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Why are the Eagles struggling?
Redskins’ next opponent is 3-6 after preseason expectations
Look at the Philadelphia Eagles: Running back LeSean McCoy and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are shiny weapons that should make gears click on offense pretty fast.
"They've got some pretty good football players," Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said.
And yet the Eagles share last place in the NFC East with the Redskins at 3-6. For a team that's not far removed from Vince Young's "Dream Team" declaration in 2011 and realistic expectations for a playoff berth in 2012, what gives?
"Everybody has great talent. Obviously some have a little bit better than others, and you would think that team the way it's built would be maybe first or second in the division right not, battling for a position," Redskins special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander said. "It comes down to execution and when you have a lot of turnovers like they have, that can put you on the losing end of the stick a lot of times."
The numbers paint an interesting yet crystal-clear picture. Philadelphia is eight in the league in offense at 373.3 yards a game and 12th in defense at 338.0 yards a game. But the Eagles' minus-9 turnover ratio is second-worst in the NFL, ahead of only the 1-8 Kansas City Chiefs.
"Any team that's in that predicament is not going to have a lot of wins," Alexander said. "They're able to drive the ball, but you've got to be able to finish off stuff, and they haven't been able to do that."
Quarterback Michael Vick, knocked out of the Eagles' most recent game against the Dallas Cowboys with a concussion that will also keep him out against the Redskins on Sunday, is responsible for 15 turnovers by himself. That takes some of the shine off Jackson and Maclin.
"They're receivers, they have to have somebody to give them the ball," Redskins linebacker Rob Jackson said. "There's a lot of things that have to go right in order for them to get the ball: They have to pass protect and the quarterback has to have time to see them and give them the ball. If they can't do that, they're not going to be successful or make the plays that they're capable of making."
The Eagles will now try their hand with Nick Foles; the Redskins have lost their past eight games against rookie quarterbacks.
Philadelphia has lost five in a row this season, plummeting from Super Bowl contender to lucky to finish above .500.
"I guess maybe if you would've asked me at the beginning of the season, yes, I'd be shocked," Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen said. "There are a lot of talented teams and it's hard to win games in the NFL. I think we're kind of going through that, some of the processes. I think we're pretty talented, but we're experiencing our own growing pains."
Problem is, unlike the rebuilding Redskins, the Eagles had high expectations. This is Andy Reid's 14th season and the growing dissatisfaction with his coaching performance could come to a boiling point around the New Year.
But Reid doesn't talk like a lame duck waiting for the season to end.
"Listen, this year's not over. We've had some things go the other way where we lost games, and that's all part of this league. You just keep battling," Reid said on a conference call with Washington media Wednesday. "It's a privilege to play and coach in this league. You don't put yourself in that position where you're down like that. You have an opportunity. That's how you look at it."
One of the reasons the Eagles have not been able to capitalize on this season's opportunity is a rash of injuries, specifically along the offensive line. Left tackle Jason Peters ruptured his right Achilles tendon in May, and, since, right tackle Todd Herremans and center Jason Kelce were lost for the season, too.
Right guard Danny Watkins might not play Sunday, too, requiring more shuffling around.
"It can be tough on them, but it can be tough on you, also," Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said. "It's hard to study when you don't have guys at those same places, so you don't really know what to expect, in a way."
It's hard to know what to expect from the Eagles week-to-week. Perhaps that unpredictability spawns a belief that the playoffs are still in reach.
"I think that's still there for us. There's a lot of teams that are sitting in our position. There's a lot of teams that have sat in our position and made it to the playoffs and made it to the Super Bowl," Eagles defensive end Trent Cole said. "There's always hope. This is the NFL. Any given Sunday, anything can happen."
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