Eagles offense still stagnant in Donovan McNabb's return

PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb makes few mistakes and doesn't produce enough points. A.J. Feeley moved the offense and threw costly interceptions.

With either quarterback, the Philadelphia Eagles can't win. Is it time for Kevin Kolb?

"Donovan's the quarterback right now," Eagles coach Andy Reid said Monday.

That doesn't mean Kolb won't get a chance to play later this month. Once the Eagles (5-8) are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, there's a chance the coaching staff will take a look at the rookie.

For at least another week, it's McNabb's team. But the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback is having a difficult time leading the offense this season.

With McNabb, the Eagles have scored 195 points and 21 touchdowns in 41 1/2 quarters for an average of 9.4 points per half. When Feeley filled in after McNabb got hurt in the second quarter on Nov. 18, the scoring picked up. He led the Eagles to 76 points and nine TDs in 10 1/2 quarters for an average of 14.5 points per half.

The problem with Feeley is his decision-making. He threw eight interceptions in a short span, including crucial picks late in the fourth quarter that cost the Eagles a chance to beat New England and Seattle in his two starts. McNabb has six interceptions in far more chances, and has always protected the ball well.

So, why can't the Eagles score when McNabb plays?

"It's not all Donovan. Everybody has a little piece of the pie on this thing," Reid said, reiterating a common line.

McNabb had decent numbers in a 16-13 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday. He was 20-for-30 for 179 yards, one TD and no turnovers. But he didn't throw the ball downfield much and didn't complete a pass longer than 19 yards against a defense starting a pair of rookie backups at safety.

If the receivers aren't getting open for McNabb, they certainly did when Feeley played. It could be that McNabb is too cautious and doesn't allow his wideouts to make a play by putting the ball up before they are completely open. Or maybe the playcalling is more conservative when McNabb is in there. It might be that McNabb goes through his reads too quickly and settles for the short passes too often.

"I wouldn't say abnormally cautious. I look at it the other way and say he's being smart with the football," Reid said. "Obviously, he's not throwing the interceptions that could have been devastating. He tried to get the ball to the quick throws as fast as he could get it to them and go from there."

McNabb is clearly not the same player he was before he tore a knee ligament in Week 11 last season. But he showed flashes of his old form at various points this season and is only 31. It's not unrealistic to think he could play at a high level for a few more years. Whether that happens in Philadelphia will be answered after the season.

It would've helped McNabb early in the season when he was still feeling his way around if Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg didn't rely so heavily on the passing game. Giving the ball more to running back Brian Westbrook worked down the stretch last season when Jeff Garcia led the Eagles to a 5-1 record after McNabb got hurt.

Maybe the same strategy would've made a difference in one or two of those close losses -- Philly has lost five games by four points or fewer.

Instead, the Eagles are left to play for nothing except pride the final three weeks.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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