NFL Nation: Alex Henery

Free-agency primer: Eagles

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
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Key free agents: QB Michael Vick, WR Jason Avant, S Nate Allen, P Donnie Jones, S Kurt Coleman.

Where they stand: By keeping wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin off the market, the Eagles assured their starting offense would look very much as it did in 2013. There are no obvious positions of need on that side of the ball that would likely be addressed in free agency. The defensive side is another matter. That unit made fine progress in its first year with coordinator Bill Davis’ 3-4 scheme, but the Eagles need playmakers there, especially in the secondary. Having $20-25 million in salary-cap space gives them the flexibility to do whatever they choose.

What to expect: GM Howie Roseman has repeatedly said he does not want to overpay in free agency, but the Eagles might have to go that route with a safety like Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward or Chris Clemons. Going for bargains at that position just has not worked, and Roseman has acknowledged he doesn’t want to get to the draft in dire need of a safety. There isn’t a lot of depth at outside linebacker -- teams do their best to hold on to effective pass-rushers -- but Roseman could look for a second-tier guy there. It would not be surprising if the Eagles re-signed Jones and added a kicker in free agency to compete with, or flat-out replace, Alex Henery. Keep an eye on a return man, perhaps Devin Hester or Dexter McCluster.
PHILADELPHIA -- Midway through the 2013 NFL season,’s Peter King took a look at a league-wide trend and concluded, “Kicking field goals is too easy.”

King didn’t spend that much time in Philadelphia.

It wasn’t so much that Alex Henery did a terrible job as the Philadelphia Eagles' kicker. He made 23 of 28 attempts, a success rate of 82 percent. But the more telling number wasn’t the 23. It was the 28.

[+] EnlargeAlex Henery
AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelAlex Henery has attempted just five field goals of at least 50 yards in his three NFL seasons.
The best kickers in the league don’t just make 90 percent of their attempts. Their range and success rate give coaches the confidence to turn to them in all kinds of situations, at ever greater distances. New England’s Stephen Gostkowski didn’t just make 15 more field goals than Henery; Gostkowski attempted 13 more.

Henery attempted just two field goals of 50 yards or longer, making one. Gostkowski attempted six. Baltimore’s Justin Tucker attempted seven. So did Green Bay’s Mason Crosby and Dallas’ Dan Bailey.

When the Eagles lost to the New York Giants at home in October, Matt Barkley was playing quarterback in relief of Michael Vick. Late in the second quarter, Barkley drove the Eagles to the Giants’ 27 before being sacked for a 5-yard loss.

Instead of trying a 50-yard field goal with wind swirling, coach Chip Kelly decided to go for a fourth-and-12. Barkley dropped the snap and threw an incompletion.

Now it goes without saying that Barkley could have made better plays on third and fourth down. Taking the sack probably changed Kelly’s strategy. But would the Patriots, Packers, Ravens, 49ers or Cowboys have balked at trying a 50-yard field goal?

The guess here is no. A week earlier, Kelly had made the second-guessable decision to have Henery try a 60-yard kick late in the first half against Dallas. He missed.

A coach without complete confidence in his kicker is like a baseball manager with a shaky bullpen. The ripple effect on his decision-making is constant.

Henery also missed a 48-yard field goal in the Eagles’ 24-22 playoff loss to the Saints. His kickoff to the shallow end zone resulted in a long return that set up the Saints’ game-winning score.

Henery presents a bit of a conundrum for the Eagles. They invested a fourth-round pick in him in the 2011 draft. At 26, he is still at the point in his career when many kickers find themselves. Is it better to take the risk that he will do just that with the Eagles, or the risk that he will do it for some other team?

Most of the top kickers in the league right now were undrafted. Gostkowski, like Henery, was a fourth-round pick. Green Bay’s Crosby was a sixth-round pick. The more typical route is to be signed as a rookie free agent and bounce around until finding the right combination of opportunity and success.

Seattle is Steven Hauschka's sixth team. Denver is Matt Prater's third.

So the Eagles will almost certainly bring in a kicker to compete with Henery, something they didn’t do last year. But it seems unlikely they will use a draft pick, unless somebody they really like -- Chris Boswell from Rice or Anthony Fera of Texas, maybe -- is sitting there in the sixth or seventh round.

Hauschka is to become a free agent, but will likely remain with the defending champions. Veterans Adam Vinatieri and Phil Dawson should be on the market. One intriguing name is Dan Carpenter, who had a good season in Buffalo. If the Bills re-sign Carpenter, that could make Dustin Hopkins, their sixth-round pick from Florida State last year, available.

Kickers are out there. The Eagles have a decent one. The question is whether that’s good enough.

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 11
Preseason Power Ranking: 25

Biggest surprise: Easy. Nick Foles. He started six games as a rookie in 2012, winning one of them and pretty much disappearing amid the debris of a 4-12 season. He seemed like a terrible fit for new coach Chip Kelly's offense, especially in contrast to the mobile Michael Vick. When Vick pulled a hamstring, Foles seized the starting job with epic numbers: 119.2 passer rating (third best all time), 27 touchdowns and two interceptions (best ratio ever). Foles won eight of his 10 starts and led the Eagles to the NFC East championship. Anyone who says they saw Foles' season coming is fibbing.

