Storm Clouds, 6-0 Falcons Confront Andy Reid, Eagles

Storm Clouds, 6-0 Falcons Confront Andy Reid, Eagles

As the Delaware Valley prepares to face the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, Andy Reid is one of the few folks concerned with another looming storm. Reid is coaching for his job, and with a 3-3 record, he can see the dark clouds gathering.

An Eagles win today would be like a ray of sunshine peaking through. A loss would be like driving toward the oncoming chaos.

Sensing what shaky ground this season is on already, Coach Reid used the bye week to batten down the hatches. He fired Juan Castillo and named Todd Bowles defensive coordinator. He yanked Demteress Bell and inserted King Dunlap at left tackle (again).

Those are the changes we can see. Reid certainly must have tinkered under the hood as well. You don't get to be 13-0 after the bye by staying the course.

The one change he didn't make was under center. If Reid is desperate, he is trying not to let it show by placing his trust in Michael Vick.

So much time and effort has been put into debating whether or not he should remain the starting quarterback, there was very little mention this week about Vick going up against his old employer. Whether he would admit it or not, you and I all know that should serve as a bit of extra motivation.

Reid and Vick might be standing in the path of a perfect storm though. The Eagles host an unbeaten Atlanta Falcons squad, and while we don't know yet how good the Dirty Birds are, they do have elite playmakers on both sides of the ball.

Exton native Matt Ryan has elevated his play to a level where he may soon enter the discussion with your Mannings, Brady, Rodgers, and Brees -- if he hasn't already. And in case you were wondering, former Eagle Asante Samuel demonstrated two weeks ago he is still dangerous.

The Falcons finished with at least nine wins in each of the past four seasons, and made the playoffs in three of those, so it's not like they're coming out of nowhere, either.

As if that were not enough by itself, the Eagles were bit by the injury bug this week, and no surprise, it was their offensive line. Danny Watkins is listed at doubtful, and likely will be replaced at right guard by rookie Dennis Kelly. The fifth-round pick played tackle at Purdue, so that should be interesting.

And on top of the figurative storm clouds putting all that pressure on Reid, the Eagles will battle the real elements as well. The wind will be a factor, and it could rain off and on throughout the game as the weather continues to worsen over the next couple days.

A Michael Vick leading the league in turnovers and a slick ball is a scary combination.

This game isn't the definition of a must-win, but if this truly is going to be Andy's last stand, the Eagles need to dig in today. The road doesn't get any easier from here.

Sir Charles and Shaq made things personal last night and it was fantastic

Sir Charles and Shaq made things personal last night and it was fantastic

Shaq always has the trump card -- and by that we mean championship rings -- to throw in Charles Barkley's face. But with that said, Sir Charles is probably a much better trash talker and therefore has a superior mouth to defend himself with and throw barbs back in Shaq's direction.

The mouthy duo got into it a bit last night and it teetered between fun and lighthearted and a little personal.

Shaq attacks Chuck for only playing in one NBA Finals and therefore not really knowing what he was talking about. Charles claps back at Shaq for having ridden Kobe and Dwyane Wade's coattails. 

During an NBA playoffs that has been mostly boring, at least these two can still entertain us.

Fletcher Cox should be at Eagles OTAs, but absence likely meaningless

Fletcher Cox should be at Eagles OTAs, but absence likely meaningless

Fletcher Cox wasn’t at practice with the rest of his Eagles teammates on Tuesday -- well, 86 of them -- and that’s okay. It’s May, and participation in offseason training activities is strictly voluntary. Furthermore, if Cox wants to take a vacation, he is entitled to do so under the collective bargaining agreement.

Cox really should be at OTAs. The Eagles gave him a contract potentially worth over $100 million just last year, and with that comes an obligation. Cox arguably did not live up to that contract last season, too, so he could use the practice. And if he needed a vacation, why didn’t he take one during the three months he was off from work?

As far as I’m concerned, both takes are true. Cox is free to do as he wishes, and people with careers in sports should understand better than anybody the strain it places on families, so I can’t blame most of these guys for taking a little extra time. Then again, this drama with Cox seems like it was completely avoidable, and looks especially bad in light of his contract and disappointing season, so I can’t blame people for being angry, either.

Yet, Cox’s absence almost certainly will have no bearing on the outcome of any games this season. It’s not a sign of disrespect for Eagles coach Doug Pederson or that he’s losing the locker room. It’s not going to send a message to teammates that participation is not expected or important.

Cox missing OTAs on Tuesday was of no consequence to the Eagles at all. By training camp, it will be a forgotten footnote in the story of the 2017 season, only to be mentioned in future Mays whenever somebody else exercises the option to skip a voluntary practice.

Even then, there is clearly a double standard, because the reaction isn’t the same for everybody. When Brandon Graham missed last week while he was believed to be “holding out” for a new contract -- can’t hold out when it’s voluntary -- there were equal parts rage and support for the cause. Jason Peters and Donnie Jones are out this week, too, and while some displeasure has been voiced, those absences were largely met with apathy.

Marcus Smith was missing on Tuesday as well, and it’s not immediately clear why. Pederson made no mention of the former first-round draft pick, and practice was almost over before reporters bothered to notice. In theory, this is a huge mistake, because Smith is fighting for a roster spot. We also don’t know where he is -- perhaps there’s a reasonable explanation -- so it’s unreasonable to jump to conclusions or become outraged.

This is the part where once again we remind everybody that it’s May and these practices are non-contact. And while Cox going away for a week will still be indefensible to some, it never hurts to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Maybe, for whatever reason, he was literally unable to make the trip at a time that would not interfere with Eagles business. Maybe he was simply getting grief at home because he's away so much.

That undoubtedly will be impossible for some people to accept. And, hey, maybe Cox just doesn’t care. Regardless, the practices are voluntary, Cox is expected back next week, and absolutely nobody is going to be talking about this eight months from now, eight weeks from now, or even eight days from now.