Regardless of the causes, the results are obvious . . . to anyone who isn't delusional.
"I've seen an extreme amount of physical play . . . and I've seen some play where it looks like guys start thinking too much, instead of playing very physically," guard Evan Mathis said. "Focusing too much on thinking about what's going on instead of the effort or intensity they should have on that play."
Mathis spoke in general terms, but he is a part of the unit that has hurt the Eagles most, whose three best players from 2011 (Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans) likely will miss a combined 38 of 48 possible games. Their replacements all have issues of injury, ineptness, or both.
They have heart, Mathis said.
"I don't think it's people being lazy. I don't think it's people not trying," he said. "And that's one the things it could be perceived as if you ever try to make that read."
Certainly, the Eagles addressed their physicality issues. They traded for veteran middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. They used their first draft pick on defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. They used their second draft pick on linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
All start. All have played well . . . at times. All occasionally appear unsure of their assignment on any given play.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles tried to replaced Peters with free agent Demetress Bell. They also snagged a 220-pound power runner, Bryce Brown, in the seventh round, and developed 2011 seventh-rounder Stanley Havili into a 245-pound road grader. All were supposed to aid Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy.
Still, the Eagles pass almost 60 percent of the time.
"Our run blocking is better than our pass blocking right now," Mathis allowed. "I think that's obvious."
Why not use it?
It would involve McCoy, probably the team's best player.
It would protect quarterback Michael Vick, who has been hit more than any quarterback in the league.
But coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg cannot help themselves.
Even against the worst run defense in the league, one of the worst defenses in NFL history, they could not commit to the run. The first two times they reached the red zone Monday against the Saints, they ran the ball once, each time on the first play. The third trip, they didn't run at all.
Asked about the third trip, the Birds clearly were sensitive.
"We ran the ball the first couple of series," Mornhinweg said, a little pepper in his voice.
No: the third trip.
"We were trying to go after them," Mornhinweg said, defensively.
"Going after them" resulted in two field goals and an interception returned for a touchdown.
The opponents who beat them the last four games have been less eager to "go after them." They have run the ball, and they have gained more than 136 yards per game.
How? Well, the Eagles' biggest defensive ends weigh about 270 pounds. Their five defensive tackles hover around 300, but only Cox and Cullen Jenkins have any sort of real bulk. Mike Patterson is a load, too, but he just joined the group in New Orleans, after missing the first seven games healing from brain surgery.
The lack of heft inside has kept Jenkins from bouncing to left end, where he could share time with Jason Babin and Brandon Graham, who are the most frequent targets of opponents' successful rushes. Jenkins frequently did that last season.
It doesn't help that the team's most willing hitter, free safety Kurt Coleman, generously is listed as 5-11 and 195 pounds. He likes to hit. He just does not bring a lot of pain. Coleman might be the least gifted of the defenders, but he probably is the least tentative.
If the rest of the players played with his abandon and zest, 3-5 might very well be reversed.
Do they have the talent?
"Absolutely. 100 percent," Mathis said. "Ever since we started 1-4 last year, it's gotten very old, talking about the amount of talent compared to production."
The Eagles' 4-0 finish was based on physical play, said Mathis: "This year it's been patches, here and there."
That's one man's view.
Here's another, from DeMeco Ryans, concerning the level of physical play: "I don't see that as being the issue."
He hasn't seen the movie before.
Contact Marcus Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/MarcusHayes.