The Eagles are one of the most entertaining teams to watch. They put up points (averaging 30.5 per game this year). They also give em up (allowing nearly 25 on average). So what's the real deal behind the Chip Kelly curtain?
To pull it back, I linked up with Brandon Gowton from Bleeding Green Nation, SB Nation's community for fans of the Philadelphia Eagles.
So through four games, what have you really learned about the 2014 Eagles? I'm confused. A year ago, you guys led the league in rushing yards. This year, you're 26th in rushing yards per game. The defense is allowing 26 points per game. Outside of the Jaguars game, you guys have been in three close battles decided by a total of 11 points. Are you concerned at the tightness of the games or pleased that they've gotten two big results and nearly pulled out a win on the road in San Francisco?
The Eagles just have not been able to put together a solid 60 minutes of football. As cliche as it might sound, they have not found a way to put together a complete game. Winning games close is both good and bad. On one hand, the Eagles are almost never out of the game. On the other hand, truly good teams needs to beat up on lesser opponents and put games out of reach. What we've learned about the Eagles is that they have potential to be a really good team. If the Eagles can win games while not playing to their full potential, that seems to bode well for the future if they can find a way fix their mistakes. The problem is they haven't been able to do that yet. There's no guarantee they will live up to their potential, but there are some reasons for optimism. As you mentioned, this team is potentially only a few yards away from being 4-0.
As to the offense, does it look radically different this year than last year? Is the lack of run production due to (a) defenses crowding the box, (b) a play toward the pass to take advantage of defenses mentally or schematically concerned about the run (I would point out here that you guys ended up nearly passing the ball the same number of times you ran it; this year, it's about 2:1) or is it (c) just a small sample size that's not really indicative of where you guys are headed? Or is it (d) INSERT CORRECT ANSWER HERE?
The run game struggles really start up front with Philadelphia's banged up offensive line. The Eagles entered the season knowing right tackle Lane Johnson would be serving a four-game suspension. Backup guard Matt Tobin also suffered a high ankle injury in the team's final preseason game and would miss a few weeks. Then Philadelphia lost All-Pro left guard Evan Mathis and fill-in starter Allen Barbre due to injury in Week 1. Starting center Jason Kelce was next to go down in Week 3. Mathis, Kelce, and Johnson are all athletic offensive line who excel at run-blocking, especially when it comes to getting to the second level and making blocks downfield. Eagles star running back LeSean McCoy just hasn't had the kind of room to run he had last season. With that said, McCoy cannot be completely absolved of blame. He just doesn't look like his usual self out there. It almost seems like he's not 100% health wise, though the Eagles have insisted he's not injured.
Defensively, what should Rams fans anticipate? How apparent has the loss of Mychal Kendricks been the last two weeks?
I maintain that the Eagles are a little bit better on defense than it appears. Volume stats such as yards allowed, etc. will never favor them due to their quick-strike (or as of Week 4, completely ineffective) offense that doesn't stay on the field for very long. The defense faces a lot of plays. Philadelphia ranks 12th overall in yards allowed per play with an average of 5.3. Points per play ranks 13th at 0.353. The Eagles own the 6th best opponent third down conversion percentage at 36.67%. The Eagles have forced a takeaway in 17 straight contests.
Now I'm not trying to say the Eagles are some great defense. They still have a number of issues, namely pass coverage and pass rush. Those are areas where the absence of Mychal Kendricks is felt. Kendricks is one of the team's best pass rushers and just an overall athletic playmaker. The drop off from him to the three-man rotation of Emmanuel Acho, Casey Matthews, and rookie Marcus Smith II is significant.
Have any rookies besides Jordan Matthews carved out a role yet? Any concern that the draft class essentially addressed the D-line, secondary and WRs and no other units? For example, is there any remorse that the Eagles didn't add an offensive lineman?
Extra Reads on Sunday's Game
Extra Reads on Sunday's Game
Only two rookies have carved out a role outside of Matthews. First round pick outside linebacker Marcus Smith II, as previously mentioned, is earning some snaps at inside linebacker. Smith II's role here seems to be both emergency-based and experimental. He hasn't really stood out one way or the other in limited snaps. Seventh round draft pick Beau Allen serves as the team's backup nose tackle and plays a designated amount of snaps per game. It's a small role but he serves it well. He's been able to generate pressure from that position.
Eagles GM Howie Roseman even admitted the team was upset they didn't get a chance to draft an offensive lineman. Given the Eagles' decimated offensive line and the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to slam them for not drafting at least one. Then again, there's no guarantee that rookie would have been able to come in and make a difference. As you're well aware, No. 2 overall pick offensive lineman Greg Robinson isn't even starting for the Rams right now. Philadelphia had a decent group of backups behind their five starters, but any offensive line is going to struggle when they're missing three starters (Mathis, Kelce, Johnson) and two top backup options (Barbre, Tobin).
State of the franchise question. Obviously, everyone's enamored with Chip Kelly right now. Are the expectations beyond just making the playoffs? Is there any fan discord in regards to the staff or the front office?
I think there's absolutely expectations beyond just making the playoffs. The team made it to the postseason last year and came close to defeating the New Orleans Saints at home. Just making the playoffs and losing in the first round again wouldn't be a total failure but it wouldn't be as acceptable as it was last season.
Eagles GM Howie Roseman and defensive coordinator Bill Davis both catch flak. Not to some major extent, I'd say, but each have their fair share of detractors. With Roseman, some people can't let the DeSean Jackson situation go. Overall, however, I would say *most* people are on board with the team's approach moving into the future.
Hook me up with a prediction.
31-20, Eagles win
Thanks to Brandon for the time.