Midseason Report: Philadelphia Eagles
PHILADELPHIA -- The curiosity factor about Chip Kelly and the Eagles was off the charts. Would the innovative Oregon coach take the NFL by storm? Would he be another Steve Spurrier or Bobby Petrino, crashing hard at the next level? Somewhere in the middle?
We can safely rule out the first possibility. Kelly has plenty of time to be a successful NFL coach, but you only get one chance to storm the beaches, and Kelly’s moment has passed. After one heart-pounding half on "Monday Night Football" at Washington, the Eagles have been good, bad and mediocre. But a 4-5 record (0-4 at home) is, by definition, not taking the league by storm.
Forgetting the expectations and the hype, and remembering that this was a 4-12 team last year with a muddied quarterback situation, here are the midterm grades for Kelly and his Eagles.
GRADING THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
|Quarterbacks||Nick Foles brought this grade up a couple of notches with his stunning seven-touchdown day Sunday. Injuries have been an obvious issue, but it is also true that Michael Vick's production was down before his hamstring injury and Matt Barkley was three-quarters into his worst career game before being concussed. Barkley played like a rookie, and not like 2012 Andrew Luck.|
|Running Backs||LeSean McCoy led the league in rushing through the first half of the season, which suggests an A-plus. But his numbers dipped as defenses adjusted, and there is a body of opinion that McCoy is not hitting holes when they're there. Mix in the nonfactor that is Bryce Brown and the grade drops a letter.|
|Wide Receivers||There is DeSean Jackson, who runs fast, poses a deep threat and demands defensive attention, and then there is everybody else. The loss of Jeremy Maclin to an ACL tear in training camp has had more impact than anyone expected. Riley Cooper's breakout game in Oakland notwithstanding, he and Jason Avant have not produced in line with their playing time.|
|Tight Ends||Before Zach Ertz and Brent Celek combined for nine catches and two touchdowns Sunday, the tight ends had been mysteriously underused. Celek has been a glorified left tackle half the time, Ertz pops up occasionally and Kelly has flat-out made James Casey disappear. Puzzling, but not the players' fault.|
|Offensive Line||This grade is admittedly based on expectations. After injuries decimated this unit last year, it was supposed to be dominating. It is sporadically, but there are way too many breakdowns in both the run game and pass protection. That just isn't good enough considering the pedigree and experience of the linemen.|
|Defensive Line||Expectations have the opposite impact here, raising the grade a notch or two. Making the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 causes inevitable growing pains, but the Eagles are growing. Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton are players. Bennie Logan, Vinny Curry and Clifton Geathers are getting there.|
|Linebackers||The transition also affected this group. Trent Cole is a former Pro Bowl DE now playing outside linebacker. He has been good at times, not as good at other times. Connor Barwin has been solid. On the inside, DeMeco Ryans has emerged as the leader and Mychal Kendricks continues to improve.|
|Secondary||You know those teachers who let you throw out one bad test score? If you do that with the Eagles' 52-20 drubbing in Denver, the secondary doesn't look so bad. Since that game, this group has gotten better every week. Corners Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Brandon Boykin aren't shutdown guys, but they're upgrades over the last few years.|
|Special Teams||Kicker Alex Henery missed a couple of makeable field goals and hasn't really had to make a pressure kick. The return game is serviceable, at best, with no significant big plays on its résumé. The coverage teams have been sound, mostly. Punter Donnie Jones is in the middle of the pack.|
|Coaching||Kelly's in-game decision making has been choppy, to be kind. His offensive system has looked unstoppable at times and unwatchable at times. He fell in love with the home run ball to Jackson for a while and hasn't countered the adjustments that took it away. Unexpectedly, defensive coordinator Bill Davis actually brings the overall coaching grade up a bit. His side of the ball has steadily improved.|
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