Two short weeks ago, the Philadelphia Eagles featured one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL, averaging 451.6 yards and 27.7 points per game. Now all of a sudden, they can’t get out of their own way—and they’re wasting strong defensive efforts to boot.
The New York Giants became the second team in a row to solve the Birds’ high-octane attack on Sunday, completely sucking the life out of Lincoln Financial Field with a 15-7 win. What’s more, the G-Men themselves were held out of the end zone for 60 minutes, which begs the question as to whether first-year head coach Chip Kelly has the answers for Philly going forward.
Over the past two games, the Eagles are averaging 234.0 yards and just 5.0 points—and those points don’t even belong to the offense in truth. The Birds managed a field goal against the Dallas Cowboys last week after an interception gave them the football in enemy territory, while the touchdown on Sunday came on a botched snap on a New York punt attempt.
So in reality, Philadelphia’s offense has not reached the end zone for two straight games.
Granted, the Eagles have well-documented quarterback issues at the moment. Michael Vick was reinjured during the game, and Nick Foles was unavailable after sustaining a concussion the previous week. That left only Matt Barkley to lead the offense. Regardless, you have to capitalize when the defense does work.
In our weekly report card grades, we score each individual position on some fairly simple criteria. “A” is virtually mistake-free, “B” is good, “C” is average, “D” is passable, and “F” is a complete failure to carry out basic tasks. For example, if we were to narrow it down by entire units, the Eagles defense would receive an “A,” while the offense would take home a “Z-.”
That sounds about right. On to the marks.
Bless his heart for trying, but there is no way Michael Vick should’ve started this game for the Eagles. The 11-year veteran didn’t look anywhere near 100 percent from the outset, and he wound up aggravating the hamstring injury that kept him out the previous two games.
Vick completed six of nine passes for 30 yards with an interception before exiting in the second quarter. He ran only once for one yard.
On the other hand, Matt Barkley didn’t play too poorly all things considered. Once again, the rookie quarterback entered the game with his team already trailing, but unlike Vick, at least he was able to move the offense into Giants territory a few times.
Barkley was 17-of-26 for 158 yards (6.1 AVG) with an interception in garbage time. He was also sacked three times, one of which went for a turnover. Those aren’t great numbers by any means, although not bad either for a fourth-round draft pick with minimal NFL experience.
Again, it’s hard to say how much of the production issues in the ground attack rests with the running backs, in particular LeSean McCoy. There was this one carry on 3rd-and-2, however, where “Shady” could’ve had the first down but made one too many moves and was dropped short.
McCoy was held to 65 yards on 19 total touches. His longest gain was a nine-yard carry. The explosive plays simply haven’t been there in four of the Eagles’ last five games.
Bryce Brown had minus-one yard on three carries and continues trying to turn the corner on every carry—no back in the NFL works harder to gain one yard. He also added a reception for two yards.
DeSean Jackson finished with eight receptions for 63 yards on 11 targets, all on underneath stuff. He gets a huge red mark, though, for his effort on a 3rd-and-8 in the third quarter.
Jackson caught Matt Barkley’s pass in stride on a shallow crossing route, and all he had to do was dive forward to pick up the first down. But there was a defender waiting for the two-time Pro Bowl receiver, so he continued running laterally to avoid the hit.
He didn’t make it. Jackson was tackled short of the sticks, and since the play was deep in the Eagles’ own end (after Jackson mishandled a punt, mind you), the Eagles were forced to kick the ball away.
All other receivers combined for six receptions for 73 yards on 10 targets. Were they open? Weren’t they open? Only the All-22 can tell us for sure. Still the kind of subpar day we’ve come to expect from this group.
This unit hardly warrants a separate grade from wide receiver at this point. For whatever reason, the tight ends are afterthoughts in the passing game, which is not at all what we expected under Chip Kelly.
James Casey had a rare catch for 11 yards, Brent Celek led the way with two for 17, and Zach Ertz was limited to one for five yards despite being targeted four times. It’s hard to believe their work as blockers is making up for their lack of production in the Birds passing game.
One area where the offensive line seemed to have little trouble for much of the afternoon was in pass protection. Most of the sacks were a result of the quarterback holding on to the ball too long, and more often than not, there was a comfortable pocket for the passer to climb.