Biggest disappointment: The outcome of Saturday night's playoff game against New Orleans -- which says something about how thoroughly Kelly changed the culture here. No one expected the Eagles to win their division and reach the playoffs, but once they did, plenty of people expected them to win the first-round home game. But LeSean McCoy, the NFL's leading rusher, didn't have his best game, and the Saints caught the Eagles off guard by running the ball so much themselves. The Eagles appeared capable of beating almost anyone, including the Saints, which made the loss hard to swallow.

Biggest need: Defensive difference-makers, especially in the secondary. The cornerbacks were solid and improved steadily by season's end, but a shutdown corner or legitimate playmaking safety would help a lot. A close second would be a pass-rushing threat, preferably from the outside. Trent Cole had a good year making the transition from defensive end to linebacker, but he's not going to play forever. Funny: For the midseason version of this, I listed quarterback as the biggest need. That's how shocking Foles' performance was.

Team MVP: LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing and in total yards from scrimmage, setting Eagles franchise records in both categories. No one could argue with you if you named McCoy MVP of the team, or even of the NFC. But McCoy was the running back when the Eagles were 3-5 at the midway point. It wasn't until Foles took over the starting quarterback spot that the Eagles began winning games. That seems like the very definition of "most valuable." Nevertheless, the Eagles' first NFL rushing title since Steve Van Buren probably earns McCoy the team MVP award.


New Orleans SaintsAl Bello/Getty ImagesThe Eagles had their chances but couldn't do the little things to beat the Saints.
PHILADELPHIA -- Quarterback Nick Foles warmed up on the sideline, waiting for another chance, for one more possession.

It never came. Instead of running onto the field to try to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to one more score, Foles watched the New Orleans Saints celebrate a 26-24 playoff victory. Instead of regrouping for a playoff game against the Carolina Panthers next Sunday, Foles and his teammates will spend the offseason picking at the seams of a game they let slip away.

"It's tough right now," Foles said. "There are a lot of emotions and I'm holding it together. ... I'm hurting inside right now in my heart."

"They killed us slowly," running back LeSean McCoy said. "It was a terrible feeling. There was nothing we could do but watch."

By the time Shayne Graham's 32-yard field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired, there was nothing they could do. But for the 59 minutes and 57 seconds before that, there was plenty they could have done.

That's why these are the hardest games to lose, the ones in which a dropped pass here, a missed field goal there accumulate like individual snowflakes until a team's hopes are buried in an avalanche. On Saturday afternoon, the Eagles were improbable NFC East champions with a chance to do something special in coach Chip Kelly's first season.

By midnight, they were finished. Buried.

"It's just disappointing," Kelly said. "I don't think us winning the division or getting to the playoffs was a surprise to us. I just think everybody is really disappointed that we're not moving forward."

"I've never been out of the first round of the playoffs," left tackle Jason Peters said. "I felt like this is the year. But we got knocked out and we're at home now. That kickoff, the missed field goal, a couple drops, that sack -- there's a bunch of stuff that went wrong that's messing with me right now. Just got to get over it."

It will take some of them longer to get over than others. Peters is 31. He tore his Achilles tendon twice and had it surgically repaired twice. After missing the entire 2012 season, he returned this year and earned another Pro Bowl berth. He doesn't know how many more chances he's going to get.

Cornerback Cary Williams won a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Ravens last year. He was seething after losing this game, to this team, with so much at stake.

"I don't know whether it was the moment or what it was," Williams said. "But we've got to get better in that scenario, in these situations. We failed. We lost to a team that wasn't necessarily better than us. They weren't better than us, period."

Williams was in the middle of the single play that cost the Eagles most dearly. Foles hit tight end Zach Ertz for a 3-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 24-23 lead with 4:54 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Shoot the final gun there and Foles' remarkable season is extended by the kind of fourth-quarter comeback that burnishes quarterbacks' reputations. Instead, the Eagles had to kick off. Darren Sproles took the ball 2 yards inside his own zone and somehow got through the Eagles' first wave of tacklers.

"He broke contain," Williams said. "I'm the safety valve there. I didn't want to dive, because if he steps out of my tackle, it's six points. I just wanted to get the man down, just give our defense a chance to get on the field and make a stop."

[+] EnlargeCary Williams and Darren Sproles
AP Photo/Julio CortezCary Williams' horse collar tackle on Darren Sproles proved costly -- it gave the Saints a short field on the game-winning drive.
Williams went high, tackling Sproles and drawing a penalty for a horse-collar tackle. The Saints got the ball at the Philadelphia 48. They ran the ball, converting three first downs and draining the clock until calling a timeout with three seconds left. There would be no time for Foles and the offense to get that one last chance.

"The game came down to us as a defense making a stop, and we knew it was going to come down to that," linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "That is what the playoffs are all about. Whoever is on the field last has to stand up and make a play."

