A MONTH INTO the season, we still don't know very much about the Eagles because, well, let's face it, how much can you learn about a club that so far has mostly played teams that would have trouble breaking even in the Mid-American Conference?
One thing we definitely have learned, though, is that the apple hasn't fallen very far from the tree with respect to new defensive coordinator Sean McDermott and his late mentor Jim Johnson.
As anybody who watched Johnson's defenses over the years knows, the old man loved to blitz, and McDermott has quickly shown that it's going to be a major part of his strategic arsenal as well.
In Sunday's 33-14 win over the Bucs, he called 45 blitzes on 75 defensive snaps. He blitzed on third-and-long and he blitzed on second-and-short. He blitzed when the Bucs had the ball in their own end of the field and he blitzed when they had it in the red zone. Called small blitzes and called big blitzes.
"There's always blitzes in every game plan," McDermott said. "It's just a matter of how much we pull the trigger. Whatever the game and situation calls for, that's what we'll do. A young quarterback, you want to get after a young quarterback."
The Eagles had mixed results blitzing Bucs second-year quarterback Josh Johnson last week. While their blitz pressure produced three interceptions, Johnson also completed 17 passes against it for 160 yards, including 12 of the Bucs' 13 passing first downs. Both of his touchdown tosses to tight end Kellen Winslow came against blitzes.
McDermott is expected to hold another blitzfest at the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday when the Eagles play the 1-4 Raiders and their struggling young quarterback, JaMarcus Russell.
Russell, the first overall pick in the 2007 draft, is playing about as badly as a quarterback can play right now. He is at, or near, the bottom of every pertinent NFL passing category. His .421 completion percentage is can't-jump-out-of-a-boat-and-hit-the-ocean stuff. His 47.1 passer rating is 10 points below Josh Johnson's. He has just one touchdown pass in five games and has yet to complete more than 12 passes in a game this season.
"This has the potential to be really, really ugly," former Kansas City Chiefs vice president of player personnel Bill Kuharich said. "The Eagles should eat him up this week with their blitzes.
"This kid has zero confidence right now. And I haven't seen any indication, except for maybe one drive against the Chiefs [a 13-10 Raiders win in Week 2] that he is going to get this thing squared away."
Last week, the 6-6, 265-pound Russell was sacked six times in the Raiders' embarrassing 44-7 loss to the Giants. He completed just eight of 13 passes for 100 yards. The week before, he was 12-for-33 for just 128 yards in a 29-6 loss to Houston. The week before that, 12-for-21 for 61 yards in a 23-3 loss to Denver.
Ask a dozen NFL personnel people why Russell's career is heading down Ryan Leaf Road and they'll give you a number of factors, including an inability to read coverages, bad throwing mechanics, a poor work ethic and a young receiving corps that he's not on the same page with.
"When he came out, I thought he had the most dominating physical skill-set of any college quarterback I'd seen in the last 10 years," said respected NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. "Having said that, I also said I couldn't draft him in the first round because I didn't think it mattered that much to him.
"One of the things I've learned from some of the better coaches and talent evaluators in the NFL is that after God and family, football had better be next. If it's not, I don't want him, No. 1. And No. 2, I sure don't want him in the first round.
"The bottom line for me with this kid is I never thought he wanted to be the best in the league at his position. At that position, you want the gym rat. And I never, ever got the sense that he was close to being a gym rat."
Russell pretty much wasted his rookie season when he held out until September and played in just four games for the Raiders. He finally seemed to be headed in the right direction late last season after playing well in the Raiders' season-ending wins over Houston (18-for-25, 236 yards, two TDs) and Tampa Bay (14-for-21, 148 yards, two TDs). But there have been few positives in his play so far this season.
"He's regressed," Kuharich said. "His problem, to me, is his ability to read defenses, No. 1. Secondly, his accuracy. And thirdly, his inability to process things fast enough and get rid of the ball. He holds on to the ball too long."
"I don't see any development at all in him," said NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger. "I watched Josh Johnson's first two starts and could see development from the first week to the second. He made some throws to Kellen Winslow last week that were great throws. He uses his speed. He uses his athletic ability.
"I don't see that in JaMarcus Russell at all. I don't see any foundation where you put the tape in from 2 years ago and put the tape in from now and see any command of the position and what he's looking at."
Like Mayock, Baldinger questions just how important the game really is to Russell and how much work he's willing to put in to get better.
"JaMarcus just wants everything that goes with being the No. 1 pick and a star NFL quarterback without doing any of the work," he said.
"I did a game for Fox out there last year. I was at their Friday practice. JaMarcus had twisted his knee the day before, but was supposedly fine. He's out there with a sweat shirt and sweat pants on. He's not standing by the quarterbacks coach. He wasn't following the game plan whatsoever. He wasn't even paying attention.
"If you get hurt in practice, all right, that happens. But at least have the [play] script in front of you and be tuned in to what all the calls are and what you're looking at."