If you thought the Eagles’ 17-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys brought clarity to Philadelphia’s quarterback controversy, you would be mistaken. Birds head coach Chip Kelly refused to name a starter for Week 8 during his day-after press conference.
That, of course, would be because the status of Michael Vick’s and Nick Foles’ health remains unclear. Vick’s hamstring continues to heal slowly, while Foles’ concussion should prevent him from practicing all week after an abysmal performance.
Matt Barkley chucked three interceptions in three possessions in relief of Foles on Sunday, so you can understand why there’s no hurry to name him the starter.
Regardless of who winds up under center for the Eagles against the New York Giants, a win might be essential to keep pace in the NFC East. With their victory in Philly, Dallas now owns sole possession of first place and a comfortable lead.
NFC East Standings
|Dallas Cowboys||4-3||Last: 17-3 W @ PHI||Next: @ DET|
|Philadelphia Eagles||3-4||Last: 17-3 L vs. DAL||Next: vs. NYG|
|Washington Redskins||2-4||Last: 45-41 W vs. CHI||Next: @ DEN|
|new York Giants||1-6||Last: 23-7 W vs. MIN||Next: @ PHI|
Dallas Cowboys (4-3)
Is this the year Dallas finally makes it back to the playoffs? It’s going on four years since the last time the Cowboys appeared in the tournament in 2009, when Tony Romo earned his first and only career win in the postseason.
They certainly made their path a little easier with a W over the Birds, a game the Cowboys won without key personnel on both sides of the ball. Dallas now owns victories over every team in the division, and given how weak everybody else looks right now, they might be able to coast across the finish line.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)
Losing to the Cowboys was a setback, but the Eagles will have a chance to make that win up at Dallas in Week 17. Keeping pace until then might be easier said than done, though, if Matt Barkley is at the helm for any significant amount of time—like one game.
Besides Dallas, five of Philadelphia’s eight remaining opponents have losing records, so there should be plenty of opportunity to hang around until the end. A loss to the Giants would complicate the path to a division championship, though, so here’s hoping Michael Vick’s hammy is ready to go.
Washington Redskins (2-4)
Suddenly, Washington looks like a team that might be a team their NFC East brethren need to keep an eye on. A 45-41 win over the Chicago Bears in Week 7 was by far the Skins’ best effort this season.
The difference has been Robert Griffin III, who looks much further along in his recovery from a torn ACL the past couple weeks. You can tell because he’s running with the football again. The second-year passer has gained 161 yards on the ground in the two weeks since Washington’s bye compared to 72 in four games prior.
New York Giants (1-6)
Well, it only took seven weeks, but the Giants earned their first win of the season over a 1-4 Vikings squad on Monday night. They’ll have a chance to make it two in a row in Philadelphia this Sunday.
Week 8 Opponent: New York Giants
When we last saw the Giants—just three short weeks ago—they had a situation at running back. The fossil known as Brandon Jacobs was the leading rusher for New York that day, carrying 11 times for 37 yards.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. One-hit wonder Peyton Hillis and seventh-round rookie Michael Cox were toting the rock for the G-men on Monday, combining to carry 29 times for 59 yards—good for a 2.0 average.
That puts a lot of pressure on Eli Manning, but the signal-caller finally managed to go 60 minutes without turning the ball over, a first for the Giants this season. Still, you’ve got to like the Eagles’ chances if they can shut down the running game again and force Manning to beat them. Eli tossed three second-half interceptions in the Week 5 loss to Philly.
|Nick Foles||Concussion||Left Sunday's Game|
|Michael Vick||Hamstring||DNP Week 7|
Clearly, the situation to monitor this week is at quarterback, where the Eagles are already making moves just in case neither Mike Vick nor Nick Foles is able to go. Early reports from outlets such as CSNPhilly.com's Reuben Frank have G.J. Kinne joining the practice squad, and he would then be added to the 53-man roster in the event Vick and Foles are inactive.
Foles seems less likely to suit up at this point. Even if he was cleared to play by Friday, a concussion would keep the second-year passer out of practice all week, which it was evident on Sunday he desperately needs.
That means the Birds are praying for a Vick return, which is not a given either. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer was reporting on Monday that the four-time Pro Bowler might play even if he’s not 100 percent, but head coach Chip Kelly denied anybody was going out there unless they’re completely healthy.
What Must Improve (Everybody but the Defense Edition)
You really couldn’t ask for more from the Eagles defense in the loss to the Cowboys. Holding any opponent to 17 points is usually good enough to win in the NFL. Doing it when the offense punts the ball away nine times and turns it over three more is downright impressive.
The fact is, while Philadelphia’s defense has had its bad days this season, they’ve actually been solid more often than not. San Diego and Denver are the only offenses to drop more than 21 points on the Birds, which tells us the D is keeping them in the game most weeks. With that in mind, let’s explore how the league’s third-ranked offense can help them out a little.
Running the Football
The Eagles may still lead the NFL in rushing with 165.0 yards per game, but not for long at this rate. LeSean McCoy has been increasingly less effective in recent weeks as the chart shows.
|@ DEN||16 ATT||73 YDS||4.6 AVG||0 TD|
|@ NYG||20 ATT||46 YDS||2.3 AVG||1 TD|
|@ TB||25 ATT||116 YDS||4.6 AVG||0 TD|
|vs. DAL||18 ATT||55 YDS||3.1 AVG||0 TD|
There’s really no correlation with who’s under center. McCoy has looked ordinary whether it was Mike Vick or Nick Foles in the game, although there’s no denying a quarterback who is also a threat to run could open things up for the back.
Either way, the Birds must find a way to get McCoy going again. This offense with its dearth of wide receivers and inconsistent quarterback play relies on those explosive plays from the running game. Without them, it won’t matter who is taking snaps.
Get DeSean Jackson Involved
As important as McCoy has been for the Eagles, DeSean Jackson is the catalyst for the offense. Philadelphia has a 3-1 record and is averaging 32.5 points per game when Jackson catches a touchdown pass, while it is 0-3 with 13.0 points per game when he does not.
Of course, it’s not always so simple getting Jackson into rhythm when he draws so much attention from defenses, but he’s been undeniably crucial to their success. How the offense gets the ball in his hands is for Chip Kelly to figure out, but Jackson needs to get into the end zone in order for the Eagles to maintain a pulse.
It should go without saying that teams typically can’t win in today’s NFL without some kind of competent play under center. Had the Eagles gotten any kind of reasonable production from their quarterback against the Cowboys, they win easily.
Instead, Nick Foles gave quite possibly the worst performance of any signal-caller this season. Foles completed just 11 of 29 passes for a pathetic 80 yards, and the only scoring drive he led started at the Dallas 30-yard line.
As somebody who believes whole-heartedly that Mike Vick is not a solution in Philly, at least when he has a bad day, he can move the offense a little by running with the football. Still, to suggest Vick is immune to similarly erratic performances would be incorrect—Week 3 versus Kansas City ringing a bell?
Regardless of who is back there, a little consistency wouldn’t hurt. The Giants have been a mess this season, but Eli Manning still moves the offense and puts points on the board most weeks. The Eagles need somebody who can respond, or they risk falling to a 1-6 team at home.