It’s no lie that the Eagles have suffered far too many drops this season. In fact, they have suffered more than any NFL team in the last six seasons and the most the Eagles have endured n the last nine. But after looking at last nights game, even Chip Kelly appears to be losing confidence in his receivers.
Jordan Matthews was targeted 11 times on Monday Night, more than any other wideout. In the loss to the Panthers however he was targeted only 7..catching 3. In fact, no wide receiver was targeted more than 7 times..the most targets? Darren Sproles with 10. Now on the surface, there doesn’t seem to be a concern but when you look at the following stat..you begin to see it more clearly.
Eagles receivers (not tight ends) Eagles running backs
Jordan Matthews 7 Darren Sproles 10
Miles Austin 6 DeMarco Murray 4
Josh Huff 5 Ryan Mathews 3
TOTAL: 18 Total: 17
The running backs had one less pass attempt than the wide receivers….ONE LESS. The Eagles three headed monster has the potential to be one of the fiercest running back committees in the league and yet it’s being targeted time after time, pretty much equaling the number of pass attempts the wideouts are getting.
Again this may not give solid evidence that Chip is losing confidence in his wideouts, but this might. How many times in this game did we see Jordan Matthews run a crossing route? How many times did we see a tight end Curl over the middle and stop, waiting for a pass? Worst of all, how many times did we see the swing/screen passes? The most significant being the 3rd & 9 attempt that just seemed to be the completely wrong play call. The passing game lacked creativity and became frustratingly predictable because Chip knew if you send these receivers down the field on complex routes, they’re going to get beat.
Why is this significant? Bradford is no longer looking down the field. Yes he’s utilising the tight ends more..but in short passes and it isn’t working because everybody is dropping passes. Where were the deep routes down the field? The one pass that actually got me excited was the Jordan Matthews disallowed touchdown because he couldn’t get the second foot down. It’s the same route that Bradford used in pre-season to perfection and we saw a flash of just how accurate he can be. Josh Huff dropped a simple pass and Matthews ended up costing Bradford his tenth interception of the year.
Is that the reason the Eagles weren’t pushing on seam routes or failed to establish a deep passing game? Because Chip didn’t trust his receivers down the field against guys like Josh Norman? If the running backs are getting almost as many passes thrown their way as the receivers then it sure says something about the gameplan being moulded into a more conservative one. Why? Because the receivers are losing the trust and reliability of both the coaches and the Quarterback.
Eliot Shorr-Parks made this observation:
I think the WRs are more in a slump as opposed to not being talented. Like a hitter in baseball. #Eagles
— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) October 26, 2015
But how can you make that comparison? A slump implies they will snap out of it, this has been going on FOR SEVEN WEEKS. Something has to change and Kelly knows that the receivers are mentally losing confidence so is looking to spread the ball around much more.
This is the first game this season where Zach Ertz has had more targets than Jordan Matthews and more than any receiver for that matter. It also marked his most of the season. So why the sudden increase in tight end utilisation? Why has Brent Celek gone from 3 targets in 4 games to 6 targets in the last 3? Because the Eagles are running out of places to throw the ball. It was clear after the opening two weeks that the Tight-Ends were not going to be as intimidating receiver wise as they were in 2014..but now they are by default, because if Bradford finds his receiver, the play is likely going to end as an incompletion or an interception.
People are still going to blame Bradford despite the fact he was one of the only positives in the game and that’s fine. But Chip Kelly has started to create his gameplan to involve the running backs and tight ends in the receiving game to try and take some pressure off the inconsistent wideouts.