Last year when I wrote my Eagles report card for 2011, I said simply that the season was a failure. If that was the case (and it was), then I’m not sure how to describe what transpired in 2012. Colossal failure? Total embarrassment?
Truthfully, I could see this coming. Well, maybe not 4-12 coming, but a bad year nonetheless. Yes, I know I “predicted” the Eagles would be NFC East champs, but even I admitted I was picking that with my heart, not my head. Preseason, the early indicators of a sub-par season were there. I had serious doubts about QB, the offensive line was missing it’s top player, and there were too many questions on defence to count. With my vision now 20/20 after 16 games, here’s how I saw the Eagles performance, position by position, and in some cases, player by player for 2012.
Offensive line (grade: D) – I’m not grading on a curve, even though the line was ravaged by injuries. Losing Peters for the year during the off-season was crushing. The LT replacements were downright horrible. Losing Herremans and Kelce crippled the unit further. Seeing Watkins regress and lose his job to Scott walking in off the street captures the overall picture in a nutshell. It’s hard to cope when you have 100% turnover on the line, but the Eagles badly overestimated their 2nd string talent. Depth on the line is important, and the lack of it doomed their overall offensive attack.
Wide receivers and tight ends (overall grade: C) – This was the same grade I gave the unit last year. I really think the Eagles have too high an opinion of DJax and Maclin. They can both be strong from time to time, but neither is a legitimate #1 WR. I’ve been watching this team for a long time, and they’ve only had one full season where I thought they had a legitimate #1 guy (and that year they got to the Super Bowl). I’m a fan of Avant as a solid #3 guy and think Celek is a serviceable TE. The real challenge with this group is they need too much time to get open and have difficulty catching passes in traffic.
Running backs (overall grade: C) – McCoy is difficult to grade this year due to his concussion and an absence of running lanes generated by the 5 stiffs blocking for him up front. Also, teams just weren’t scared of the passing game so focused defensive energy on stopping McCoy when he was in there. Brown showed flashes of brilliance, but he carries the ball very loosely and had fumble issues. As a rookie with limited college experience, hopefully this can be coached out of him by next season.
Quarterback – Vick and Foles need to be graded separately. Vick (grade: F), pre-injury, was just plain bad. He’s a turnover machine, plays loose, lacks precision, and has lost some of his explosive speed. Oh yeah, and he’s injury prone if you hadn’t noticed. Yes he was playing behind one of the worst OLs in Eagles history, but he didn’t adjust his style to deal with that. After his injury, we got to watch Foles (grade: C) audition for the starting job next season. Not an ideal situation to step into. On the negative side of the ledger, he looked shaky plenty of times (ill advised throws into coverage in the red zone) and seemed to lack arm strength on some deep throws. On the positive side, he showed significant toughness standing in the pocket, he moved well to escape pressure while keeping his eyes down field, and generally took what the defence was offering him. He’ll get a look as the starter next season. I’d like to see him in a more creatively designed offence for his talents and behind a better OL before making a judgement. The state of the QB situation likely means at least another season out of the playoffs.
Defensive line (overall grade: D for the whole season, B for the last few weeks after the DL coaching change) – The grade is based on production over the 16 games, but the line played much better with the change in position coaches (and hence, D-line technique and use of talent) at the end of the season. Gibson looked strong once given the chance to play more frequently. Hunt played well in limited duty (and I like him for his CFL pedigree) Cole isn’t the stud he used to be, but is still well-rounded rushing the QB or stopping the run. Cox had a strong rookie season. This is a unit that should bounce back next year with more traditional coaching.
Linebackers (overall grade: C) – At least this group showed improvement from 2011. Ryans was a solid addition and provided some stability at MLB. Kendricks started out strong then faded as the season wore on. He’s got speed to burn and hopefully his second season in the league will see him emerge as a star. Jordan is a serviceable LB, no more, no less. Matthews is a special teams player who has little to offer the defence. The Eagles need to spend some draft picks here to improve in 2013.
Cornerbacks (overall grade: D) – Asomugha is a lightening rod for us fans – he’s really been a slightly above average CB, but his reputation (and salary) were for more than that. If he doesn’t win a one-on-one battle with the WR at the line, he is too easily beat on deep routes. DRC had an up and down year, making some outstanding plays on one drive, then getting torched on the next. Hughes, Lindley and March played like 3rd/4th/5th CBs on a bad defence. This is another area this team needs to desperately improve.
Safeties (overall grade: F) – If there was a grade worse than F I’d give it out here. Especially in the second half of the year, this group was cover your eyes bad. At times it looked like they didn’t care or just didn’t understand the basics of playing the position. Coleman will pick off a few passes, but he’s so far out of position most of the time it’s embarrassing. Allen didn’t look any better. So bad was this group, that unheralded Anderson got the start in the last couple of games just because he plays with intensity.
Kicking (grade: A) – You know it has been a bad season when the one “A” I’m giving out goes to the Henery, the kicker. He was accurate. He did his job.
Punting (grade: C) – McBriar was brought in to fix a woeful punting unit from the year before. At best he makes this position grade out to the league average. He was far too inconsistent and I think the Eagles will look at other options next year.
Kick/Punt Returning (grade: F) – Another glaring weakness with this team. When you have a bad OL, an inconsistent (or raw rookie) QB and a defence that looked more interested in heading for the showers, you can’t lose the field position game. The Eagles (for a second year) had no threat of flipping field position in the return game.
Coaching (grade: F) – The defensive coordinator was fired, and the defence got worse with the replacement. The defensive line coach was fired late in the season, and with a more normal scheme, that part of the team looked night and day better. The OL techniques couldn’t be picked up or taught to the reserves. Special teams play was abysmal for the second year in a row. And then there’s Andy Reid, the head coach. I’m a Reid fan, but sometimes it’s time to part ways. It was his decision to hire all of those position coaches. It was his (stubborn) belief in the depth of talent on the team. And it has been his steadfast belief in a high octane passing game, even without the talent available to execute it, that has saddled my team with two straight disappointing seasons. He’ll do well with his new team in Kansas City, but it really is time for a change and some fresh perspectives. Perhaps it is also a time to get back to developing and stocking the team with high character players (something sorely missing the past two years as the team tried to buy a Super Bowl)