Observations From The First 10 Games Of The Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles have won seven of their first 10 games, but there is legitimate reason for concern.
Before the 2014 NFL season began, a 10-6 record looked like it would be enough for a team to win the NFC East. After 10 games, the Philadelphia Eagles have won seven and lost three and while they are still the favorites to take the division, this suddenly is not helping the fans smile.
Unfortunately, there is a number of reason that justify the pessimism and they extend much further than the thrashing the Eagles endured in Green Bay yesterday, when they lost 53-20 to the Packers.
1. Running game not a strength anymore
It feels awkward writing this, but what I’m seeing on TV is exactly that. LeSean McCoy is averaging a career-low 3.7 yards per carry and has rushed for more than 100 yards in two of the Eagles’ ten games. He has a hard time getting to the second level, where he can become more dangerous with his great cuts and swift running.
It’s hard to tell if the offensive line is more to blame than McCoy – or the opposite. In most plays, it looks like a linebacker gets to McCoy unblocked or the linemen can’t sustain their blocks long enough to give McCoy an opportunity to escape the first line of defense. However, there have been plays where McCoy has left yards on the field by going east and west, trying to get more yards instead of driving forward and take what the defense gives him.
At the same time, Darren Sproles has been much more efficient running the ball than McCoy has. Sproles is averaging 6.8 yards per carry, but it is doubtful he could keep this average if he was to carry the ball more often. Maybe the Eagles need to try involving him more in their offense.
2. Careless play from the quarterbacks
Chip Kelly has designed this Eagles offense to work with any quarterback at the helm. All the quarterback has to do is two things: make quick decisions and stay away from turnovers.
Nick Foles struggled in both aspects.Mark Sanchez has shown the ability to make decision fast, but he is not making the right ones as often as the Eagles would like him to. When it comes to turnovers, Sanchez has been no upgrade over Foles.
In total, the two signal callers have thrown 14 interceptions and have lost three fumbles. That’s 17 turnovers in 10 games, just from the QB position.
The Eagles have a turnover differential of -9, tied with the New Orleans Saints. The Washington Redskins, the New York Jets, the Jacksonville jaguars and the Oakland Raiders are the only teams who have a worse turnover differential than Philly.
All of the teams mentioned above have a negative record. The next team with a winning record that has a negative differential are the Kansas City Chiefs with -2.
3. Shaky coverage from the secondary
A year after exceeding expectations, Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher have been average at best this season. While being able to hold their own, they have had those kind of costly breakdowns and allowed big completions to their opponents. Fletcher was burned time after time in Green Bay and Williams was exposed against the Redskins and the Arizona Cardinals. Safety Nate Allen has had issues in coverage, too.
A noteworthy stat is that the Eagles’ best defensive back last season, Brandon Boykin, does not see the field very often as a defender in 2014. Last season, Boykin played 51% of the defensive snaps. So far this season, he is playing 39.3% of the snaps (stats from Football Outsiders).
4. Rookies not helping as much as desired
Wide receiver Jordan Matthews has made the biggest impact as the team’s slot reiceiver and nose tackle Beau Allen has done a good job as a rotational player. Put those two aside and there’s not much to write about the Eagles’ 2014 rookie class.
The Eagles’ first-round pick, linebacker Marcus Smith II has played sparingly. He is making a transition from edge rusher to inside linebacker.
Josh Huff was selected in the third round and he has done more damage to the team with his drops than he has helped with his catches. He is a valuable member of the special teams, but he has had some issues there too.
Cornerback Jaylen Watkins has been a special teams guy when active. Defensive end Taylor Hart has not played a single snap so far and safety Ed Reynolds is on the practice squad.
On The Bright Side
– The Eagles have solved their problem at kicker. Undrafted rookie Cody Parkey has been phenomenal, scoring on 14 of his 15 field goal attempts, with a long of 54 yards. He is 35-for-35 in extra point attempts.
– The special teams have been a strength this season, after years of being a weakness. The Eagles are averaging 27.1 yards per kick return, fifth-best in the league right now. They have scored on two punt returns, one kick-off return and on a blocked punt.
– In spite of the large number of turnovers and injuries to many significant players, the Eagles have managed to win seven of their 10 games and be at NFC East’s first place. This says a lot about the toughness and the winning mentality. There are four divisional games left, including two with the second-placed Cowboys. How will the Eagles respond to the toughest part of their schedule, especially after a humiliating loss? This will tell us how far the Birds can go this season.