Welcome to our new feature, Other View, a perspective from members of the media, celebrity Eagles fans and Eagles alumni on the state of the 2014 Eagles that runs Mondays here during the season. Today: Ross Tucker, one of the leading NFL analysts who hosts a show on SiriusXM NFL radio, provides sideline commentary on the Westwood One Network and hosts The Ross Tucker Football Podcast at RossTucker.com. Follow Ross on Twitter @RossTuckerNFL ...*
At 3-1, the Eagles reach the quarter point of the season with a winning record, but they haven't played their best. That's a positive in the NFL. But when you look at a game like the one they had at San Francisco, where they had two special teams touchdowns and a defensive touchdown and still lost the game, that's almost unheard of. I truly don't know if that has ever happened in the NFL.
I see the Eagles as a week-by-week team. They need to hold the fort until they can get all the boys in the band back together – specifically, Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis along the offensive line – and hope they are in position to make a run in November and December.
There are some issues with this team, as there are with every team. The defense has not been consistent stopping the run, and the loss to the 49ers was clear evidence of that. The front three of Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton have to be better at the point of attack and the linebackers have to clean up and tackle well. Not having Mychal Kendricks at linebacker is clearly hampering this defense. In fact, the Eagles have been decimated at inside linebacker, also losing Najee Goode. So that has to get better on defense. The cornerbacks are probably average, or maybe slightly below average. The pass rush hasn't been as consistent. I'm not sure I see a difference-maker on defense, although safety Malcolm Jenkins is making me eat my words. He's been outstanding.
The problems on offense start at the line of scrimmage. There is nothing the Eagles can do about losing Kelce and Mathis, but they can try to design to mitigate that weakness as much as possible. They weren't able to do that against the 49ers. I think they'll get better, and having Lane Johnson back will help a lot. I'm not sure how long it will take him to get back into shape, but having Lane and Todd Herremans on the right side will be a big improvement.
Everything starts at the line of scrimmage and right now the Eagles aren't as good as they want to be there. That's the mission for the next quarter of the season. Win up front. Stay at the top of the division and then get healthy and see what happens in the second half of the season.
The division isn't at all what I thought it would be heading into the season. I thought it would be the NFC Least. Instead, Dallas is playing much better football with their play calling, with the run game, with a defense that is playing halfway-decent football. The Giants are 2-2 and I was on the sidelines when they tore up Washington and now they are in the mix again.
Instead of what we all thought, which was the Eagles running away with the division, it's going to be a fight to the very end. If the Eagles can stay right there, in the mix, and then get healthy, they should still be the best team in the NFC East, but it's not going to be easy at all.