But it was all the plays before that created the situation:

Foles held the ball too long and took a sack that turned a makeable Alex Henery field goal try into a 48-yard miss.

Wide receiver Riley Cooper dropped a third-down pass in the third quarter with nothing but green in front of him.

Linebacker Mychal Kendricks slapped the ball from Saints tight end Jimmy Graham's grip, but a replay showed the fumble occurred a moment after Graham's knee touched the ground. Instead of a turnover, the Saints kept the ball and kicked a field goal.

Foles' pass to McCoy on third-and-6 in the red zone picked up 5 yards. Instead of a touchdown and a 21-20 lead, the Eagles kicked a field goal and trailed 20-17.

Those are the little loose threads that the Eagles will pick at when they reflect on this game. It didn't matter that they had exceeded expectations to get to this point. They had a chance to keep playing and they fell short.

"There was a missed opportunity tonight," Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said. "We were a dangerous team."

They will be a different team in 2014. Change is inevitable. All of them know that. And while there is every reason to expect good things from Kelly and Foles in the future, nothing is certain.

"It hurts whenever you lose a game that you know you should have won," center Jason Kelce said. "We all expected to do a lot better in the playoffs. As a player, the careers don't last very long. The opportunities you get in the postseason, you have to try to seize them. We didn't seize the day here."

Upon Further Review: Eagles Week 16

December, 23, 2013
PHILADELPHIA -- Taking a look at several issues arising from the Philadelphia Eagles' 54-11 blowout victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.

McCoy sets the tone. When the Eagles played the Dallas Cowboys in Philadelphia in October, Nick Foles had his worst game of the season, and LeSean McCoy ran for just 55 yards on 18 carries in a 17-3 loss.

“I can't even remember that far back,” McCoy said after rushing for 133 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears. “I did not play well, so I can't even remember how that game went.”

The Eagles and Cowboys meet again Sunday. Winner goes to the playoffs.

“I can tell you that they didn't see the best of the Eagles,” McCoy said. “They didn't see the best of Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy -- they didn't see the best of us, but they will this Sunday, so it will be a different story.”

McCoy retained his lead in the race for the NFL rushing title. That wouldn't have happened if coach Chip Kelly had decided to hold him out or limit his touches in an effort to avoid injury.

[+] EnlargeTrent Cole
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesTrent Cole had his first three-sack game in three years against the Bears.
“There are times when you're clinched in and you want to keep your guys healthy,” McCoy said. “I understand that. But for the most part ... this is our job. They pay us to come out here and play ball. The fans pay hard-earned money to watch us.”

Accurate Foles. Nick Foles' 84 percent completion rate (21-for-25) was the highest ever for an Eagles quarterback. But that's not even the full story.

Foles' incompletions all came on balls he threw away deliberately. He didn't miss a single pass he intended for a receiver. One of the dumped passes kept the Eagles in position for Alex Henery's 49-yard field goal.

“I thought he made really good decisions,” Kelly said. “That's one thing that he's been great with is his decision making has been outstanding. He hasn't put the ball in harm's way. He could have taken a sack and gotten us out of field goal range.”

Foles said he has “learned the hard way” how and when to throw the ball away. “I have forced balls before. You watch film and understand the game and the strategy. It is not bad to throw the ball away. It actually is really good.”

Foles has thrown 25 touchdown passes and just two interceptions this season.

“He was throwing the ball well in that pregame routine that we've been doing every week,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “He was throwing the ball with a lot of zip, and you kind of knew he was going to be on fire from the get-go.”

Cole minding. Outside linebacker Trent Cole's first three-sack game in three years was a testament to the veteran's perseverance in making the transition from defensive end in the Eagles' old 4-3 defense.

“Trent was lights-out tonight,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “That's what Trent is capable of doing -- taking over games, dominating offensive tackles and getting to the quarterback. It's a tough transition when you ask a guy who has been rushing for 10 years to drop back and cover zones. He's an unselfish player.”

Cole, 31, didn't have a single sack through the first half of the season. He has eight in the last seven games.

“Anybody that plays as hard as Trent Cole, you love seeing success,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “That man's never seen a down where he hasn't given everything he's had.”

Wolff nicked. Rookie safety Earl Wolff returned after missing four games with a knee injury. He left the game after one series.

“He did nick the knee,” Davis said.

The plan was for veteran Patrick Chung to start and to ease Wolff back into action after the layoff. Chung played the first two series. Wolff came out for the Bears' third possession.

On the first play of the second quarter, a third-and-2, Jay Cutler threw for Brandon Marshall. Wolff made a nice play, breaking up the pass. But he looked a little shaky going to the sideline and didn't return to the game.

“It's not anything that bad,” Davis said. “I just made the decision, 'Unless, I need you, I'm not going to roll you in because you're still fighting that.'"

Upon Further Review: Eagles Week 15

December, 16, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS -- A review of four issues raised by the Philadelphia Eagles' 48-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Minnesota kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson is dangerous, so the Eagles decided to use short kickoffs that would be fielded by other members of the Vikings’ return team.

