Eagles Armchair: A Tale of Two Halves

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Due to the Philadelphia Eagles two-faced performance yesterday, this column will follow a similar pattern. 

WALK THROUGH (Part One)

The Eagles rode an impressive performance from their rookie defenders and Ryan Mathews to a 24-17 win over the previously unbeaten New York Jets yesterday.

After being unable to run for any sort of positive yardage, the Eagles tallied 123 yards without DeMarco Murray, who was scratched at game time due to a hamstring injury. In his place, Mathews rushed for 108 yards on 25 carries, including a bruising 27-yard tote on the Eagles first drive that set the tone for the afternoon.

But the real turning point occurred with 12:21 remaining when Darren Sproles fielded a punt at the Eagles’ 11-yard-line, avoided five would-be tacklers and scampered 89 yards for a touchdown to put the Eagles up 10-0. Sproles also added a receiving touchdown right before the two-minute warning, punching the ball in from the one-yard-line to give the Eagles a 24-0 lead, the largest first half lead of the Chip Kelly era.

On the other side of the ball, Bill Davis‘s group stymied Ryan Fitzpatrick and company, forcing four turnovers and keeping the rushing attack to just 2.9 yards per carry.

Rookies Eric Rowe and Jordan Hicks each had an interception in the second half, highlighting the performance by a unit that was without a number of key contributors who were dealing with injuries.

WALK THROUGH (Part Two)

Every other aspect of the game was ugly.

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Let’s start with Sam Bradford. The top pick of the 2010 draft wasn’t very sharp yesterday. Actually he wasn’t the least bit sharp. He was dull. Very, very dull. Bradford completed just 50% of his checkdowns–err–passes, often throwing behind his receivers and negating multiple big play opportunities with his inaccuracy.

The Eagles team that trotted out for the second half didn’t look much better than the one that got beat down by the Cowboys last Sunday, with the Eagles managing just five first downs and finishing with an uninspiring 231 total yards.

In fact, if it wasn’t for Sproles’s return and a pair of turnovers at the end of the first half, the Jets would have won the game.

The Jets shooting themselves in the foot also played in the Eagles’ favor.

Take for example, the last drive of the game. The Eagles needed just one first down to ice the game and set up in victory formation. On third and six, the Eagles get called for an illegal substitution and a false start, setting up a third and 16, a situation that seems impossible to convert for a team that averaged just 3.4 yards per play. But Quentin Coples got flagged for illegal hands to the face, giving the Eagles five yards and an automatic first down. Game over. Thank you, Mr. Coples.

“It’s better to win ugly than lose pretty,” former Temple basketball coach John Chaney once quipped. Yesterday was ugly. Kelly’s squad has a lot of wrinkles they need to iron out if they want to start looking like a team that can go deep in the playoffs, but yesterday’s win was a start and a much-needed confidence boost for a team that was reeling.

INJURY REPORT

DNP: Kiko Alonso (Knee), Taylor Hart (Shoulder), Josh Huff (Hamstring), Mychal Kendricks (Hamstring), DeMarco Murray (Hamstring), Cedric Thornton (Hand)

Murray and Huff were last minute scratches with their hamstring injuries suffered during the week, so they should be ready to go next Sunday at Washington. Thornton also said last week he broke his hand early in the Dallas game played through the pain, so if the team doctors are comfortable with him going out there, he will play next week as well.

As for the linebackers, Kendricks was questionable all week, but after he missed four weeks with a strained calf last season, it is worth wondering if it will be a slow recovery for him. Alonso will be visiting Dr. James Andrews today to get a second opinion on his sprained knee. The guess here is that he will opt for surgery if the repaired ACL is not intact, much to the chagrin of our Tim Kelly.

In-Game Injuries

Andrew Gardner – Gardner hurt his foot in the first half and Matt Tobin replaced him at right tackle. The Eagles will not update any injury status until this afternoon at the earliest, so it is unknown if he will miss extended time.

Chris Maragos – Maragos came into the game with a hip injury, but still played before a knee contusion sidelined him in the first half. The special teams ace was replaced by Rowe in dime packages, and the rookie performed admirably.

Jason Peters – Peters’s injury is an odd one. He stood on the sidelines without his helmet during the Eagles final two drives and Kelly had no idea what was wrong with his left tackle. Peters didn’t seem to be in any obvious pain and after the game he told reporters he “just got rolled up on” and felt alright.

