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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Eagles' Word of the Week: "Balance"

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

Andy Reid has always talked the talk, but he rarely calls the call. The Eagles coach tells us all the time that he needs to have a balanced offense and then, as soon as the game starts, he starts throwing the ball all over the place.

That was evident again in the Eagles’ 27-6 loss to Arizona last Sunday. Even though the Eagles went into the game with a patchwork offensive line and without starting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called 25 pass plays and just five running plays in the first half. And the Eagles trailed at the end of that half 24-0.

So much for balance. And this is a team that has perhaps the best running back in the NFL, LeSean McCoy.

This week, Reid and his team are once again talking about the importance of a balanced offense as they prepare for Sunday’s NFC East showdown with the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

“Balance — you’ve got to have some sort of balance, whether that’s 60-40 or 70-30,’’ Reid said. “You’ve got to be able to, obviously, keep defenses off balance and, at the same time, get yourself in a rhythm as an offense.’’

60-40? How about 25-5? This week, Reid agreed that the play-calling got out of whack in Arizona and “We need a little more balance.’’

Reid doesn’t call the plays – that’s Mornhinweg’s job – but he can dictate direction and if he wanted to run the ball, he would just tell Mornhinweg to run it and let his assistant figure out how.

“Listen, we communicate,’’ Reid said of his game-day relationship with Mornhinweg. “We’ve got to do a better job of just getting them in rhythm. It doesn’t matter if you’re throwing the ball, running the ball, a combination — you’ve got to get in rhythm and do what it takes to do that.”

According to tight end Brent Celek, the best way to do that is to not become predictable – in other words, be balanced.

“That’s the goal of any offense, to be as balanced as possible,’’ Celek said. “It’s not always going to be 50-50, but you have to realize that the passing game and running game work best when they work together – the passing game opens the running game and the running game opens the passing game.”

That sounds fine in theory, but the Eagles’ reality is a little different. They have thrown 125 passes this season, the fourth most in the NFL, even though their completion percentage (.550) is the seventh lowest in the NFL. So, the Eagles throw a lot of passes, but they don’t complete a lot of them. And their total attempts would be even more if it included the 21 times Vick has run with the ball, almost all of them on called pass plays on which he was forced to scramble.

“Obviously, it’s important to balance everything out,’’ Vick said. “That’s something that we’re going to try to work on. It’s at the coaches’ discretion.’’

Obviously, the coaches’ discretion is to pass the ball. Mornhinweg did admit that he could have run it a little more in Arizona, but he refused to apologize for his approach and said the game plan against the Cardinals was to come out throwing and keep on throwing.

“I did want to go after them down the field,’’ Mornhinweg said on Thursday.

And it doesn’t sound as if he’s going to change that approach any time soon. When asked if he’ll try to run the ball more in the future to give the offense balance and protect Vick, Mornhinweg shook his head.

“No, no – we go after people,’’ he said. “I tell the players that we’re going to be aggressive and I want them to play without the fear of making a mistake. … You can’t hold back and get conservative, because then you have no chance.”

So, when the subject of a balanced offense came up again, Mornhinweg shook his head again.

“Philosophically, I don’t care as much about balance in any particular game,’’ he said. “If we have to run the ball 50 times to win the game, that’s what we’ll do. If we need to pass the ball 50 times in any particular game, that’s what we’ll do.”

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan32@aol.com.

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