“It was a game plan, just like an offensive or defensive game plan,” cornerback and special teamer Roc Carmichael said. “We worked on it all week. We wanted to keep the ball out of (Patterson’s) hands. He’s a dynamic guy. We felt we could do better kicking it to the tight ends or fullbacks or those up guys.”

The strategy gave the Vikings consistently good field position. After kickoffs, they started drives at their 25, 38, 25, 34 and 46, respectively. If Alex Henery had simply kicked the ball out of the end zone, as Minnesota’s Blair Walsh did seven times, the Vikings would have started on their 20 each time.

“Even if you do kick it deep,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said, “he takes it out. He’s got a 109-yard kickoff return. We knew how dangerous he was, and we were just trying to keep the ball away from him.”

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
AP Photo/Andy KingIt was a long day in Minnesota on Sunday for running back LeSean McCoy and the Eagles.
Fourth-and-a-half-yard: Kelly made one good point about his decision to go for it on fourth down at his own 24-yard line in the third quarter.

“You have to think on fourth-and-a-half-a-yard, we can get a half a yard,” Kelly said.

But LeSean McCoy's dive over left guard fell short. Kelly challenged the spot -- in for a penny, in for a pound -- and wound up losing a timeout.

“It started as a combination block with me and Evan (Mathis),” center Jason Kelce said. “The 'backers are flowing hard to their gaps, so you can’t stay on the double-team that long. When he left, I started pushing my guy to the left. Shady tried to hit that hole. It looked like he just dove forward. I’m not sure why we didn’t get it.”

It was McCoy’s second try to pick up that single yard. On third-and-1, he was stopped on a run around right end.

“We shouldn’t have been in that situation,” Kelce said, “if we did a better job on third down. We had a good play called, I thought. I was pulling. I got picked by one of the blocks inside. That made LeSean bounce it outside.”

Trying too hard: Eagles quarterback Nick Foles prides himself on being a team-first guy. So when he had to block a linebacker on a reverse, he didn’t settle for the usual quarterback patty-cake block. He dove in an attempt to take the player out.

“In the heat of battle, I made a mistake,” Foles said. “I made a block that I thought would help the team. You cannot turn back on someone and do that. I am at fault and the referee made the correct call.”

The penalty for an illegal peel-back block negated DeSean Jackson's touchdown. The Eagles instead kicked a field goal. The irony is that the pattycake block -- just getting in front of the defender -- would have been effective in springing Jackson.

“He has to seal that guy,” Kelly said. “I don’t think he had to cut him.”

Unraveling: Things got messy for the Eagles toward the end of the game.

Jackson made a great run after a short pass from Foles, making five defenders miss for a 51-yard gain to the Minnesota 4-yard line. The normally up-tempo Eagles couldn’t get a play off before the clock ran down and were flagged for delay of game.

After Foles’ 16-yard touchdown pass to Jason Avant made it 41-28, the kicking team started on the field. Kelly had to waste a timeout to set up for the two-point conversion.

“It was just a miscommunication upstairs,” Kelly said. “We should have gone for two, and that’s on me.”

Then there was the wave of penalties: Carmichael for taunting, Patrick Chung and Cary Williams for unnecessary roughness, Carmichael for 30 yards for pass interference.

Carmichael said he and Vikings wide receiver Rodney Smith had been going back and forth all game on special teams.

“I told him it was going to be a long day,” Carmichael said. “I turned around and there was a flag. It’s part of the game.”

Williams didn’t talk to reporters after the game.

Midseason Report: Philadelphia Eagles

November, 6, 2013

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.

PHILADELPHIA -- There’s no debating Chip Kelly on this point. His Philadelphia Eagles are indeed “unstable at the quarterback position” due to Michael Vick’s hamstring, Nick Foles’ concussion and Matt Barkley’s inexperience.

So it is all the more important for the Eagles to be stable at another position: head coach. We’re not talking about security -- Kelly has the full confidence of Eagles owner Jeff Lurie -- but rather stability in the sense of a reliable relationship with reality.

Kelly’s offense did not produce a touchdown in two home losses to NFC East rivals Dallas and the New York Giants.

[+] EnlargeMatt Barkley
John Geliebter/USA TODAY SportsEagles rookie quarterback Matt Barkley saw extensive playing time against the Giants in Week 8.
“It’s the same group, for six games, we were on track to set records,” Kelly said. “So I don’t think we’re going to throw the baby out with the bathwater and say we have to do something new here.”

The early success and the recent lack of it suggest NFL defensive coordinators have figured out Kelly’s offense to some degree. And perhaps the trend suggests Kelly’s uptempo approach to everything from practice routines to offensive play is not sustainable with 53-man rosters after all.

Again: These are possibilities worth considering.

“I don’t think that people have it figured out,” Kelly said Monday. “I can tell you what Peyton Manning’s going to do, but you still have to stop that. ...It’s still about executing. 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 the hole is there, we have to create a hole when the hole’s not there. That’s just executing football.”

Translation: Kelly’s offense is as good as ever. The players are messing it up.

By that reasoning, Kelly’s play call on first-and-goal at the 2-yard line was flawless. It was the players that botched it. Specifically, it was Barkley that botched it.

