Saturday, October 24, 2009
Eagles' issues pale in comparison to Skins'
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
The Redskins recently stripped head coach Jim Zorn of play-calling duties and gave them to recently hired consultant Sherman Lewis.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Of the four NFC East teams, the Eagles got off to the worst start in training camp. They had prepared for beloved defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's death the best they could, but it was a painful thing to deal with nonetheless. Only days later, starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley suffered a season-ending knee injury. The injuries kept coming and starting right tackle Shawn Andrews (back) never stepped on the field before being placed on injured reserve and sent to Los Angeles to be close to his doctor.
And on Monday night against the Redskins, the Eagles will try to replace Bradley for the third time when the newly acquired Will Witherspoon lines up at middle linebacker. On the surface, the Eagles don't appear to have a very stable roster. But then, everything's relative when you share a division with Dan Snyder's Washington Redskins.
Snyder's done the impossible: He's making Al Davis look level-headed. Snyder and executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato have embarrassed themselves by toying with head coach Jim Zorn over the past few weeks. They refused to give the man a public endorsement (for the remainder of the season) until after they'd stripped him of play-calling duties. Only two weeks earlier, Cerrato brought in former Bill Walsh disciple Sherm Lewis as an offensive consultant. As ESPN.com's Jeff Chadiha wrote Friday, some players couldn't pick Lewis out of a lineup.
Yet this is the man who will stare at Zorn's laminated play-calling chart in the press box and then inform another neutralized member of the staff, Sherman Smith, which play to relay to Jason Campbell. This has success written all over it.
According to the folks I've talked to with the Eagles this week, their biggest fear is Lewis going rogue and coming up with a completely different approach. Though coach Andy Reid would never admit this, the Eagles believe they'll destroy the Redskins if they stick to the normal script -- the one that's produced just over 13 points per game. I'd be shocked if Lewis starts freelancing Monday. And if the former bingo caller suddenly barks out "B 11," what's Smith supposed to do?
When I talked to Campbell this week, he said he was attempting to remain "open-minded" about Lewis calling the plays. Campbell's shown a great deal of grace in the face of Snyder and Cerrato's bumbling ways -- dating to their dogged offseason pursuit of Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez.
"We're all human," Campbell told me Tuesday. "Every now and then you have a moment where it gets to you."
Fortunately for Campbell, several teammates and ex-quarterbacks reached out to him after he was benched last Sunday. As we first reported last Monday, Campbell will get the start against the Eagles. Backup quarterback Todd Collins has been told to be ready, which isn't exactly music to Campbell's ears. But there's at least one local legend who has Campbell's back.
"Joe [Theismann] reached out to me first thing," Campbell said. "I can just talk to him about a lot of things. He told me to go out Monday night and play freely. He said I've got to block everything out."
Campbell told me that he made the mistake of not trusting his offensive line against the Chiefs. He was playing behind a group that included two new starters and another teammate (Stephon Heyer) playing out of position at left tackle. Of course, Snyder and Cerrato's decision to ignore the offensive line both through the draft and free agency helped cause this problem, but that's a column for another day.
By the end of my conversation with Campbell, he'd actually talked himself into thinking the Skins could beat the Eagles on Monday.
"If we can get back to .500 at the midway point, there's a chance we could rally in the second half [of the season]," Campbell said. "When it rains, it pours. And right now, we need it to stop raining."
Unfortunately for Campbell, I don't see the dark clouds over FedEx beginning to clear.