On The Edge Blog

Friday, January 15, 2010

Loss shows Westbrook is gone, McDermott should be


That was the sound of the Eagles’ season crashing to halt at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys.

It was also the sound of Brian Westbrook’s time in Philadelphia coming to an abrupt end.

However, it apparently is not the sound of Donovan McNabb’s time in Philadelphia coming to an end.

While Andy Reid said that McNabb would be back as the starting quarterback of the Eagles, Westbrook received just one touch against the Cowboys on Saturday night, despite Leonard Weaver putting the ball on the ground twice in the second quarter. That should be a clear sign that Westbrook is not going to be back next year.

While Westbrook wasn’t able to make a difference in his final game for the Birds, Sean McDermott made the case that this should be his first and last playoff game as a defensive coordinator.

For the second week in a row, McDermott’s defense disappeared when they were needed most.

Last week, the Eagles rushed four linemen, yet played a completely passive pass defense. This week was a little different, as they blitzed far more often, yet at no point did McDermott realize that the Cowboys might make a few adjustments to slow down the amped-up pass rush.

How many times did the Cowboys run a simple screen pass or a draw play to pick up big yardage as the Eagles blitzed six or seven rushers? More importantly, why didn’t the Eagles think to do that as the Cowboys’ defenders surrounded McNabb on nearly every key play of the game?

I can’t believe I am writing this, but Wade Phillips out-coached Andy Reid, Sean McDermott and Marty Mornhinweg two weeks in a row. The Eagles did not have an answer for the Cowboys’ pass rush, ground game, or aerial attack, so the more complete team will be playing in the second round of the playoffs this weekend.

In the next few weeks, I will outline what steps I believe the Eagles need to take this offseason to improve this young roster, and make it the type of team that could beat any team in the NFL, not just the ones that were .500 or worse this year.

By the way, I am not sure if anyone noticed, but in a crazy coincidence, hockey season began in Philadelphia on the very same day that the Eagles’ season ended. The Flyers even won their “season opener,” 4-1, with the shockingly solid Michael Leighton between the pipes.

Quick thoughts and observations:

* Why can’t the Eagles run the ball? I doubt that the Birds will ever be a team that focuses on the run, but they have to at least make it easier for the passing game. After watching the first round of the playoffs, it is pretty clear that a team needs to be able to run the football to succeed, as the New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens and Cowboys all had rushers top 130 yards. Arizona was the only team to win last weekend without a running back reaching triple digits on the ground, but Beanie Wells came close, rushing for 93 yards on 14 carries.

However, in the last two weeks against the Cowboys, the Eagles’ running backs have combined for less than 70 yards total! That is simply unacceptable regardless of how talented DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are at wide receiver.

* What happened to Sheldon Brown this season? We all know that he picked off five passes, which is a new career high, but he played like a Pop Warner kid the last few weeks of the season. Not only did he get repeatedly burned for touchdown passes since the game against Denver three weeks ago, the Cowboys must have seen something in their film sessions that showed them a weakness in his ability, because Miles Austin and Patrick Crayton had absolutely no problem making him look old and slow in the last two games.

In addition to being one of the main reasons the Eagles’ season ended, Brown practically handed Andy Reid and Joe Banner videotape evidence that he doesn’t deserve a new big-money deal this offseason, which he has craved for nearly a year. In the same three-week span, he also showed the NFL that switching to safety – the same career path that Troy Vincent took – was not an option, as Miles Austin blew right by Brown when he lined up at safety to help Asante Samuel contain Tony Romo’s new favorite wide receiver.

* How awesome was Arizona’s 51-45 overtime victory over Green Bay? That game could go down as the most exciting playoff game in history. Aaron Rodgers and Kurt Warner combined for 801 passing yards and 10 total touchdowns, but it took a defensive touchdown to decide the game, and catapult it passed the Eagles’ 58-37 victory over the Lions in 1995 for the most combined points in playoff history.

Predictions: Saints, Vikings, Ravens and Chargers advance.

Like the “On the Edge” column? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show. This week we will discuss why the Eagles couldn’t solve the Cowboys this season, and take an early look at where the Eagles need to improve this spring.


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Name: Matthew Fleishman, Yardley News Editor
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