The Philadelphia Eagles are now 1-2 on the 2015 NFL regular season schedule after defeating the New York Jets by a final score of 24-17. Here are 10 things we learned from this ugly game. There is a lot to discuss, so let's get right to it.
1) The Eagles are still alive
More important than anything, the Eagles won. They needed to win. An 0-3 team hasn't made the playoffs in 17 years. It sure wasn't pretty, and the Eagles have a LOT of issues to still work on ... but all that matters right now is the win. As a bonus, the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The Eagles are very much alive in the feeble NFC East.
2) Philadelphia's defense is legit
How about that Eagles defense? Despite missing three key starters (Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, Cedric Thornton) and one primary backup (Taylor Hart), the Eagles forced four turnovers and only allowed 17 points. Sure, playing against the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick helps, but this unit deserves credit. They've been pretty solid ever since being torched by Julio Jones in the first half of the Eagles' Week 1 game. And really, who hasn't Jones killed this year so far? He has 34 receptions for 440 yards and four touchdowns through just three games. But I digress. My point is that the Eagles' defense (with an assist from special teams) is carrying this team while the offense is still in a funk.
Some additional key stats: The Eagles have forced a turnover in nine straight games (21 turnovers during that span). Philadelphia hasn't allowed an individual 100-yard rusher in 15 straight games and only one in their last 27 games. That one rusher was former Eagles legend Frank Gore.
3) Ryan Mathews needs more carries
DeMarco Murray sat out due to a hamstring injury. He's only rushed for 11 yards on 21 carries so far this season. Now compare that to Ryan Mathews running for 108 yards on 25 carries (4.3 average) against the Jets. The offensive line appeared to block better than it did for Murray at times, but that's still obviously a big disparity. Mathews looked good running up the middle but he also made the most on runs to the outside, something Murray hasn't done. Mathews was far from perfect; he dropped a wide open pass that could have potentially been a touchdown and he fumbled late in the game. He shouldn't completely overtake Murray's starting job, but it wouldn't hurt to get him more involved in the offense.
4) Sam Bradford is still Sam Badford
Ugh. Sam Bradford was pretty brutal against the Jets. He looked a lot like Nick Foles did last year. Sam Bradfoles, if you will. Bradford majorly struggled to throw accurate passes. He looked too hesitant in the pocket at times. He checked down too often and didn't even really attempt a deep ball. He needs to be better. Just look at this stat line: 14 completions on 28 attempts (50%), 118 yards (4.2 yards per attempt), one touchdown, zero interceptions, 73.2 rating.
In fairness to Bradford, New York has a good defense. He also wasn't getting much help from his wide receivers yet again. He had two potential touchdown passes dropped; one by Mathews (arguably) and one by Sproles (more likely). Nelson Agholor and Miles Austin, whom Bradford targeted eight times for a total of zero receptions, also had some drops. Excuses aside, Bradford was still bad and needs to find a way to get better very fast.
5) Darren Sproles is ridiculous
I don't even know what to say. This dude is just a special player. I'll leave this here:
Darren Sproles is the only player in NFL history with 15+ rushing TDs (18), 25+ receiving TDs (27), and 5+ return TDs (6).— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 27, 2015
I'll never understand why the Saints gave him away.
6) Jordan Hicks doesn't look like a rookie
No Kiko Alonso? No Mychal Kendricks? No problem. Eagles third round rookie played very well in his first NFL start. He finished with 10 tackles (nine solo), one interception, one pass defensed, and one fumble recovery. Hicks became the first Eagles rookie linebacker to record a pick since Stewart Bradley in 2007. For his sake, hopefully Hicks' career turns out much better than Bradley's. Hicks is a good athlete who plays with a lot of energy.
7) Brandon Bair deserves some love
The Eagles are really deep at defensive end. Bair was relied on to start with both Thornton (starter) and Hart (primary backup) out and didn't miss a beat. This is the same guy who had been kept inactive the first two weeks. Bair played heck of a game. He finished with three pass deflections, including one that set up a Hicks interception. He also made four tackles. Chip Kelly's obsession with tall defensive ends paid off here as the 6-7 Bair played a key part in this Eagles win.
8) Walter Thurmond is always makings plays
Thurmond is never not making plays. OTAs, minicamp, training camp practices, preseason, regular season games, you name it ... he's been very active around the ball. The Eagles have a real solid pair of safeties on the back end with Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins starting.
9) Nolan Carroll has quietly been pretty good
There seemed to be a fair bit of concern about Carroll heading into this season. How could the guy who couldn't get on the field ahead of Bradley Fletcher (who was benched by the Patriots, by the way) and Cary Williams possibly be good? Well, Carroll has been good. He's not necessarily a shutdown player by any means but he definitely looks like he belongs as a starting cornerback. He's been much less of a liability than Byron Maxwell, which is something no one probably saw coming. Carroll had two passes defensed against the Jets.
10) Eric Rowe might belong on the field after all
Eric Rowe didn't look like he belonged on the field after a rough preseason. The Eagles obviously felt the same way considering he didn't log a defensive snap in the first two weeks. Rowe made the most of his opportunity on defense against New York, however. He did a great job of turning his head while trailing a receiver to look for the ball and knock it away on one player. His interception in the end zone helped to kill a potential Jets scoring drive.