Very little went the Eagles’ way on Sunday. The Eagles were clearly overplayed by a much less talented, but hungrier NY Giants team. As we all know, games are not won on paper. Casey Matthews continues to look lost even at his new outside linebacker position. During one play, he reacted ridiculously late to Brandon Jacobs coming out of the backfield in the flat. By the time he realized that Jacobs was his responsibility all he could do is turn around to watch him go into the end zone. Michael Vick again looked like a piñata, taking hit after hit, after hit, until he broke his right (non-throwing) hand. I’ll put the blame on the offensive line there. Originally, I thought that the linebackers and the offensive line were the only areas of this team that needed a little shoring up. However, this game added another whole new list of concerns.

I’m beginning to wonder if Jim Washburn’s wide nine scheme is the one the Eagles should be running. Yes, there has been some added pressure against the quarterback compared to last year. But this team continues to get gashed for long runs, and they do not have good enough linebackers to do anything about it. Last year the secondary was Asante Samuel, that’s it. This year, they added Nnamdi and Rodgers-Cromartie. Should the Eagles maybe run a more traditional rush scheme and rely more on these talented corners? Speaking of secondary, the safeties worry me. Kurt Coleman all but whiffed on a tackle in the open field which resulted in a Giants touchdown. I also remember seeing Nate Allen get stiff armed 10 yards back at the end of a play and Jarrad Page’s attempt at an unsuccessful arm tackle. As usual with Andy Reid, this game had some suspect coaching decisions. For example,  the Eagles went for it on a fourth and one and LeSean McCoy (the lone bright spot of the game) got stuffed for a 2-yard loss, giving the Giants good field position. This Eagles team will win several games based on talent alone. But to be elite, it takes more than just talent, and the sooner they realize that, the better off they’ll be in the long run.

Ok, the experiments should be over and I’d like to emphasize the word should. Danny Watkins is on the bench, Casey Matthews has finally been moved out of the middle linebacker spot, the right tackle position looks solid with Herremans at the helm, rookie Jason Kelce seems to be making progress at center and the search for the kick/punt returners seems to be over. I’m pretty confident that going forward, the coaches have found the right positions for all 53 players on the roster.

There is one reason why I think that the upcoming game will give us a good idea where the Eagles stand. The Giants will test the areas where the Eagles have appeared weak during the first two weeks of the season. First, the Giants have a strong running game. No one can deny that Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs is a good one two punch at running back. Maybe not to the level of the thunder and lightning combo of Jacobs and Tiki Barber from a couple of years ago. Jamar Chaney is back at middle linebacker, where he should have been at the start of the season and will be tested by the aforementioned running back combo. This Sunday will tell us if the recent shuffle at linebacker is the right move. By the way, my prediction there is yes.

Second, the Giants have a good pass rush. The G-men are notorious for putting pressure on the QB. We all know that through two weeks Mike Vick has sometimes looked like a tetherball tied to a pole. We also know that #7 is coming back from a mild concussion. How the offensive line and Vick handled the Giants pass rush will give us a good idea about what to expect for the rest of the season. I think at this point in the season the O-line should start to gel. They’ve had two games where they’ve seen many different blitz and rush packages, as well as several practices and film sessions. The Eagles are strong in every other area and I challenge you to disagree. If you see success this Sunday from the O-line and the linebackers, the following 12 weeks will be a lot of fun.

Lets get one thing out of the way. Preseason games DO NOT count! There is absolutely no reason for any Eagles fan to throw him or herself off the ledge, or even to get up on the ledge for that matter. If you didn’t know already, the Eagles never got off the bus to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in last night’s preseason sequel. Andy Reid described his team’s performance best “we all stunk”. Michael Vick threw three interceptions in one half of football and the defense struggled to get off the field against a Steelers team that seemed to play with a chip on its shoulder after its own lackluster preseason premiere. It’s hard as a fan not to be concerned after our starting offense and defense looked like a Pop Warner team playing against (literally) last year’s Super Bowl runner up. All you can do is assess the good and the bad and hope the team gets better from here.

