Drops, Demarco, Defense: 3D's Contributing to Eagles' Struggles
It is tough to even to begin to call the Philadelphia Eagles loss to the Carolina Panthers a close game. While the score reads as 27-16, the Eagles shot themselves in the foot so many times that to call it a close game would be unfair to the level of competition that the Panthers put up.
The Panthers played a good game and are undefeated for a reason, just as the Eagles are 3-4 for a reason. The drops have to stop. There does not need to be any speculation or statistical measurements made about it, if the Birds fail to fix this butterfingered problem, they might as well write off the season and start looking at the top draft picks. The NFL is all about passing and if receivers are not going to be making contests, then games will not be won.
On top of the drops, the receivers need to step up. Jordan Matthews is hardly productive playing solely from the slot, Riley Cooper and Josh Huff were shut down by Carolina’s secondary, and 31-year old Miles Austin and 32-year old Darren Sproles were the most effective against the Panthers.
DeMarco Murray is showing more and more each week that he is not the workhorse for this offense, and at this point, does not even appear to be capable of holding down the RB2 spot. Fans want to love the former-Cowboy, he is kind, intelligent, and likes to power through defenders, but the personality is only going to last so long before the Philly faithful start wondering why he is receiving any snaps at all if he fails to run the ball consistently.
I wrote last week that some of the issue for these inconsistent runs could be due to the offensive guards as well as his adjustment to the offense, but it’s mind-boggling that Ryan Mathews – who is just as new to the team as Murray – dominates while running with the same O-line.
The offensive line, according to Chip Kelly, played “Ok”. The same could easily be said for Sam Bradford. Despite the copious amount of receiver drops, there were plenty of times where fans were left cussing at their television sets wondering what he was looking at. A few writers around the Delaware Valley felt that Bradford should seize the Carolina game to solidify himself as the unquestioned starter and to essentially play for his job. After Sunday night’s performance, the Eagles do not really have a better option in Mark Sanchez, so they are pretty much stuck with Bradford for the remainder of the season barring any injury or severe drop-off in play, but as stated above, it is tough to get any real evaluation on him given the amount of drops. I personally stopped counting after 5.
The only silver lining of this team is the defense. Although the unit gave up 27 points and was terrible against the run, they did force turnovers that had the offense put up 7 instead of 3, may have created a different outcome.
Byron Maxwell saved himself from the hot seat by generating a turnover, but ‘$63 mil’ was still beat on multiple occasions. Nolan Carroll had a not-so-spectacular game, but given his work ethic, he will definitely go back to the film room and correct his errors.
The big issue was the fact that the Eagles were not able to slow down the heavy-runners that Carolina employs. Cam Newton weighs 245 lbs., Jon Stewart weighs 235, Mike Tolbert is 260, and even rookie Cameron Artis-Payne weighs 212. The Eagles secondary is made up of either corners or ex-corners; no traditional, in-the-box, 210+ lbs. strong safeties exist on that team, and when the front seven fails to take these behemoth backs down, the back four are praying that they can at least get a decent angle on them without getting laid out.
Chip Kelly and the Eagles are now 3-4, third in the NFC East, and out of excuses. The offensive line is playing okay, the quarterback is hot and cold, the receivers aren’t catching the balls, and the defense is growing more and more frustrated with the offense’s lack of production as the season chugs along, per Malcolm Jenkins post-game presser. The Birds have the bye next week, and hopefully in that 2-week span, will figure out what needs to be done to salvage this season given the NFC East is still an open competition.