Each week Patrick and Dave discuss the week that was and will be. It's Two Guys Internetting Football!
Patrick: Dave, I think we can safely say that this is turning into one of "those" seasons. All last week we talked on BGN about how Sam Bradford needed to air it out, and the defense needed to play better on the back end. Well, Bradford threw three touchdowns, the Eagles pass D did a respectable job, and the Eagles still lost in heartbreaking fashion.
To me, the crux of this season is that the team can't get out of its own way. They're among the league leaders in drops, they have more than 30 penalties already on the season, and mental mistakes and missed assignments have cost the team all over the place. I guess we should have seen this coming, what with all the new faces, but did you ever envision this kind of sputtering to start the year?
Dave: No, this has been ridiculous. Changing out two offensive linemen usually doesn't go smoothly, but the offensive line has been a disaster of proportions that no one could see coming. We all knew the release of Evan Mathis made them worse, but this kind of ineptitude you can't predict. Sam Bradford has played so bad that even I am disappointed by his performance. And then, like you said, he finally does things we want him to do and it's not enough. And the pass rush has been non-existent too, though it's far from the reason they are 1-3. And perhaps worst of all, Chip Kelly is getting outcoached.
This team is very much nowhere near the sum of it's parts.... and I'm not seeing how it's going to turn it around. We're a month into the season, and while sometimes teams start off slow and then kick it into gear, the Eagles have too many problems to correct. People can point to the 1-3 start in 2013, but the offense that year was piling up the yards, they just needed to get better in the red zone, and the defense was a sieve which was to be expected considering the change from a 4-3 to a 3-4. There wasn't much improvement needed to win, they were pretty close to turning it around.
This year is kind of the exact opposite situation, but the outlook is different. Whereas the 2013 offense needed to improve in one area, the red zone, it's the defense just needs to improve in one area, the pass rush. But sacks aren't what is keeping the team from winning.
Whereas the 2013 defense was undergoing a big transition in scheme and had some key players that were still developing (Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Bennie Logan), this year's offense isn't. Sure, the players are different, but it's a veteran offense that shouldn't have growing pains. Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray were supposed to be better fits. It's not entirely their faults, but they haven't been.
And they could still play like crap and beat the Saints, because New Orleans is terrible. The Eagles could win 35-3 and I don't think we would actually learn anything.
Patrick: Okay, so here's a hypothetical for you: say the Eagles, despite all the o-line injuries, are able to run the ball against the worst defense in football, according to Football Outsiders. Does that make you feel better? I honestly think we're past the point of looking at numbers as an indicator (which is a dicey proposition to begin with, but is especially the case with this club).
If Murray is able to run through contact, if the receivers are able to catch passes, if Bradford completes more than 60 percent of his passes, these are all positives.Will we see all three of these Sunday? I'm past that level of optimism, but it is possible.
After Murray's postgame comments last week, I think you can help keep your clubhouse happy by feeding him the rock this week. Try to get the run game going, and as long as the defense doesn't fall apart at the hands of the Drew Brees-to-Brandin Cooks combo, the Eagles should be able to run their offense the way they like: run to set up the pass, mix in some play action and take shots deep. I do think we're going to see a much more "Chip Kelly Eagles" team this week.
Dave: Yes. The Saints defense is respectable against the run, they are 12th in rush DVOA. What's really hurting them is that their pass defense is non-existent. So running well against them would be encouraging. But passing well against them wouldn't be. No bonus points for doing well against the worst.
Murray's touches and performance will be a key to watch. On one hand, you don't sign him to give him the ball eight times a game. On the other hand, he's been banged up and his performance in those limited amount of carries hasn't warranted more touches. But hey it could be worse, at least he gives a crap, which is more than you can say about other players.
I'm not sure I agree that this will be a more "Chip Kelly team" this week. I feel like we've said that in previous weeks, and here we are still waiting. I like the Eagles to win, but mostly because the Saints are bad and on the road. I feel like even with a win, we'll be talking about another incomplete performance.
Patrick: Well, maybe I should clarify - I think the game plan will be more in line with what we expected. The execution remains to be seen. After all, the Eagles didn't draft any guards, so now the season is over.
I wanted to bring this up earlier, but I tried to restrain myself. There has been a lot of talk this week about the idea that the Eagles should have drafted an offensive lineman at some point in the last two years. To date, Lane Johnson is the only one Chip has drafted, which is kind of amazing when you think about it.
And while I do think it was important to draft a lineman, I'm also not going to get overly upset about it. As we all know, the draft is not an exact science. Yes, the Eagles could have moved up this year to get someone like Jake Fischer over Eric Rowe. But if, at the end of last season, you had given Eagles fans a choice between a corner/safety or a lineman in the second, most would have said the DB. And for good reason - it was a bigger need.
I'm also not sure what drafting a guy late does. Remember when everyone argued about whether Earl Wolff was a viable player on this team? It would have been that all over again, but this time with a need-laced dash of Casey Matthews, since that fifth-rounder would now be in line to start.
Dave: I'm with you that it's being overstated. Let's say they drafted an OL in each draft. There's zero guarantee that they would be any good. So instead of Matt Tobin and Dennis Kelly, they'd have two guys with different names who also aren't the answer. In 2014, the next three OL taken after Ed Reynolds were interior linemen. Two are out of the league; the other is a backup.
That said, there are fair criticisms. While no one player is the golden ticket, buying in bulk works in nearly everything. Always draft linemen, on both sides of the ball. Draft at least two on each side during a rolling three-year period. Most won't work out, but that's why you keep drafting them, you will hit on enough over time.There isn't a team in the league that feels they have too many good linemen.
When healthy, the Packers start three fourth rounders and a fifth; the Patriots are rotating through fourth and fifth rounders. The Ravens have four starters who were taken in the second, third or fourth rounds. You don't always need top of the draft talent, but you do need to keep the talent flowing in. The Eagles haven't done that. And to be fair, that's not entirely on Chip. Howie Roseman was there for two of those drafts, and he knew he had three players on the wrong side of 30.
This year it was on Chip, who said that in the fourth round there weren't any OL they had rated that highly, weren't any players period they rated that highly, so they traded the pick for a future pick. That's all well and good, but what about later in the draft? Was Randall Evans, who I pick out not because he didn't make the roster but because he's the one guy they didn't meet with before the draft, really a better choice than any of the OL left? Or Brian Mihalik, who I pick out not because he's a practice squad player but because he was always going to be a practice squad player because of the depth at DL after, wait for it, drafting seven DL in the previous three years.
See what I mean about buying in bulk? Two picks after the one they traded, Cleveland traded up, giving up a sixth and a seventh. Would you rather have a third, or two extra late picks? I'd rather have the third, but a big part of that is because they don't have a second next year thanks to the awful Bradford trade.
And lastly, this new management might be really bad at evaluating offensive linemen (and other positions too, but that's for another day). I had no problem with letting Herremans go and ostensibly replacing him with Allen Barbre, who looked fine when he played. But they knew that Mathis wasn't going to be on the team, and they did nothing to replace him. Andrew Gardner is the embodiment of journeyman and replacement level player, he has been on five teams in seven years. And they just gave him the starting RG job.
So they either legitimately thought he was good enough or naively proceeded with no plan beyond releasing Mathis. They did bring in a bunch(e) of UDFAs, but they were so impressive that right after the first OTA they tried to get the recently released Chris Chester to visit.
So now they're pretty much forced to draft an OL next year just to try to improve at just one guard spot... and with Jason Peters getting older, they are going to need something at tackle shortly down the road too.