2011 Philadelphia Eagles Notebook 10/12 Practice: Jason Avant Calls Players Only Meeting, Team Rallies Around Reid by Matt Lombardo

It was a day of circling the wagons for the Philadelphia Eagles at the Novacare Complex on Wednesday. At 1-4, the players realize that their season hangs in the balance depending on Sunday’s result in Washington against the first place Redskins. Veteran receiver Jason Avant asked the team to stay after a weekly meeting for an impromptu players only meeting.

According to multiple players, the veteran receiver stressed the urgency of the situation the team faces and the importance of unity through adversity. Many have wondered where the leadership on this team would come from during these early struggles and Avant has emerged as a veteran spokesman in the locker room in recent years.

Amid a woeful start to the season Head Coach Andy Reid has faced heavy scrutiny from the media and fans, something the players have noticed.

“He’s our coach,” quarterback Michael Vick said. “And we’ll stand by him until the end.”

Vick wasn’t the only Eagle standing by their head coach.

“I don’t want to see anyone go, especially on our account,” defensive end Brandon Graham said. “I know his program, I know his system now and if somebody else comes in you have to learn everything all over again. We can handle this now, we can come together as a team as soon as possible and play football the way we know how to.”

The Eagles defense has left much to be desired through nearly a third of the season. Jim Washburn’s wide nine alignment along the defensive line has drawn been under fire largely because of the team’s 30th  ranked rush defense that has resulted. Graham thinks that it comes down to better linebacker play.

“Honestly, I think the linebackers need to do a better job,” Graham lauded. “It comes down to filling the gaps and right now they just aren’t doing that.”

Meanwhile according to multiple league sources the Eagles are in a precarious situation regarding the wide nine. Per multiple sources, Washburn insists on using the wide nine system, and has said that he would retire once again if anyone tried to persuade him to scrap it.

Along those lines, reports surfaced late Monday night that the Eagles were considering hiring a defensive consultant to aid defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and the coaching staff. ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio reported today that ESPN NFL analyst and former Browns Head Coach Eric Mangini was offered and declined the position.

Andy Reid adamantly denied those reports on Wednesday.

“Nobody. Zero. Nothing,” Reid said when asked about the subject. The Head Coach also said that the reporters were all fabricated.

Philadelphia kicks off in Washington against the Redskins on Sunday, and it’s hard to believe that with a win and a Giants loss, the Eagles would only be one game behind New York for the NFC East lead. The Birds spent Wednesday rallying around their Head Coach and one another, but it will be the results on the field that define whether or not this is even a season that is salvageable at this point.

Only five teams have made the playoffs since 1990 after starting 1-4, and no teams have made the postseason starting 1-5.

Other Player Videos from Practice

Matt Lombardo is the Philadelphia Eagles beat  reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL or by Email at MDLombardo@yahoo.com

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