Lots of Philly writers have targeted the Eagles D's lack of size as a fundamental flaw in their system. Perhaps its true (I am leaning that way myself, I miss players like Carlos Emmons), and I cannot help but chuckle when Les Bowen writes things like: "You know those signs they have at amusement parks, setting a measurement for how big you have to be to go on a particular ride? There are Eagles scouts standing next to those lines, poised to sign anyone who is turned away," but there is something missing "from the mix" so-to-speak when assessing the current state of the Eagles defense. Yes, its true that the Eagles seem to have taken the throwback thing beyond jerseys and decided that a 70s-sized defensive line is the way to go when facing teams that routinely field offensive linemen in excess of 320lbs. (there is an argument to be made for speed and quickness to zip by these behemoths, but I am not going to make it here, plus when you get manhandled like we have been the past few weeks, it rings hollow).
It's something I cannot quite put my finger on...Its not just lack of confidence (that's an understatement) or lack of talent (although the erosion of talent at LB has reached the appalling stage) or lack of effort (when lineman cannot shed block ALL-NIGHT, I can only attribute that to not trying hard enough...getting pancaked or being out of position happens to everyone a few times each game (though with good defenses its usually only 1 dude, so it doesn't hurt as much))
The monumental collapse of the run defense (and thusly the whole defense) seems predicated on the near perfect alignment of all these negative factors, including a laissez faire attitude towards run defense....for instance
- You know, even when the Eagles we kicking ass, their run D was pretty soft...sure we had some good games, but as a general rule, good teams could run the ball on us. Bowen writes: "Watching the Colts' defense was a déjÀ-vu experience. Knowing their offense was going to score more than three dozen points while making it look easy, the Colts didn't sweat stopping Brian Westbrook." Its true, the Eagles D used to have (I hope they still to cling to the illusion) this imaginary mark of 17 pts....hold the opposition under 17 and you win (or so it was told) So when the Eagles offense was racking up points...it helped disguise a defensive weakness, no without an offense to stake us to big leads...you can bank on opposing teams testing the run early and often, because until the D mans-up to stop it, running on the Eagles is the new-old formula to breaking down the Birds..
- Do we have the personnel anymore to make Jim Johnson's schemes work? I dunno, doesn't seem like it...Lots of folks bashed the D-Line (and deservedly so) but this team has made it work before, this season in fact....both Tiki and Frank Gore were held in check....last year, basically the same group shut down LT...but it comes and goes spurts....and this latest spurt of bad and turned into a gusher....My beef is with how JJ is using his vaunted "rotation"....most of our DTs are "under-sized" (USC buds LaJuan Ramsey and Mike Patterson, both of whom I like, are listed at 290, Walker is right there too--I don't think he motors around like he used to). Rayburn plays lighter than his listed 303. Bunkley has decent size (306) but cannot seem to please the coaches enough to get on the field. (I heard one rumor that this was because he was too big for JJ's tastes)...
Now look, "undersize" Lineman are fine, when you have them coming off the edge, but when you gotta be tough in the middle and you play a 4-3, you cannot afford to start two smallish DTs and two speed rushing DEs....That is NOT what makes your D effective....We've a hard-nosed MLB in Jeremiah Trotter, but he needs to able to run free and slash to the ball-carrying....With Hollis Thomas gone, we don't have ANYONE who consistently occupies two offensive lineman...other teams simply draw up one-on-one blocking schemes and execute....and what you see it lineman and TEs snuffing out DEs and LBs on the edge, or simply pushing out of their lanes to allow to huge cutback holes....ITS PATHETIC....Jon Runyan explains here the danger of having a smallish D-line, and how it requires near perfect execution.
You cannot field a team of relative munchkins in this league and expect not to get beat up...yet the Eagles braintrust seems dead set on proving all of us "non-football" types wrongs...What do we know? Sitting in our laz-e-boys or playing football on Saturday afternoons...we know one thing, we the other team shows up with a bigger crew (especially when they got than one hard-core gym-rat who's like 230 and makes you wish you'd spend the past year in the gym), its going to be a long, bruising afternoon.
Can this team fix it? Being the eternal optimist when to comes to my Eagles, I want to say YES, YES They CAN!...show some heart, some toughness, some moxie...show SOMETHING so us fans can take heart and start cheering again....but this philosophy of speed or size is really haunting this team right now....how about a new philosophy...how about speed AND size....