Last night was incredibly embarrassing. The Eagles got their mouths punched in, at home, despite the defense playing well against a crippled Cowboys offense and giving the offenses countless opportunities to climb back into the game. Why is the offense so bad? Philly has 60 million dollars worth of running backs, athletic pass catchers and stud players at both tackle spots and center. So what the hell is this? Why couldn't Philly move the ball on a defense that even the Giants were able to put points up on? Why was the offense so stagnant in the first half against Atlanta?
First off, the guards are wrecking this offense. Usually, when a team has studs at center and tackle, guard play can be relatively replaceable. However, Allen Babre and Andrew Gardner have been beyond bad. Their play has been so bad, it functionally leaves the remaining three players on the line on an island, left to work independently. The play of Gardner and Babre has been so bad, it has negatively impacted the talented players around them. Their incompetence is incredibly detrimental to the offense because interior protection, in general, is more important than edge protection. Edge protection can be manufactured in the passing game by short drops, QB pocket movement and interior running game. However, when plays are getting blown up from inside, there is really nowhere for the quarterback to go and it is impossible to run anywhere because defenders get through the middle so easily. The Eagles, in particular, build their offense around the inside zone run and now that the "inside" part of "inside zone run" is barely applicable, the run game is awful.
The impact stretches beyond the running game, because Sam Bradford is clearly shook behind this line. He looks skittish, missing guys on a regular basis or immediately going to the check down. His conservative style of play takes away the deep game. Constant running back passes and slants/drags for receivers does nothing for the offense. Because the defense does not need to respect the deep game, you see safeties walking up towards the line of scrimmage pre snap, creating 8 and 9 man boxes. This amplifies the ineffectiveness of the run game. There is a symbiotic relationship between being able to run the ball and the privilege to fire down the field. Defenses are daring the offense to go downfield and the offense is not taking advantage of that, so there is no chance of opening anything up for the running game. Philly is a one dimensional football team and that dimension is sideways.
Lastly, this is a system. Kelly has a system and he has methodically selected players who fit his system. He does not want guys who can create offense at the risk of losing yardage, he wants guys who follow the space that his offense creates. However, when the system goes to shit, what does the team have? DeMarco Murray is a downhill running back who cannot create at the line of scrimmage, but he cannot get going. The same can be said for Ryan Mathews. The windows are getting tighter in the passing game due to lack of vertical element and Bradford is too conservative to test those windows (It also does not help that guys are dropping the few shots he does take, like they're surprised the ball actually made it to them). A lot of the key players in this offense cannot function outside of the system and it is destroying the team's ability to move the ball and, in turn, any hope at making it to the playoffs.
Can this be fixed? Yeah, of course. Everything in the NFL is fluid. The coaching staff needs to take a long hard look at the guards and maybe throw some fresh guys out there, just to see if they can function better. I would also say that the offense needs to make it a priority to work down the field. We spent a first round pick on a speedy wide receiver and he has 8 targets this season. Be more aggressive in the passing game and I would be shocked if the running game did not start to trend in a better direction. Another thing is to not let these last two games completely take the life out of the offense. Bradford seems to get worse as games go on, which is worrying, so the team needs a fast start against the New York Jets on Sunday to keep his confidence up.