This is it. The fate of a good many people in the Eagles organization rest in how the next 10 games unfold starting with Sunday's matchup with the Falcons, the NFL's only remaining undefeated team.
The Eagles have a new defensive coordinator in Todd Bowles and even though he's been on the job for less than two weeks he's already drawing praise from former employees and current players.
“I think we started running the same stuff over and over and not switching it up as much,” defensive end Brandon Graham told CSNPhilly.com earlier this week about Juan Castillo's scheme. “A lot of time we ran the same coverage, stuff like that. I listen to the calls every play – ‘Coach, what do we have this play? What do we have this play,’ and it was always pretty much the same stuff.”
Bowles, according to Graham, understands this.
“That’s what he talked about, not being predictable in the fourth quarter, because by the fourth quarter everybody knows what we’re going to do, and that’s how we get beat,” Graham said. “I think Coach Bowles, it’s going to be fun to see what he’s going to be doing, because I think everything we run in practice we’re going to actually really run in the game.”
We'll see soon enough.
Bowles, by all accounts, is a great coach but we're not sure a new defensive philosophy will fix all that's plagued this team over the first six weeks of the season. Namely: the offensive line woes and Michael Vick, who has struggled with decision-making and turnovers.
Football Outsiders' Andy Benoit writes what most folks (us included) have been saying for some time: "Castillo’s firing would have made a lot more sense if he were the offensive coordinator. It’s on that side of the ball where Philadelphia’s game plans and play-calling have been most perplexing. … "The paucity of called runs wouldn’t be as problematic if LeSean McCoy was getting the rock on more natural screen passes and short-area hitches. But he’s not. There’s been very little emphasis on working him into the passing game. Philly’s offense is utterly reliant on downfield passes. That can work when you have receivers like DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. But it can’t work when you have a quarterback like Michael Vick."
So what should we expect from Vick, who admitted during the bye week that he's not worried about losing his job.
"Quite frankly, I know what I can do when I’m out there and I know what has to happen when I’m out there on the football field," Vick said. "That’s just my approach now, to go out there and get the job done, we’ll see what happens.”
In addition to fumbles, interceptions and taking (often avoidable) hits, Benoit identifies another issue with the current state of Vick's game: leaving plays on the field.
"It’s something Vick has done throughout his career. … (he) has to see a receiver break open before he can pull the trigger. This is why he holds the ball so long. It’s also why he takes so many hits and commits so many turnovers."
So will a week off fix that?
No, of course not. But Philly can win with Vick (they've done it before, after all), he just has to be managed properly. And that starts with Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg. And if the defense can hold opponent to fewer points, too, even better.