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Fan-Demonium: Giant Opportunity Awaits

Posted Oct 5, 2013

Before we get into discussing the Giants game, let's talk about where the Eagles stand now that the team is a quarter of the way done with the season. Chip Kelly recently used the old Bill Parcells line that "You are what your record is." That's not good news for the 1-3 Eagles. 

I've always had a problem with that logic. Your record is greatly influenced by who you play, when you play them and where you play them. Over the course of a full season, your record is what you are. Things generally even out by that point. After one month, the record can be deceiving, good or bad. A hard or easy stretch of games can deliver misleading results. 

Think back to last year's Eagles. That team started 3-1. They barely beat a bad Browns team and then had some lucky breaks in wins over the Giants and Ravens, both home games. Was that really a good team? They got exposed over time. I'm not trying to spin the Eagles 1-3 start into anything good. My point is simply that it is too early to define this team. The Eagles have played a really tough schedule so far. That doesn't excuse the losses, but it does have an impact on putting them into context. 

While we don't know what to make of the 2013 Eagles so far, we can talk about what we've seen over the first month. Let's start with the coaching staff. Chip Kelly is still trying to get the Eagles to play his style of football. It will take time for the team to truly get where he wants it. Kelly has done an excellent job of instituting his systems in terms of nutrition, strength training and practicing. The players have bought into his ideas. The Eagles are one of the best conditioned teams in the league and they have the second-fewest injuries. 

One of the most impressive things about Kelly's tenure so far is how veteran players have bought in. Trent Cole hasn't complained for one second about being moved to linebacker. The Eagles have even used him as a two-gap defensive end in some nickel looks. Again, not a peep. Cole wants to win and will do whatever is asked of him. The stat sheet isn't great for Cole, but he's done a good job as a run defender and he is setting a great example for other players. Jason Avant has fit right in on offense and done his part as a leader. He's out there blocking for LeSean McCoy on run plays and helping to move the chains in the passing game. 

Kelly has done a fantastic job of highlighting the star players. McCoy and DeSean Jackson are playing the best football of their careers. Michael Vick has a passer rating of 93.2, which would be the second highest of his career. 

There have been ups and downs with Kelly in the opening month. He had the Eagles completely focused and ready to go in the season opener. He didn't make ideal decisions late in the Chargers game. The decision to go for two in the Chiefs game drew some criticism, but the tape showed that was a good decision. The play just wasn't executed well. I think the positives far outweigh the negatives for Kelly, but his transition to the NFL will continue to be up and down. Adjusting to the NFL is not easy on anyone. The key is to learn from your mistakes and not repeat them. 

The Eagles offense is good, but flawed. In terms of yards, the team is on a historic pace. Red zone problems have forced the team to settle for more field goals than Kelly would like. There is no question that Kelly's schematic ideas can work in the NFL. The Eagles execution has been erratic. That's what needs to improve. 

It has been fun to watch the team run the ball a lot. The Eagles average 198 yards a game. No team is within 45 yards of that figure. LeSean McCoy is having a phenomenal season. He leads the league in rushing and averages six yards a carry. The success is a combination of Kelly's no-huddle attack, the scheme and McCoy's natural ability. 

One of the big questions many people have is about Kelly's use of the tight ends. Kelly made tight end a critical position during the offseason. There was a lot of talk about multiple tight end sets. Kelly has mostly played three receivers and just one tight end so far this season. What gives? Kelly is focused on two things. First, he's trying to get his best players on the field. Second, he's trying to get favorable matchups. There are some games when you want the defense to be in a nickel look. The way to do that is with three receivers. Kelly will have games where he focuses more on the tight end position. It just hasn't happened yet. Zach Ertz is off to a quiet start, but he is averaging 22 yards per catch. He has shown the ability to deliver big plays. 

Things aren't so good for the defense. They are struggling right now. Coordinator Bill Davis is implementing the 3-4 and that has led to some problems. Talented 4-3 players are trying to figure out the 3-4. Players are at their best when they don't think, but just react to what they see. That allows them to play fast. Eagles players are thinking a lot right now and that is hurting them. 

