5 Biggest Bye-Week Adjustments Philadelphia Eagles Must Make
The Philadelphia Eagles head into the bye week in sole possession of first place in the NFC East for the first time since Michael Vick's redemption year of 2010.
The Eagles need to likely win at least three of their final five games, including the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, to win the division title.
The Eagles are one of the hotter teams in the NFL right now, having defeated the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins by a combined score of 100-49 in the past three weeks. But for them to continue playing well and reach the playoffs in year one of the Chip Kelly era, they need to fix a number of things on the team. They are ranked in no particular order.
1. Increased Playing Time for Vinny Curry
The Eagles' second-year defensive end is quietly become one of the team's best defensive players. Yet despite Vinny Curry's impressive production over the past couple of games, he hasn't earned more playing time.
Curry is tied for the team lead with four sacks, even though he's participated in just 195 snaps, the 16th-most on the defensive side of the ball.
His best game came against Oakland, when he collected six hurries in just 35 snaps, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). But he earned just 28 snaps the following week against the Packers and 30 against the Redskins.
He should be playing 50 to 55 snaps per game, at the very minimum. He was, after all, a second-round pick. Free Vinny Curry!
Pat Shurmur is the main man responsible for handling the team's challenges. But Kelly also has the power to throw the red flag he carries around in his pocket.
Whoever the Eagles decide should handle challenges needs to do a better job. The Eagles have failed to challenge a very winnable play for two straight weeks. The first was a 36-yard catch by Green Bay wide receiver Jarrett Boykin that the Eagles decided not to challenge, while the second cost the Eagles five yards when Washington running back Alfred Morris stepped out of bounds.
One of these weeks it's going to end up costing them a game.
3. Less Bend-but-Don't-Break Defense
I've always preached that the yards given up by a defense don't matter, and they don't. It's the points that ultimately decide who wins or loses a football game.
But the Eagles, despite allowing 21 or fewer points in seven straight games, need to cut down on their yards allowed. They're on pace to allow the fourth-most yards in a season in NFL history. They've allowed more than 325 yards in every game this season.
They're ranked sixth in red-zone percentage, but who knows if that will last as the season continues? Stops in the red zone still usually result in field goals. If the Eagles can force more three-and-outs and limit the other team's snaps on offense, they can allow their defense to rest. After all, the Eagles defense has been on the field for almost 35 minutes per game this season, easily the highest total in the league.
4. More Catches for DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson is in the middle of the best season of his NFL career. He's caught 58 passes for 985 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 games.
But in the past two games, he's recorded just eight combined targets on offense. All eight of those passes have been completed, going for 162 yards and a touchdown.
The four targets per game are Jackson's lowest single-game totals of the season.
Against San Diego in Week 2, he was thrown to 14 times, and he responded with nine catches for 193 yards and a touchdown. He caught seven of 12 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown against the Giants in Week 5.
Good things happen when the Eagles get the ball in the hands of their most explosive wide receiver. They need to make sure that happens more than it has been over the past two games.
5. More Aggressive on Offense
Nick Foles might be the best quarterback in the NFL right now. He's led the Eagles to three straight victories. He's thrown 16 touchdowns without an interception. His 128.0 passer rating is the highest mark in the NFL. He's even making plays on the ground.
With all of that being said, the Eagles need to become more aggressive on the offensive side of the ball. I'm not talking about going for a two-point conversion after a touchdown like the Eagles did against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3. But they should be attempting more fourth-down conversions.
Right now, this offense can't be stopped...and Alex Henery can't be trusted on field goals. A 4th-and-3 from the 17? Go for it. A 4th-and-4 from the 25? Go for it. A 4th-and-1 from the 8? Go for it.
If the Eagles end up scoring a touchdown on half of the drives where they attempt a fourth-down conversion, they'll score more than they would have by attempting field goals. It'll also give their defense a much-needed break.