Retooling might not be enough to fix the Eagles

Posted: October 02, 2013

'WE'RE not trying to rebuild," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said recently. "We're trying to retool."

He should rethink that. Soon.

Because as tough as it was to watch the Eagles play Sunday, the most alarming aspect was the lack of progress this team, whose most recent players Roseman has chosen and touted, has shown since the season began. The defense plays as if Juan Castillo were still the coordinator. The offense's self-sabotage hearkens to the final years of Andy Reid's regime. Special-teams coach Dave Fipp has yet to lose his marbles along the sideline the way Bobby April used to, but after the punt and kickoff miscues of the last two games, it seems only a matter of time.

The Eagles are 1-3 not only because they can't get the defense fixed. They are 1-3 heading into Sunday's game against the Giants because they can't get anything fixed. Yes, the secondary is monumentally bad, but where is that pass rush that was supposed to make that less of an issue? Yes, the offense rolls up impressive yardage, but the same culprits who sabotaged Reid's slow-thinking red-zone planning are now sabotaging Chip Kelly's microwaved mappings.

And there are as many so-called stars screwing up as there are rookies and second-year players.

Maybe more.

Which leads to one conclusion.

Retooling ain't gonna get it done.

Read option or no read option.

"I still think that we're stopping ourselves," coach Chip Kelly said yesterday, after breaking down Sunday's 52-20 shredding by the Broncos. "We're not getting stopped by a scheme, and we're not getting stopped by a look.

"We've been in situations where we've driven the football and we've proven we can drive the football. But again, the penalties. Two weeks ago, when we played the Chiefs, it was the turnover situation and the false starts and the illegal procedures that handcuffed us as a football team. This past weekend, it was the two holding penalties and drops that hurt this football team."

Who does that sound like? Hmmm.

While that might be true for a veteran-filled offense that absorbs a lion's share of the Eagles' total salary allotment, it does not cover a blocked punt, a touchdown kickoff return and a missed field goal. Regain those 17 points, and it's still a loss. But maybe one, against a team that looks as if it's playing against Jacksonville every week, that suggests some answers.

The only answers suggested right now are the ones you don't want to hear, including the one about whether Howie is fooling himself with that retooling quote, or us.

Turns out, Chip might be right about time of possession. But his theory about the number of plays took a hit Sunday. The Broncos ran only two plays more than the Eagles did Sunday. They were just a teensy bit less messy.

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning engineered three of his four touchdown drives without even reaching third down. Of Denver's 71 plays, 63 were first- or second-down plays. That seems impossible, even if the Eagles picked their starting defenders by having all 46 players toss their helmets into a pile and pulling the first 11 out. But it happened.

The Broncos' mile-high microwave approach not only left the Eagles defenders gasping, it wasn't very healthy for Denver's mascot - an Arabian horse that sprints the length of the field after each score.

"May have to give ol' Thunder an IV after that one," Manning said.

The good news is that the Birds' next five games are against teams that have exhibited as many, or almost as many deficiencies, as they have this season. In fact, it might take weeks to discover how good the Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers are, since they have spent much of this season slapping around the NFC East the way bullies used to beat up on my brothers and me.

Now they all get to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and fight among themselves. The Broncos have scored 179 points this season. The Giants have scored 61.

The Eagles have allowed 39 points more than they have scored. The Giants have allowed 85 points more than they have scored.

Let the catfight begin.

This is what amounts to hope around here these days. One month after Kelly debuted so spectacularly at Washington, the Eagles seem more hamstrung than Congress. They stick their fingers in one hole, two more gush out. Young guys play tentatively and confused, older guys keep making the same maddening mistakes they made last year and the year before.

Leaving the overriding impression that this mess is not retoolable, that it is less about the coaches' schemes and playcalling as it is who is out there playing.

And who is picking them.


Email: donnels@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @samdonnellon

Columns: ph.ly/Donnellon

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