Could you ask for a better situation to step into coming out of the collegiate coaching ranks? Offensive guru Chip Kelly has revived a young and talented offense that ranks at the top of the NFC. In fact, Denver and Green Bay are the only offenses statistically better in the NFL. Philadelphia touts the best ground attack with top-ten air play, producing 27 points per week which is fourth in the league.
They have done so with two quarterbacks at the helm, when you think about it the Eagles are taking advantage of a promising situation. Most believe that having a pair of signal callers translates to not really having one at all. In this case, even though Andy Reid moved on to Kansas City, he helped to evaluate and deliver with two reliable QBs on the roster. Simply, you play Michael Vick when he’s healthy, so when he’s injured you plug in Nick Foles and always expecting to win. These guys are having a field day against secondaries connecting with star receiver Desean Jackson. This offensive line is elite and continues to be shrugged off because only one starter played the entire last season. A new year brings a healthy line for star running back LeSean McCoy to paint such a beautiful collage of highlights.
With Vick on the field, this team might never have to throw a single pass in a game one of these weeks. In terms of passing opportunities he has limited turnovers and scored points. Vick’s threat to run has defenses loading the box and daring the Eagles to beat them downfield, and Jackson is single-handedly shredding coverages. Now with Foles in the lineup everybody gets to finally see what I’ve envisioned them doing, even dating back to the the last regime. They still run the read-option and Foles has shown he can be mobile, despite media diversion, perhaps in the unpolished fashion of the great Aaron Rodgers. For someone that has been urging the NFL to use a two-QB system, this has quietly become a similar strategy in Eagles camp. When it comes down to it, Vick is more dynamic while Foles is less turnover-prone.
Rookie tight end Zack Ertz has emerged as a co-starter, alongside a reliable Brent Celek with a void to fill in the offense. Losing receiver Jeremy Maclin for the season was a big loss, and no one has stepped up through a third of the season. Insert another tight end into the lineup that was known for being a receiving threat coming into the draft, they could improve their scoring output into the 30s. By the way, Maclin is scheduled to be a free agent in the offseason and will most likely be on a different team. Riley Cooper came through last week by having a career day, however he and Celek haven’t created much separation on routes to hold onto their jobs. Jason Avant is regarded as a solid veteran that makes the tough catch, his strength is in the slot and as a voice in the locker room. Coach Kelly brought receiver Jeff Maehl with him from Oregon, he’s getting more snaps with his familiarity in the scheme.
That’s where most of the fun and success has been however, as the defense is scrambling for answers. Or are they? I get it, they are ranked dead last in the amount of yards given up, second to last defending the pass. It gets old to watch receivers run circles all game, but after taking a step back I can see what the gameplan actually is now. Just like we know, they’re quite aware that they don’t compare favorably to the Seahawks and Chiefs. The thing is, they are in the middle of the pack containing the run, and they protect the middle of the field by focusing on tight ends.
What I’m saying is, they play as a team and rely on the offense to pave the way. They send their inside linebackers are more blitzes than anybody else in the league, constantly stacking against the run and bumping tight ends off their route. They don’t have the massive nose tackle you would hope to have as a clog, so they load the box with a lot of speed racing towards the backfield. Outside linebackers Connor Barwin and Trent Cole are expected to be consistent, while Brandon Graham comes in and maximizes his limited downs pushing for playing time. There are some players that don’t do well in practice believe it or not, and defensive end Vinny Curry might be one of those. I don’t know what it is, because he’s been healthy and performs at a high level when he gets a chance to make plays. He’s finally breaking into the lineup.
Cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are bigger guys that prefer to man up. Their job is to play physical all game and the aggressive style has resulted in hit or miss fashion. They will get beat but also deflections. The strongest link on the defense is the best slot cornerback in the NFL. Brandon Boykin should start garnering attention after shadowing and containing, Wes Welker and Victor Cruz this season. The safeties might get tackles on the stat sheet, unfortunately they present the weakest link of the defense. Maybe they should be calling Buffalo about the services of safety Jairus Byrd. The defense has been on the field so much that they have the second most tackles, only behind the rival Giants.
My preseason prediction that the Philadelphia Eagles would win ten games and the NFC East is still a possibility at 3-3. Next on their slate are division games against the Cowboys and Giants, right now Philly is 2-0 within the division. So after splitting half a dozen games, they host Dallas in a battle for first place approaching the mid-way point of the season, they will be without key players DeMarco Murray and DeMarcus Ware. Sure, Tony Romo should have his way and they average a field goal more than Philly per game, but Murray being out means less production on the ground. Dallas really falters when they don’t commit to running, giving Romo more passes that have led to mistakes. Also, it’s not like they have a much to rave about on defense. They are right there with the Eagles ranking third worse overall and against the pass. The winner will have a game advantage at 4-3.