Entering the bye week with a 3-4 record, head coach Chip Kelly and his team are certainly disappointed about the way the 2015 season has shaken out thus far. The Eagles entered the year with big aspirations, and while those hopes are very much still alive, the team will certainly need to make some drastic improvements on the offensive side of the ball if they hope to retake control of the NFC East and earn a playoff berth.
Through seven games, it's largely been the play of the Eagles' ninth-ranked defense that's kept them competitive. But the offense hasn't been without its bright spots. With 12 days until the team next takes the field in a game situation, it'll look to accentuate those positives and ditch some of the bad habits that have thwarted its efforts so far this season.
Here are some things offensively to feel good about heading into the bye week:
1. The Running Game Is Trending Upwards
Through the first four weeks of the season, the Eagles gained just 280 yards on the ground on 89 attempts (3.1 yards per carry), putting them 29th in the league in rushing yards and 31st in rushing efficiency. But in the three games since, Philadelphia has gained more yards on the ground (521) than any team in the league, and its efficiency (5.2 yards per carry) ranks seventh during that stretch.
DeMarco Murray's resurgence has been a huge factor in the Eagles' rejuvenated rushing attack, with the All-Pro back going for 260 yards on 59 carries (4.4 yards per carry) with two touchdowns over Philadelphia's last three games. His partner in crime, Ryan Mathews, hasn't carried too large a load in the running game since Murray returned from a hamstring injury in Week 4, but he's been effective when he's been given opportunities. Mathews is averaging an NFL-best 6.1 yards per carry on 56 attempts so far this season, and over the past three weeks that number has risen to a remarkable 9.1 yards per carry on 23 rushes.
2. Slowly But Surely, Bradford Finding His Rhythm
Before this season, Sam Bradford hadn't played a game since October 2013 because of consecutive ACL injuries. In his return to NFL action, the sixth-year signal-caller has struggled some, but he has also shown flashes of the poise that made him the top selection in the 2010 NFL Draft.
While the results haven't jumped off the page by any means – Bradford has completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,766 yards (252.3 yards per game) with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season, he's looked increasingly more comfortable with each passing game. According to the analysts at Pro Football Focus, his performance in Sunday's 27-16 loss to the Panthers was his best yet as an Eagle. In that game, he was forced to throw under pressure on about a third of his dropbacks and about a fifth of the passes he did throw were dropped by his receivers. Overall, Bradford made solid decisions with the football, and had it not been for a handful of key drops the Eagles may have been able to upset the undefeated Panthers.
3. Bradford And Ertz Creating A Connection
After totaling just 104 yards on 10 catches through the first four games of the season, tight end Zach Ertz has come into his own and shown fans why the Eagles used a second-round pick on him in 2013.
In Philadelphia's last three games, he's hauled in 14 grabs for 163 yards. And while Ertz is still looking for his first touchdown catch of the season and has yet to go for more than 60 yards receiving in a game this year, he's frequently come up big when the Eagles have absolutely needed to move the sticks. On the year, he's second amongst all Eagles receivers with 13 first downs (Jordan Matthews has 19).
Remember, Ertz missed the entire preseason after undergoing surgery to repair a core muscle injury.
4. The Offense Is Relatively Healthy
Heading into the bye week, the Eagles' offense is remarkably free of injuries. The only starter who has missed significant time has been guard Andrew Gardner, who was placed on Injured Reserve after injuring his foot in a Week 3 win over the Jets. The team has otherwise mostly only suffered minor injuries here and there to players like Murray (missed one game), wide receiver Nelson Agholor (missed two games) and wide receiver Josh Huff (missed one game).
After left tackle Jason Peters went down with a scary non-contact injury against the Panthers on Sunday, many feared the worst. He was carted off the field and into the locker room for further testing, where he was diagnosed with lower back spasms. Kelly said that he expects Peters to be on the field when the Eagles' players return from the bye next Tuesday.