I will reserve judgement on whether the absolutely enjoyable result of this past SUN is the sign of something positive or just a momentary respite in the slog of an up an down season.
But there are 3 early trends so far that bear highlighting, first because they are so dramatically superior to what we suffered through only a season ago and second, they look solid enough now to say with some confidence they can be maintained and actually(gasp)relied upon for continued success
Three critical positions and players conspired to form the perfect storm of suckitude, enough to render 3 different units virtually inept - affecting tactics, limiting the playbook and having the knock on effect of making the performances from the players around them suffer.
Of course I speak of :
- RT - M Columbo, PK - D Buehler and FS - A Ball.
Think of what we have now in their stead:
- RT - T Smith, PK - D Bailey and FS - A Elam
OL is still under construction, and Smith has had a few ill-timed lapses, but there is no mistaking the upgrade at the corner and no reason to think it will get better and stay better for a while. The shame is MC gave us some great years, showed toughness and gave the OL some grit - all for a pretty minimal cost. But he'll be more remembered for his decline starting around his all-too-early return in the MIN playoff game.
What can I say about Danny Bailey - my psyche and liver thank you. How did we go from missed XP's/FG's costing us games to 16 in a row? JJ - I give you the grief when it goes bad, gotta give you the love here. My only bitch is why did a under-performing starter have to go down to find our diamond in the rough(anyone see a pattern here - Miles, Murray...?)
The credit for Elam starts with JG, believe it or not. Impressive move hiring his polar opposite - temperament wise and not screwing around in doing so. Sounded like he knew RR was his man early on in the process and basically made sure JJ got the deal done so he could keep him off the market and get down to business. I would love to sit in on a late night skull session between the 2,' OK, it's 1st and 10 at the 35, 1:45 left only 1 TO, I come out in trips right with a SE on the left. What's the D call.? Easy, hunt QB, Kill.'
Elam is more than a plug and play part, he is the code-breaker for the rest of the D and versatile in his play - no one is getting over the top and run support is solid.
At this time last year we were 1-4 and starting to free fall - coming off the MIN loss and about to lose our QB while witnessing Cowboy team give up on national TV.
These are what make up the positive trend lines that lend promise to a team positioning itself for a run in the not-too-distant future. Holes remain and even abound. PHL represents a stern test for some new found confidence and running game - a hostile environment against a near-desperate rival.