That the Philadelphia Eagles are in trouble is no secret. After an offseason where head coach Chip Kelly adopted the somewhat unorthodox strategy of getting rid of all his best talent, the Eagles are now sitting at 0-2, coming off a putrid home loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Philly lost the game 20-10 and for as poorly as the offense played, that 10-point margin might as well have been forty. Here’s the good news for Philly fans—there’s a way out of the morass for Kelly and his team.
Let’s start with the caliber of the opposition. Philly lost the opener on the road in Atlanta 26-24 on a Monday Night. The Falcons then went to New York to beat the Giants. What if it turns out the Eagles just lost games to the future champs of the NFC South and their own NFC East? That still leaves plenty of cushion for the Birds to be good enough for a wild-card.
Philadelphia is also playing decent defense. They’re 15th in the league in points allowed right now, slightly above par and that’s even with getting no help from the offense and quarterback Sam Bradford having already thrown four interceptions. If the Eagles’ defense gets some support, they could be even better.
The problem, naturally then, lies with the offense, which ranks 28th. Bradford’s four interceptions are the big sticking point, but the complete imbalance of the attack is what is most striking. Philadelphia has only run the ball 33 times combined in the first two games. You might point out that this is because the Eagles were in a 20-3 halftime hole at Atlanta, and the running game has been incompetent in either case, with only 70 yards to its credit for the season. But only the first of those excuses holds any water.
Throwing the ball when you’re in a deep hole in the second half is obviously understandable, but the Dallas game was in play throughout. Why did Kelly go out and sign DeMarco Murray on the free agent market if the plan wasn’t to give Murray the football?
Even if the running game’s numbers are awful, which they clearly have been, there’s plenty of good side effects to sticking with it. You buy your defense some time on the sideline. You take pressure off your quarterback—meaning maybe Bradford has fewer interceptions. And ultimately, you hope that eventually the running game will finally break through. Murray is a tough physical back and he can wear defenses down if given the opportunity.
There are personnel problems on the offensive line. Among the underreported decisions by Kelly was his to get rid of guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans walk. Mathis ended up in Denver and Herremans is in Indianapolis. Those departures aren’t as flashy as losing LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin, on top of DeSean Jackson from last year, or as trading Nick Foles for Bradford, but losing Mathis and Herremans might prove every bit as crucial.
For the time being though, I’m going to swallow my considerable doubts about Kelly running his own show with personnel and give him the benefit of the doubt, based on his 20-12 regular season record as an NFL head coach and his 2013 NFC East title. I’m going to assume that Philadelphia can be a 10-win team again. That means things have to change quickly and they have to start with a commitment to giving DeMarco Murray the rock.