MEASURABLES

.941 – The Eagles are now 16-1 when they score 17 or more points in the first half under Kelly after scoring 24 in the first half yesterday. The lone loss came last year against the 49ers when all 21 points scored came via a return. Not sure what this stat tells exactly, but it is interesting that Kelly’s teams are very good at holding leads in the second half, no matter how ugly it may get. 

4Mark Sanchez has four playoff wins, good for second among quarterbacks in the NFC East. A lot of analysts have been high on the New York Football Giants this week, claiming Eli Manning is the best quarterback in the division. That is true with Tony Romo being hurt, but who would be second best behind Manning?

Surely not Bradford or Kirk Cousins after what we’ve seen in three games. That leaves Sanchez and his four postseason wins. Obviously a lot of people soured on him as he was the QB during last year’s collapse, but there’s no way he could’ve done worse than Bradford through three weeks this year. So Mark Sanchez, second on the depth chart, second in the division.

1 – Only one Eagles wide receiver caught a ball yesterday; that is a major problem. Jordan Matthews has been consistent, but Nelson Agholor has just 4 catches for 36 yards through three games. Miles Austin was targeted four times yesterday, with zero catches. Riley Cooper wasn’t even targeted. Josh Huff sat out with a hamstring issue, but he wasn’t doing anything when he was healthy. The lack of weapons on the outside certainly is cause for concern.

SECTION 140

It is hard to say where the Eagles would be the last two years without Sproles. He is such a game changer and Kelly even admitted yesterday they need to find more opportunities for him.

There’s apparently something about the windy New Jersey swamps that make punt returning an easy job for Eagles players.

Ronnie Brown may beg to differ.

WEEKLY AWARDS

The Welcome To The NFL AwardJordan Hicks and Eric Rowe

Hicks recorded ten tackles in his first NFL start, picked up an interception and recovered a fumble. Meanwhile, Rowe was pressed into duty on the outside in the Eagles dime package and had a pass breakup and interception on a pair of deep passes. Not a bad day for the Eagles second and third round picks.

Related Read: Eagles Actually Face Difficult Decision With Kiko Alonso

The “Hey, I Forgot You Were Still Here” AwardBrandon Graham and Vinny Curry

Curry spent the first two weeks rotating at outside linebacker and didn’t record any stats. Due to injuries along the defensive line, Curry moved back to defensive end and was a disruption all day. Hopefully his performance, coupled with Marcus Smith‘s health will put an end to the OLB experiment.

Graham also recorded his first sack of the year and looked like he finally felt comfortable playing in a full-time role. Hopefully he can pick it up, though, because he needs 31 more sacks in the next 13 games to reach the goal he set for himself.

NO HUDDLE

  • Sports science is one of the unique things Kelly brought with him to the NFL, and it looked like it was a very successful program during his first two seasons. However, the Eagles have sustained four strained hamstrings so far this year, which isn’t cause for concern, but maybe the program isn’t as innovative as it seems.
  • Like I said last week, torn ligaments and broken bones happen, and there isn’t much you can do to prevent them. Where sports science comes in is the prevention of soft tissue injuries and those are starting to pile up this season.
  • It was interesting to see Kelly call a lot of under-center runs today for Ryan Mathews, and after the game, Mathews told reporters he is more comfortable in those formations. Ironically, that was the same thing LeSean McCoy told reporters numerous times last year, but Kelly never changed his scheme for the All-Pro back. It will be worth paying attention to see if Kelly keeps Bradford under center when Murray gets healthy.
  • Granted, it was Ryan Fitzpatrick, but the Eagles secondary has played very well the last two weeks. Nolan Carroll made a few plays on the ball deep down the field and Byron Maxwell didn’t get embarrassed, which is a step in the right direction. If Rowe can continue to improve and force his way into the Eagles nickel package, the secondary remodel that took place in the offseason will be considered a success.
  • For all those people angry at Kelly for cutting Todd Herremans, but the right guard was benched yesterday. Maybe Kelly knew what he was doing…

WHO’S NEXT

The Eagles will ride the euphoric high of this win down I-95 to Washington to face off against the Redskins. Washington boasts a pretty decent rushing attack and DeSean Jackson may be ready to make his return from a hamstring injury he sustained week one, but the Redskins are coached by Jay Gruden and their quarterback is Kirk Cousins. That is pretty big deficiency to overcome, but for how terrible the Redskins have been, they have always given the Eagles a tough game since Kelly became head coach.

Once again, the Eagles are so flawed, they can’t afford to take any opponent lightly, but it’s hard to imagine they fall to such a downtrodden team.

Next: Five Big-Picture Takeaways From Eagles Week Three Win Over Jets

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