Philadelphia, PA. Roughly one month into the 2012 NFL regular season, the Philadelphia Eagles and their fans have to be quite happy with a 3-1 start. Although the NFC East typically gets more attention from the media than it should, it is shaping up to be a division that won’t be decided until late December. These first place Eagles are somewhat of an enigma right now. They have won 3 games by a total of 4 points, they have given up more total points at this point than they have scored, and the offense looks anything but the high-flying one that Philly fans have been accustomed to. Simply put, this team is struggling to find itself, and it’s identity. So as the Giants, Cowboys, and Redskins all look up at the Eagles in the standings right now, should Eagles fans feel good about this 3-1 start, or be leery about the walls caving in soon, and losses beginning to pile up? Either way you look at it, this team needs to start getting it together, or these September wins will soon begin to look very fraudulent as the year goes on.
Given all of the pure talent that Michael Vick has always had, he has always been difficult to figure out as an NFL QB. His style is unique, and although a nightmare for opposing defenses to deal with, he can be just as maddening for his fans at times. This year has been no different. For much of 2012, Vick has seemed to have taken a step backwards as a signal caller in this league. His decision-making is spotty at best, and he has committed a ton of turnovers as a result. Like always, it’s not entirely his fault, as the offensive line, and the play calling, have been questionable much of the time. But there is just something wrong with this offense. It is lacking the fluidity that Eagles fans have witnessed over the last couple of seasons, and just looks to be stuck in second gear. The running game has been decent, as LeSean McCoy is possibly the greatest all around threat out of the backfield that the league has to offer. The receiving tandem of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin have done a ton so far, for a variety of reasons. Jackson is still a fast as they come, but the 70-80 yard TD catches have not happened as of yet. Maclin has been dealing with a hip injury, so as he gets healthier, his skills should help the offense get back on track. Brent Celek has picked up some up the slack, and has reminded everyone what a nice tight end option he can be. But there have been just too many mistakes by the offense as a whole, and if this continues, the Eagles will undoubtedly lose their division lead very soon. Beginning the year 3-1 is great, but big-time improvements need to take shape very quickly.
There is something that has been the main reason for the Eagles leading the NFC East right now. The defense. So far, this unit looks much more disciplined than they were in 2011, and it is showing on the scoreboard. Although they haven’t forced a lot of turnovers or produced a ton of sacks, they have been something that is even more important….consistent. Eagles defenders are in the right places this year, and at the right times. They aren’t getting beat very often on big plays, and are limiting what the opposing offenses are able to do. They have had a bend, but don’t break type of attitude so far, which is the primary reason for this team not having a losing record at this point. Even in the one loss at Arizona, the defense played well. It was the offense who didn’t come through, and the TD return by the Cardinals defense was the game changer in that one. This Philly D has gotten the job done, and deserves an “A” grade right now. Although not flashy with really any highlight reel plays, they are doing the dirty work, and are the overwhelming factor in why Philadelphia is 3-1.
So what should anyone make of this Eagles team right now? Their detractors will obviously point out that they have scraped by in all three of their wins. They will also point out how Michael Vick has looked awful and it’s just a matter of time before Philly starts losing games because of him. But what this first month may have done is brought this team together, and made them realize that they can win games if everyone comes together. The scary part for all of Philly’s rivals in the NFC East is this….what if this Eagles offense finally figures it out and starts to put points on the board like they have in the past? With as good as the defense has been and should continue to be, the pressure is now on the offense to start producing like they are capable of. It’s a big “if”, but if this side of the ball can get it figured out, there is no reason why this Eagles team shouldn’t be 2012 NFC East Champions in 2012.