Sep 28, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly on the sideline against the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter at Levi
After last week’s WIN against the Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Cary Williams expressed frustration about his defense having tired legs. He pinned this problem on head coach Chip Kelly’s sports science-based conditioning regimen, which has players spending a lot more time on their feet. This week, after yesterday’s LOSS to the San Francisco 49ers, the question begs asking – was Williams right in his thought process?
I won’t sit here and argue whether he was right or wrong in how he chose to deliver the message. Teams would ideally keep most matters in-house. However, the crux of the message suggests some players may have started to feel overworked or over-trained. Watching yesterday’s game makes you question this for the defensive side of the ball. Blocked field goal recovered for a touchdown. Interception returned for a touchdown. Punt return recovered for a touchdown. Zero offensive touchdowns. For that matter, zero offensive points! Let that final stat sink in. Zero offensive points.
You can put some justifiable blame on the Eagles’ offensive line. Losing center Jason Kelce, guard Evan Mathis, and tackle Allen Barbre created a merry-go-round of sorts at the front line. Couple this with the final game of tackle Lane Johnson‘s suspension, and the line just couldn’t hold its own against the 49ers defensive front. That put quarterback Nick Foles in a shaky and rapidly collapsing pocket. Unlike 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Foles doesn’t possess the mobility or running speed to buy time for plays to develop. Foles relies on the offensive line to give him that time. During yesterday’s game, that time ran out on most snaps.
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With upcoming games against the St. Louis Rams and the New York Giants, the Eagles can ill afford to slip up. Maybe this week is a good time for Kelly to give the guys an extra day off. While every game presents a challenge, the Rams should present a beatable opponent for the Birds. Not that they should be taken lightly, but the team needs to build confidence going into their second divisional game before they break for the bye week. Sometimes its not just the physical training that takes it toll, but the mental as well.
Kelly has a difficult line to balance between maintaining top mental and physical performance, and burning out a young team with a lot of potential. After a quarter of the season, the Eagles stand at 3-1, with the ability to control the division the rest of the way. To do so requires patience, focus, and solid execution on game day. As the Dallas Cowboys showed last night, a team can go from horrible one week to looking like Super Bowl contenders the next. The Eagles need to demonstrate continued dominance and an ability to adapt to the loss of change of their own players.
Williams all but said his team was burned out. Then his defense came out and put on a solid performance. Maybe it’s time for an offensive player to quietly question his side of the ball?