Part of a new campaign the SB Nation NFL blogs will be participating during this 2014 season involves answering questions posed by Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk. Faulk, who is also an analyst at NFL Network, asked his latest question in the video above: "At the quarter mark of the season, it’s time to put a stake in the ground. What bold decision would you like to see from your team?"
My first thought is that the Eagles aren't really in desperate need of a bold decision. Philadelphia is coming off their first loss of the season. They're still 3-1 and it's not time to panic. With that said, there are some tweaks to be considered. Here is the biggest change the Eagles should consider.
Bench Riley Cooper
It's easy to say that Cooper hasn't lived up to the 5-year, $22.5 million ($8 million guaranteed) contracted he was signed to during the offseason. Through four games, Cooper has recorded 15 receptions for 125 yards (8.3 average), a long of 21, 0 touchdowns, 1 fumble, and at least 2 drops. One of those drops could have been a potential game-winner against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4. The other drop was also a dropped touchdown in Week 2. Cooper currently ranks 107th out of 107 wide receivers on Pro Football Focus. That's really bad.
It's unlikely that Cooper will be benched entirely, however. He's actually coming off his best performance of the season. OK, that isn't saying too much, but perhaps it's a sign of progress. Cooper started off slow last season and rebounded towards the middle of the year, thanks in part to an awful Oakland Raiders defense. Here's a look at Cooper's statistics through the first four games of this season and last.
2013: 19 targets, 8 receptions, 93 yards, 11.63 y/r, 1 TD, 2 drops
2014: 25 targets, 15 receptions, 125 yards, 8.33 y/r, 0 TD, 2 drops, 1 fumble
The other problem is that there's no clear replacement for Cooper. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said the team doesn't want to move Jordan Matthews on the outside. Matthews has spent the whole off-season practicing as a slot wide receiver and it seems the team doesn't want to throw a whole new role at him.
Another option is third-round rookie receiver Josh Huff. The problem is that Huff, who hasn't been active in a game since suffering a shoulder sprain in mid-August, is far from a clear upgrade. Huff was ruled questionable heading into the Eagles' Week 4 game and ended up being a game-day inactive. Kelly noted that Huff was both "mentally and physically" not ready to play.
Kelly's comments likely aren't off base. Huff failed to majorly impress in training camp. He looked like a typical rookie receiver who struggled with drops and other issues. It's unlikely that Huff is ready to come in right away and be the full-time answer to the Eagles' No. 2 wide receiver problem.
The Eagles could aim to cut into Cooper's snaps by mixing in players such as Josh Huff, Jeff Maehl, and Brad Smith in a limited role. That's not much of a solution, however. For now it seems like Philadelphia is stuck with letting Cooper work through his struggles. That's unfortunate for the Eagles unless the veteran wide receiver can step up and turn things around quickly. Cooper could also use some more help from struggling quarterback Nick Foles.
• Veteran tight end Brent Celek hasn't produced much and looks a step slow. More playing time for James Casey and/or Trey Burton, who are both playing well on special teams, has to be considered.
• Give Chris Polk some touches. LeSean McCoy has struggled to run the ball effectively behind a patch-work offensive line. There are still times when McCoy is trying to dance for the big play instead of taking what's in front of him, however. Polk has played well on special teams and deserves some offensive touches. Nothing too major is needed, but at least two or three touches a game couldn't hurt.
• Bench Nick Foles for Mark Sanchez. Just kidding...