After back-to-back 10-win seasons – and after completely handing the reins to Chip Kelly – the Philadelphia Eagles are 1-3 and rank 28th in the league in total offense.
“You know what’s really strange?” NFL on FOX analyst Charles Davis said on CBS Sports Radio’s. “In the NFL – and in football in general – what have we talked about really over about the last 10 years? It’s a pass-first league, right? Everybody’s throwing the football. Well, you’re talking about a team in Philadelphia that is truly a run-first team, and if they don’t run the football, they don’t get it done.”
The Eagles have played four games this year. In the three games in which they’ve thrown the ball more than they’ve run it, they’ve lost. In the one game they won – 24-17 against the Jets – they ran more than they threw, 38 times to 28 times.
“It is a telling deal with Philadelphia,” Davis said. “They’re not running the ball well and gaining yardage on first down. They’re getting well less than four yards a carry. That’s killing them – because now you’re in 2nd-and-long, 3rd-and-long. And then you get to third down and they’re getting 27 percent on third down. Sam Bradford is averaging 41 percent throwing on third down. That’s their problem. Everything is 3rd-and-too-long.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Chip Kelly does a little change-up with his play-calling this week (against New Orleans) because the offensive line is really beat up and in flux,” Davis continued. “They’re really struggling moving people to get gaps for DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews – although Matthews had over 100 yards against the Jets. He may have to do a little something different than he normally does in order to try to find a way to spark the running game.”
The Eagles’ biggest problem, perhaps, is the amount of time they go without scoring. They scored just three points in the first half against the Falcons in Week 1, were shut out through three quarters against the Cowboys in Week 2, were held scoreless in the second half against the Jets in Week 3 and were held scoreless in the first half against the Redskins in Week 4.
In recent years, Philly has traded its best players – DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy – and is now relying on Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray. Bradford is averaging just 224 passing yards per game and has six touchdowns and four interceptions on the season, while Murray is averaging just 1.6 yards per carry.
“Isn’t it funny that we can do as much lab work as we want, we can be as esoteric as we want, we can be as imaginative as we want, we can draw up all these great (squiggly lines) and what have you,” Davis said, “but the fundamentals still come back and bite us if we don’t have them. And the Eagles right now offensively, it’s in the offensive line.”
Jason Kelcy is a fine center, Davis observed, but seemingly everyone else on the line is dinged up or struggling. Fifty-six percent of the Eagles runs this year have gone for two yards or fewer.
“These guys are getting hit in the backfield as they’re getting the football,” Davis said. “That’s not a formula for getting things done. Sam Bradford has had flashes where he’s been good, but he hasn’t had consistency. They’ve got to get to where both halves match on the way better side – and Sam Bradford is well aware of that.”