“He made a bad decision at the end of the first half,” Kelly said. “He knows he made a mistake and we’re going to chalk it up from there.”

No doubt Barkley made a poor decision. He should have thrown the ball out of the end zone instead of trying to outrun an NFL cornerback while also seeking an open receiver and setting up to throw.

But is it surprising that a rookie who had barely practiced would have a poor sense of just how fast things happen in the red zone against NFL players? It shouldn’t be. Kelly put Barkley in a terrible situation there. That’s the relationship with reality that Kelly has to establish, and quickly.

He also pointed out that kicker Alex Henery had executed onside kicks very well in practice and then kicked it too far in the game.

That’s what happens in games -- the things you draw up on the whiteboard don’t go exactly as you imagined. Kickers mis-hit the ball. Defenders go unblocked. Running backs cut inside when there’s more space outside.

“We were successful for six games,” Kelly said. “If I look at the last two, just analyzing what the situation is, in both games we got to our third quarterback. That’s a difficult proposition.”

It is. But the reality is that Foles played three brutal, scoreless quarters before being injured in the 17-3 loss to Dallas. And Vick was ineffective in the passing game in both games against the Giants, before he was injured and before he was reinjured.

And the reality is the run game has stagnated. It could be that LeSean McCoy simply forgot how to run through a hole, as Kelly implied. Or it could be that defenses have figured out how to slow McCoy down. Or it could be that the early workload and fast pace have taken a toll on McCoy, as well as the offensive line.

The Eagles' offense has problems beyond a bad decision by a rookie quarterback or a poorly run route by a receiver. If Kelly is going to fix them, the best way to start is by acknowledging them.
PHILADELPHIA -- When he was developing his freewheeling, risk-taking reputation as a head coach at Oregon, Chip Kelly was used to having the best team on the field every Saturday. That tends to help make your decisions turn out the way you planned.

With the Philadelphia Eagles, Kelly’s decisions have been run through the shredder of his players’ limitations. Sunday’s 15-7 loss to the New York Giants was a feast for second-guessers (and even first-guessers).

• We’ll go light on the play call on first-and-goal at the 2-yard line late in the first half. Play calls are usually all about execution. If Matt Barkley ran the play exactly as designed, the Eagles may well have scored a touchdown on that possession.

[+] EnlargeMatt Barkley and Terrell Thomas
AP Photo/Michael PerezTerrell Thomas forced a Matt Barkley fumble on first-and-goal from the 2, squashing an Eagles scoring opportunity.
“It’s a play we’ve run,” Kelly said. “We talked about it. If we don’t have [an open receiver], let’s throw it away and we’ll go next time.”

There was no next time because Barkley held the ball long enough for Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas to run him down and knock it out of his hands. The turnover ruined the Eagles’ best chance at an offensive score.

Kelly’s explanation makes sense. He should have a better feel for a rookie quarterback in that situation. Barkley isn’t used to the speed of the NFL game in new situations, and that was a new situation.

• On fourth-and-10 in the third quarter, ball at the New York 32, Kelly went for a first down.

Last week, he went for a 60-yard field goal late in the first half against Dallas. That baffling decision gave the Cowboys a chance to take a deep shot at the end zone. Tony Romo's pass went through Dez Bryant's hands and was intercepted by Earl Wolff.

This time, it would have been a 49-yard attempt for Alex Henery, or a chance for Donnie Jones to pin the Giants deep with a punt.

“There was wind,” Kelly said. “That was a tough wind. That’s why we went for it on fourth down there. [Special-teams coach Dave Fipp] said we need to get a little bit closer in that situation.”

Barkley fumbled the snap, picked up the ball and fired it over the head of Jason Avant, turning the ball over on downs.

• On fourth-and-4 at midfield in the fourth quarter, down 15-0, Kelly punted.

“It was a two-score game,” Kelly said. “So I knew we were going to stop them. I have great confidence in our defense. I wish they stopped them on the first third down. We felt like we were going to get the ball back with time to score and get an onside kick.”

The Giants held the ball for 3 minutes, 16 seconds before punting it back. The Eagles got the ball again and found themselves in a fourth-and-20 situation at the Giants' 46. This time, Kelly went for it and Barkley completed a 5-yard pass.

• After Najee Goode recovered an errant snap for the Eagles’ only score of the game, making it 15-7 with 4:11 left, Kelly opted for an onside kick. This doesn’t quite line up with the previous reasoning about having faith in his defense.

“I only had one timeout,” Kelly said, “so it didn’t matter if we kicked it deep. It was still the same amount of time on the clock. We felt like if we could get it at that point in time, that was my decision. In terms of time off the clock is going to be the same exact thing.”

But field position would not be the same. Giving the Giants the ball at their own 20 with a timeout and the two-minute warning to stop the clock gives you a shot at decent field position with a defensive stop. Giving the Giants the ball at midfield means game over.

