Will Philadelphia Eagles' Defensive Woes Erase Gains of Electric Offense?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistSeptember 16, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 15: Wide receiver Malcom Floyd #80 of the San Diego Chargers catches a pass past cornerback Brandon Hughes #27 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on September 15, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The San Diego Chargers won, 33-30. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

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."

Rivers completed 36 passes, which was the second-highest all-time total against the Eagles, and the 22 passing first downs they surrendered tied a franchise high, per PhillyMag.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:

And indeed things got worse Sunday. On full display: Nate Allen's terribly slow reaction time...

Multiple examples of blatant and inexplicable defensive pass interference from No. 1 cornerback Cary Williams: 

A slew of missed tackles from Mychal Kendricks, including this one on Antonio Gates: 

An inability to nail down assignments:

Unbelievable lapses in coverage:

And an inability to fight off blocks or anticipate what's coming:

A lot of it is on the personnel. That secondary makeover hasn't paid off, and they're simply lacking talent in some spots. Starting cornerback Bradley Fletcher was out with a concussion Sunday, and rookie Jordan Poyer was assaulted in coverage. 

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. 

Now they have to face Andy Reid's red-hot Kansas City Chiefs on short rest. That's an offense that is very similar to San Diego's, and facing Reid won't be advantageous. That could be trouble, and the hole they eventually dig could be overwhelming. 

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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