The Eagles have really struggled to open up holes in the running game, though, especially in the first half. McCoy carried seven times for 14 yards in quarters one and two, but had far more success afterward, running eight more times for 34. Why the change is presently unclear.
The reliance on zone-read concepts in the ground attack is increasingly frustrating, especially with the lack of a mobile quarterback. The Birds would probably be better served to throw in a few more “straight-ahead” runs that get the back hitting holes quickly with his momentum going downhill.
It’s probably fair to say (been fair to say?) Jason Peters isn’t as imposing this season, either. Whether that’s because of the ruptured Achilles he suffered last year or the offense simply isn’t making the most of his talents would require a closer look at the coaches’ tape.
For somebody who was questionable heading into Week 8 with a knee injury, Cedric Thornton sure was active around the line of scrimmage. The largely unheralded defensive end was credited with six tackles against the Giants, continuing what has been a very nice season for the second-year player.
Fletcher Cox made his presence felt as well on the opposite end and seems to be improving steadily as he learns the 3-4 defense. Last year’s first-round pick came up with four tackles and was responsible for Philadelphia’s lone sack of Eli Manning.
Once again, you really have to look at the work they are doing as a unit against the run. The Giants are poor on the ground to begin with, but limiting bruisers Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox to 89 yards on 29 carries (3.1 AVG) is a heck of an effort, and it all starts up front.
This was Mychal Kendricks’ first quality performance in quite some time, almost certainly one of the better games of his short career even. The second-year linebacker led the way for the Eagles with 12 tackles, including a big stop in the backfield on the game’s opening series to set the tone.
Kendricks didn’t make many flashy plays, but he was sound. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription only), the 2012 second-round pick entered the game leading all interior linebackers with eight missed tackles this season. I don’t remember seeing any against the Giants.
Nice job from the rest of the group, especially cleaning up runs. DeMeco Ryans, Trent Cole and Connor Barwin all had pass breakups as well—Barwin with an impressive three.
Ideally, you would like to see more of a pass rush from the Birds linebackers for all of the blitzing defensive coordinator Bill Davis is dialing up, particularly from Cole. They are definitely pressuring quarterbacks, though, which is a good sign at least despite the lack of sacks.
What a strength this position has become for the Eagles. The trio of Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Brandon Boykin did about as good a job as one could hope against a talented group of wide receivers.
Fletcher was the most active of the Birds corners, registering nine tackles and a pass breakup. Boykin batted a pass away as well, and he very nearly sacked Eli Manning on a well-executed blitz. Williams may give up some plays underneath, but he cleans up after himself and really seems to get under receivers’ skin with his physicality.
New York went with a very conventional passing attack, which limited Philly’s opportunities for interceptions. Honestly, you can’t ask for much more, though.
Rip guys when they deserve it, but give them credit where deserved. Nate Allen was this defense’s—and arguably the team’s—whipping boy the first few games, but the fourth-year safety has played some solid football in recent weeks.
This might’ve been Allen’s best game of the season yet. Officially, he only had five tackles and a pass breakup on the stat sheet. He made some nice plays in run support, though, and showed some aggression attacking underneath routes, which suggests he’s getting more comfortable in the defense.
Earl Wolff’s name wasn’t called too much, which is probably a good thing. The rookie fifth-rounder wound up with four tackles and no real big miscues.
Most important, the Eagles didn’t give up any huge rushes through the secondary or deep passes over the top. The last line of defense has been holding up well for the past month or so, which is contributing to quite a few strong performances for the entire unit overall.
Should we deduct points when the head coach doesn’t even have enough faith to put a player on the field? With the Eagles trailing 12-0 in the third quarter, Chip Kelly elected to go for it on 4th-and-10 from New York’s 32-yard line rather than have Alex Henery attempt a 49-yard field goal.
Had it been 4th-and-5, that might be a different story. 4th-and-10 with any quarterback, let alone a rookie, is really pushing it.
Once again, the Eagles didn’t get anything special from their return units. DeSean Jackson did force a poor directional punt just by lining up to take it, but then later muffed one that wound up rolling out of bounds at his own 3-yard line.
The Eagles did score a touchdown on Najee Goode’s fumble recovery on a botched snap, but that was pure incompetence on the Giants’ part. There was nothing fantastic or awful to speak of otherwise, just an all-around unremarkable performance—as usual.