On Wednesday, Chip Kelly outlined the challenges presented by the Oakland Raiders offense, namely quarterback Terrelle Pryor and his ability to run with the football. On Thursday, Kelly switched gears and dished on the difficulties that come along with facing Oakland's defense.
The Raiders rank 10th in the NFL in total yards allowed per game and 12th in points allowed per game, but their most impressive element has been their run defense. Oakland has held opponents to an average of 89.9 yards per game and they have not allowed a single run of over 19 yards this season. As LeSean McCoy looks to get back on track following two consecutive difficult games, Kelly understands that facing Oakland's defense will be no easy task.
"They're really athletic," said Kelly. "It starts on the (defensive) line. They have a bunch of guys that are stout, but they also run really well with guys like (defensive end) Lamarr Houston. Nick Roach is playing really well, the middle linebacker for them. He can move around really well, and I think when you have someone like (safety Charles) Woodson on the back end that gets everyone lined up the right way, even though he's been in the league for 16 years, he's playing at a really high level. I think it starts with their athleticism, that's the first thing that you really see on tape is that they run really well. A lot of times long runs don't happen when everybody runs to the ball, and that's what I think the Raiders are doing right now."
Getting to the ball and making the tackle is also something that the Eagles defense is doing at the moment. Over the last two seasons, and sporadically through the first four weeks of this year, the Eagls defense struggled with missed tackles. Over the last four weeks, however, the Eagles defenders have been not only been in the right places to make stops, but they've also made sure to finish the play, which Kelly has made a major priority.
"We work on tackling every day as a fundamental in practice," said Kelly. "I think we have a defensive staff that teaches it really well. There are obviously concerns with tackling and how do you get that done without injuring other guys, but I think they've done a good job from day one since we've been here. They taught it during OTAs – the mechanics of it, the fundamentals of it and how it works. That continued through Training Camp, and really tackling is a fundamental deal, and it has to be practiced every day. It's no different than blocking. It's something that we emphasize.
"The other thing that's key to tackling is how many people you get to the ball, so it's not open-field tackling all the time. If you get everybody to consistently get to the ball and we're swarming the ball carrier, then it makes tackling a lot easier because the guy doesn't have as many spaces to go."
At 3-5, Kelly and the rest of the Eagles are looking to get back on the winning track this Sunday in Oakland. The lack of an offensive output in the past two games has certainly been frustrating for the team, yet Kelly has been very pleased with the way that his players continue to handle themselves on a day-to-day basis.
"The one thing about this group is that they have a great attitude every single day that they're in this building," Kelly said. "We talk about that all the time. That's your choice. It takes the same amount of time to be miserable as it does to be happy, and you choose what you're going to do. These guys, the group that we have here, they love playing, they loving being out here, and they understand that to win you have to win during the week. You don't just win on Sunday. You don't just show up on Sunday and hope that good things happen. There's a certain amount of work that goes in. There's a certain rhythm that we have to get into, and they've been really good from that standpoint, and that's an encouraging thing.
"You guys can feel it. There's an energy out here every time these guys come out on the field, which is a positive thing. The only way they we're going to get this thing straightened out is if we go out there and put our best effort in on a Thursday, because that's what the deal is for us to be successful on Sunday."
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