PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Maybe these Eagles aren’t rebuilding after all.
Near the season’s midpoint, Philadelphia is right in the middle of things in a parity-filled conference. Despite a constant quarterback shuffle, the Eagles (4-3) entered their bye just one game behind the NFC East-leading New York Giants. Not bad for a team that traded its franchise quarterback, overhauled its roster and dumped several veterans.
“It’s a crazy league right now and we’re sitting there 4-3, man, and we’re right there in the hunt in a good way,” coach Andy Reid said.
Reid insisted during the summer the Eagles weren’t conceding this season despite trading Donovan McNabb to Washington, and cutting ties with Sheldon Brown, Brian Westbrook and Shawn Andrews, among others.
With Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb taking the snaps, they certainly haven’t missed McNabb. Kolb began the year as the starter, but sustained a concussion in Week 1. Vick played so well during his absence that Reid flip-flopped on his original decision to give the job back to Kolb when he was healthy. Then Vick got hurt after leading the Eagles to consecutive road wins and being named NFC offensive player of the month for September. Kolb stepped in, and guided Philadelphia to consecutive wins before last Sunday’s loss at Tennessee.
When the Eagles return to face Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts (4-2) on November 7th, it’ll be Vick again. Vick spent time during his week off at the team’s practice facility rehabbing his injured ribs and preparing for his next start.
“Minus a couple of plays, we can be 6-1 right now,” Vick said in an interview on the Eagles’ website. “We have a great chance of winning this thing. That’s just my feel. I know the type of team we have, I know the players we have, I know what we have to face and I know it’s going to be tough. I look at is as a challenge. I think it’s going to be a dynamic year for us.”
In two full games and half of another one, Vick looked better than he did when he went to three Pro Bowls in six seasons with Atlanta. He threw for 799 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions, and compiled a passer rating of 108.8 with a 61.5 completion percentage. He also ran for 187 yards and one score.
Kolb struggled in parts of two games, was outstanding in two others and so-so in the loss to the Titans. He has 1,035 yards passing, six touchdowns, four interceptions and an 85.3 rating.
“I think the only thing I can do is keep my head up and understand and know and have the confidence that I can play this game and I can win with this team,” Kolb said. “That’s just my mentality. Stay ready for when the time comes and make sure you keep your confidence up. That’s what I’ll try to do.”
With either quarterback, the Eagles have shown they can be contenders in a season where no team is dominant. Other than the Giants, the Falcons are the only other NFC club with five wins, but the Eagles whipped them 31-17 on Oct. 17.
And Philadelphia was a quarter away from beating Tennessee, too, but blew a nine-point lead and lost 37-19. Philadelphia had won a league-best 22 straight games when leading at halftime.
The bye came at the right time for the Eagles because it allowed some injured starters an extra week to heal. Besides Vick, wide receiver DeSean Jackson (concussion), left tackle Jason Peters (knee) and defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (elbow) should be ready to play against Indianapolis.
The schedule gets tougher for Philadelphia from here on. Beginning with the Colts (4-2), the Eagles have five straight games against teams with winning records. They play struggling Dallas twice in the final four games, but Tony Romo might be back by then.
During Reid’s first 11 seasons in Philly, the Eagles have been a much better team in the second half. They’re 57-30-1 in that span.
“That’s not an automatic thing,” Reid said. “It’s important that the players and coaches understand that that just doesn’t happen, that you have to go back and you’ve got to focus in. You put yourself in striking distance, really, the first half of the season. But you’ve got to get better. I’ve got to get better as a head football coach, and our football team has to get better. I’m talking coaches and players, so we’re going to focus in on making sure that that happens.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)