Aug 172010

August 17 Philadelphia Inquirer

“When the Eagles reach the red zone, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg runs through a quick list of reminders for his offense:


Check down.

Get the ball vertical both in the run and pass.

No sacks.

No penalties.

Take care of the football.

In their first preseason game Friday against the Jaguars, the Eagles – in eight trips inside the red zone – scored only two touchdowns, settled for five field goals, and had one turnover. As for Mornhinweg’s inside-the-20-yard line tenets . . .

“We blew them all,” he said Monday at training camp. “We blew all of our philosophies.”

The two touchdowns in eight tries would have put the Eagles at the bottom of last year’s NFL rankings. The quarterbacks’ check downs, and there were plenty, almost always resulted in an incomplete pass. And, there were two sacks, two penalties, and one costly fumble.

“We moved the ball 324 yards in the first half, 496 in the game, and at the half we have 16 points?” Mornhinweg said. “That’s not right. We got to be greedy with those points.”

As it would happen, the Eagles worked almost exclusively on their red-zone offense in the last two morning practices. The schedule is planned weeks in advance, so the scheduling was merely coincidental. But coming on the heels of Friday’s performance, it allowed coach Andy Reid to address the situation immediately.

“Everybody has a piece of the pie,” Reid said. “The coaches have to make sure that they’re dialing up the right plays for the right situation. We all have a part of that and that’s where you saw us working on that.”

In Friday’s game, the first-team offense produced two field goals in two red-zone tries. The backups were inserted during the third possession and accounted for one fumble, two field goals and a touchdown. And the third team scored a touchdown and a field goal.

As woeful as the effort was, it was just one preseason game. And according to starting quarterback Kevin Kolb, “it is stuff we can easily fix.”

But can they?

In the last three years, when the Eagles have made it inside the 20-yard line they have scored a touchdown less than half of the time. That has put them in the back third of the league.

Last season, they scored a touchdown 48.1 percent of the time and were tied for 23d in the league. The season before it was 49.2 percent and a 22d ranking, and in 2007, it was 45.1 percent and 24th. For a team that has set franchise records for points in the last two years, the Eagles have left plenty out on the field.

So why the problem?

“It’s just a whole different attitude and philosophy down there – on both sides of the football,” Mornhinweg said. “Some teams want to blitz you and play man-to-man and knock you back. Some teams will play you very, very soft and say, ‘OK, you’re going to have to get three really good plays to get a first down or get into the end zone.’ And some will mix it on you.””

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