Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Eagles’ Reid can live with youthful mistakes

Sloth infuriates Andy Reid.

Sloppy preparation makes him seethe.

Shabby execution puts Big Red on a slow boil.

The effects generally last a week or so.

By all rights, Reid should have been a furious, seething, red-hot hunk of burnin' coach Thursday night and Friday afternoon.

He was none of those things.

Reid knows what he has. He is living with it.

The Eagles surrendered four straight possessions Thursday night. They held claim to the ball for 86 seconds in that span, and ran one successful offensive play.

The Bengals, an indifferent organization with little claim to character, turned the four turnovers into 24 points. The Bengals had blown a 10-point first-half lead and they were lying down, fetal, absorbing the blows of a short-rest road loss in the meaty parts of their body the best that they could.

And then the Eagles tripped over their own hobnailed boots, and, suddenly, they were wretched again.





Poof, 13-10 became 34-13, the NFL's rightful order restored.

Rightful? Yes.

None of the turnovers should come as a surprise.

Not one.

That's why Reid isn't angry.

It is why he isn't angry at the fifth gaffe, either: a blocked punt due to an overmatched blocker.

Interception? Rookie quarterback, fifth start.

Fumble? Rookie running back, fourth start.

Fumble? Exhausted, third-year player in his first start as the featured tight end.

Muff? First-year defensive lineman in his 14th career game.


"The young guys have to grow up quickly and the old guys that had the turnovers have got to make sure that they detail their work, don't try to do too much \[and\] make sure that you take care of business when you have the football in your hand," Reid said.

He spoke like an Ivy League professor just finished with first-term grading.

The fifth of the six turnovers involved a rookie receiver in his third game after spending the first 3 months on the practice squad. Remember, the practice squad is where players linger and learn if nobody else in the league wants them.

That, really, was the most ridiculous-looking of the errors.

Marvin McNutt — a lanky rookie receiver out of Iowa who was recruited as a quarterback — was blocked into a punt by Daniel Herron, a bowling ball of a running back who had blocked a punt in the previous game. As the Big Ten's top receiver last year, McNutt probably didn't do much protection on the edge of the Hawkeyes' punt unit ... and as his high school's star QB, he certainly wasn't blocking on special teams.

McNutt had replaced Jason Avant, a special-teams star and the No. 3 wideout whose responsibilities in the offense increased when DeSean Jackson was lost for the season ... which, in turn, caused McNutt to be signed from the practice squad.

The result: a mess.

So was most of the rest of the debacle.

Nick Foles' flawed footwork and mechanics led to an underthrow of about 10 yards. That was the first of the four consecutive turnovers.

Dynamic rookie running back Bryce Brown had never seen a man as big and mean as defensive tackle Pat Sims bearing down on him, so when Sims came free on the second play of the next possession, it was only human nature — the self-preservation gene — that tore his focus from receiving the handoff to recoiling at the sight.

But then, Brown only played 13 games in college before he decided that the BCS machine was not for him and decided to become a pro.

Part of being a professional includes securing the football. He fumbled three times in his first two starts. Each of those cost the Eagles dearly, too. Still, Reid knows what he has in Brown ... and what Brown lacks.

"He needs to play," Reid said. "That's why I haven't sat him down because of the fumbles. He missed a lot of football. The thing he needs most is to be out there and playing and learning the game."

And learning means making mistakes.

Like when Cedric Thornton muffed away the fourth-quarter kickoff.

Now, why would a 6-4, 309-pound defensive lineman be in position to muff a kickoff? Because, as a reserve who spent all of 2011 on the practice squad, Thornton must earn his bread on special teams.

Next time, he should earn his bread by waving one of his long arms for a fair catch.

The two least-forgivable turnovers belong to veteran receiver Jeremy Maclin and seasoned tight end Clay Harbor.

Maclin was running a wide-receiver screen on the second play of the game, the danger of which is twofold. First, he is not used to running with the football in close confines, and therefore does not grip it tightly to his body. Second, he is at risk of being run down by a larger, stronger defender than he is accustomed to encountering.

Carlos Dunlap is 6-6 and weighs 280. His swipe at the semi-exposed ball was perfectly executed.

As for the fumble at the end of the third quarter by Harbor, well, he, like Maclin, was in an unfamiliar position.

Harbor replaced injured full-time starter Brent Celek, which means that, by the end of the third quarter, Harbor, in his third season, had used about as much energy as he normally would use in two full games.

These are not excuses.

These are explanations.

These are the reasons Andy Reid is not apoplectic this weekend.

Seven of his regular offensive starters did not play Thursday.

Great things were expected of the Birds this season, but Foles and Brown and McNutt and Thornton do not a Dream Team make.

"I mentioned this at the beginning of the year: Are there going to be mistakes with your rookies? Yeah, there are going to be mistakes," he said. "As you go on, you're going to have to limit those. We are late in the season, and we have guys who are learning on the job here. If there is a positive, it's a good experience for them to have so they can do better when they have the chance to be the full-time guy."


Expect more of the same.