Look, not every team can be the juggernaut that is the Miami Dolphins.
The Eagles, in Week Three, took a few steps backwards on offense, a step-or-so forward on defense, a brisk jog backwards on special teams and ultimately came up short in the battle of The Once and Future Coaches.
I am going to try to take the loss in stride. Pretend along with me, if you will, that the Eagles hadn't come out of the gate the way they did. Imagine they had beat the Redskins in a totally unimpressive fashion. Imagine the media hadn't gone on a weeklong Chip Kelly Love-a-Palooza. Pretend that Coach Chip and the Birds were being judged, as is appropriate, alongside the other teams with new coaches. You do that and things look okay where they are at the moment. The Eagles look, as you'd expect, like a team that's re-scheming and rebuilding off of a 4-win season.
THANKFULLY, I NOTICED THIS:
1. The Eagles' corners can cover. Perhaps it's because of what I remember from last year, but Fletcher, Williams and Boykin can all match up against NFL receivers and hold their own. At times, Fletcher and Williams can more than hold their own. This changes, of course, when they are asked to rely on safety help (more on that later... in a section about bad things. Like, for example... the Eagles safeties. You see where this is going.)
2. Mychal Kendricks hasn't set the world on fire like I thought he was ready to do after Week One, but he continues to fly around the field and make an impact on more plays than any other Eagle. He still misses too many tackles. I look at it like a rangy shortstop... he makes some errors, but he gets to balls that other shortstops would never touch. He's so fast that he manages to get out to the flat almost any time a back or receiver catches a pass out there. Sometimes, though, he arrives a tad late and whiffs. Still, he's standing players up more often than he did last year and he looks like a player than can really develop in this system so long as the system and coach Davis stay long enough to let it happen. 9 more tackles this week. Averaging 9 per game. That puts him on pace for 144 combined tackles. He had 75 last year. The system and his his growth as a player within it are evident.
3. We hit that fellow who throws the ball! My biggest positive takeaway from this game is that we sacked the quarterback a very respectable five times. A week (3 days, really) after Philip Rivers had time to text his receivers and let them know the ball would be there shortly, Alex Smith spent much of the evening scampering, scrambling, and eating the dirt. Most exciting were the sacks by Cox (because he needs to be an impact player), Curry (because a lot of fans were convinced that the Eagles weren't going to use Curry even though that was a silly thought at all times and still is) and Allen (because, well, he needs to do something during the game. More on that later. I promise.)
4. LeSean McCoy. Even on what Twitter (Twitter's a Doctor, yes?) called a torn achilles, a broken leg, a high ankle sprain and a torn ACL he managed to look fantastic. He's a transcendent talent. He's on pace for 2,700 yards from scrimmage. I don't even need to look it up to tell you that'd be the best of all time. But I did look it up. And it would.
MOSTLY, THOUGH, I NOTICED THIS:
1. Are there online applications for Eagles' safety? Not for me, I'm busy. But I have nieces that seem bored with school. Honestly, though, it's bad. Let's put it this way: The Chiefs threw 35 passes. The Eagles threw 30. That's to say the Chiefs threw more passes by five. The Chiefs players had 11 passes defensed and 2 intercepted. That eliminates 13 of the Eagles 30 attempts thanks to positive plays made by the defense. Leaving us with only 17 POSSIBLE completions in the game. The Eagles defense, however, defensed a ridiculous 5/35 passes and intercepted none. Leaving the Chiefs with a possible 30 receptions. 30 to 17. Even though they threw only 5 more balls during the game. Added to the poor angles our safeties take in the running-game and the increasingly reliable phenomenon that, at least once per game, a safety will miss a coverage leading to a touchdown that leaves the announcers saying, "Well, there must have been a blown assignment there in the Eagles secondary" and what we have is a simple problem: We have no safeties. We need some. The Draft and Free Agency cannot come fast enough for that.
2. Mike Vick doesn't take care of the ball when he's uncomfortable. I am not sure if it was Andy Reid's presence or the defense the Chiefs had planned. Maybe it was the shortened prep time needed for a Thursday game. But whatever it was it was a bad recipe for Mike Vick and ball security. Not only were a few very open receivers missed with errant throws downfield, but two interceptions were lost to completely ill conceived and (and not or) poorly thrown passes. Between the Johnson muffed punt, the two picks and the Kelce butt-snap there were four completely unforced turnovers on Thursday. We've at least gotta make the other team work for it.
3. Kelce. Oy. Injury to his hand, maybe. Again, shortened prep-time maybe. It was the worst game I've ever seen a center have. Two fumbles. Five poor snaps. At least three missed or unsuccessful blocks. I have no doubt that this game was an aberration and that Kelce will be fine. But Thursday was abysmal.
4. I believe I mentioned it in Week One's debriefing, but it is even more obvious now how much we miss Maclin in this offense. When we're winning it's grand. Run all day and give Shady open pastured through which to gallop. But when we're losing and teams know we're gonna throw... it's too easy to take Jackson out of the game on most snaps and force Vick to find other receivers who can't stretch the field. Avant was terrific on Thursday, but if Maclin were healthy he'd be too much of a threat to constantly roll a safety to DeSean's side. And if they rolled safeties on top of each of them... the running lanes would be cavernous. Someone would be open.
5. Damaris Johnson isn't doing much to help the team. I am not sure if that's an issue with the coaches not finding enough use for him in the offense or if it's his issue learning/adapting to the offense or what. But if his only contributions are going to be returning the ball to exactly where it would be if they let it go through the endzone and fumbling it inside the 5 (where he shouldn't be touching it anyway) I'd just as soon he not be out there.
I ended with the bad stuff this week. I regret that now. Because the truth is that I am not discouraged by what I've seen. Our defense needs new players in several spots. Our coach needs to get accustomed to a brand new league. Reid, Trestman, McCoy, Arians, Chudzinski, Marrone, and Bradley each have NFL experience. That's all the other new coaches this year. Only Kelly is brand new to the NFL. Little things like 53 man rosters, practice limitations, and two-minute warnings are new concepts. He's a true rookie and he looks like one at times.
But if this is a work in progress (and I believe it is) then it seems like progress is being made. It appears to me that players are becoming more comfortable with concepts and schemes at the time goes by. The defense looked competent a week after it looked laughable. The offense turned the ball over 5 times and still managed to gain 431 yards. The Chiefs are a good team and we lost. We deserved to lose. The Broncos are, perhaps, a better team. More than that, though, they are a terrific test. We have a long week to study. I hope we ace it. We probably won't. But we might just earn a passing grade.
Until then: 1-2.