A lot can be said about the Eagles Offense this far and if you were to do a quick sweep of the generic big name media sites then not a lot of it you see will be positive. However, it’s not all bad and there are most certainly signs that this team can pose the major threat it did when Chip arrived back in 2013.
One thing that’s been almost non existent in the team thus far is the aggressive play calling on 4th down. Last season, the Eagles attempted 11 4th downs and completed 7. But that was different. The team converted 43% of their third downs, ranking them ninth in the NFL. This season, the Eagles have played thirty seven third downs…and completed nine. 24.3%. So out of the twenty eight 4th downs the team have played..they’ve gone for it twice…you don’t associate those numbers with Chip Kelly. However, against the Redskins the winds of change may begin to blow.
Why? A number of reasons and the first is to do with new kicker Caleb Sturgis who is set to make his debut in midnight green tomorrow. Last season Sturgis made just 78.4% of his thirty seven field goal attempts whilst the recently injured Cody Parkey made 88% of his thirty eight field goals. The decision to sign Sturgis was definitely questionable but what does this mean for the Eagles 4th down attempts?
Cody Parkey missed a 44 yard field goal all to memorable to fans in week one and if he had made it then the Eagles would have potentially won the game. Fans were seething and we made our thoughts clear on the situation but the truth is this. If this kicker does not perform, not only will he be detested in Philadelphia..but a lot of the flack will fall onto Chip Kelly. Cody Parkey was a pro-bowl kicker. He had a fantastic first year with the Eagles and despite one miss, looked to continue down the right path. Sturgis does not exactly scream Mason Crosby or Gotskowski…if the Eagles get to 4th & 3 with under two minutes on the clock at the opposing teams 35, do you let that responsibility fall to an inconsistent kicker or do you finally trust in Sam Bradford to get the job done?
Sam Bradford obviously favours the short pass. He went 14/28 against the Jets with only two being over 20 yards. So surely if you have a player who is so deadly when throwing between 3-7 yards, you would thrive on fourth down conversions. Not only do you have a stacked backfield, but you have a Quarterback who on a good day is able to turn nothing into something beautiful with a laser that matches some of the leagues elite. His problem is that he only tends to target one or two receivers in a game..if he loses that, he could be a deadly weapon on 4th and short.
There were so many times in the opening three games I was shouting at my screen when Bradford walked off the field and the special teams unit ran on. Why wouldn’t Chip go for it on 4th down?! Admittedly this isn’t a game of Madden and there are huge consequences if the move fails..but if you’re failing to burn out a Defense because every drive is a three and out then the Offense is not achieving it’s primary purpose. It’s all well and good being the fastest Offense in the NFL, but if you’re also the fastest off the field..you’re not going to gain an advantage.
The Eagles do a great job of setting up 4th down conversions by getting within 3 yards of the intended line. If the same happens again and the Eagles fail to unnerve the Redskins Defense then surely the only way to knock them back is to push through on a 4th down conversion. Test the will of the linebackers, agitate the cornerbacks and confuse the linemen. Then you have just seconds for the Defense to compose themselves before three missiles strike again.
For me, it’s been one of the biggest reasons why this team has failed to put up the numbers it did last year. Not just the 4th down attempts, but the overall adventurous/confident play of the Offense that has been lacking since game one. Whose shoulders this falls onto will remain a mystery, but with a new kicker who has missed close to 25% of his kicks, surely it’s time for the Eagles to start taking risks..
We’re not saying Sturgis is terrible and should never kick a ball, but he could well prove to be the catalyst in re-igniting an aspect of this Offense that was once so deadly and now sits tried, tested and retired in the playbook.