Philadelphia Eagles News

2-0, With Much Room To Grow

The talk is of what they've left on the field, the mistakes they've made, the opportunities they have had and squandered. That is the mindset of a 2-0 football team sitting atop its division.

"We haven't really come close to playing the kind of game we know we can play," said safety Nate Allen. "We're making too many mistakes here and there. Little things. Things that we will get corrected. The bottom line is that we've won both games we've played, but we know that we have to be better across the board."

It is the daily goal of the Eagles -- be better today than you were yesterday -- and it's the key to this team winning a game Sunday that kicks off the NFC East schedule. Washington comes to town feeling great after its blowout win on Sunday. New head coach Jay Gruden has a quarterback in Kirk Cousins who fits his system perfectly and who performed so well in the preseason before he stepped in and played great football in place of the injured Robert Griffin III against Jacksonville.

Washington has weapons throughout the offense and its defense is pressure based, having recorded 10 quarterback sacks against the Jaguars.

To win, you knew this was coming, the Eagles have to play great football. They have to be better than they've been in the two wins in several areas. Some of them are extremely correctable. Let's take a look at some of the categories ...

  • The red-zone offense has scored three touchdowns and four field goals in eight opportunities. The touchdown percentage needs to be a lot higher. Nick Foles has a passer rating of 45.8 inside opponents' 20-yard lines. The running game hasn't been as successful as the Eagles need. It's not fair to pinpoint one reason for the slow start in the red zone, but the expectation is for more TDs.

"We've got to put the ball in the end zone, for sure," said wide receiver Riley Cooper. "Little breakdowns, a lack of execution, those things are correctable and we will get them fixed. We're not happy with the way things have gone down there."

  • Speaking of Cooper, the group of wide receivers could have some more opportunities to make some big plays as defenses concentrate their efforts on running backs LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, and tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz. To be fair, the receivers have had some chances and they've made some plays in the opening two games, but another level of consistency would really help this passing game take flight. Cooper has five catches for 34 yards and slot receiver Jordan Matthews has three catches and some missed chances that he would love to have back. Jeremy Maclin is off to a fine start with eight receptions, 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his return from injury.
  • The slow starts must stop, and everyone agrees on that. The Eagles have overcome double-digit deficits in both games to come back and win, and the coaching staff is challenged with finding ways to get the offense rolling earlier and the defense to get more stops in the first half. Imagine how devastating the offense -- which leads the league in scoring and total yards -- would be playing with an early lead.
  • Bill Davis' defense doesn't resemble the 2013 version and really showed some mettle in both wins, particularly the way it produced two turnovers and a big three-and-out series at Indianapolis in the second half. It's been a solid group. The next step is to get to the quarterback more and put teams in more third-and-long situations. The Eagles have three takeaways in the first two games. They've recorded three quarterback sacks. The numbers aren't bad. The defense has been pretty good. But to go to the next level, these are areas to improve.
  • Quarterback Nick Foles isn't above being on this list, either. He talks about it openly when asked during his press conferences, and he is making progress. The completion percentage is 58.5, and Foles would like to have that number several points higher. He's playing behind a newfangled offensive line and the timing is just now coming together up front. Foles knows he has to be more accurate and more active stepping up the pocket and he's constantly working on getting the ball out more quickly. The players and the coaches know more than anybody in what areas they can improve.

The list, then, is virtually endless. When running back LeSean McCoy speaks to the media, for example, he talks about the ways in which he can improve. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans is pushing for better play from his group. Malcolm Jenkins knows the secondary is making progress, but not yet enough. And so on and so on.

"You always have to keep getting better. That's the goal each and every week," said Foles. "It's the NFL. You're playing against guys that are very talented. Those coaches are getting paid. They're the best at what they do."

Are the Eagles pleased at 2-0? Absolutely. The name of the game is finding a way to win. Content? No chance. There are many areas to improve and the Eagles know they have just scratched the possibilities with this football team in 2014.

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