Tuesday, December 2, 2008

More on Gaither & the Running Game

Someone asked why the Eagles would play Omar so much as a starter if they truly intended him to be a backup. Excellent question.

The situation is complicated. Gaither played in 2006 because Matt McCoy was really struggling with a shoulder problem. They needed Omar on the field.

He moved to MLB last year because the team liked him and had high hopes. Plus, they wanted to get faster at MLB after seeing Trotter lumber around in 2006. I think we all have nightmares from that Saints playoff game. Gaither was up and down. Stewart Bradley really got our attention with his PT late in the year. They had to get Stew on the field.

Here was my review of Gaither's 2007 season:
* OMAR GAITHER - Began as our backup MLB in the summer and then got the starting job one day at Training Camp. The coaches had seen enough to know that playing him over Trot was the right move. Omar proved the coaches right. He had a good year. He led the team in tackles. The biggest concern most people had with Gaither was his ability to play the run. I'd say Omar handled the run just fine. Sure, he had some missed tackles and bad plays, but all LBs do. Considering it was his first year as a starting at MLB, you can say Omar had a very good season.

His strength came in playing the pass. Omar had 8 passes defensed. He had one INT. Picked off a pass intended for Shockey. Ran the ball back 49 yards. Broke up a pass in the endzone vs the Jets. Played the pass very well in the Pats game. Omar covered well, whether dealing with backs, receivers, or TEs.

On the negative side...Omar did show his limitations. In the second WAS game he read the play and yelled "screen pass". Omar knew what was coming, but still overran the play and gave up a gain of 12 to Portis. He's got to play under more control there. Gaither blitzed up the middle all year, but never got a sack. He only had 4 TFLs. That number should be closer to 8-10 the way we let our MLB attack up the field. Omar lacks natural power and closing speed.

I think the team loved the thought of a young set of LBs. Spikes got the heave-ho and Omar went back outside. The hope was that he'd be a better fit there. He had shown some promise in 2006. The biggest problem I have with Gaither is the lack of "plays". In 3 years he has 3.5 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 FFs, and one FR. That's more like a great game than a 3-year span.

Akeem Jordan has 2 FRs in his limited PT this year. Speed can make things happen. Omar is smart. He's a leader. He's not fast or athletic.

Gaither started 32 straight games from '06-present. Going from that to just STer is hard. Ike Reese didn't have to make that transition. Ike got precious few starts early in his career so being a backup was easier to accept (not easy though).

At this point just as important as the why of Gaither's benching are the results. Jordan has played well. The team allowed only 13 points in 5 quarters in his first start. In the next one he was part of an effort that slowed down the #2 offense in the league and limited them to 20 points. Those are good results. He's playing good football and the unit is too.

This is far from an ideal situation. Gaither has always been a high-character guy. Now he's put in a tough position. He is being told "we want you to sign an extension and to be part of our future" at the same time he's being told "you're not good enough". That has got to bewilder him. I know it would me.

Omar can complain about the timing, but he can't complain about not being given a chance. The Eagles have made moves each year to get him on the field. They wanted him to work out. This is a player they liked a lot. The problem is that they can't seem to find anywhere that he's suited to start and thrive in their system. Having him as a backup and STer would be ideal for the team. It just isn't ideal for Omar.

I hope something gets worked out and he stays around, but I have a bad feeling he'll go elsewhere. Omar could be a solid MLB in a different system...I think. I don't know if any team will be completely comfortable with the way he plays in space. I don't know if anyone will pay him what he wants and guarantee him a job. No matter what happens, I hope Omar finds his niche somewhere.


Playcalling had a definite part in the success of the running game. The coaches stuck with the rushing attack. ARZ stuck with their Nickel defense for basically the entire 1st half. That gave us a running advantage. Our passing attack was effective enough to keep the Cardinals thinking that the way to go was keeping their Nickel in the game.

It also helped that we ran from base formations and exotic looks. Shotgun could mean passing or running. That kept their defense on their heels and allowed our OL to control the line of scrimmage.

Clancy Pendergast, Arizona's very good Defensive Coordinator, was kept off balance throughout the 1st half. He didn't know what to expect. Our balanced attack and good line play kept him from ever getting a good read on exactly what we were going to do. We could run and throw with equal effectiveness.

That sure was a fun offense to watch, huh?

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