The defensive line hasn't played as well as I hoped. I do think Cedric Thornton has been impressive. He's played both end and nose tackle. Thornton has a good combination of size, strength and athleticism. Fletcher Cox has showed terrific athletic ability, but being a two-gap defender hasn't brought out the best in him. Cox is used to attacking upfield. Put me down as one of the people who think Vinny Curry is not being used enough. 

The linebackers have been erratic. Cole has played pretty well, although you won't know it by just looking at his sack total. He is a disruptive run defender. Connor Barwin has played well. He's tied for the team lead with two sacks. The inside linebackers have been less impressive. Mychal Kendricks looks great at times, lost at others. He has big-time talent, but must pick up his level of play. DeMeco Ryans has been a tackling machine, but hasn't made many plays. The 3-4 is built on linebackers making impact plays. The Eagles just aren't getting those right now. 

The biggest weakness on the defense right now is the secondary. There have been blown coverages and missed tackles. It takes time for defensive backs to all get on the same page when playing zone coverage. They should get better. Brandon Boykin has shown good flashes, both in the slot and outside. Earl Wolff is a talented player, but he is making some rookie mistakes. Nate Allen, a player who many people have given up on, has now played well in consecutive games. Has the light gone on for him? 

Bill Davis has been up and down with his coaching. The biggest problem is that he doesn't have the guys to run the system he wants. He's trying to find a middle ground, but that has led to some questionable decisions. Curry isn't on the field as much as anyone wants. Brandon Graham isn't getting used enough. When he is on the field, he's used oddly. Last week, he lined up on a slot receiver and then blitzed at the snap. He was so far from the backfield that he didn't get close to pressuring the passer. There was a play last week where Boykin was an outside linebacker against a two-tight end set. Davis admitted that he got caught with the wrong personnel on the field for that situation. Davis is taking a lot of heat right now. I think he'll get better as he gets a chance to work with these players and he makes some tweaks to his scheme. 

Special teams looked great for two weeks. They have been bad the last two weeks. Dave Fipp needs to get his guys to play more consistently. 

Four games into 2013, the Eagles are a mix of positives and negatives. I remain optimistic. Playing a tough schedule while teaching new schemes made life very hard on the coaches and players. The team should show improvement in the next month. 

Lawlor

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

GIANT OPPORTUNITY FOR THE EAGLES

The Giants game can be a launching pad for the Eagles if the team has the right mindset. The Giants might be 0-4, but they still have Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning. Victor Cruz is having a great year. The Giants might be struggling in a big way, but that is a proud team with a good history. You can't count on them playing poorly. They're going to have a good game one of these weeks. 

It is shocking to see the Giants play so poorly at the line of scrimmage. They can't open holes for the running game. They have allowed 14 sacks. The defense only has four sacks. The Giants haven't been this bad on the lines in a long time. 

If the Eagles are able to score points, that will put a lot of pressure on the Giants and Manning. The Giants have scored a total of seven points in the last two games combined. If you can get a lead on them, it might get them down on themselves. The longer the game remains close, the more the Giants will start to believe this is their week to win. 

Look for McCoy to have a huge game. He averages 87 yards per game against the Giants. That figure would be higher, but there were some games where he only had 10 or 11 carries. Kelly feeds him the ball a lot. I can also see Kelly's up-tempo attack wearing down a Giants defense that is old and banged up. 

What about the Eagles defense? Getting dominated by the Broncos had to hurt their pride. The Giants struggle to move the ball, let alone score points. The defense has a chance to play well this week. They must take advantage of this opportunity. Cole will hopefully get to say hello to his old friend in Manning. 

A win for the Eagles would be huge. It would get them to 2-3. It would erase a three-game losing streak. Getting the win would help the confidence of the Eagles players, not to mention getting Eagles Nation fired up again. Sunday will go a long way to determining how the 2013 season goes.

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