One fatal flaw in Chip Kelly’s team design is killing Eagles passing game

Heading into the season many were calling the Eagles receiving core was regarded as one of the most promising in the league. Nelson Agholor was expected to explode onto the scene whilst productivity was destined to be huge for Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. But as we approach the end of the bye week, the unit has been nothing short of disappointing with drops occurring every game and vital fumbles costing the team valuable points. But there’s one common factor that these receivers share.

If you look at the experience level of each receiver, it becomes all too obvious.

Jordan Matthews: Second year
Nelson Agholor: Rookie
Josh Huff: Second year
Riley Cooper: Sixth year
Miles Austin: Tenth year

In Soccer, there’s a famous term. “You’ll never win anything with kids” which basically means you can’t have a team of prospects, you need to have guys that have been there and done it to lead/tutor the team in tough scenarios.

The Eagles have almost been forced to target both Austin and Cooper more. If you asked any fan before the season one receiver they could cut with no financial consequence, the answer would have most likely been one of these two. Austin is in his tenth NFL season and many regard Cooper as a slow “and blocking” receiver. These aren’t supposed to be 1st and t-2nd in touchdowns, they are not supposed to have more targets than Huff and Tight-End Brent Celek..but they have, why? Because the prospects are not producing.

Now to put the consistent drops down to nothing but inexperience would be putting ourselves under the same umbrella as those who still use Bradford’s two ACL tears as an excuse when he has a bad game, despite being almost halfway into the season.

But it simply isn’t helping. By this stage it’s obviously a mental thing. Matthews has conceivable drops in every game this season and despite apparent hard work on the JUGS machine, still starts games wobbly and shows little consistency. That’s the difference. Elite/more experienced wideouts are able to push those kind of doubts to the back of their mind whilst a rookie or a younger guy is still going to worry about them because it’s an entirely new experience for them.

Nelson Agholor has been unfortunate in picking up an injury, but it isn’t as though Bradford utilised him much before which was disappointing. We are quick to mention how he beat Revis constantly against the Jets yet went unnoticed and made an emphatic catch just a week later before fumbling on the next play. His gametime is a little more interesting than Josh Huff’s due to the incredibly high number of snaps he played but low targets..but both players share one thing in common.

Flashes. Huff burst into the endzone for his first receiving touchdown just a couple of weeks ago and since then has been wildly unproductive/inconsistent. It’s the same for Agholor and the same sort of thing we saw from Huff last season. One amazing sign of talent before flurries of poor route running or drops.

A lot of people were expecting breakout seasons for two or even three of these guys but the truth is that it’s very rare to see high production two seasons in a row. Just look at Odell Beckham JR, after rapidly evolving as one of the NFL’s brightest stars and sustaining a minor injury early on in the season his production rate has still faltered despite 4 touchdowns. He is still having a very good year, but his numbers are a lot closer to Matthews than people think. It’s evident that Beckham is performing much better, but the point stands.

REC YDS TD
42 524 4
 2015
Odell Beckham Jr
2014
133 1,829 16

 

REC YDS TD
39 398 1

 2015
Jordan Matthews

2014

106 1,270 9

There is evidently a lot of factors contributing to the inconsistencies of the wideouts but when you compare drops from the older guys to the drops of the 2nd year guys and below, the difference is clear. The differential is somewhere around the (+6) mark to Cooper and Austin depending on what you perceive drops to be (everyone will judge incompletions differently).

On paper, these guys have all the potential in the world..but their current ability is showing signs of a lot of growing room left over. The ceilings are high, but these players are reaching for the ceiling with no ladder or boost..and they’re a long way off.

The older receivers who have perhaps already peaked or had a big season are proving to be far more reliable. Just look at the receiving leaders on the season.

RK PLAYER TEAM
1 DeAndre Hopkins, WR HOU
2 Julio Jones, WR ATL
3 Keenan Allen, WR SD
4 Antonio Brown, WR PIT

Both DeAndre Hopkins and Keenan Allen are in their third NFL season with Jones and Brown bringing a lot of experience to the table. The Eagles have focused a lot of their attention in youth and development…which is fine, but they need results now and “potential” is not enough to get those results. Current ability is what really matters and the Eagles receivers are some way off where they need to be. They no longer have a go to guy, just a group of players who COULD be that guy.

It’s no coincidence that after both Jackson and Maclin have been shown the door and the team haven’t technically replaced them with a receiver of the same stature that the reliability and numbers start to fall. Both were proven receivers who were effective in the Chip Kelly Offense that were shaken off due to not being “Chip Kelly guys”. In their place, we have receivers who could eventually grow into the boots that these elites have left to fill, but who are nowhere near doing so…but because they are “Chip Kelly guys” they have a spot on the roster.

Make no mistake, once they hit their ceiling or even get remotely close to it, they will be incredible. But as of right now, the lack of experience, mental toughness gained from experience and youth could be harming the team more than it is helping.

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