The Eagles go into week 5 with just one win to their name and sat at the bottom of the NFC East. The players aren’t happy, the coaching staff aren’t happy, Chip Kelly isn’t happy and last but not least..the fans are not happy.
But what’s the crux of such pressing issues for the Eagles?
If you were to list each problem individually as you go into week 5, so discrediting the issues that have dissipated through the opening four weeks..you’d end up with a list something like this depending on how critical you were being;
A weak Offensive Line
No pass rush
Inability to run the football
Receivers dropping too many passes
Offense can’t sustain drives
Now obviously that’s far too much to fix overnight..these problems are the product of the bigger problem..and that problem is a severe lack of Chemistry. Terrell Davis referenced the issue briefly in a feature on the NFL Network and when you look at the issue more closely, he is absolutely right.
For a team to function, everybody has to be on the same wavelength. Everybody has to have a certain trust and relationship with the players around them. When you strip away some of the big names, the guys people look up to..then you begin to lose that.
It wasn’t like the Eagles had lost a few replaceable players. Sure you can replace them in terms of talent and in terms of every other physical attribute..but you cannot replace the respect they had from every other player in that locker room. The leadership that they brought to the table and the inspiration they passed on.
Nick Foles may not have been a Drew Brees style motivator nor an Andrew Luck growler..but the players were playing for him. After that Redskins game where he took an illegal hit, got up and lead his team to victory so many players got behind their QB and expressed their respect for not folding. Then when the debate over Sanchez vs Foles ensued..players responded to the media by saying “Foles is our guy”.
In terms of a receiving core, you have Jordan Matthews who has the pressure of being a number one receiver in his second year, a rookie on the other side of him with Riley Cooper sat in the middle. Another new guy in Miles Austin splits the trio and Josh Huff is taking minimal snaps. Three years ago you had franchise players there and now it’s a case of rebuilding to fit a new system.
I think the receivers are probably the best example of chemistry problems. Because over the course of four weeks, the problems have become less visible. 15 dropped passes in four games. It’s not acceptable. Sam Bradford’s passer rating was suffering, you had your number one dropping easy passes left and right whilst a rookie was storming down the sideline, playing the most snaps of anyone and not receiving a single ball. You had Tight Ends who were pretty much invisible and Miles Austin who whilst every ball looked to be overthrown..just looked too slow for the pace of the Offense.
But as the weeks progressed, the errors lessened. Bradford has now learned how explosive Agholor can be. He knows how to time his passes to Austin. He’s found a way to utilise Riley Cooper. He even got Zach Ertz a touchdown before it was called back…the unit is finally starting to build chemistry and whilst its fantastic for Sam Bradford and a weight off of his shoulders, it’s something that cannot be said for the rest of the team.
The Offensive line lost Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans. The two were instrumental in the operation of this Offensive line and it’s showing. Not only do the line have to play every game watching the running game dissipate in front of them, but there’s more pressure on them as they’re almost forced to play in a style to suit Murray.
The unit looks lost..and with Gardner out and potentially Lane Johnson too..they’re struggling..they don’t have a leader to turn to..they’re like foot soldiers stuck in the trenches just trying to get through the night.
LeSean McCoy is traded away and DeMarco Murray is brought into a foreign system where he knows he will lose a lot of touches. This is a communal effort in Philadelphia as opposed to Murray being the star. What he has in rushing attempts this season he averaged per game with Dallas and it’s starting to get to him (hence his media quotes). But the Eagles are almost trying to play two different types of Offense to benefit Murray and it’s failing. The team cannot run the ball out of shotgun because the team is not Dallas. LeSean McCoy used to be able to make the first few guys miss him completely…Murray isn’t that guy and it leaves a lot to the Offensive Line to try and force these holes open for Murray to run through…something they have done successfully once in four weeks. The running game has lost its identity amidst the plans of becoming the best backfield in the league.
The biggest problem of all though? Chip Kelly. Instead of taking responsibility and saying “you know what, I made some bad calls” every week is followed up by comments criticising his players execution. It’s almost been the key word. Offense isn’t executing, the line isn’t executing, we need to execute. No Chip…you need to execute. You need to execute a plan to bring this team of talented individuals together as a unit, because until you do..that’s all it’s going to be.