Where Eagles stand as home stretch begins

With the break over, expect quarterback Michael Vick to return from the rib injury he suffered in this Redskins game Oct. 3.
With the break over, expect quarterback Michael Vick to return from the rib injury he suffered in this Redskins game Oct. 3.
Posted: November 01, 2010

As inconsistent as the Eagles have been this season, a few things about Andy Reid's teams have remained relatively consistent over the years: They get better as the season progresses into November and December, and they make the playoffs.

In his 11 previous seasons, Reid's teams were 63-33-1 (.655) from November on. In September and October, they are 49-37 (.570). And in those 11 years, the Eagles reached the postseason eight times.

Probability alone does not guarantee that the current Eagles, 4-3 and fresh off a bye week, will reach the playoffs. But as they resume practice Monday in preparation for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts, they have as much chance as any team in the wide-open NFC.

The young squad is still a bit of a mystery despite its winning mark. The Eagles have beaten only one team with a winning record, the 5-2 Atlanta Falcons.

The road does not get any easier. Five of the Eagles' final nine games are against opponents that have winning marks, beginning with the 4-2 Colts, who will host the Houston Texans on Monday night.

Indianapolis' Peyton Manning is just the first of several top-notch quarterbacks the Eagles will face in the closing months, a scary proposition considering how shaky their pass defense has been.

"I don't want to even hear that word," Eagles safety Quintin Mikell said last week when reminded that "Peyton" was next on the card. "We're facing some very good quarterbacks. . . . Peyton is the best to ever play the game, in my opinion. We have a tall task ahead of us."

Tennessee quarterback Kerry Collins and receiver Kenny Britt undressed the secondary a week ago in a fourth quarter that may have cost cornerback Ellis Hobbs his job. If it does, the next guy up could be Joselio Hanson, Dimitri Patterson, or rookie Trevard Lindley. The change could come as early as Monday as the Eagles gather for a light practice that should have quarterback Michael Vick, coming off a rib injury, back with the first team.

The Eagles, by the way, have not beaten Manning and the Colts in three tries under Reid. But Reid is 11-0 the week after a bye, so something has to give.

As we move off fall break and back into action, here is one last look back and a few more things to consider:

Game log

The Eagles endured plenty of highs and lows through their first seven games. Here are some of the most memorable:

Game 1:

Green Bay 27, Eagles 20

Low: In a matter of only a few plays, fullback Leonard Weaver and center Jamaal Jackson were lost for the season with injuries.

Low: Quarterback Kevin Kolb had a rocky start and was knocked out of the game with a concussion.

High: Vick nearly rallied the Eagles to a win.

Game 2:

Eagles 35, Detroit 32

High: Vick flawlessly ran the two-minute drill as the Eagles regained the lead.

High: LeSean McCoy had his best game as a pro, running for three touchdowns.

Low: In a foreboding sign, the defense surrendered 15 fourth-quarter points.

Game 3:

Eagles 28, Jacksonville 3

High, then low: Aside from a quick-strike 61-yard pass to DeSean Jackson, the offense staggered.

High: Vick and the offense got back on track somewhat and supported Reid's bold decision to switch quarterbacks.

High: Defensive end Trent Cole recorded two of the Eagles' seven sacks in their best outing of the season.

Game 4:

Washington 17, Eagles 12

Low: Former Eagles star quarterback Donovan McNabb got a standing ovation before the game and in return put up 14 points in the first quarter for the Redskins.

Low, then high: Vick was sandwiched and left the game with a rib injury. But Kolb went in and didn't look like a deer caught in headlights.

Low: McNabb ran 18 yards for a key first down, and Kolb's Hail Mary pass fell through Jason Avant's hands.

Game 5:

Eagles 27, San Francisco 24

High: Kolb shot out of the gate and looked as good as he had a year ago.

High: The defenses forced four turnovers as the Eagles built a 24-10 lead.

Low, then high: 49ers quarterback Alex Smith burned the secondary late, but the Eagles hung on.

Game 6:

Eagles 31, Atlanta 17

High: Kolb and the offense clicked as Jackson scored running and receiving.

Low: Jackson got clobbered on a crossing pattern and suffered a concussion.

High: Jeremy Maclin picked up for Jackson, catching seven passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

Game 7:

Tennessee 37, Eagles 19

High: Led by tackle Antonio Dixon, the defense stifled running back Chris Johnson.

Low: Center Mike McGlynn missed a block, Kolb fumbled on the Titans' 3-yard line, and the offense never recovered.

Low: Hobbs and safety Nate Allen couldn't keep up with Britt, who put up 159 fourth-quarter receiving yards.

