Will Philadelphia Eagles' Defensive Woes Erase Gains of Electric Offense?
The good news for the Philadelphia Eagles is the new-look offense is tearing it up. Quarterback Michael Vick is off to the hottest start of his career, as are top weapons DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy. Vick has a passer rating of 119.0 two games in, and Jackson has posted two of his top six all-time games in terms of receptions.
The bad news is the Eagles are only 1-1 because the defense is once again a mess.
Yes, it appears what took place when Philly shut down Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins offense during the first half of their opener was a mirage. On the road and on short rest, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was nearly perfect against this dazed Eagles defense Sunday as the Bolts piled up 539 yards of offense.
The primary issue at play here is that they're keeping that explosive, uptempo offense on the sideline.
This defense surrendered only three first downs during those first two quarters in Washington, but it has given up 53 in the six quarters since. At halftime against the Redskins, the Eagles had controlled the ball 68 percent of the time. Since then, they've been on the field only 36 percent of the time.
"Couldn't get them off the field," said head coach Chip Kelly, per a team press release. "We have to do a better job generating the pass rush. We went up against an outstanding quarterback. Good, pass‑catch combination with him and Gates, and didn't seem like we handled that very well."
|First half vs. 'Skins||Six quarters since|
|Time of possession on offense||68%||36%|
|Opponent passer rating||22.2||110.7|
Stats from NFL.com
And it could have been worse. The Eagles gave up 33 points Sunday despite the fact the Chargers had two red-zone turnovers. All said and done, they've allowed 768 passing yards thus far, which, according to CSN Philly, is the sixth-most allowed in NFL history after two games.
It's hard to pinpoint the problem because it's vast. Despite the fact that Rivers dropped back 48 times with King Dunlap as his left tackle, the Philly pass rush had only a single sack and not close to enough pressure, but sloppy coverage, poor angles and missed tackles were ubiquitous.
We probably had our first clue trouble was coming when safety Patrick Chung made this amateur-hour premature leap on a Redskins touchdown late in the opener Monday:
They could probably use some safety help, especially with Chung struggling and Kenny Phillips gone.
"Everybody's allotted to their team either through draft or free agency," said Kelly, "but I don't think there are any free-agent safeties that are standing on the streets unemployed right now."
Kerry Rhodes might disagree, but sadly this goes far beyond that lack of talent. The scheme just isn't working right now. They blitzed a lot Sunday but couldn't get home, and a lot of these guys appear to be lost and confused far too often.
“Philip Rivers just seemed to know everything that we were trying to throw at him,” said Cary Williams, per Tim McManus of PhillyMag.com.
This might take more time than the Eagles can afford.
"I hope so," said Kelly, when asked if their defensive problems are correctable. "This doesn't feel good, does it? We better make sure we can correct it. We have a game in four days. We're going to come out against a team that likes to throw the football, and we have to be ready to play."
The defensive transition could be a long, hard process. This is a team that led the NFL in missed tackles last season, according to Football Outsiders, and it won't be easy to improve in that area as they deal with the switch from a simple 4-3 defense to one that will eventually possess a significant number of extra layers.
|Missed tackles||Missed tackle %|
|1. Philadelphia Eagles||83||8.5|
|2. Atlanta Falcons||78||7.9|
|3. Baltimore Ravens||76||7.1|
The offense is exciting and is putting up big numbers, but it's tough to compete in this league—and especially in this division—if you can't stop anyone.
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