Here Are 5 Eagles that Need to Step Up in Second Half
With the bye week behind the birds, it's time for the stretch run of the season, but for the season to be a success the 3-4 Eagles are going to need some things to change and players to step up.
The Eagles start their second half journey in Dallas, looking for revenge against a Cowboys team that is still without its quarterback Tony Romo. Without Romo, no offensive players has stepped up for the Cowboys, but for the Eagles season to be a playoff season - Sam Bradford is going to have play better.
We all know Bradford needs to play better, so the quarterback aside, here are five players who need to have a better second half for the eagles to make the playoffs (in no particular order).
1. Jason Kelce - He is the guy up front that makes it all go. He makes the calls, and he makes the line work, and its worked better.
"We’ve blocked better. Simple," Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said. "We didn't block well at the beginning of the year. We're blocking better now."
One of the reasons its worked better is because Kelce has played better, but he needs to be more consistent and stop getting flagged for drive-killing penalties. Sure the guard play that plagued them earlier in the season has been better, but a lot of that is Kelce and the continuity that is starting to happen between the interior line.
"Techniques and fundamentals," Kelly stated. "It goes back to basics of the game. We weren't very sound fundamentally early in the year. We're better fundamentally now and it's a technique game. I think that we're doing a better job of blocking with technique up front."
2. Jordan Matthews - The drops are a joke, just flat-out unacceptable. Matthews himself has said the drops which have plagued his season are "embarrassing." Matthews committed two more against Carolina and has at least six total drops on the season. Against Carolina, the Eagles had eight drops as a team including two on a potential game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter.
"Missed opportunities," Kelly summarized when asked about what the issues on offense so far. "Too many drops. That is the first thing with everybody when we came out of there: we dropped too many balls. I think we were last in the league in drops or first in the league in drops, however you look at it. There were a lot of things that could have extended drives for us and kept us on the field. We really affected our third-down efficiency in terms of holding onto the football and we've got to do a better job catching the football."
Matthews leads the league in drops and has been held under 60 yards in 5-of-7 games - this from a guy who was being counted on to be the top target this season.
He needs to be much better and if he is, so too should the Eagles offense.
3. Byron Maxwell - The $63 million man hasn't been Bradley Fletcher awful, but he hasn't been a significant upgrade over Cary Williams. You can certainly make a case he has been better than Williams, hsi penalties have hurt the team and how many times on a 3-and-7 do you see No. 31 making the tackle of a guy who just caught a pass in front of him?
While Maxwell may not need to be the savior Eagles fans hoped he would be, he is, but he's at least an upgrade over Fletcher and Williams who were an Achilles heal for the defense for two seasons.
4. Nelson Agholor - The rookie first round pick has shown flashes, but hasn't given the Eagles nearly enough production. He has just eight catches all season long for 105 yards - simply not exceptable. He's missed the past two games with an ankle injury, but should be back and ready to go for the Cowboys game this week.
"I think he was just starting to kind of come in, get real comfortable with how the league is and what the matchups are each week and the challenges that he's going to face each week," Chip Kelly said. "Then he got hurt."
If the Eagles can add some production from Matthews and Agholor they should take a step in the right direction in becoming a more consistent offense.
5. Kiko Alonso - This isn't suggesting that Alonso has been bad, he just hasn't played, and when you trade a player like LeSean McCoy, the guy you get back needs to be a big contributor - Alonso hasn't been - yet.
He showed flashes of what he can do in the Atlanta game, intercepting a pass in the end zone, he is a impact player that the Eagles have gotten little impact from so far.
"Kiko, and I'm still learning Kiko as we see him out there, he hasn't been there a whole lot, but Kiko is a very instinctive football player," Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. "You don't have to say much, he can go out there, and probably not even give him a call, and he could probably float to the ball and be at the ball, be in coverage, be in a good spot."
If the Eagles can add another impact player to their defense, they should be in really good shape on that side of the ball. The only question would be how Davis would use all four of his inside backers., which Davis admits will be a challenge .
"It's a challenge; it's a great challenge to have," Davis admitted. "We've got different packages that they all kind of fit and we can make those packages fit their talents, which is a good thing to have. But it's a great challenge to attack and to solve, but we're excited about getting them all back on the field."