The Bad

  • Revamped starting defense struggles against a seemingly superior Steelers offense. This includes two 14-play Steeler drives that resulted in touchdowns.
  • Safety Nate Allen looked like a deer in the headlights, getting beat and making poor decisions on several plays.
  • Linebacking corpes looks overmatched and seemed to get pushed around much of the time. They don’t have size.
  • Mike Vick threw three first half interceptions.
  • Not much pressure put on by the defensive line on Ben Roethlisberger.

The good

  • Offensive line pretty much held their own against a very solid Steelers defensive front.
  • Vick was pressing in the second quarter, knowing that he’d only be in for one half. He forced some throws that he normally wouldn’t have.
  • It’s good to see DeSean back.
  • With all the “dream team” talk (which I believe the team was starting to buy into) it’s good for this team to get punched in the mouth. They need learn from this and know that wins in the NFL aren’t given away, they’ll have to earn every single one.
  • It’s Preseason!!!!!!

This team has too much talent not to have a very successful season. At the same time, all of this new talent has to come together as a team, not a bunch of talented individuals. If they learn from their preseason mistakes, (and they will make more of them) and continue to practice hard, they should be one of the best teams in the entire NFL.

At this point in the season the city of Philadelphia knows it, all the teams in the league know it, the media knows it and so does the rest of the country, the Phillies are a very good baseball team. At a record of 77-41 they are 36 games over .500 and 7.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. They are coming off a grueling ten game west coast road trip with a 9-1 record. Few teams have the luxury of stepping out onto the field and knowing that they outmatch their opponent in almost every aspect of the game. The way this team is playing, a 100 win season is certainly not out of the question.

But, is 100 wins at the end of this season good for this team or not? Last season the Phillies finished with a record of 97-65 and six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the division. In other words, they made it in comfortably into the playoffs. However, once they were in, something happened. A switch seemed to flip and all of a sudden, the Phils couldn’t hit. Of the players with at least 25 at bats, only one of them (Ryan Howard) finished with an average of over .300 (.333). Every other player who was at the plate that many times finished with an average of under .230. Examples? Raul Ibañez .226, Shane Victorino .216, Chase Utley .212, Placido Polanco .207, Jimmy Rollins .206, Jayson Werth .200 and Carlos Ruiz (Señor Octubre) .192. They left men on base and didn’t run when they had the opportunity to. The team made its exit in the NLCS, where they were clearly outmatched and outhungered by the San Francisco Giants who went on to win the World Series.

So, how do the Phillies stay hungry? Well, they certainly should attempt to refer to history and committ to not letting it happen again. Last night, the Braves made up a full game on the Phillies with a win against the Cubs and a Phillies loss against the lowly Nationals. So maybe the Braves make a run at the Phillies here at the end of the season, forcing them to rev up the engine before the season ends. The expectations are high. With this lineup and this rotation, there is no reason the Phillies shouldn’t make it to and win the World Series. Whatever motivation is needed to stay hungry and bring another parade to the city of Philadelphia, they need to find quick. Otherwise we’ll be looking at yet another immensely talented Phillies team who failed to live up to their potential.

Today we continue our series on the new Eagles coaches by putting the spotlight on the new O-line coach, Howard Mudd.

How many of you cringed last season every time Mike Vick took a hit behind the line of scrimmage? I say behind the line of scrimmage because once he takes off running, he’s pretty much on his own. Last year the Eagles played musical chairs at right tackle, with the likes of Winston Justice and King Dunlap getting playing time at the position. Neither of the aforementioned tackles are good enough to protect Vick’s blind side on a full-time basis. This year however, the offensive line has been revamped. Mainstays Jason Peters and Todd Herremans are back atleft tackle and left guard respectively. There is also the return of center Jamaal Jackson and the arrival of promising rookie guard Danny Watkins. The Eagles also added via free agency, veteran tackle Ryan Harris. With this new line, it’s only fitting that the Eagles brought a new face to mold them and bring them together. Enter Howard Mudd.

