Welcome to Other View, a perspective from members of the media, celebrity Eagles fans and Eagles alumni on the state of the 2014 Eagles that runs here weekly during the season. Today: Sal Paolantonio, who has been a fixture of ESPN's NFL coverage as both a reporter and the host of NFL Matchup since 1995. Before heading to Bristol, Conn., Paolantonio was the Eagles beat reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer ...
I think the loss of linebacker DeMeco Ryans is much worse for the Eagles than the loss of quarterback Nick Foles. Ryans is gone for the season and he's been the captain of the defense, has been the heart and soul of what they do defensively and he's really going to be difficult to replace.
Casey Matthews is one of the players who will step in. He's primarily been a special teams player, he's been a good substitute and he's been given new football life under head coach Chip Kelly. But let's face it: Casey Matthews is not DeMeco Ryans and, frankly, not too many players in the NFL bring to a team what DeMeco brings. I'm sure the coaches will put a solid plan together and not rely completely on Matthews, and they have the extra day to prepare for Monday's game against Carolina, which is a team that I think is going in the wrong direction. Carolina, unless there is a dramatic turnaround, won't give the Eagles' defense too many problems on that night.
Beyond that game is the big road test in Green Bay, which has an offense that will look to exploit the hole created by the loss of Ryans. It's a huge test for the coaching staff.
As for the quarterback position, the Eagles are as well-equipped as any team in the league to withstand an injury to a starter. Mark Sanchez is fully capable of handling Chip Kelly's offense if Chip does what he does against the Houston Texans, and that is to go back to relying upon the running game. If Kelly dials up 63 passes again in a game this year, the Eagles will lose. There is no reason to be over-reliant on the passing game.
Sanchez can play effectively if there is balance in his offense. We saw that in his first three seasons with the New York Jets when Sanchez worked with a much-less stellar supporting cast than what he has in Philadelphia. In fact, Sanchez can play at a very high level here with an excellent supporting cast that has a better running back here than he had in New York, a better offensive line here – even with the injuries – and much, much better players at the skill positions.
And in Chip Kelly, Sanchez has a playcaller who is superior to most in the National Football League. I expect Sanchez to excel if there is balance on the offense.
The Eagles are 6-2 and I expect them to win the NFC East and I expect them to be the No. 1 or No. 2 seeded playoff team in the NFC. I look at their schedule and I see a very difficult road game in Green Bay in two weeks and a very difficult road game on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas and the rest of the schedule is very winnable. If you're telling me that the Eagles are going to be 11-5 or 12-4, then they are in position to be the winners in the division and have a home playoff game.
I think this team is headed for a scenario just like last year, and they could even gain the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. They lost a key tiebreaker to Arizona, so we will see what that means in December. This team was 2 yards away from winning at San Francisco and 2 yards away from winning in Arizona. The loss of Ryans is going to be tough, but not insurmountable. The second half of the season should be a productive one for the Eagles.