Three Things From the Eagles Loss to Washington
When Kirk Cousins drove his team 90 yards for the game winning score to send the Eagles to 1-3, fans all over the Delaware Valley seemed to have a theory as to why the team is struggling. Poor offensive line play, time of possession, missed kicks and Chip Kelly the GM giving Chip Kelly the coach the wrong players.
Three things we learned:
1. The offensive line issues are not fixed.
It was tempting to think that the Eagles got things straightened out when they rushed for 123 yards in their win over the Jets last week. They did not get things straightened out. At least not this week against the Redskins, rushing for just 87 yards in the game. Next up: The Saints, a team the Eagles should be able to move the ball on the ground against, they give up 123.3 yards per game, which ranks 27th in the NFL. If they can't run the ball against New Orleans they wont be able to run the ball against anyone. But it wont be easy, right tackle Lane Johnson has been diagnosed with both a sprained MCL and ankle, and left tackle Jason Peters exited with a quad injury - both hope to play on Sunday.
"I don't know what to expect, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said about Peters.
"They're constantly trying to get themselves out here. I don't ever know sometimes during the day because we do this press conference in the middle of the day. Who is going to be out there. But hopefully he's back."
2. Philadelphia's defense needs help from the offense.
The Eagles defense just might be able to buy the Eagles enough time to grow into a functional offense this season, but the offense is going to have to do a better job of keeping the defense off-the-field. The Eagles defense played well most of the game, but was on the field for about 42-minutes on Sunday, and ended the game giving up a 90-yard drive -but Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis didn't think his deal was gassed on that final drive, they just didn't make a play.
"I honestly don't see it that way," Davis said when asked if his unit was gassed. In talking with the players, we are in great shape. There was nobody talking about being gassed. It's not an excuse that we're going to rely on, even though the question isn't about an excuse. "
"I really believe, guys, that we are in great shape. I've said this before, and I just got done saying it to the guys: ‘I hope the next 12 games come down to that same scenario because we'll win the next 12.’ This group of guys will make those plays. I said after the game, we didn't make it this time, and it's not taking anything away from Washington. They made the plays, they earned the win and they got it. But going forward, we will make those plays. And I don't think anybody was gassed."
3. The Eagles' biggest asset on offense is a liability.
The Eagles want to run a lot of plays, snaps, not time of possession is something Chip Kelly preaches. The pace of the game is something the Eagles want to control, but in their four games this season, pace hasn't really been a factor. The team ranks dead last in the NFL in time of possession at just 22:46 per game.
They don't seem to have the same high octane offense that we saw particularly in Kelly's first season. The Eagles preach getting first downs and keeping drives going, they have just 72 drives on the year, ranking 27th in the NFL and on third down conversations, they rank 31st, converting just 26-percent of the time.
"We train our guys to play at the pace that we play," Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "When they go in as backups and become starters, they're aware of it and they know how to line up. I guess if guys were doing the wrong thing all the time that would be a concern. You know, but no."
Three things we're still trying to figure out:
1. How can Zach Ertz become an asset in Philadelphia's passing game?
This might be the single biggest question on the team outside of the offensive line. Ertz is a unique receiving target, but he's been a non-factor in the offense during the first four weeks of the season. If Philadelphia is going to maximize its use of Ertz, he has to be called on in more creative ways. He's enough of an athlete to be a huge difference maker, but the Eagles don't seem to be using him in creative ways like they did in the final two weeks of last season when he was in on 122-of-169 plays (72.2 percent). This season has just 10 catches on the season, he caught 15-of-18 targets for 115 yards in the season finale last year against the Redskins.
"I think they're just defensing the concepts," Shurmur said when asked how teams are defending Ertz. "There are times when he's one‑on‑one. You saw he made some good catches the other night. Typically when it's one‑on‑one or man‑to‑man coverage, he'll draw coverage down from a safety or a linebacker‑type guy."
2. When are the sacks going to start coming?
The Eagles – especially Connor Barwin– seem to have gotten pressure, but after four games they have just six sacks. There are only five teams in the league who have fewer sacks. While Philadelphia's defense has been pretty solid this season, the lack of sacks and turnovers is something that is a concern moving forward. Many thought Brandon Graham with more playing time would have more sacks, Vinny Curry hasn't gotten the pressure that he was able to get last season and the loss of Mychal Kendricks has hurt the teams ability to blitz up-the-middle.
"There is more pressure than there are sacks," Billy Davis explained. "When you face teams like we just did where the ball is out lightning quick, you always say, ‘Well the rush isn’t getting there.’ So how long is he holding [the ball]? On the ones that he's holding long, if we're not pressuring, then we are in trouble. We had him in our hands probably three times that we did not sack him, and that's frustrating. To get the guys there and the guys are getting themselves [there]."
"We're running stunts better than we've ever run stunts. We get to the quarterback, and we've just got to get him down now. There were two or three -- We missed one in the end zone. On the holding call -- the penalty we had -- Fletcher Cox had [Redskins QB Kirk Cousins] right in the backfield, and he escaped us. So I don't think it's a pressure problem. The sack numbers aren't where you like them. But we've got to get the pressure on the quarterback and get him down and affect the throws. That has to increase. But we actually aren't horrible right there. The sack numbers are."
3. How low can Philadelphia's scoring go?
The Eagles' offense is scoring just 19.5 points per game, which ranks tied for 22nd in the league. They have just nine offensive touchdowns in four games, this is from a team that has been top five in the league in offensive that past two seasons, last year scoring 29.6 points per game ranking fifth in the NFL and in 2013 they averaged 27.6 which was second best in the NFL. Right now it looks like its getting worse before it's getting better.
"We want to get more production out of everybody.," Shurmur admitted. "And I think if we do some of the things we talked about earlier, staying on the field, extending drives, getting more plays then you can just do the math. If you have more plays, the ball can spread around and everybody can get more touches."