Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Desperate times for Birds

There’s a word that keeps popping into my mind when it comes to this
2009 version of the Eagles.

It’s a word I have not associated with this team – and in particular with head coach Andy Reid – in the 10 years he’s been at the helm.

The word is desperation.

Starting back in the off-season, more and more of Reid’s moves have the smell of a guy who is desperate to get back to the Super Bowl.

Is Reid under a new and different pressure to win, to get the Birds back in the big game? No one is saying, although you can infer what you want from team President Joe Banner’s proclamation before the season that the team has put together the best roster in the NFL.

Reid decided to revamp his offensive line in the offseason. He brought in Stacy Andrews, who had undergone knee surgery, and planned to plop him down beside his brother Shawn. Now Shawn is on the shelf for the season, and Stacy is out of the lineup, apparently still having some problems with that knee.

Reid decided to bring in Michael Vick under the guise of offering him a second chance after the one-time All-Pro spent two years in jail on a dog-fighting conviction.

Reid immediately started dreaming up all sorts of versions of the “Wildcat” offense, no doubt with Vick in mind.

When he rolled this plan out in a preseason game, it clearly irked starting quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Then McNabb went down with a fractured rib. Kevin Kolb was pronounced the starter, but Jeff Garcia was brought in as a backup. Reid delved even further into his funky Wildcat offerings, apparently in the believe he might be able to take some pressure of Kolb in his debut as an NFL starter. He likely was less than thrilled with Garcia’s comments after the game, that he believed the gadget plays hindered Kolb’s ability to get into the flow of the game. It was the same argument against all the gimmicks and gadgets sounded by McNabb.

There are other warning signs surrounding this team. After a big first week in which they harassed Jake Delhomme into a turnover machine, the defense under new coordinator Sean McDermott was undressed by Drew Brees and the Saints. Even worse, they appeared to be something that would have been unthinkable while Brian Dawkins was here. They looked soft, routinely missing tackles and offering big cushions to the Saints receivers.

On the other side of the ball, when they weren’t running gadget plays, the Birds were looking for Brian Westbrook. In the second half they could find him sitting on the trainer’s table, getting his ankle taped.
Yes, it’s the ankle Westbrook had surgery on in the off-season. No, he says he doesn’t think it’s serious. He hopes to play this Sunday against the Chiefs. No doubt so does Reid. Am I the only one who wonders just how much Westbrook has left now that he’s reached that magic age for NFL running backs, 30?

We likely will go through another week of QB roulette down at the Nova Care Center. McNabb continues to rehab, but the team probably would just as soon get through this week without him, then get the luxury of the bye week to allow McNabb a full recovery.

Expect to hear Reid say all week that McNabb will try to play, but if he can’t go Kolb will be the man.

More interesting is who will be the backup. Michael Vick now enters the equation, and you can only imagine what kind of Wildcat formations Reid is dreaming up.

The truth is, the Eagles should win this week, when the Chiefs arrive at the Linc. They should be able to just line up and beat this team the old-fashioned way. Don’t count on it. Expect to see Vick in all manner of bizarre formations.

This will certainly become more of an issue when McNabb returns, and just how much he is willing to share the stage with Vick.

Of course, all this could blow up in Reid’s face. Should by some chance (not outside the realm of reason) Matt Cassell bring the Chiefs in and wins, then that air of desperation surrounding this team will become all too real.

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