Hot seat

Here are two Eagles who need to get their games in gear soon:

Jason Peters, left tackle. He has shown flashes of talent mixed with forehead-slapping mistakes. With a $60 million contract to play one of the most pivotal positions, Peters is supposed to be better than that.

Because the Eagles have invested so much in the left tackle, expect him to return to the lineup when healthy. Peters has missed time with a knee injury but should be ready to go Sunday against the Colts.

If his play doesn't improve, he will go down as a very expensive mistake.

Brent Celek, tight end. After a breakout 2009, Celek has dropped several passes and has often been handled by linebackers this year. His 21 catches for 229 yards are in the middle of the pack for tight ends.

Seen as a rising talent and part of the team's young core, Celek has yet to live up to this season's raised expectations.

Just hot

Asante Samuel is in a good place as the Eagles return to practice this week.

The enigmatic cornerback takes his knocks for his Deion Sanders-like tackling, but when he misses a game, as he did against the 49ers, or when his counterpart struggles, as Hobbs did against the Titans, everyone seems to realize how valuable Samuel is.

Samuel's 32 interceptions since 2006 are the most in the NFL.

Stat pack

Here are some stats to ponder as the Birds shake off the cobwebs and devise a plan to stop Manning and the Colts.

Cole is so good that even when he plays great, his contribution often goes unmentioned. It's just expected. To put it in perspective, Cole's six sacks are 29 percent of the team's 21, and his 12 tackles for a loss are 27 percent of the Eagles' total of 44.

Juqua Parker had four sacks the first three weeks but has had none since.

The defense ranks 20th in points allowed per game but has made big plays, too. The 21 sacks and 16 takeaways are both fifth-best in the NFL. The opportunistic defense ranks third in interception rate and fifth in sacks per pass attempt.

The offense has done a great job holding on to the ball. Its nine turnovers are tied for seventh fewest.

The offense ranks in the top 10 in every major statistic, including ninth in rushing yards per game and fourth in rushing yards per play, a robust 4.92.

The special teams have struggled. The Eagles rank 27th in average punt return allowed and 21st in average kickoff return allowed.

When teams get close to the Eagles' end zone, they score. The defense has the second-worst red-zone record in the league.

McCoy is on a pace to crack 1,000 yards rushing, but barely: 1,090.

In 25 offensive touches, Jackson has scored four touchdowns. Every score has been from 31 yards out or longer.

Maclin is on a pace for a 1,046-yard season. His six touchdowns are tied for sixth in the league.

The Eagles have allowed 21 sacks, second most in the NFL, and 41 quarterback hits, third most.

Quintin Mikell leads the team with 36 solo tackles, followed by Cole, Allen, Ernie Sims, and Stewart Bradley.

Despite having just two starts, Dixon has 13 solo tackles, one fewer than Mike Patterson and seven more than Brodrick Bunkley.

A Look at the Off-Season Action

As the Eagles get set for the stretch run of their season, here is a look back at some of the moves that shaped this team.

Let it be written first and foremost that the free-agent market last off-season was DeSean Jackson-thin. The new uncapped year decreased the number of unrestricted free agents and thus limited player movement. Still, the moves that first-year general manager Howie Roseman made from the start of free agency until the draft leave a lot to be desired.

Four of the seven players added then are no longer on the active roster:

Player             Pos.    How acquired       Current status

Marlin Jackson       DB    Free agency       Injured reserve

Hank Baskett       WR    Free agency       Released

Chad Hall          WR    Free agency       Reserve

Darryl Tapp          DE    Trade             Reserve

Mike Bell             RB    Free agency       Traded to Browns

Alex Hall             LB    Trade             Released

Ernie Sims          LB    Trade             Starter

The Eagles didn't make a significant financial commitment in signing any of the above players, which has to be factored into the equation. So does their success rate in letting go or trading away key contributors from 2009. Here is a look at that area:

Good departures

RB Brian Westbrook was released and is on the 49ers' bench.

WR Reggie Brown was traded to the Buccaneers and then released.

S Sean Jones was released and signed with the Buccaneers and has 27 tackles.

WR Kevin Curtis was released and is battling testicular cancer.

DE Darren Howard was released and remains a free agent.

CB Sheldon Brown was traded to the Browns and has not distinguished himself.

Bad departures

DE Chris Clemons was traded to the Seahawks and has 51/2 sacks.

DE Jason Babin was released and signed with the Titans and has seven sacks.

Jury still out

LB Will Witherspoon was released and signed with the Titans, for whom he is starting.

G Shawn Andrews was released and signed with the Giants, for whom he is a reserve.

LB Chris Gocong was traded to the Browns, for whom he has 32 tackles and a sack.

QB Donovan McNabb was traded to the Redskins They are 4-4, but he has a quarterback rating of only 76.

- Jeff McLane and Jonathan Tamari

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Jeff_McLane

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