10 Things We Learned From the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 5
The Philadelphia Eagles had the best possible loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week five. They played their hearts out against a desperate team that needed a win at home coming off a bye. Oh, and the Steelers had three key players returning from injuries: running back Rashard Mendenhall, linebacker James Harrison, and safety Troy Polamalu. Ironically though, it was Mendenhall who carved up the Eagles' defense, while Harrison was a non-factor and Polamalu had to leave the game early with an injury.
Through five games, the Eagles are 3-2 but the jury is still out on this team. The offense can't stop turning the ball over, although they continue to pile up massive chunks of yardage, both through the air and on the ground. The defense isn't elite because they don't force enough turnovers, or collect sacks, but they're able to keep the other teams out of the end zone, particularly in the red zone. Holding the Steelers to 16 points at home in a must-win game is a moral victory.
Oh, and this team still has got it in the clutch. No, they didn't win this week and the defense did let them down. But the offense engineered an extremely impressive drive in the fourth quarter, ignoring their failures from the first three and a half quarters.
The Eagles will head into a home matchup with the Detroit Lions in week six with a lot on the line. If they lost and drop to 3-3, they're going to be in trouble when it comes to winning the division. But if they improve to 4-2, the division title is well within reach.
1. Jamar Chaney is not the answer at weakside linebacker.
When veteran Akeem Jordan missed some time with a hamstring injury, Jamar Chaney stepped in at weakside linebacker. Many, including me, expected Chaney to play well and win a job that was basically up for grabs. But Chaney really struggled against the Steelers and Jordan, who is now fully healthy, will be starting against Detroit, Reid said. If Chaney had played even remotely well, I have no doubt that he would be starting on Sunday.
2. Jeremy Maclin is playing as if he doesn't want a new contract.
It's almost as if Jeremy Maclin is this year's DeSean Jackson. He's 24 and is playing for a new contract after the season. This was supposed to be his breakout season, especially after he had his cancer scare last summer and struggled throughout 2011. But he's had a poor year in 2012, catching 14 balls for 165 yards and two touchdowns through four games. Add in the game he missed with an injury, and he's on pace to end the season with about 600 receiving yards. That's not going to earn him a $50 million contract--or help the Eagles reach the Super Bowl.
3. Something is wrong with Trent Cole and Jason Babin.
It's not about the sacks. Combined, Cole and Babin have five this season. That's not good but it's not terrible. But they're not getting to the quarterback at all. They each have seven hurries. By comparison, Brandon Graham has seven hurries and he's been on the field about 30 percent as much as Cole and Babin. The dynamic duo is one of the keys to the Eagles' defense. If they don't step up their game, the secondary is going to have a much more difficult job.
4. Mychal Kendricks has a tackling issue.
The Eagles' rookie linebacker has been one of the bright spots for the team this season. He's shown unprecedented speed, especially compared to what Eagles fans are used to, and he's helped cure the running problems from 2011. But he missed four tackles in the first four games, a subpar amount, and he missed six more on Sunday. That's 10 missed tackles in 28 opportunities this season. That's completely unacceptable.
5. Michael Vick has a rain man mind.
If you've seen analyst Skip Bayless's tweets, you'll know that he believes Giants quarterback Eli Manning has a rain man mind, meaning he can block out any difficulties during the game and lead a last-minute go-ahead touchdown drive when it matters most. Vick also has that. In the games against the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, and Pittsburgh Steelers, he completely blocked out all of his previous mistakes from the first 50-55 minutes to lead a brilliant scoring drive when it mattered the most.
6. But not all late game magic favors the Eagles.
The Eagles' offense is four for four in the most important drives of the season, scoring three touchdowns and a field goal when it matters the most. But the defense is three for four, allowing a walkoff field goal to veteran Shaun Suisham in week five. Asking your defense to stop the opposing offense from leading a last-minute field goal drive is a lot to ask. Succeeding three out of four times is more than enough.
7. The Eagles are extreme with injuries.
Let's look at the injuries for the Eagles this season. Star left tackle Jason Peters will miss the entire season with an Achilles tendon tear, and center Jason Kelce is out for the remainder of the year with a partially torn ACL. Oh, and defensive tackle Mike Patterson will miss the year (we assume) with a brain condition (yes, not technically an injury). But not one other starter has suffered a multi-game injury. Maclin missed a game, and Jordan and Dunlap combined to miss three (but they're both among the worst starters on the team). The usual three-game injury to a player like Babin or Rodgers-Cromartie or Allen hasn't happened yet. Let's hope it doesn't.
8. DeMeco Ryans is the most important player on the defense.
Before the season, you could have made a case for a number of players as the most important on the team's defense: Cole, Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha, or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Through five games though, it's become pretty clear that veteran linebacker Ryans is the most important player on the defense. He's collected 29 tackles in 30 opportunities, a staggering 97 percent success rate. Expect a Pro Bowl for him by the end of the season.
9. Any backup on special teams is fighting for his job in every week.
The Eagles releasing Brian Rolle in a special teams move, as opposed to improvement at linebacker, showed me that any backup player on the defense could lose his place on the team if he doesn't pick up his game--on special teams. This includes Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes, David Sims, Casey Matthews, etc.
10. Turnovers will be the death of this offense.
The Eagles' offense is one of the best in the history of the NFL at piling up yardage, but merely average in scoring points. Why? They can't stop turning the ball over. Vick's fumble on the one-yard line last week was as brutal as any turnover this season, and it contributed to the Eagles losing a very winnable game. If this team can stop their turnovers, the sky is truly the limit for their offense, and that's not something you can say about a lot of teams.