Eagles Still Trying New Things Over Final 4 Games
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Cullen Jenkins was shocked to find a sizable media throng in front of his locker more comparable for a playoff week than another meaningless game for the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I think you guys confused me with Nick Foles,” Jenkins said, laughing.
Don’t worry, Cullen. Foles, the rookie QB, had his moment with the media later in the day. But Jenkins, a ninth-year defensive tackle, was needed to shed some light on why coach Andy Reid decided this week to fire defensive line coach Jim Washburn and bring back Tommy Brasher.
Yes, the Eagles’ play has bordered on pitiful this season, especially from a punchless line. But Reid’s decision to make a change with four games left in a 3-9 season had as much to do with Washburn’s prickly personality as it did an underachieving unit. Washburn was known for being abrasive and acting confrontational with other coaches. Stuck in his old-school ways, the approach wasn’t tolerated anymore on a lousy team, especially since his unit was one of the main culprits.
Jenkins, who has two sacks this season after combining for 12½ the previous two, said Wednesday it was weird returning to practice and not hearing Washburn and his unique ways of firing up his players. Jenkins defended Washburn’s approach but understood others might not see the value of his methods.
“Some people could take it the wrong way,” Jenkins said. “Looking from the outside in, they might not understand it. He was just trying to get us to play hard.’
Outside in? Try, inside out. After all, it was Reid who made the call just hours after the team’s eighth straight loss, 38-33 at Dallas Sunday night.
Standing on the practice field, Reid declined to rehash all the details of the split with Washburn. His praise of Brasher, in his third stint with the Eagles, really said it all.
“He’s all about the team,” Reid said.
Even with his 14-year tenure seemingly entering the final weeks, Reid is still trying to find ways to fix the problems that have plagued them during this season to forget. Washburn’s wide-nine defensive line alignment is all but scrapped. Nick Foles took first-team snaps knowing he’d be the starting quarterback the rest of the season, and Bryce Brown continues to play well in place of injured running back LeSean McCoy.
Despite the troubles, at least on the surface, Reid still sees a determined team.
“I see guys, they’re upset that they’re not winning, absolutely,” he said. “Their preparation, they’re working their tail off to get better. That’s an important thing at this point.”
At least publicly, Reid doesn’t believe his players have quit on him, so he’s tried to rid the locker room of the “me-first” men that could rub off on the next generation of Eagles. Jason Babin, a Washburn protege, was the first one dumped. Washburn wasn’t pleased with the decision to part with Babin and reportedly threatened to quit. So Reid fired him.
The Eagles hoped Washburn’s wide-nine would produce plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. It did at first. The scheme helped the Eagles tie for the league lead with 50 sacks last season, but has resulted in only 20 so far this year.
As such, Philadelphia meets Tampa Bay (6-6) on Sunday mired in an eight-game losing streak. It is the worst skid since 1968 and comes from a team that opened the season with Super Bowl aspirations.
Jenkins refused to say if defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was going to drastically alter their scheme the rest of the season.
“I’m not going to sit here and give away any new things that we might be doing,” he said. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”
The Eagles are still waiting to see if McCoy or quarterback Michael Vick will return this season following serious head injuries. Both players have not yet passed their concussion tests. They will remain sidelined until they do.
With Foles starting, the Eagles are in no rush to bring back Vick for any reason. McCoy could still play over the final four games, if he’s cleared, Reid said. Preparing for the franchise’s future — as well as concerns with Vick’s long-term health — played into Reid’s decision to stick with Foles the rest of the way.
“I’m not going to put him in any jeopardy out there,” Reid said of Vick.
Knowing that, the former Pro Bowl quarterback may have taken his last snap with the Eagles, less than two years removed from a breakout season in which he led the franchise to the NFC East title. Vick would likely have to accept a massive paycut to return to Philadelphia, to begin with, as well as a reduced role. Then again, those might be decisions fit for someone other than Reid this offseason.
Either way, Reid said Vick, 32, isn’t finished, even as his numbers over the last two years have declined since that sensational 2010 season in which he finished with a quarterback rating of 100.2.
“Can he still play? Yeah, absolutely,” Reid said. “He can still run, he can still throw. Smart kid.”
And while Vick waits its out, his team will continue to grind it out knowing more changes are on the horizon. Lineup shuffling and transactions on the coaching staff are prices teams pay for losing in the NFL.
The Eagles have learned that this year … the hard way.
“Whatever the reasons are, it’s just something that happens,” Jenkins said. “Especially when you’re not winning.”
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