The offensive woes for the Eagles have been well documented in the past two weeks. Two consecutive games without an offensive touchdown will typically draw that kind of criticism. But what's flown slightly under the radar recently has been the improved play of the Eagles defense, which was once viewed as a hindrance to the team's success. Against Dallas and New York, the Eagles allowed just 17 and 15 points, respectively, and head coach Chip Kelly has noticed the hard work.
"Up front, I thought that three guys- Fletcher (Cox), (Cedric Thornton) and Clifton Geathers- had an outstanding game," Kelly said during his Monday press conference. "I thought our run defense overall was outstanding. DeMeco (Ryans) again (played well), standing around there and being a leader. Mychal Kendricks probably had his best game. Maybe he could have been a little bit better in coverage, but he had 11 tackles. I think our safeties and our corners were involved a lot more in the run game. They were trying to push, crack and support a little bit when the ball got spread out to those guys."
Just how good has the Eagles' run defense been? The unit is one of three in the NFL (with the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets being the other two) that has held opponents under 100 yards rushing in each of the last four weeks. According to Kelly, nothing has changed on the defensive side of the ball, except for the level of comfort that the players have in the scheme. In a 180-degree turn from the start of the season, it is the offense that can now learn a thing or two from how well the defense has been playing.
"I think our defense, from the beginning of the season to (now), and I'll tell all the players - I don't think that there is anything that our offense needs to look at except our defense," Kelly said. "They've stayed the course. They've worked continually on their techniques. We haven't added a lot of new things for those guys. We continue to let them feel comfortable with what they're doing, and then on a weekly basis I see them getting better and better and better."
Kelly believes that his defenders are learning more and more every week about relying on one another and playing as a cohesive unit, which is something that his offense must get back to doing in order to put more points on the board.
"When we meet again (Tuesday) and I talk to our team about it, you don't really have to look too far for what our formula is for success. We need to get back out there. We need to continue to work, and we need to get a better understanding of what we're trying to get accomplished as a group. Not one person has to do it all by himself. We all have to kind of have to contribute, and I think on defense we have 11 guys really contributing, and with the sub packages we have even more than that," Kelly said. "Everyone over there is kind of thriving off of each other and they're doing a really good job and that's what I think we have to get back to on offense, which we were like earlier in the season, but the last two games we haven't been there. We've got to get that fixed getting ready to go play Oakland."
Kelly is now tasked with finding those solutions as his team prepares to travel to the West Coast for a matchup with the Raiders. For all of the questions that have been raised regarding the Eagles offense and the kinks that must be worked out, Kelly believes that there is only one question that his team needs to answer - How well did they execute?
"I don't think that people have figured out (our offense)," said Kelly. "You can turn the tape on and watch six games of whoever you play, and I can tell you what (they're) going to do. I mean I could tell you what Peyton Manning is going to do but you still have to stop them and they still have to execute.
"I watched Aaron Rodgers last night throw a touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson where he whizzed (the ball) past the kid's head before he had a chance to turn around and he hit him right on the money in a place where the only thing Jordy could do was catch it. It's still about executing, and I think that everybody kind of knows going into the game plan that you're not going to surprise people eight games into a (season). We have to run the right depth on our routes. We have to catch the ball when it's thrown to us. We have to put the ball on people when people are open. We have to hit the hole when it's open. We have to create a hole if the hole is not there - that's just executing football. … We have to get ready and prepare for Oakland and put a game plan together that's going to give us a chance to win."
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