Sunday Night Football. A chance for the Eagles to be on the league’s showcase game for two weeks in a row, and show that they are the team to beat in the NFC East. A time for the team to step up, and separate themselves from the division. It’s not a time to be dropping passes. It’s not a time for our quarterback to look like the JV backup from a 6-man team. And, it’s certainly not the time to not be able to capitalize on gift turnovers.
Yet, that’s where this team finds itself today, after a clunker of a game in Charlotte last night. Bradford, once again, shows that he is not the man to lead this offense. Jason Peters shows that the team should have bought out his contract and gotten younger at his position. And Ryan Mathews shows that all the money paid to Demarco Murray was a bit of a stretch.
This game was a disaster all the way around. Bennie Logan couldn’t simply keep his eyes on the ball, when he’s lined up right over it, costing the team penalty yards. Bradford decided to throw high to the end zone to the team’s shortest player, Josh Huff. Yes, I know the roster lists him at 5’10”. You keep believing that. Caleb Sturgis hits a long FG, then proceeds to hand the Panthers great starting field position by kicking the ball out of bounds.
Rip me if you want about any of the things I’ve previously said. Bradford cannot play, period. He arrived to the team in March. 7 full months of learning this offense, and working with coaches to understand all of its nuances. Yet, to watch him in real-time, one word comes to mind: sad. 3rd-and-9, let’s run a bubble screen, when Jared Allen and Thomas Davis have been all night. Yeah, that should work. Or, let’s check it down to Darren Sproles, for the fifteenth time. Nobody on the other side will see that play coming. And, while NBC’s Cris Collinsworth was saying that it was only a one-year tryout, that one year is costing this team a shot at the playoffs. His ineptness cannot be excused, nor can it be rationalized away in any fashion. He needs to be gone before the trade deadline for this team to have a shot.
And that brings me to the offensive line. When Peters pulled up lame last night, and Collinsworth put him in the same category as Anthony Munoz, I almost fainted. Peters, at 33, should have been put out to pasture long ago. There were plenty of tackles in free agency: Bryan Bulaga, Doug Free, Tyler Polumbus, just to name a few. The team could have also gone with Mike Iupati or Davin Joseph, and moved them over one spot. But, they chose to hold on to the ancient relic that is Peters. The team got younger everywhere else but at left tackle. Yes, he was a great player (key word here: was), but, this is a business. Now, the team is back to making an offensive line, by mixing and matching, like a Garanimals set from so long ago. And, with a patchwork line, comes shoddy protection, and poor run blocking. I’ve already discussed Bradford. He couldn’t throw a decent pass if the other team couldn’t rush till after a count of 10-Mississippi. But, it does bring me to my next point.
Last time I wrote, I spoke of Ryan Mathews, and how he seems to run angrily. It’s almost as if he feels his next meal will be forthcoming, depending on how well he runs. He takes defenders head-on, and creates his own space. Look at his long TD run last night. Then, look at it again. Then, once more. Tell me that isn’t the guy that should be the starting running back for this team. Yes, Murray got the big-money deal. After the season he had, someone was going to pay him. But Murray’s continued difficulties with this blocking scheme continue to frustrate, and, if Peters is out for any length of time, it’s only going to get worse. So, for 5 million dollars, and 18 million, in dead money, should the team decide to move on from Murray, the team gets 3.8 yds per carry of production, and, as of this writing, only one game of over 100 yards.
Defensively, I just wanted to see them do one thing differently last night. I wanted to see their defensive backs actually tackle someone, not run with them, and continue to try to arm tackle or strip the ball. Just, get them on the ground. I’m tired of the shot that shows our corners playing 10-15 yards off the opposing receiver, then turning and running, back to the quarterback, when the ball is snapped. Deion Sanders never turned his back. Anneas Williams never turned his back. Rod Woodson never turned his back. Those guys are Hall Of Fame players. They understood what it meant to be physical and to defeat your opponent, before he had a chance to defeat you. As it stands right now, these defensive backs want to react, and wait for something to come to them, rather than take the fight to their opponent.
All the way around, it’s certainly frustrating. I wrote before of saying there wasn’t a lot of time left to salvage a playoff run. That time just got much shorter. Every player on the roster should analyze their performance through the first seven games, and ask themselves :Where can I get better? What can I do to help this team win? It seems as if there is no one willing to ask that question of themselves so far. If there is, it would be Connor Barwin, and, perhaps Fletcher Cox. But, out of a 53-man roster, only two people asking that question is not going to get it done.
I can no longer look through Eagle-green glasses on this one. This team needs to be overhauled, starting with the quarterback. Make a trade, do something. Cut him, if you must. But, Bradford is just inept. Challenge players more, as a coaching staff. Don’t treat this as if it were the weekend kids league, where everyone gets orange slices and Capri Sun after the game, because they’re all winners.
I love the Eagles. I just don’t love the attitude that seems to have permeated the 2015 version. Maybe the bye week will be the spark they need.
Fly Eagles Fly!