And that, of course, is exactly what happened.
Nick FolesAP Photo/Matt RourkeNick Foles could not get into a rhythm or hit his receivers against Dallas.
PHILADELPHIA -- While watching the Philadelphia Eagles' 17-3 loss to Dallas Cowboys in real time, it was hard to believe quarterback Nick Foles was that awful or that head coach Chip Kelly's scheme was as bad as it appeared. After watching the game again, the answers are sobering.

Foles was, and so was Kelly's scheme. Here are some observations:

• Right off the bat, Kelly wanted to throw running back Bryce Brown at the Cowboys as a wrinkle. It did not work. Brown and LeSean McCoy opened in a two-back set I don't recall seeing before Sunday.

The novelty produced literally nothing. Foles missed both backs on the same play, a wheel route designed to exploit the perceived vulnerability of Dallas linebacker Bruce Carter. But Carter's coverage was fine and Foles could not make the perfect throws necessary to execute the play.

"It's the matchup," Kelly said Monday. "The ball wasn't like it hit his hands and he dropped it. I think we could have been a little more accurate on a couple of those throws."

Or it was a poor guess in preparation by the coaches.

• Foles was effectively sacked twice (one sack, one intentional grounding penalty) on the Eagles' first possession. Rookie right tackle Lane Johnson was involved in the protection breakdown both times, with help from guard Todd Herremans once.

Getting pounded twice in three plays is never a good way for a quarterback to start, and Foles never really seemed comfortable in the pocket all day. Even when protection was solid, he had happy feet and appeared to be anticipating pressure in his face.

On both the plays in question, DeSean Jackson lined up in the slot and was covered by cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Jackson had no success against Scandrick all game.

• Kelly got a lot of backslaps for using that unbalanced line look effectively last week against Tampa Bay. He used it again against the Cowboys and guess what? It isn't fooling anyone anymore.

The alignment has left tackle Jason Peters lined up as a tight end, outside tackle Lane Johnson, on the right side. Brent Celek, the tight end, lines up at left tackle. Every time I saw this alignment, the Eagles ran the ball from it. Every time. NFL coordinators tend to notice things like this.

Maybe if the blocks had been executed better, or the Eagles had been better prepared for the way the Cowboys line slanted and attacked different gaps, the ruse would have worked. But that didn't happen, and McCoy continually ran into unblocked linebackers (Sean Lee, usually) and safeties.

On one play, the first time I saw the unbalanced line, McCoy ran to the left and probably could have gotten outside. He cut inside Celek's block and was easily tackled by J.J. Wilcox.

"You've got to finish the blocks up front," Kelly said. "There are a lot of times where the numbers were right for us and we do have hat for a hat. We've got to finish it. There are other times when maybe the ball should have gone outside because of how we're blocking it and what the landmarks are, but the back cuts it inside. We've just got to get everybody on the same page.

"But again, schematically it wasn't like we're trying to run the ball and they've got an extra guy and we just keep running them into the unblocked guy. We've got to finish blocks up front. We have to finish runs when we have the ball in our hands."

Actually, there were a number of plays where the scheme left McCoy running right into unblocked Cowboys. That's on the coach.

• Bad blocking wasn't limited to the offensive line. The Eagles opened their fourth possession with Foles throwing a quick bubble screen out to Jackson. Riley Cooper whiffed on his block of Scandrick, and the corner blew up the play.

• Meanwhile, Foles was just terrible. I wondered if having the sun in his eyes was an issue until I realized that didn't happen until the second quarter. He was off target and out of rhythm long before that.

Foles almost got Jason Avant decapitated, lobbing an ill-considered pass that exposed Avant to a forearm in the throat from Brandon Carr. He kept missing open receivers, most notably Celek on what would have been a drive-launching first down in the second quarter, Avant on a likely first-down throw and Jeff Maehl on a couple throws that a truly gifted receiver might have caught.

Foles had Jackson running down the right sideline and threw it two yards out of bounds. Just a bad toss.

Foles' best throw of the day was an incompletion. He had Jackson streaking through the end zone and put the ball in the right place. Wilcox sprinted across and poked the ball away from Jackson. Just a great defensive play in that case.

• Kelly's explanation of his decision to go for a 60-yard field goal on fourth-and-a-foot at the end of the first half made sense – on the surface.

"If we run a play with 14 seconds left on the clock, I've got to call a timeout," Kelly said. "And we have to kick a 59-yard field goal. If the field goal was one-yard short, I'd be kicking myself in the tail right now because we need to be a little bit closer because he wasn't one yard short. … I don't think we were going to dial up a play that was going to get us 15 yards on 4th and 1 to put us in a situation for a closer field goal."

Kelly said the wind was at Alex Henery's back, which also meant it would be in the face of the Cowboys if Henery missed, which he did.

The problem was the play calling that put the Eagles in that situation. With Foles finding a faint pulse in the two-minute offense, he threw a quick hitch to Cooper for a nine-yard gain. Naturally, Kelly called the same play out of the same formation on second-and-one. This time, with cornerback Morris Claiborne unfooled, Cooper dropped the pass.

On third-and-inches, Foles threw that deep ball out of bounds for Jackson.

So the fourth-and-inches didn't happen by itself. It started as a second-and-inches and Kelly play-called his way into a 60-yard field goal.

