This week I traded five questions with BGNJason of the terrific Bleeding Green Nation, as we approach what might be the final game in a long string of games I've been forced to call crucial. Without further ado, here's my questions and his answers, and be sure to head to his site to see my answers to his:
What a year for Philly QBs, eh?. McNabb was having a mostly awesome season until his injury, but what do you think is his future with this team? Is he still the franchise guy, or are injuries and slowly advancing age proving to be concerns? How much of a fluke is Garcia?
BGNJason: I don't really think Garcia is a fluke at all. Whenever the guy has had some talent around him and had opportunities he's won in this league. Plus, Andy Reid and Marty Morningwheg have put him in a position to succeed. The Eagles offense is no longer the "pass 50 times a game and hope for a 60 yard TD" offense. They've developed an even run/pass philosophy that has allowed Garcia to manage the game and do what he does. He makes accurate throws, he's never been a guy that throws picks and he can get out of the pocket and do things if needed.
As far as the future McNabb is still the guy. He should be back by training camp next year and the guy isn't even 30 yet. Given his injury history it's certainly smart to have a capable backup just in case, but for the next several years McNabb is the team's starter.
Dave: You know, that's an interesting point I had failed to grasp. The Eagles have always been really pass happy, and the philosophy does seem to have changed. I just missed that entirely. Hopefully we can make Garcia throw 40+ passes on Sunday. And I'm glad McNabb will be sticking around, as he's one of my favorite non-Falcons until we have to play him.
The Eagles were more or less left for dead a few
weeks ago, and now that they're back there's been a
lot of excitement about Garcia. How much of the team's recent success has been due to him? I'd say less than 50% as an uninformed yokel, so what would the success be due to?
BGNJason: I guess I sorta jumped the gun on this one in question one. Garcia has been great and I don't want to take anything away from him. He's limited mistakes, he's made accurate throws, he's ran for first downs when needed... He's played tough and inspired football. However, more than anything the Eagles' turnaround can be attributed to the fact that Andy Reid turned over the offensive play calling to Marty Morninwheg and allowed the Eagles offense to be more balanced. We were throwing over 70% of the time early in the year! The team was scoring a lot of points, but they were giving up a lot too and their offense was feast or famine.
Now that they're mixing the run evenly with the pass(or in the case of last week running A LOT more than passing) they're keeping the defense fresh, they're controlling the clock, and their offense is more consistent. They may not be as likely to put up 30+ like they were early in the year, but they also won't go completely cold and not score a TD like against Jacksonville. It's not as flashy, but it's a whole hell of a lot more efficient and effective.
Dave: Oops, I jumped the gun too. There are times the Falcons have had the opposite problem, with far too many running plays or QB draws against a discouraging number of passing plays. A lot of that has to do with how effective those passing plays are, granted, but it's still not a lot of fun to watch.
This team has been the class of the NFC for the
last few years. How much longer is that window going to stay open? What do the Eagles have to do in free agency and the draft the next few years for them to stay competitive?
BGNJason:I don't really buy the window ever shutting thing. It's the NFL. Teams turnaround every year. The Eagles went from a superbowl team, to a 6-10 team, back to a playoff team. Things like that happen every year, it's parity. I think there are things that they can do to improve the team, but overall the core of the team has gotten younger over the past few years and I see no reason they'll suddenly fall off the map. Their WR corps is very young, Stallworth is the oldest veteran at 26 years old. Their offensive line has 3 starters that were drafted in the past 2 years (including Shaun Andrews who just made his first pro bowl) with other young guys waiting in the wings. Same for the defensive line, 2 very young starters with another future starter drafted earlier this year. They have two good, young corners(Lito Sheppard just made his 2nd pro bowl). They have a rookie starting at weak side LB that looks like a decent player in Omar Gaither.
Now that said, I'd love to see an impact linebacker added (preferably through FA) and a good strong safety (preferably through the draft).
Dave: I would kind dispute the window staying open by noting that it depends on personnel, but that's really a topic for the other day. The Falcons are well positioned with young playmakers, but have battled inconsistency and poor decisions. The receiving corps is also very young and has looked awful at points, and if the Eagles turned that around, maybe the Falcons can. I'm wondering what kind of impact linebackers might be out there...maybe you guys would like Ed Hartwell? For a first? And McNabb? No? Damn.
What are you looking for the Eagles to do against the Falcons on Sunday? Clearly the Eagles would like to win this game, so I'm sure they'll come out swinging. What's their best shot?
BGNJason: I think they'll continue doing what they've been doing the past few weeks. Run the ball, control the clock, keep their defense fresh. It'll be very interesting to see how they matchup against he Falcons run game. The Eagles run defense has been absolutely porous this year, but has surprisingly tightened up the past two weeks against NYG and Dallas. This game should be able to tell us whether they were playing above their heads or this new run defense is for real.
Aside from that, I'm sure we'll see them employ the same tactic they've always done against Vick. Play containment with the front 4 and try to bring pressure from other places. A big reason the Eagles have won 4 straight is that they've won the turnover battle 4 weeks in a row, they will no doubt be looking to do that again.
Dave: The Falcons running game still has the potential to destroy, but at this point in the season Dunn is worn down and Norwood's still a bit sore, so I think the Eagles will be able to at least imitate an effective run defense. The game for the Falcons is probably going to depend heavily on what they do through the air, and that's something where I fear guys like Lito and Brian Dawkins, the only safety in the league I really fear against Alge Crumpler, who normally eats safeties for breakfast in coverage. I'm also hoping for a couple of picks from Garcia, because I agree the turnover battle will be crucial.
Where do the Eagles end up this season? What's the final score of Sunday's game?
BGNJason: I think they win on Sunday. With so much at stake, with the game at home, with everything they've endured the past 3 weeks(3 straight division road games) I can see them throwing up a stinker now. I say Eagles 24, Falcons 17.
How far can the Eagles go this year? In the NFC who knows? It certainly wouldn't shock me to see them in the NFC Championship game or even better. It's mostly an indictment on how mediocre the NFC is this year. Realistically though, if I was betting I'd say they'll probably win a home game in the first round and lose the next.
Dave: Realistically I don't see the Falcons winning this game, but given their rollercoaster nature and the irony that they would finish with the exact record Blank said was unacceptable, I'm going with the Falcons by a field goal, say 20-17. It just seems like the kind of things the Falcons are fond of doing just as I'm ready to give up on them.
That being said, the Eagles have the potential to go to the NFC Championship game, but if they run into the Bears I think they're probably cooked. If the Falcons are on the outside looking in, though, there's no team currently in the mix that I'd rather see win (especially not those damn dirty Saints).