AFTER LAST Sunday night's game, Marty Mornhinweg said one of his responsibilities as the Eagles' offensive coordinator is to make sure DeSean Jackson is getting the ball enough. Jackson acknowledged he isn't shy about reinforcing that point with Mornhinweg, quarterback Donovan McNabb or coach Andy Reid.
Truth is, Mornhinweg can be pulled in a lot of directions these days.
The Eagles, who are pretty much assured of a playoff berth if they defeat the visiting 49ers Sunday, might never have fielded this many weapons. The Birds are 6-1 without Brian Westbrook, an unthinkable situation as recently as last season. It was apparent early this year that Jackson intended to just keep improving on his impressive 2008 rookie campaign, and that tight end Brent Celek was blossoming as a full-time starter, but plenty of other pleasant discoveries happened along the way.
Despite lackluster totals the past 2 weeks, LeSean McCoy seems a cinch to become the most productive rookie running back of the Reid era (McCoy has 139 carries for 558 yards and 34 catches for 256). Jeremy Maclin (not expected to play this week with a foot injury), is third among NFL rookies with 46 catches, despite having left last week's game without a catch. Improvising, Mornhinweg has often struck gold, such as when he finally started giving fullback Leonard Weaver the ball a little and Weaver started grabbing passes one-handed and rambling 59 yards with them, as he did in Atlanta. When teams were scheming to take away other options, Mornhinweg found he could lean on slot receiver Jason Avant for 17 catches in a three-game span, for 276 yards.
Then there is the whole Michael Vick business. As Mornhinweg reiterated yesterday, the first half of the season was Vick's training camp. The past 2 weeks, with his legs and timing back, Vick has run for two scores and thrown for one, completing three of four passes for 80 yards, rushing seven times for 28 yards.
"They all want the ball," Mornhinweg said yesterday. "Every one of them wants the ball, and those are the types of players we want."
Mornhinweg said he doesn't stand around during games, tallying who has gotten what so far, who might be getting left out.
"I like to use all eligible runners and receivers and do it in sort of a dynamic way," he said. "You have to get the ball to your dynamic players just a little bit more, so I try and do that just a bit, throughout the game."
The offense has been running smoothly throughout this four-game win streak, in which the Birds have scored at least 24 points each game. It faces a challenge this week from a 49ers defense that has allowed just 32 points in its last three games.
San Francisco endured a four-game losing streak in October and November but has stopped the bleeding, and retains faint playoff hopes at 6-7, hopes that can't withstand a loss Sunday. The 49ers are 1-6 on the road this season, their only victory coming in the season opener against the Cardinals. This week, they were impressive in their Monday-night victory over Arizona that swept the season series.
"This defense can make a really good offense struggle," Mornhinweg said.
After what the Eagles did last week, you can probably expect the 49ers to try to take away Jackson, especially with Maclin presumably missing. Jackson will lobby with Mornhinweg for more work, but unlike a certain weapon the Eagles once had, DJax seems to keep a pretty good perspective on the ultimate goal, and on not becoming disruptive.
"You kind of have to let it come to you. It's not going to always be glitter and gold. You can't always go out there and expect to have games like that," Jackson said this week. "Hopefully, they keep coming my way. That'd definitely be nice, but at the end of the day, all that matters is winning games."
Just about everybody says that, of course, all across pro sports. The knack is in finding guys who really believe it, who walk the walk.
If you ask McCoy, he is still nothing more than Westbrook's apprentice, the guy keeping the chair warm. Avant, coming off that three-game stretch as an offensive fulcrum, caught three passes at Atlanta, none last week. (Although he did catch a two-point conversion pass against the Giants that doesn't figure into the game stats.)
"The guys that they draft are winners," Avant said yesterday. "When you're used to winning, you're used to having to let other guys play their games, and if they're successful, they're successful. We're just thankful that we're in an organization that wants to win. My coaches growing up always let me know that there's only one football, man.
"There are a lot of good players in this room . . . If you have the mentality of murmuring and complaining, those guys are never in the league long. Plus, what do we have to murmur and complain about? We're in good position [to make the playoffs]. We're doing good."
Twenty of Weaver's 45 carries have come in the last 3 weeks; he ran the ball just four times the first six games, but his outlook and demeanor have remained unchanged.
"I think it's a challenge for an offensive coordinator to have a lot of weapons; usually you hear about a team having one or two guys . . . One thing we don't have to worry about is going against each other, or anything like that," Weaver said. "We understand that this whole thing is about winning the Super Bowl."