Think back to a simpler time, say 2006, when "blogging" was a relatively new verb with the definition: "To write snarky, semi-coherent rants mostly about whatever the local newspaper writers screwed up that day."
Ah, those were the days. Just fire up the computer ... scan for the first point of disagreement ... unleash vitriol. I almost miss it. Which makes today kind of nice.
First of all, the good stuff. There's a story today that starts like so:
IT WAS JUST 3 weeks ago that the Eagles' defense ranked first in the league at stopping the run.
Two games and a bye week later, it ranks ninth.
This is not a promising trend, especially with the Atlanta Falcons coming to town. Atlanta is a surprising (shocking?) 4-2, behind rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, from Penn Charter and Boston College. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson praised Ryan to the heavens yesterday - Johnson said Ryan was having more success than Peyton Manning had as a rookie starter - but he also noted what has helped Ryan be so effective: a dominant running game that keeps the rookie in manageable situations.
You'll never guess the byline on that one. He gets it right as usual.
Now for the not-as-good stuff. Look, I'm on board with the whole "you have to run the ball to be a complete team" thing. We're only a few days from my somewhat unhinged rants in that regard following the cutting of Tony Hunt.
TIME AND time again, Andy Reid has told us in that master-to-grasshopper way of his that you win in the National Football League by throwing the football.
If that's true, then why are the Eagles, who have the fourth-largest pass-to-run ratio (220-140) in the league, sitting in the cold, damp basement of the NFC East with a 3-3 record?
And why are the Tennessee Titans, who are averaging a league-low 25.8 passes per game, the only undefeated team in the league at 6-0?
The Titans are one of eight teams that currently have more rush attempts than pass attempts. Combined record of those eight teams: 34-16. Class dismissed.
Key point: "You run when you win, not win when you run."
Eagles: With Pro Bowl RG Shawn Andrews out since Week 2, Andy Reid has kept his TEs in to block more than in the past, which is one reason Eagles have allowed just 10 sacks in 220 attempts. The up-front battle to watch will be LT Tra Thomas against RE John Abraham, who has seven of the Falcons' 10 sacks.
A regular reader emailed me this bit this morning to see what I thought. First of all, I don't have any numbers on whether or not the tight ends are blocking more than they used to. Even if I started counting now, it's not like I have historical trends for comparison. But Domo generally seems to have a pretty good stats hook-up from the team, so let's assume the numbers are right.
With that said, I'm having trouble seeing the connection with Shawn Andrews. If you're saying MJG needs help when Andrews doesn't, that suggests Runyan must be the guy giving it. After all, Jackson usually seems to double with Herremans (assuming four rushers), so if you wanted to give MJG help from the center, you could do it without adding a TE.
The problem is that I don't really recall seeing Runyan blocking inside very often. Nor do I recall too many instances when Runyan helps inside and a tight end takes a DE by himself (and even fewer where that works out well for us). Which means that IF the TEs are blocking more often on pass plays, they're probably doing it to help the OTs. And since this is a primarily right-handed offense, that would likely mean it's to help Runyan.
This is all supposition, of course, but it seems to make more sense than the argument that it's about Andrews.
Then there's the last bit: "which is one reason Eagles have allowed just 10 sacks in 220 attempts." It may be that this has had some impact (which is all the more reason to believe it was a choice made in the offseason, long before the coaches knew they wouldn't have Andrews). But as I've written before, I think most of what we're seeing this year is really a mindset change by McNabb. (Look at how much more frequently McNabb has been sacked than his backups were playing behind the same line.)
Here's another way to look at that question though. If McNabb really has more time this year -- because of better blocking and more guys staying in to protect him -- then we would expect his yards/completion number to be up. After all, the additional time in the pocket should give his receivers time to run deeper routes.
On the other hand, if the sack performance is more about what's happening in McNabb's head -- or perhaps the play-calling -- and not a function of protection, then we would not expect to see the Y/C number up high.
Here are the numbers:
The first table shows the YPC figure for WRs in the Eagles offense (which counts more than just McNabb given his injuries). The second only includes McNabb's numbers and doesn't just count WRs, which means it can be skewed by running back dumpoffs. Take your pick as to which you think is a better measure, neither one is perfect. They both seem to tell the same story, however, which is that we're not seeing vastly improved protection that has increased the verticality of the offense.
Definitive? No. Definitely suggestive, however.