• Finally, a look at the play on which Foles was injured. Again, it starts on first down at the Dallas 9-yard line, with that unbalanced line look. The Cowboys knew McCoy would run and McCoy ran into three -- repeat: three -- unblocked defenders for no gain.

On second down, Foles had time as the Cowboys rushed only four men. But he couldn't find anyone, ran left at the first hint of pressure and was forced to throw the ball away before he was brought down from behind. The folks at Pro Football Focus timed Foles at 6.3 seconds from taking the snap to throwing away.

That brought up third down. Foles had time again. He slid to his left and had Cooper open at about the 4-yard line. Foles waited long enough for a defensive back to slip up behind Cooper. About then, the blockers lost their men and Foles was forced to start running to his right.

David Carter and George Selvie -- raise your hand if you'd heard of them before -- followed him. Foles held on to the ball for a ridiculous 9.5 seconds, according to Pro Football Focus, before Selvie wrapped him up. Their helmets bumped, but it appeared the back of Foles' head bounced off the ground on the sack, too. As soon as he got up, referee John Parry looked for Eagles medical staffers and pointed to his head.

Locker Room Buzz: Philadelphia Eagles

October, 20, 2013
PHILADELPHIA --Observed in the locker room after the Philadelphia Eagles' dismal 17-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys:

Nick Foles was neither seen nor heard. Head coach Chip Kelly said his quarterback was taken to an independent facility for evaluation of an apparent concussion. So Foles was not available to explain his woeful performance for three quarters.

Foles completed 11 of 29 passes for 80 yards and a passer rating of 46.2. He took three sacks, including the unavoidable sack on which he was injured on the final play of the third quarter.

“He was off,” Kelly said. “There were times we didn’t do a good job around him, there were times guys were open and he didn’t put the ball where he needed to.”

Matt Barkley went three-for-three. The rookie quarterback replaced Foles and operated three fourth-quarter drives. He threw interceptions to end all three. Indeed, Barkley threw two on his first drive -- the first was negated by a penalty.

“Matt got put in a tough situation,” Kelly said. “We had to throw every down. He did some nice things. First time playing, he’s got to understand. Linebackers are going to be playing his eyes, looking for the pick.”

“ I saw there’s a lot to learn,” Barkley said, “I have a lot of growth in front of me, which is exciting.”

The answer was blowing in the wind. Kelly had Alex Henery attempt a 60-yard field goal near the end of the first half. Henery missed, giving Tony Romo a couple of shots at the end zone from midfield. If Dez Bryant had timed his leap better, he may well have scored a touchdown.

“He hit it really well in warmups,” Kelly said. “We had the wind at our back. We just wanted to see if we could get the score there in a three-point game.”

Upon Further Review: Eagles Week 5

October, 7, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Philadelphia Eagles' 36-21 victory over the New York Giants:

The quarterback situation gets interesting. With Michael Vick getting treatment on his injured hamstring Monday morning, the storyline for this week seems obvious. Will Vick be ready for Sunday’s game against winless Tampa Bay? If not, can Nick Foles excel in the same stadium where he made his only winning start of 2012? And how will all of that emerge from Chip Kelly’s personal microprocessor? Foles’ two fourth-quarter touchdown passes put the Eagles over their highest point total of the season, but it must be noted that he was handed a short field three times courtesy of interceptions by the Eagles’ defense. This will be a topic for discussion all week.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesChip Kelly will have a decision to make this week regarding his starting quarterback.
The turnovers finally came. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis promised that turnovers would “come in bunches” once the Eagles' defense settled into its proper techniques and responsibilities. The defense didn’t play a great game against Eli Manning and the Giants on Sunday, but it generated enough pressure to force mistakes. Manning was under pressure on all three fourth-quarter picks, and he committed three penalties for intentional grounding. Of course, Manning was leading the league in turnovers before the Eagles got to him, so it’s fair to question whether the Eagles played that much better.

The kicker was good. There was some public concern about Alex Henery after the kicker missed a field goal in three consecutive losses, including a three-point loss to San Diego. Kelly continued to voice confidence, saying that Henery struck the ball consistently in practice. But practice isn’t a game, and the pressure is different. On Sunday, Henery made 5 of 5 field goal attempts, the longest coming from 41 yards. But he still hasn’t made a long pressure kick in a game. Until he does, it will be fair to wonder about him.

DeSean was DeSean again. It wasn’t just because DeSean Jackson caught seven passes for 132 yards and a touchdown, either. Jackson was in at least one post-whistle shoving match and mimicked Victor Cruz’s “Salsa” touchdown celebration. “Just having a little fun,” Jackson said. The game is much more fun for the speedy wideout when he’s targeted 12 times, as he was Sunday. Vick hit him for a 56-yard gain and Foles connected with him on a nicely designed 5-yard touchdown.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed in the locker room after the Philadelphia Eagles' 36-21 victory over the winless New York Giants:

Stumbled, humbled. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks intercepted the first pass of his NFL career. He probably should have scored his first touchdown, as well. But Kendrick lost his footing a little bit and was tripped up from behind by Giants running back Brandon Jacobs. It must be noted that Jacobs is not exactly the speediest runner in football. "I know I'm faster than him, he knows I'm faster than him," Kendricks said, shaking his head in disbelief. "He got me, though." Kendricks had an ice pack on his knee, but said that was unrelated: "I just got cut [blocked] a little bit," he said.

