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News » For the Eagles, it's another must-win situation

For the Eagles, it's another must-win situation

For the Eagles, it's another must-win situation
The questions directed at Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg could soon have an increased degree of difficulty.

For now, the Eagles' coach and offensive coordinator are still doing their best to avoid inquiries about quarterback Donovan McNabb's slow starts, the lopsided pass-run ratio and the inability to convert in short-yardage situations.

Should the Eagles, 5-4-1 going into today's game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, fail to make the playoffs for the second straight season and third time in four years, the list of questions will become lengthy and almost all of them will center upon the offensive side of the Football.

The opportunity to change what the future will look like on offense still exists, but the time to do it is running out.

The veterans inside the Eagles' locker room understand that.

"It's now or never," running back Correll Buckhalter said. "We've put ourselves in a position where we have to dig ourselves out. Everybody has to step it up a notch . . . in order for us to go on a run in these last six games."

And if they don't go on that run, here's a warning: Don't stand in front of the exit door.

Cries for the ouster of the coach and quarterback who have enjoyed a lot of success without achieving their ultimate goal may be at an all-time high right now. Some people argue that Reid should stay and McNabb should be traded or released - that camp seems to be in the minority at the moment - and others insist that Reid should be fired while McNabb gets a chance with a new regime and a more run-oriented offense.

The majority, at least this week, seems to want both men gone.

That scenario seems most unlikely, although owner Jeffrey Lurie and team president Joe Banner ignored opportunities to give Reid a vote of confidence after the team's mind-boggling 13-13 tie with the Cincinnati Bengals a week ago.

Reid, McNabb and all the players and coaches should be evaluated after 16 games rather than 10, but that doesn't mean it's not intriguing to wonder what this team could look like on opening day in 2009 if the Eagles can't dig out of the hole Buckhalter described.

The discussion always begins with the potential departure of McNabb, but it certainly shouldn't end there. If dirt is shoveled on top of this Eagles season with the team buried again at the bottom of the NFC East, then it seems almost certain that the McNabb era will end and the Kevin Kolb era, for better or worse, will begin.

Only tight end L.J. Smith's situation is clearer than that one. Win one more game or win the Super Bowl, the Eagles will have a new starting tight end next season with Brent Celek the leading candidate to take over.

The plan beyond this season along the offensive line is where things really get interesting. Reid would be the first to admit that he has been spoiled by the presence of Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan during his tenure as the team's coach.

Thomas, with the exception of 10 games since 1999, has been the Eagles' starting left offensive tackle. Runyan, without exception, has been the Eagles' starter at right tackle in every game since 2000. Both men are free agents after this season and you have to believe that one or both will be gone by opening day next season.

The Eagles have projected replacements for the quarterback and tight end. Things aren't as clear at the two tackle positions. During the offseason, Reid suggested that former first-round pick Shawn Andrews might be able to slide out from guard and be a tackle. That was before Andrews had back surgery that has kept him out most of this season and a bout with clinical depression that kept him out of training camp. At this point, the Eagles would probably be happy just to get Andrews back at guard and playing at a Pro Bowl level again next season.

Another option is to move Todd Herremans from left guard to left tackle, a position where he briefly played in place of an injured Thomas during the 2005 season. Herremans has had the best season of his career at guard, so moving him to tackle could weaken the offensive line at two positions.

It's difficult to say how the Eagles feel about Max Jean-Gilles' work at right guard filling in for Andrews - they don't talk about that kind of stuff - but those sorts of questions are always answered by the team's actions in the off-season.

Winston Justice, the team's second-round pick in 2006, is also still on the roster, but it would take some blind faith to go into the season with him as Runyan's replacement at right tackle.

If you can get decent odds on the Eagles selecting an offensive tackle in the first round of next year's draft, take the bet.

Another question mark offensively is the fullback situation. Maybe the Eagles believe that given more experience Dan Klecko can become good at the job. Whatever their plan is there, it has to better than the one they had this season, doesn't it?

None of these questions has to be answered immediately and many of the answers could change if the Eagles somehow figure out how to win close games against good teams during the final six weeks of the season.

"The potential of this offense, we haven't reached that yet," center Jamaal Jackson said. "There are a lot of points we've left on the field. Those points we left out there have pretty much led to the four losses and a tie."

Stand clear of the exit door if the Eagles continue to leave points on the field.

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 23, 2008

Michael Gasperson Name: Michael Gasperson
Position: WR
Age: 26
Experience: 2 years
College: San Diego
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