source: Eagles CB Ron Brooks to have knee surgery

It sounds like the Eagles will be out without a member of their secondary for a while, perhaps the rest of the season.

A league source tells CSN's Derrick Gunn that Eagles cornerback Ron Brooks will require surgery to repair an injury to his right knee. The Philadelphia Daily News' Les Bowen is reporting the injury is a serious quadriceps rupture that will end Brooks's first season as an Eagle and put him on the shelf until next summer's training camp.

Brooks was carted off the field after attempting to make an open-field tackle during the first quarter of Sunday's 21-10 win over visiting Minnesota. Brooks stayed down on the field for several minutes before his leg was stabilized and he was placed on a cart.

Brooks, 28, is primarily the Eagles' slot corner, but he's also a standout on special teams. A free-agent who left Buffalo to sign a three-year deal with the Eagles this past offseason, Brooks has 12 total tackles and a pass deflection this season, the LSU grad's fifth in the league.

Malcolm Jenkins slid over to slot corner in Brooks' absence Sunday, which allowed Jaylen Watkins to come in and see more playing time.

If Brooks is placed on injured reserve, the Eagles will have an open roster spot, possibly for another corner.

Doug Pederson: Eagles rebound after getting 'lip bloodied a little bit'

Doug Pederson: Eagles rebound after getting 'lip bloodied a little bit'

They were great before the bye. They were bad since.

The Eagles rallied against the Lions only to lose late because of two turnovers. Then last week at Washington, they laid an egg.

But on Sunday, they looked like the pre-bye team — at least defensively — and handed the Vikings their first loss of the season.

"This is a team that for two weeks in a row has kind of got their lip bloodied a little bit," head coach Doug Pederson said after the 21-10 victory (see Instant Replay). "The Detroit game, obviously feeling sick about that one, and then last week in Washington not playing well and up to our potential.

"These guys are professionals. They know how to get themselves ready to go. I don't feel like I have to motivate them. ... They really took it upon themselves this week to really make the corrections, No. 1, from last week and the adjustments. The veterans, the leadership stood up today, took command of the game, and that's what you like to see from this group."

More from Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz:

The defense
If the Eagles were going to win this game, the defense would have to dominate.

It did (see story).

The Vikings finished with only 282 yards from scrimmage — or 52 more than the Redskins rushed for last week against the Eagles.

The Eagles held Minnesota to 93 yards rushing (3.4 per carry) and battered Sam Bradford, who was 24 for 41 for 224 yards with a pick and a garbage-time TD. They sacked him six times (they had zero last week) and forced him to fumble four times. Bradford entered the game without a turnover this season.

"I think the guys just put it in their mind to play better than last week," Pederson understated. "Our defensive line really came off the ball today, really took it upon themselves to just attack the line of scrimmage and play on their side.

Two of the Eagles' three takeaways occurred in the red zone and in the first quarter, when the game was scoreless. They picked off Bradford on 3rd-and-goal at the 6 and forced a fumble on 1st down at the 17.

"It's huge," Pederson said. "Our defense playing as well as they did down there and stopping them. ... It was fun to watch our defense today. That's the defense that we expect every week going forward."

Bring the heat
The Eagles blitzed more than they had all season (see story). 

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz prefers to let his front four bring the pressure, but it hadn't worked the last two weeks, and now they were facing Sam Bradford, who was familiar with the scheme.

"Anytime you know a quarterback on the other team and kind of know his strengths and weaknesses and things like that — just try to give him some different looks, put some pressure on him from different areas," Pederson said. "It was a great game plan. ... Sometimes just changing things up to help your guys be in position — we benefitted from that today, and guys did a nice job."

Going for two after a made PAT
Midway through the second quarter, Pederson took a point off the board and decided to go for two after the Vikings were penalized for hitting Caleb Sturgis on an extra point, which was successful.

Wentz made the conversion with a QB sneak.

"It was kind of a no-brainer, because you get the ball at the 1," Pederson said.

"I've got a lot of trust in our guys. If you don't work those situations in practice and talk about those situations, then yeah, negative things can happen. But I felt totally 100 percent confident in our guys to execute that play."

Another "no-brainer"
Pederson hasn't been afraid to go for it on fourth down — the Eagles entered the game 4 for 4 on fourth downs — and on Sunday he converted another.

On the aforementioned drive, the Eagles faced a 4th-and-2 at the Vikings' 44. After unsuccessfully trying to draw the Vikings offside, the Eagles called timeout ... and sent the offense back out to go for it.

"Sometimes at that point, they feel like you're going to rush the punt team out there and burn the timeout," Pederson said, "but I went with the offense. I just had total confidence that we were going to get the first down.

"It was a kind of, again, a no-brainer — almost like the two-point conversion."

The play was an run-pass option ... until Wentz dropped the snap. He then ran six yards for the first.

"Obviously when he dropped it, at that point, it was run all the way," Pederson said. "But great execution."

"One more shot"
With 15 seconds left in the first half, the Eagles had the ball at the Minnesota 17. 

Pederson sent out the field goal unit for a 35-yarder, but when the Vikings called timeout to ice Sturgis, it gave Pederson time to change his mind.

The offense came back onto the field. Wentz threw incomplete to Jordan Matthews in the end zone, and then Sturgis came back and hit the field goal.

"Take one more shot," Pederson said. "Max the protection. It's two-man route. It's either a completion or an incomplete pass."

Wentz said there was "a little indecisiveness on the sideline," but once the play was decided on ... 

"It was just a max protect throw to Jordan or throw it away," Wentz said. 'It was pretty plain and simple: Don't take a sack."

All's well that ends well
Wentz botched a handoff. He threw two ugly interceptions in the first quarter. 

OK, those things happen (see Wentz's overall evaluation).

But he also dropped three snaps. How?

"I'm not really sure," Wentz said. "I just have to catch the ball, for starters. Some of them were a little off, but those are the things that we have to clean up."

On one of the dropped snaps, he converted the 4th-and-2. On another, he recovered and found Darren Sproles for a 19-yard gain.

Now, about those interceptions. On the first, he overthrew a blanketed Brent Celek. On the second, he forced a throw to Nelson Agholor with too much purple around.

"That one was 3rd-and-12, and there's no need to force that one," Wentz said. "As a quarterback, sometimes that happens. There's really no rhyme or reason. You see things and you kick yourself in the tail after the play, but you learn from it and move on."

Picks aside, Wentz's numbers weren't pretty — 16 for 28 passing for 138 yards with a TD. Pederson said Wentz "might have been pressing a little bit early" but overall "played efficient."

"Love the way he settled in," Pederson said. "There was no panic for him and any of us on the sideline."

Big V
Wentz was sacked five times last week. On Sunday, he wasn't sacked at all.

The Eagles at times max-protected, but they also benefitted from the improved play of rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who was in his second game in place of suspended Lane Johnson.

Pederson said he didn't help Vaitai as much as he did against Washington.

"I felt he kind of settled in this week, did a nice job," Pederson said. "The run game obviously helps. ... We were in some two tight-end sets a little more today, and that obviously helped him a little bit. We'll evaluate the film tomorrow, but I thought overall he did a nice job."