Let’s get this out of the way now: that Giants pass rush is ferocious, and with targets like L.J. Smith and Reggie Brown doing their best to jog to and sit down in completely covered zones, McNabb’s avoiding the rush was quite frankly spectacular. He’s moving incredibly well and with good speed.
Oh, and in case you want to dispute how crappy the receiver set McNabb has is, here’s Mike Tanier from Football Outsiders:
You know who I don’t want to see play football anymore? L.J. Smith. He didn’t have a terrible statistical game [against the Seahawks], but he missed some opportunities to haul in catchable balls that would have made a difference. I am tired of seeing him fall down after every catch. His production can be measured in Inches After Catch. This is a contract year, I think, so hopefully I won’t see him in Philly next year. He’s not terrible; he just seems like a guy we’ve been settling for four years while Chris Cooley, Jason Witten, and Jeremy Shockey make a difference for the other teams in the division.
And regarding Reggie Brown, Jason Hutt has this observation from earlier in the season:
Reggie Brown looked disinterested against both the Giants and Redskins. Fairly disappointing in what should be a breakout year.
But back to McNabb – his throws were pretty decent too, but what makes McNabb especially good is his ability to read the field.
All of you who were praising Feeley because of his throwing the ball out on a first read, I think, have to eat crow (h/t to Josh for pointing out Feeley’s “quickness” as going to his first read. Also, I should credit Josh for the “blame Andy Reid for this crap season” view, he’s the one who’s been quite forward about how stupid the playcalling has been generally). Feeley’s picks in previous games were a direct result of that “throw the ball immediately” mentality, and watching the coverage the Giants were playing he would have thrown probably 5 interceptions that game. I could be wrong about this, but my suspicion is that the “McNabb holds the ball too long” complaint should really be praise for him being patient and not trying to force plays.
That McNabb completes the number of passes he does to this receiver set makes me wonder what would happen if we asked Peyton Manning or Tom Brady how successful they might be with only receivers like L.J. Smith or Kevin Curtis. Granted, Curtis and Baskett have been playing great football in terms of run blocking and stepping up the best they can. But they’re not able to get the separation in man coverage or tight zones that is needed to, I dunno, play in the NFL. My money is that if you asked Manning the Greater or Brady about playing with those receivers, they’d laugh in your face. We’ve already seen Manning have hell this year with his starting receivers out.
Josh has observed that the difference this season is who’s missing – Donte Stallworth, as we all know, was on the Eagles last year but actually wanted to get paid for getting open and being a threat. So he was let go and joined New England, which we all know is having a terrible year, and he is an integral part of their carnival of suck.
I remember the days when the Eagles had Charles Johnson and Torrance Small and I was just a kid and even I knew that they weren’t going anywhere with those receivers. I think McNabb deserves better than for the only decent receiver in his tenure here to have been T.O. Roy Williams at Detroit is complaining about his touches there – hint, hint Eagles management, he’d be a great add for next year.
Seriously, this team is getting old and the injury bug will hit next year too. But I think the talent for the future can be cultivated while the current roster is just added to, minus the parts that are utterly and completely unproductive. It’s not clear the receivers Philly has are NFL quality, and the defensive tackles need to most certainly be upgraded, and the secondary needs some more depth (notice the difference in how the defense attacks when Dawkins is out – the defense is far too reliant on him). A few upgrades via free agency while planning some years ahead in the draft isn’t too much to ask for: next season doesn’t have to be as crappy as this one, not at all.