The Philadelphia Eagles will not be playing a football game this weekend. The bye is here. Eagles players, coaches, and staff members will rest before returning early next week to prepare for the team's Week 9 opponent: the Dallas Cowboys.
Here are 10 things I think I think about the Eagles while we wait for the bye to pass by.
1) I think Sam Bradford isn't the answer at quarterback
Bradford's rankings through seven games: 23rd in completion percentage, 34th in yards per attempt, 14th in touchdowns, tied for first in interceptions, 33rd in passer rating. The numbers just aren't very pretty. It's true that drops have been an issue, but you can't seriously believe they're the only reason for Bradford's struggles. Bradford has had to deal with 25 drops. Tom Brady has had to deal with the second most at 23. It may shock you to hear that Brady is playing a lot better than Bradford. The Eagles are going nowhere fast if their starting quarterback continues to struggle.
2) I think Sam Bradford will be the Eagles starting quarterback next season
I know I just said Bradford isn't the answer, but I can't shake the feeling that the Eagles really believe in him. I think the Eagles will extend Bradford's contract after this season (short-term deal?) and try to sell themselves on the idea that he'll be better in 2016 after having spent a year in the system. What other options do the Eagles really have? I think Philadelphia's defense is too good to have this team picking high enough to get a good quarterback in the NFL Draft, and there aren't many options in free agency and/or the trade market. So the Eagles are probably stuck with Bradford.
3) I think Sam Bradford might not be strong enough
Remember that article about Bradford's butt not being strong enough? Well, it sounds funny, but maybe it's true. I wonder if part of Bradford's struggles are due to the fact he hasn't really been able to work out a lot over the past two years. Think about it. He's spent a lot of time recovering from two ACL surgeries, so I imagine he's had to miss a lot of time in the weight room. Bradford looks so thin and frail. This is just an anecdotal observation, but it's something I've wondered about.
4) I think paying DeMarco Murray all that money was a mistake
The Eagles weren't wrong to want to improve their rushing attack after having a mediocre one in 2014. Part of the reason why the Eagles were so successful on offense in 2013 was due to their top-ranked run game. So I understood the idea of wanting to bring in DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. But signing Murray to a big deal was a mistake. Running back is a fungible position in the NFL. Just look at some of the top performers this year. Current NFL leading rusher Devonta Freeman was a fourth round pick. Chris Johnson, who is second in rushing yards, was a free agent who didn't sign with the Cardinals until mid-August. Former Eagles running back Dion Lewis didn't even play in the NFL last year and now he's averaging 4.9 yards per carry along with 10.9 yards per reception. The Eagles didn't need to invest so much money in Murray.
5) I think the Eagles need give Ryan Mathews more touches, but it won't happen
Mathews has rushed for 341 yards and three touchdowns on 56 attempts for a 6.1 average. He's also made 12 receptions for 97 yards and one touchdown. Mathews is averaging 6.44 yards per touch. Compare these numbers to Murray, who has rushed for 307 yards and three touchdowns on 88 attempts (3.5 average) and has 23 receptions for 132 yards an one touchdown. Murray is only averaging 3.89 yards per touch.Despite Mathews being the more effective player, I think the Eagles will be stubborn and keep Murray as the starter.
To be clear, Murray shouldn't be benched entirely. He has value in this offense as a tough north-south runner, which was supposedly the reason for signing him. He showed it early on in the Panthers game by busting through the middle of Carolina's defense for significant gains. But it's pretty much a waste of a play when the Eagles try to get him running to the outside.
6) I think the idea of the Eagles' young wide receivers is way better than the reality of them
A lot of people were excited about the young trio of Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, and Nelson Agholor heading into this season. Here are their stats through seven games:
Matthews - 39 receptions, 402 yards, 10.3 yards per reception, 1 TD, 6 drops, 1 fumble, 2 penalties
Huff - 13 receptions, 141 yards, 8.6 yards per reception, 1 TD, 1 drop, 1 penalty
Agholor - 8 receptions, 108 yards, 13.5 yards per reception, 1 drop, 1 fumble, 3 penalties
Yikes. Matthews and Agholor are actually the two worst overall graded receivers on Pro Football Focus, for what it's worth. These players are young and have room to improve, but what if they're just bad?
7) I think the Eagles are wasting their good defense
Philadelphia's defense is legit. They rank No. 3 overall by Football Outsiders. They are tied for allowing the fifth least yards per play. They lead the NFL in takeaways. But it's all for waste because the offense is so bad and can't capitalize on the opportunities their defense gives them.
It also remains to be seen if the Eagles can keep this defense together in the long-term. Starters such as Nolan Carroll and Walter Thurmond are free agents after the season. Fletcher Cox is under contract for 2016 but he's due a big contact extension eventually, and it won't be cheaper. Vinny Curry, who is a valuable pass rusher off the bench, is on the last year of his rookie deal. Can the Eagles afford to keep their defense intact?
8) I think Bill Davis doesn't get enough credit
I don't think Davis is some mastermind defensive genius, but I do think he doesn't get enough credit. Look at this Davis approval poll from September where only 64% of fans said they approved of Philadelphia's defensive coordinator. I think the number should be higher than that. I also wonder if Davis will start to get interviewed for head coaching jobs in the near future. If Pat Shurmur gets interviewed each offseason, why shouldn't Davis?
9) I think Chip Kelly needs to do a better job
Or at least that's what Andy Reid would say. I hardly think Kelly has been all bad as a general manager and coach, but the team clearly isn't a contender right now and that's ultimately Kelly's fault. I don't think Kelly made the wrong move by tearing down last year's roster. Those Eagles weren't much of a true contender either. His mistake has been not adequately replacing his former players with quality upgrades.
10) I think the Eagles aren't going to get much better this season
I don't expect the team to really turn it around after the bye. I think it's going to be more of the same for the rest of the season: the defense will look good but the offense will struggle. I have the Eagles finishing 9-7, and that's admittedly optimistic. 8-8 might be the ceiling of this team. The Eagles are pretty mediocre, so that would be an appropriate finish.