Commentary

Eagles' offense not doing its part

The Eagles' offense, which has yet to find the end zone this season, is feeling the heat for Philly's 0-2 start, writes Len Pasquarelli.

Originally Published: September 18, 2007
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Just about midnight Tuesday morning, after his team had turned into a pumpkin for a second straight week, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid declared that his offense is "off by just a hair."

If that's the case, Reid might want to invest in a 55-gallon drum of Rogaine, because the follicle growth spurt the Philadelphia offense appears to require is usually witnessed only on one of those late-night television infomercials.

As the Cleveland Browns demonstrated last Sunday, throwing dirt on any offense at this point of the campaign is a premature burial exercise. But the Eagles had better break out the shovels soon if they are to quickly exhume their playoff aspirations.

For the first time since 2003, the Eagles have started 0-2, and much of the culpability lies with an offense that has fallen on hard times.

Donovan McNabb
Chris McGrath/Getty ImagesEagles QB Donovan McNabb has been out of sync, but he hasn't gotten a lot of help from his offensive teammates.

The Philadelphia defense has played admirably, surrendering just 36 points and 552 yards in two games. But the offense clearly hasn't held up its end. The headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday morning read simply, "No Offense," with the accent on the first syllable of the second word.

"I don't know," said standout wide receiver Reggie Brown when queried on the seemingly myriad problems of an offense that has eked out only one touchdown so far in 2007. "Maybe it's physics."

As wacky as that explanation sounded, it might be appropriate because the Eagles definitely appear to be overwhelmed by gravity through two contests. This is an offense that has yet to get off the ground, and one in which quarterback Donovan McNabb is definitely struggling to find some semblance of rhythm.

In defeats at Green Bay in the season opener and to the Washington Redskins here Monday night, the Philadelphia offense has had 21 possessions. That excludes two series in which Philadelphia gained possession with less than one minute remaining in either the first half or in the game. On those 21 possessions, the unit has scored seven times.

Unfortunately, six of the scores, including all four on Monday night, came on David Akers field goals. Two of those field goals on Monday concluded long drives of 10 and 13 snaps, possessions on which the Eagles had moved inside the Washington 10-yard line. Another long drive, of 12 plays, ended on downs when Washington rookie strong safety LaRon Landry knocked away a pass intended for wide receiver Kevin Curtis inside the Washington 5-yard line on Philadelphia's final, frustrating play of the night.

A touchdown on that series would have given Philadelphia the chance to extend the game into overtime with a two-point conversion. But for now at least, touchdowns are about as hard to find in Philadelphia as a registered Republican voter. Not counting drives in which the Eagles got the ball with less than a minute to play in a half or the game, Philadelphia has gone 17 possessions without a touchdown, a stretch of six quarters.

"I guess," said Curtis, whose great speed was supposed to provide the Eagles a long-ball dimension, "that qualifies as a drought. It is a long time, especially when you have the kind of talent we do. We just haven't been very consistent for most series. You know, a mistake on one thing one series, a mistake on something else the next [possession]. It all adds up, you know?"

Not to points, it doesn't. The 25 points scored by the Eagles represent the fewest for the franchise in the first two games of a season since 2003.

On its 21 possessions, the offense has had 11 series that lasted six snaps or fewer, including eight three-and-out sequences. Fifteen of the possessions netted two first downs or fewer, and 13 produced either one or no first downs. The Eagles have had nine possessions that spanned three minutes or more, but five of those resulted in only field goals.

There is plenty of blame, particularly in the passing game, to spread around.

McNabb, who played sparingly in the preseason as he completed his rehabilitation from anterior cruciate ligament surgery, has experienced some bouts of glaring inaccuracy. That was evident Monday night, when he bounced some balls short of receivers, and then was wide by 5 yards on a pass intended for a wide-open Curtis on a simple out route in the fourth quarter. His receivers have dropped some balls and haven't added many yards after the catch. There have been breakdowns in protection as opposition defenses, sensing correctly that McNabb isn't as mobile as he once was, are blitzing more.

But if there is one deficiency that stands out more than any other, it's that the Philadelphia passing attack hasn't been very aggressive.

It's hard to put the ball in the end zone when you don't throw it there, and on Monday night, the Eagles threw only two passes into or through the end zone. One was a throwaway, when McNabb intentionally unloaded to avoid a sack, and the other was a long overthrow. In two games, McNabb has 43 completions, but 33 of them have been for 10 yards or fewer, and 15 have been for 6 yards or fewer.

The team's leading receiver Monday night was tailback Brian Westbrook, who had eight catches, many of them on third-down checkdowns when the Washington secondary backed off and McNabb opted to throw the ball underneath. Deep threat Curtis, who caught two balls for 53 yards in the opener, averaged a measly 7 yards on four receptions against the Redskins. In general, it seems, the Eagles aren't throwing the ball to the sticks on third down. In the loss at Green Bay, for instance, McNabb four times threw to Westbrook on third-down plays in which the yardage required was 5 yards or more.

Said one Washington defender late Monday night: "Watching tape, they seemed to take a lot of the safe throws [in the Green Bay game], and they sort of did the same thing tonight."

At 0-2, though, Reid, McNabb and assistant head coach Marty Mornhinweg, who essentially runs the offense, might have to remove the safety wheels to get Philadelphia moving forward. Whatever the solution, the Eagles need to locate it pretty quickly.

Or find some magic elixir that sprouts the hair Reid was talking about.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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