Blur defense. Brandon Boykin wasn't able to break down his interception quite as well. The slot corner was matched up with Victor Cruz in the fourth quarter. Eli Manning threw the ball for Cruz. Boykin lunged, got a hand on it and somehow managed to get control of the ball before hitting the ground. The play was reviewed by the officials and confirmed as an interception. "It happened too fast," Boykin said. "When I felt it, I just tried to establish possession. A lot of times, if it's a tie, they give it to the receiver."

5-for-5. Kicker Alex Henery missed a field goal in each of the Eagles' three losses. All were from the mid-40s. Coach Chip Kelly had expressed confidence in Henery all along, but the questions were different after Henery hit five kicks from 40, 27, 29, 36 and 41 yards. The last one gave the Eagles a 22-21 lead late in the third quarter. "I think myself and him were the most surprised with the three misses that he had this year," Kelly said.

Familiar face(mask). The Eagles faced a third-and-2 situation early in the third quarter. LeSean McCoy got the carry and headed toward the right side. He was met by a Giants defensive lineman who wrapped him up and dropped him for a 6-yard loss. It was Mike Patterson, McCoy's teammate for the first four years of his Eagles career. "I messed with him," McCoy said. "Even though he made the stop, I messed with him. He's just a Giant now."

Locker Room Buzz: Philadelphia Eagles

September, 15, 2013
PHILADELPHIA -- Observed in the locker room after the Philadelphia Eagles’ 33-30 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Bad bounce: Kicker Alex Henery could have turned the game around if he’d handled a fumble by Chargers return man Fozzy Whittaker. “It was coming toward me, it bounced up and hit my elbow,” said Henery, who does not practice such situations. San Diego recovered on the Eagles' 39-yard line and scored a touchdown seven plays later.

Stalled drive: The Eagles had the chance to take a 34-30 lead in the game’s final minutes. Not only did their last drive stall at the San Diego 14, but they left 1:51 on the clock for the Chargers to stage their winning drive. Coach Chip Kelly said no attention was paid to the time: “We were trying to score a touchdown,” he said. “We’re trying to make it a four-point game instead of a three-point game.”

Wilted secondary: The Eagles completely remade the secondary that was gashed for 33 touchdown passes last season. Philip Rivers torched the new version for 419 yards, three touchdowns and a 124.3 passer rating. With Alex Smith, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning the next three weeks, that’s scary. “There’s still a lot of work to be done,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “We’ve got to work our tails off and get things done.”

Run stopped: Running back LeSean McCoy was held to 53 yards on 11 carries after gaining 184 on 31 rushes at Washington. The Chargers’ commitment to stopping the run was part of that. “We wind up with 400 yards passing,” McCoy said. “To be honest, as a defense, I don’t think they were really effective.”

Rapid Reaction: Chargers 33, Eagles 30

September, 15, 2013

PHILADELPHIA -- Quick thoughts after the San Diego Chargers' 33-30 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday:

What it means: There won’t be a million stories explaining the phenomenon that is Chip Kelly’s offense, at least not this week. After setting land-speed records in Washington on Monday night, the Eagles had trouble getting into gear against the Chargers. They ultimately put enough points on the board to win most games, but they cost themselves several touchdowns with mistakes in the first half. Given a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter, the Eagles stalled in the red zone. They kicked a field goal to tie the score, but left the Chargers nearly two minutes to drive for Nick Novak's game-winning 46-yard kick.

Stock watch: It was probably inevitable after the avalanche of praise the first-year coach received last week that Kelly's stock would fall. He was trying to become the first Eagles coach to win the first two games of his tenure since Nick Skorich in 1961. Kelly was never going to go undefeated in the NFL, but Eagles fans were hoping to ride the Chip-mania wave at least a little bit longer.

Defensive regression: The Eagles' defense looked much more like the work in progress that it is. Philip Rivers picked apart a secondary that was suspect before injuries weakened it even further. Cornerback Cary Williams, who had a sack and an interception at Washington, was called for three pass-interference penalties (one was declined). When the Chargers took the field with 1:51 left in a tie game, the Eagles were helpless to stop the winning drive.

Bad timing: The Eagles’ improved special teams had been an overlooked story with so much attention focused on Kelly’s offense. But the kicking game failed the Eagles at the worst time, allowing a long kickoff return to set up the Chargers’ go-ahead touchdown. Kicker Alex Henery, who missed a field goal earlier in the game, couldn’t handle a fumble on the play and the Chargers recovered.

What’s next: The Eagles get little rest before welcoming longtime coach Andy Reid back to Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night. The game becomes doubly important because the Eagles’ next matchup after that is in Denver on Sept. 29. A loss to Reid could put the Eagles in jeopardy of starting 1-3 after winning their first game.