|Run, Don't Walk|
With the Chiefs at 4-0 and dismantling the Giants (a game that many in the Philly area saw, given the overlap of the New York market), there is, of course, some in the region who wonder if the franchise has made the wrong move in shipping out Andy Reid and hiring Chip Kelly. Which, of course, is blatantly and hopelessly unfair: the final two years of unwatchable football in the Reid era are entirely his fault, given the amount of personnel work here, and there are no more than a handful of players from the Reid era that are going to be on this team when they matter again. But sports is not about fairness, it's about results. Today, the Eagles weren't competitive for vast chunks of time, and barely look like they were playing the same game.
All of this, by the way, is for the good. Going from mediocre to great is harder to do than going from terrible to great, and the lasting scar that today's game will leave should keep everything in check if and when there is a feel-good day against the Little Sisters of the Poor, aka the NFC East. (A division that, by the way, is still completely for the taking if they can somehow get road wins against the winless Giants and Bucs in the next two weeks.) But there's no denying that this is a terrible football team right now, including but not limited to:
> A secondary that is giving up a historically awful amount of yards in the air. In the third quarter, they were so gun-shy that Peyton Manning just threw WR screen after WR screen, the most simple pass in the book, with WR DeMaryius Thomas racking up double-digit yardage on a play that should, well, not do that. Deep balls are open, underneath slants made even Alex Smith's conservative game management move the chains on deep downs, and the only way they aren't getting gashed is from RB dump offs and TE work, mostly because opponents are just keeping those players back to block, knowing that they are going to win on the outside.
> Blitz packages that never surprise, and almost never work. Perhaps we will all spend the rest of our days pining for the esoteric imagination of Jim Johnson getting Brian Dawkins free for superhero lunges, but the dynamic work of, say, CB Cary Williams getting to Robert Griffin have completely dried up. When a blitz comes, it comes from a handful of linebacker positions, it gets picked up, and it doesn't do much of, well, anything.
> Special teams deterioration. Again in the Washington game, and even San Diego, special teams were wildly encouraging. Schemes looked better, desire was stronger, and while PR/KR Damaris Johnson has hurt them with mistakes, this looked like it was on the upswing. Today, P Donnie Jones never pinned Denver deep, K Alex Henery missed from distance, the kickoff team failed on a return touchdown, and the punt block team gave up another score on a block. It's a bit much to say Denver wins without taking an offensive snap today. It's also not too far from the truth.
> Red zone execution. I don't know if the personnel are just lacking, if the coaching staff isn't ready to roll out more stuff, or the tight end drops and protection points are just making things more button-down than they should be... but man alive, an offense that just moves the ball between the 30s is just more of the same here. Part of it is the not getting any better loss of WR Jeremy Maclin, and the utter failure of WR Riley Cooper and Jason Avant to take advantage of the opportunity, and part of it just may be what happens when your only good WR (Desean Jackson) is at his worst in the red zone, and the TEs keep dropping balls. It's also more than a little telling that the sieve-tastic defense is making every non-TD trip seem like a defeat.
I guess I'm just looking for more imagination here. The bubble screen disaster against the Redskins should not mean that's off the table. Getting the running game to work in the money area would also be a big plus. Committing to TE development, rather than just feeding the leaky vessel that is Celek, would also be fine and dandy. More of the same, not so much.
> The wear down isn't happening. If you've got a team that's taking big chunks from a defense on the ground, and a QB that frequently breaks backs with escape moves that turns good coverage and pressure into scrambles for first downs, you should get better over the course of a game -- not worse. You should be able to go vanilla in the run game late and just grind people into powder. And that's not happening, and it's not all tempo.
The simple fact of the matter is that the starting Eagle OL isn't up to the task of taking over a game. They can blow open holes and look better than they are when RB LeSean McCoy, who might be playing at a higher level than anyone else in the NFL right now, starts doing his Barry Sanders impersonation. But those big chunks aren't coming for Bryce Brown (admittedly, his style of running to the sideline whenever possible isn't helping) or Chris Polk, and when the team needs to throw it, everything that isn't a speed timing route looks like it's on the edge of fail. Maybe a QB with a quicker release helps hide that better, and more accuracy is always a win, but for a team that's gotten everyone back healthy, they just aren't winning enough of those battles.
Luckily, the schedule gets easier now, with routine Sunday early games and the last-place benefit coming into play. They also play in a terrible division, and the fan base honestly knows how bad the last two years were, and that this is a rebuilding year.
But watching a team with no chance of winning isn't anyone's idea of fun, and the only thing we were really demanding this year was that it would be more fun than last year. So far, it's mostly been more of the same. Which is going to lead to the most dangerous emotion a fan base can feel... disappointment.