Howard Mudd is known for his 11-year stint with the Indianapolis Colts. When we hear Indianapolis Colts, we hear Peyton Manning, we hear high powered offense, one that performs more like a symphony rather than a garage rock band. Here are some tidbits on Mudd’s resume that make him more than qualified for the job.

  • Colts had the highest point total in the league during his tenure (26.1)
  • Colts had the lowest sack total in the league during his tenure (227)
  • League’s lowest sack total six different seasons
  • 2006 Super Bowl Champion

It’s tough not to be excited about the potential when you read stats like that. I believe that with this line, the offense is in for its best season yet. It is customary for the QB and running back to take the big boys out to nice dinners every time certain milestones are reached, (300 yard passing games, 100 yard rushing games, pro bowl elections, etc.) Expect the guys on this offensive line to eat hearty this season, and not on their own dime.

When free agency began there was a mass influx of free agents who decided to join the Eagles organization, plus one who arrived via trade. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Vince Young and Ronnie Brown are some of the notable new names on the Eagles roster trying to help the team get to the Super Bowl and win it. What some people might not know is that not only do The Eagles have new players on the team, but there are also new coaches who will be trying to get the most out of these players. Over the next couple of days we’ll meet the new coaches. The first one is:

Jim Washburn – Defensive Line Coach

One word you might use to describe Jim Washburn is crass. You might also use, blunt, rude or just a mean SOB. If Comcast Sportsnet, ESPN, or the NFL Network decided to air one of the Eagles practices they would have to have the FCC “bleep out” guy work overtime. That being said, not many coaches are known to get more out of their players than Jim Washburn. Jim is best known for his tenure with the Tennessee Titans, which ran from 1999 to 2010. There, he helped turn players like Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jevon Kearse, and Albert Haynesworth into household names. During his twelve year tenure the Titans ranked 7th in the NFL in sacks and in 2008 they led the league in that category. Jim Washburn can also be partially credited with the Eagles signing of free agent Jason Babin. Jason has been kind of a journey man in the NFL. During his eight year career, Jason has played with the Texans, Chiefs, Seahawks, Titans and Eagles and has amassed a total of 30 sacks. Thirteen of those (or nearly half) came during the 2010 season while with the Tennessee Titans, under the direction of –you guessed it– Jim Washburn. During a recent interview with 610 WIP, Jason Babin captured the essence of Washburn’s teaching style. He said, and I paraphrase, at first you kind of want to run him over with your car in the parking lot, but then you understand that he’s just trying to put you in a position to be successful. If Jim Washburn can get the same production out of this defensive line as he did with some of the Titans defensive lines, we’re in for a fun season.

Yesterday, I spent my morning at the Eagles training camp practice, in Lehigh. At one point I noticed an ambulance on the field surrounded by many Eagles players, some of them holding their helmets to the sky. As the ambulance drove off I was left wondering who was inside and what happened to him. I went to my phone and began searching for an answer. I later found out through the csnphilly.com Eagles training camp blog that defensive tackle Mike Patterson had collapsed and began convulsing on the field. This was a scene that disturbed many of the players and as I read descriptions of what happened, it disturbed me.

It was later reported that Mike Patterson was texting, joking around and in good spirits. A sigh of relief for any with knowledge of the situation. However, today, Rick Burkholder (the team’s head trainer) reported that Mike has been diagnosed brain condition called AVN (arteriovenous malformation). This is how Reuben Frank of csnphilly.com described the condition:

AVM, a potentially dangerous tangling of arteries and blood vessels inside the brain that is often treated either with surgery or radiation,

To say that this sounds serious would be a huge understatement. Mike, my thoughts and prayers are with you and I wish you the speediest of recoveries.