ONCE YOU GET by the fact that they are talking about different phases of football, Eagles coordinators Bobby April, Sean McDermott and Marty Mornhinweg hit on a common theme for what's ailing the Birds.

"We have some issues," April, the Eagles' special-teams coordinator, said yesterday while trying to explain his unit's struggling play. "We have to get off blocks. We have to make better judgments in a couple of things . . .

"We have a tremendous challenge to keep always getting better on the kickoff coverage because it's not solved. It's just in the process of improving.

"But no, I don't wonder about the talent. I would say that I have to do a better job helping them make better judgments."

And this was offensive coordinator Mornhinweg discussing a brutal offensive line that collected four more costly holding penalties in the Eagles' 17-12 loss to the Washington Redskins.

"Now I thought there was one close call," he said. "A couple others that were just perfect positioning and took him to the ground. You can't do that in this league anymore.

"You cannot twist a guy and put him on the ground, and a couple of those occurred. And there have been a couple of the holding calls that were just not needed.

"Now the discipline thing, the presnap or postsnap, but during the play, we've just got to get that corrected because it's holding us back just a little bit."

Once you decipher that, Mornhinweg said his linemen need to be more disciplined and not take stupid penalties.

And finally, this was from McDermott, the defensive coordinator whose squad is ranked 27th in run defense after getting gashed by the Redskins.

"It comes down to technique and toughness, so we can work on both of those," McDermott said. "We're working on them this week. Techniques need to be right in order to play the run game the right way, and then we've got to have a physical presence up front with our front seven."

Let me see if I have this - special-teams players who don't know how to get off blocks; offensive linemen who can't figure out the rules; and a defense that isn't showing enough toughness.

A quarter of the way into the season, and each of the Eagles coordinators is still trying to teach his unit the basics.

Aren't these the type of things that should have been resolved during a month of training camp, four preseason games and - even if it got this far - four regular-season games?

How can a team go into a Week 5 game at the San Francisco 49ers not knowing some of the basics of offense, defense and special teams?

"You'd like to think that you have a tough group coming into training camp," McDermott said. "I think we have a tough group.

"But you've got to bring that toughness every week. You look around the NFL right now; it's a league about inconsistencies and parity. You've got to bring your 'A' game with the mental side of the game. You've got to bring your physical side as well."

Here's what I'm thinking:

The Eagles' issues are the result of either one or two things - either the coaches aren't doing a good enough job or there simply isn't enough talent there for them to do much with.

Offensive linemen who are continually penalized are usually trying to overcompensate for the fact that they will get beat straight up if all things are equal.

A special-teams unit that hints that its big-footed punter might sometimes out-kick his coverage is generally trying to marginalize the fact that it can't get downfield and make a tackle before a guy has gained 20 yards.

A defense that continually has to get smacked around before it decides it has had enough and fights back, is, well, kind of wimpy.

It's hard to imagine that those shortcomings, which are still on display, simply can be "coached" away.

At this point of a season, I'd say those are simply the characteristics of the players who are put on the field.

McDermott, Mornhinweg and April all say they have players who are talented enough to get the job done.

I wonder.

"I know what you're talking about," April said with accompanying hand gestures. "You're talking about the paradox of the plays that you need the greatest judgment where you have the biggest space, the widest space, the longest space and the highest space.

"You have the three dimensions there, length, height and width, and why do you have the bottom part of your roster out there on those plays?

"That's just the nature of football. So, I think we have the talent, and I think we have the judgment, but they have to bring it to the front on those plays because those space plays are space plays."

Um . . . let's just see what happens on Sunday.

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