~By Tim Fernando~
It seems only too long ago we all sat back and watched Sam Bradford throw 3 TD passes to scorch the Green Bay Packers defense in the Philadelphia Eagles third pre-season game. Eagles fans were filled with hope, analysts and NFL experts everywhere had the Eagles bound for 2015 play-off glory.
Now nearly 10 weeks since the game all Eagles fans wish never happened, the Superbowl bound Eagles sit 3-4 in the regular season and are battling to stay afloat in the play-off race.
So as we sit at what is now the mid-season bye week for the Eagles let’s take a look at The Good, The Bad, The Ugly for our Philadelphia Eagles.
At this point in the season Fletcher Cox seems destined for his first look at Waikiki as he jet sets off to his first Pro Bowl, the 2014 All Pro Defensive End has transcended into arguably the leagues best 3-4 Defensive End and the staple of the Eagles defense. Through 7 weeks the 24 year old is only .5 sack away from matching his season best of 5.5 in his rookie season and has managed 3 forced fumbles to date.
Cox’s ability to be a excellent run-stuffer but also an elite pass rusher gives the Eagles flexibility across the defensive line which creates havoc for many offensive lines as Cox often requires more attention than just a single offensive linemen. At this stage of the season Fletcher Cox is the Eagles MVP and certainly in the conversation of Defensive Player of The Year.
Malcolm Jenkins now in his third season with the Eagles has exceeded expectations. The much talked about Eagles secondary got a huge transformation this off-season with the additions of Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond and Nolan Carroll being moved to starter. Jenkins has taken the step from a solid starter to an elite pro Safety, Pro Football Focus has Jenkins currently ranked the 2nd overall for safeties only behind the Vikings Harrison Smith and ahead of Seahawks Free Safety Earl Thomas.
Through 7 games Jenkins has forced 3 fumbles, totaled 43 (equal best) total tackles and an interception, perhaps the most impressive statistic for Jenkins so far though is his Pro Football Focus rating in coverage (91.3) which is 3rd best league wide. What makes Jenkins so important is his ability to cover both the pass and the run which is evident with his 16 stops (league best) when faced with a run play.
Gone are the days of Brian Dawkins but Eagles fans can rest easy for now with a leader like Jenkins at the back of the secondary.
The rookie out of Texas has surprised many, with a linebacker corps featuring the likes of DeMeco Ryans, Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks and Connor Barwin it was easy to forget the Eagles took Hicks with their 2015 3rd round pick.
With key injuries to both Alonso and Kendricks what was meant to be a season of limited opportunity for Hicks soon turned into a starting role and what came with that nobody would have predicted. The rookie linebacker currently leads the Eagles for tackles with Safety Malcolm Jenkins (43) has a forced fumble and interception. Pro Football Focus also has Jordan Hicks currently ranked 9th overall for all Linebackers this season.
With the Eagles first two picks in the draft Nelson Agholor and Eric Rowe yet to fire a shot, Hicks has become glimmer of hope for the Eagles 2015 Draft haul and is an early rookie defensive player of the year candidate.
Brought in for his elite accuracy and football smarts it would be expected the Eagles saw some stability and improvement at the quarterback spot heading into the 2015 season. So far Bradford has been anything but accurate throwing 9 touchdown passes and leads the league in interceptions with 10.
The problem with Sam Bradford is consistency, in week 3 vs Washington Bradford finished with 3 TD’s 0 Interceptions and a 122.6 passer rating but counter that with Bradford’s Week 6 performance vs the Giants 1 TD with 3 Interceptions and a passer rating of 63.2. The play of Sam Bradford this season is what you could accept from a rookie trying to make his way from playing boys to men, flashes of brilliance and flashes of utter stupidity.
The Eagles will go as far as Sam Bradford can take them, gone is the excuse ‘give it time’ or ‘he hasn’t played for two years’ as critical the mistakes are that Mark Sanchez makes the one thing he could do is move this offence down the field…
The one thing that I feel bad for with Byron Maxwell is the contract the Eagles gave him, when a team starving for a starting Cornerback comes calling at the tune of $63 million dollars do you blame him for signing the papers?
Maxwell can’t control the money tag he has hanging over his head but what he can do is prove to people he is worth that and even with slight improvement the past few weeks he has yet to live up to the money or the ‘cover corner’ tag. The Eagles have had history with over paying cornerbacks (e.g. Nnamdi Asomugha) and I will credit Maxwell to the point that he hasn’t hit Nnmadi bad yet nor do I think he will but he isn’t light years better.
The Eagles need to play to his strengths, clearly what we thought of Maxwell in terms of a press corner doesn’t work and he looks far more comfortable playing off his man and launching himself at the ball.
Eagles Wide Receivers
If Jeremy Maclin wanted a contract to be the highest paid wide receiver league wide right now I think 9/10 Eagles fans would say pay him in a heartbeat.
Coming off a really solid Rookie season Jordan Matthews has played absolutely horrible to date, throughout all of last season Jordan Matthews dropped 25 passes, throughout 7 weeks this season Jordan Matthews has dropped 25 passes. First round pick Nelson Agholor has been nothing but a disappointment catching 8 targets for only 105 yards and dare I say it Riley Cooper has been the Eagles most consistent Receiver to date.
Sam Bradford has to trust his receivers, a lot of the dropped passes are extremely catchable balls for any NFL quality wideout, the loss of Jeremy Maclin may just be the biggest of the lot from the Eagles off-season departures. Once a team that had a luxury at the receiver spot now looks as if they will be searching or paying for that next guy to come in and contribute right away.
Chip Kelly/Jeffrey Lurie
I like Chip Kelly as the coach, I hate Chip Kelly as the GM.
Jeffrey Lurie handed the keys and full control over to Chip Kelly this off-season, this is Chip Kelly’s team, he has picked the players he thinks fit his system and he needed to make it work. So far it hasn’t worked and it’s about time somebody started taking responsibility for the mess that is the eagles offence.
What is becoming quite noticeable to many is the lack of taking the blame or accepting it was ‘my’ fault, Chip Kelly is a smart man, he is a good coach but he has never been good with the media and it is becoming quite evident he isn’t good at taking the blame.
One comment that stood out to me was post match after the Eagles week 7 loss to Carolina, Chip was asked about why after a 63 yard TD run by Ryan Mathews did he not get another carry throughout the game, Chips response to this question was ‘Ask Duce he controls the rotations with the backs’ referring to RB’s coach Duce Staley.
As the head coach of a football team you have the power to over rule any decisions made by the positional coaches who you hired as their boss, do you not?
It’s time to take ownership Chip, God forbid this team doesn’t make the post-season this year.