The injury toll in Philadelphia has risen to include Cody Parkey, Andrew Gardner, Cedric Thornton, Taylor Hart, Kiko Alonso, and Mychal Kendricks. Parkey and Gardner are done for the year, and the other four are keeping their fingers crossed for week 4. However, despite the addition of new kicker Caleb Sturgis, two starting defensive ends out for what could be the second week in a row, and another change at guard, the Eagles are still on track to emerge as top NFC contenders.
For starters, the defense is ranked #1 against the run; and although the Atlanta Falcons have a rookie running back, the Dallas Cowboys’ starter is Joseph Randle, and the New York Jets sat Chris Ivory, all three offensive lines have been either revamped this season or are nationally acclaimed. Last year, DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing due to Dallas’s phenomenal O-line, and ever since Murray made the jump from Blue to Green, fans and analysts alike have claimed that his success came largely from the offensive line.
Although the Eagles lost miserably to the Cowboys in the home opener, they kept the Cowboy’s run game down to 109 combined yards on the ground. For reference, Ryan Mathews ran for 108-yards against the Jets last week. Against the Falcons, Philly held Atlanta to 105-yards, and New York to 47 – yes, 47 total rushing yards.
The secondary has also risen to the occasion in assisting their front-3 counterparts. The X-play is no longer the Achilles heel of this franchise, and while most of extended drives against Philly come from short crossing routes, all four starters within the defensive backfield are beginning to gel very well.
Byron Maxwell is still in the process of living up to his $63-million contract, but progress is being made with each passing week. Malcolm Jenkins solidified one safety role in 2014, and Walter Thurmond – who had never played safety before coming to Philadelphia – has played the position like a veteran. Nolan Carroll has been relatively quiet, but in all honesty, quiet corners are good corners. The only outlier appeared to be rookie Eric Rowe who hadn’t been able to find his way onto the field until safety Chris Maragos went down with a knee injury during the Jet game. In the 32 snaps that Rowe saw on game day – who also played on special teams – he racked up 1 tackle, 2 pass deflections, and an interception.
While Chip Kelly refuses to give insight as to who will get increased playing time or who might be starters, backups, etc., the same question was asked to defensive coordinator Bill Davis as to whether Rowe’s performance in Sunday would warrant him more playing time.
“Eric Rowe will get increased opportunities. It was what we needed to see from Eric, under fire of a regular Sunday, he rises up and makes the plays that he’s asked to and he did that.”
Davis also mentioned that there is still a learning curve that will be addressed, but for two rookies to come in and makes plays against a formidable Jet team is incredibly impressive.
Looking at the offensive side of the ball, there is really only one direction to go and that is up. The performance against the Cowboys was absolutely atrocious as the Eagles’ offense amounted to 1 first-down in the entire first half of the game. If the Eagles can prove that the issues are truly execution and not personnel, and build off of what they showed in the second half of the Falcon game and first half of the Jet game, then this offense will be able to play at their tempo and become a contender within the conference.