5 Simple Solutions to Philadelphia Eagles' Biggest Issues
The Philadelphia Eagles have the longest current winning streak in the National Football League. They've won five consecutive games, using a combination of offense, defense and special teams to jump into sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
But that doesn't mean everything is perfect in Philadelphia. They're winning, sure, but they're not always winning pretty. This is still a team that has holes that need to be fixed.
The following five slides will highlight current issues on the team, in no particular order, and how they can be fixed, either now or in the offseason.
1. Protecting Big Leads
The Eagles took a 24-0 lead against the Washington Redskins in Week 11 before surrendering two touchdowns (and two two-point conversions). Only a last-second Brandon Boykin interception saved the Eagles from a potentially historic collapse.
Against the Arizona Cardinals following the bye week, the Eagles took a 24-7 lead before allowing two touchdowns and almost blowing the lead in the final minutes. Once again, the defense came up with a big stop.
The Eagles can't be playing so poorly in the fourth quarter. The problem is simple. Chip Kelly is taking his foot off the gas. He's changing the team's offensive game plan.
The Eagles are getting way too conservative when the game isn't as far out of hand as they think. There's no need to do anything differently from the first three quarters. The defense has bailed the offense out twice now, but that's not something the Eagles can continue to expect.
And if the Eagles offense can just score some points in the fourth quarter, it'll keep the game out of reach.
2. Complement to LeSean McCoy
Forget about Bryce Brown's tremendous performance running the football (in limited action) last season. He just hasn't shown anything as a runner this season. He's carried 64 times for 188 yards, an average of just 2.9 yards per carry. He also hasn't scored a single touchdown.
On the other hand, No. 3 running back Chris Polk has carried the ball just nine times, but he's gained 86 yards and scored two touchdowns, including a 38-yard gallop to seal the victory against the Detroit Lions in Week 14.
LeSean McCoy has been a top-three running back in the NFL this season, but he's already touched the ball 301 times in 13 games. He needs a solid backup running back to complement him.
Instead of forcing the ball to Brown, the Eagles should start giving Polk his touches. Let the undrafted second-year running back show what he can do.
The Bryce Brown experiment just hasn't worked.
3. Physicality at Wide Receiver
But the Eagles still lack a big, physical wide receiver who can make plays in the red zone. Riley Cooper has emerged as an underrated deep threat, but he hasn't scored many short-yardage touchdowns. Jackson doesn't do much in the red zone, and it's impossible to predict how well Maclin will play next season.
The Eagles should invest a mid-round draft pick in a Plaxico Burress-type receiver, a 6'5" body who can snatch the ball at its peak and make big plays in the red zone.
4. Inconsistent Pass Rush
The Eagles have a much better pass rush than they did in 2012, but they still need to get to the quarterback more than they have been doing.
Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton are a terrific set of defensive ends, but only Cox can get to the quarterback on a consistent basis. Thornton is tremendous against the run but virtually invisible as a pass-rusher.
At linebacker, Trent Cole, Connor Barwin and even DeMeco Ryans have shown a tendency to get to the quarterback.
But no player on the team has more than five sacks this year. The Eagles should target a pass-rushing outside linebacker or a defensive end in the 2014 draft.
It also makes sense to increase the playing time of 2012 second-round pick Vinny Curry, who has 20 quarterback hurries despite playing in just 236 snaps, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Brandon Graham, with 14 hurries in 263 snaps this year, also needs to see an increase in playing time.
5. True No. 1 Cornerback
The Eagles have been surprisingly good against the pass this season, particularly their trio of cornerbacks: Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Brandon Boykin.
Williams has allowed just a 75.5 passer rating (well below the league average of 84.9), while intercepting three passes. Bradley Fletcher has surrendered a 77.5 passer rating, with 15 passes defensed. And nickel corner Brandon Boykin has given up just a 73.1 passer rating, per Pro Football Focus.
As a team, the Eagles have intercepted 15 passes, well up from their total of eight last year.
A player like Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu could help solve that problem, if the Eagles can grab him with their first-round pick.