Eagles Deficient in Similar Areas

The Eagles and Vikings run the same offensive scheme, and each team is having problems finishing drives and scoring points. We details the issues with comments from the quarterback and coach of the Eagles.

If the Eagles are going to turn their season around, they must solve their red-zone problems.

While their defense is ranked second in the league in red-zone efficiency, their offense has been absolutely dreadful inside the 20, which is why they have managed to score more than 16 points just once in a 2-4 start.

They are ranked 30th in the league in red-zone offense, having converted just six of 20 trips inside the 20 into touchdowns. Take away their four-for-five red-zone performance in their 56-21 Week 3 win over Detroit and they're just two-for-15 inside the red zone.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb has completed just 14 of 37 passes inside the red zone, a horrible 37.8 completion percentage.

The offense has been doing fine between the 20s. The Eagles go into Sunday's must-win game against the Minnesota Vikings ranked eighth in the league in total offense. But when they get to the 20, it's been like hitting a brick wall.

"When you're driving, eating up yards, you have to keep that same mentality that there are going to be things in the back of the end zone, things in front where you're going to have to catch the ball, make a guy miss, and get what you can get," said McNabb.

In the first quarter of Sunday's 19-16 loss to the Bears, the Eagles drove down to the Chicago 6. On third down, McNabb hit wide receiver Reggie Brown between the numbers on the goal line. But Brown dropped the ball. The Eagles had to settle for a David Akers field goal.

In the second quarter, they drove to the Chicago 14. On third-and-2, McNabb dropped back to pass. He had tight end Matt Schobel open. But Bears left end Adewale Ogunleye got around right tackle Jon Runyan and got a piece of McNabb's arm just as he was releasing the ball. Another field goal rather than a touchdown.

On the very next possession, the Eagles drove to the Chicago 19. On third-and-four, Schobel got behind middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and was open in the end zone. But McNabb's throw was high and behind him. Incomplete. Another field goal rather than a touchdown.

"That game was a prime example of when you don't take care of business in the red zone, it comes back and gets you," coach Andy Reid said of the defeat.

"We had opportunities to score touchdowns. When you give good teams opportunities to take advantage of you, that's clearly what happened against the Bears."


  • Eagles owner Jeff Lurie is disappointed over his team's 2-4 start. But it has not shaken his confidence in his head coach, Andy Reid. "He's one of the best coaches in the league," Lurie said Tuesday. "If you interviewed the 31 other owners in the league, and Andy was out there on the market, they would be lining up (to hire him)."

    Reid has been the Eagles head coach since 1999, when he replaced Ray Rhodes. He is the winningest coach in franchise history and has guided his team to five NFC East titles in the last six years. The Eagles have been to four NFC championship games during Reid's tenure, and one Super Bowl. The only thing missing from his impressive resume is a Super Bowl title. Lurie said he is disappointed by that, but doesn't view it as a firing offense. Reid's contract with the Eagles runs through 2010.

    "We have an excellent coach with an excellent coaching staff," Lurie said. "When you know what you have, and what you have is very, very good, you support the people through ups and downs. "Last year was a great example. Very few coaches and staffs could rally their team after losing their quarterback (Donovan McNabb tore his ACL in mid-November) and being 5-6. But we came within a whisker of the NFC championship game for the fifth time in six years. That sort of says it all to me."

  • Free safety Brian Dawkins, who has missed the last four games with a neck stinger, still isn't right and probably won't play again this week. "The one thing about any injury, specifically a neck injury, is if you're feeling something before you take a hit, you're probably going to feel something as you're taking a hit and after you take a hit," Dawkins said. "That's something we don't want to have. I know if I go in there and stick my head into something the way I know I can or will, I'm probably going to feel the effects of it. I know I would right now."

    Dawkins said he will remain cautious about his return. "The game I play is violent," he said. "And I play it at a certain level. I don't want to go in and do something to my neck in that region that is going to have this thing reoccur again, and I'm right back on the shelf again. That makes no sense to me. And then you have to think about further damage down the road as far as my life. There are a lot of things I have to take into consideration, so that's why we're being so cautious. We've been cautious the whole time, and that's not going to stop now."

    Dawkins flew to Oregon a couple of weeks ago to see a neck specialist. He was told that he should be able to return at some point this season.

  • The Eagles have reached an agreement with running back Brian Westbrook on how he will pay back the extra $3 million in bonus money he mistakenly received from the team 19 months ago.

  • The decision to release punter Dirk Johnson before the season and give the job to former Australian Rules football player Sav Rocca isn't working out very well. Rocca, who regularly boomed 60-plus yard punts in training camp, is 27th in gross average (41.0) and 20th in net average (36.4). Eleven of his 29 punts have traveled 40 yards or less. Just five have gone more than 50.

  • TE L.J. Smith fully participated in practice Wednesday, which means his injured groin might be well enough to allow him to play Sunday against Minnesota.

  • FS Brian Dawkins, who has missed the last four games with a neck stinger, didn't practice Wednesday. But the reason was listed as personal, not because of his injury. It's still unlikely he'll play this week.

  • WLB Takeo Spikes, who injured his shoulder Sunday against Chicago, didn't practice Wednesday. Coach Andy Reid said he expects that Spikes will play this week against Minnesota.

  • RT Jon Runyan didn't practice Wednesday. He has a fractured tailbone from a fall in the trainer's room last week. He played with it Sunday and is expected to play with it again this week.

  • CB Lito Sheppard, who missed four games with a knee sprain before returning to the lineup last week, practiced Wednesday on a limited basis. But he is expected to play Sunday against Minnesota.

    The Eagles activated rookie defensive end Victor Abiamiri for the first time this season last week. Defensive tackle Montae Reagor, who has contributed little this season, was deactivated to make room for Abiamiri. Abiamiri played on special teams, but wasn't used in Jim Johnson's defensive line rotation. That may change soon because veteran defensive end Darren Howard is contributing even less than Reagor was

    BY THE NUMBERS: 418 — Westbrook hasn't fumbled in 418 touches, dating back to Week 2 of the 2006 season.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's very hard to believe. I think we have very good talent across the board, starting with the quarterback, running back, tight ends and receivers. We have good enough talent to score more points than we're scoring. It comes down to our execution, putting us in the right position as far as the play-calls, and players breaking a tackle or making a big play here or there. Those things have to be all aligned to put points on the board in the red zone." — Running back Brian Westbrook.

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