Plenty of controversy followed the Philadelphia Eagles’ 33-30 loss to the San Diego Chargers in Week 2. The defense, obviously, was the biggest mess, conceding 419 yards through the air to Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers while forcing only one punt all afternoon.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly came under a surprising amount of scrutiny though, and it had little to do with the fact that his defense couldn’t slow down San Diego State, let alone the San Diego Chargers.
Did his offense score too fast in the fourth quarter? Was he familiar with all the rules as to the many uses of timeouts in the NFL?
Regardless of whether or not the Bolts stole one from Philly in the home opener at Lincoln Financial Field, it’s back to work on a short week—and headlong into an emotionally charged game at that. The Eagles host the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia’s former head coach of 14 seasons, Andy Reid, in Week 3—plus Donovan McNabb will have his No. 5 retired in a halftime ceremony. It’s kind of a big deal.
That’s all well and good, but most of these folks have a game to play. With that in mind, here’s a look at what’s happening in the respective locker rooms this week, not just the media columns.
Don’t worry, plenty of story lines will have to play out on the field.
Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
It’s beginning to look like a one-man show could be coming to Big D this fall. Who besides wide receiver Dez Bryant instills fear in opposing defenses? Running back DeMarco Murray and his 3.5 yards per carry? Wide receiver Miles Austin at 7.9 yards per reception?
At least Tony Romo can still turn to 31-year-old tight end Jason Witten for a tough catch here or there (11 REC, 82 YDS, 2 TD in 2013), but the Cowboys’ signal-caller doesn’t have many other big-time playmakers surrounding him in that offense. It really showed on Sunday when they only managed to scrape together 16 points against the Chiefs.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
Sunday was definitely a missed opportunity for the Birds, but fans should take solace in the fact that the loss was out of conference. Also, everyone else in the division lost, so if nothing else, Philly didn’t lose any ground. Given the state of the NFC East, that should count for something.
The Eagles are basically a Jekyll-and-Hyde story right now. Their offense ranks second in the NFL with 482.5 yards per game while the defense ranks 30th at 460.5 yards per game—basically, what most people expected. In close games, Kelly may want to think about how to make sure that Mike Vick has the ball last in the fourth quarter.
New York Giants (0-2)
The Giants have committed 10 turnovers through their first two games of the season. To put that in perspective, the rest of the NFC East has nine giveaways combined. Gross.
No surprise, New York’s minus-8 turnover margin is the worst such mark in the league by a sizable distance—the next-closest team is the Jets at minus-4, which might as well be light years apart. As any Eagles fan can attest to after the last few seasons, you simply can’t win many games that way in the NFL. In fact, the G-men haven’t won any of them.
Washington Redskins (0-2)
This team has a lot deeper problems right now than the slow start by franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III in Weeks 1 and 2—although, yeah, that too. Washington also has the NFL’s 32nd-ranked defense after two games, allowing 511.5 yards per game.
They look like an absolute train wreck on both sides of the football, and that’s probably stating the situation kindly. Has last year’s magic officially worn off?
Week 3 Opponent
Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)
Reid makes his triumphant return to Philadelphia on Thursday night with an unblemished record in hand. No doubt the fans will be happy to see Big Red, and will greet him accordingly.
Now that Kansas City’s offense has a respectable passer under center in Alex Smith—not to mention some overall direction on offense—the defense has been able to flourish. The Chiefs rank fourth in total defense, second in points per game, second against the run and eighth against the pass. Sure, they padded their numbers a bit in a Week 1 win over moribund Jacksonville, but KC did manage to knock off Dallas on Sunday.
First, some good news for the Eagles in the form of cornerback Bradley Fletcher returning to practice on Monday. Fletcher missed Week 2 with a concussion and while Brandon Boykin did not do an unacceptable job with the extra snaps (4 TAC, 1 PD, 1 FF), Brandon Hughes—the next man up—was far less reliable.
Per Tim McManus of Birds 24/7, the other injuries are all minor bumps and bruises, minus Dennis Kelly who is just coming off of back surgery.
The big injury to monitor in Kansas City this week, according to Adam Teicher of ESPN.com, is Branden Albert, but Reid expects him to be ready for Thursday night. Not much being said about Brandon Flowers missing practice, but the safe bet is that the corner will play.
What Must Improve (Not All-Nate Allen Edition)
This section easily could have been devoted to Eagles safety Nate Allen, as in, "Nate Allen Needs to Cover Better," "Nate Allen Needs to Tackle Better" and "Nate Allen Needs to Do Better at Words With Friends" were all potential subheadings. That wouldn’t be very productive though, so here are three things that might actually have a chance to improve in future weeks.
1. Pass Rush
The secondary is what it is. Keep in mind the Eagles were short a corner (Fletcher) on Sunday, and Cary Williams was good enough to help the Baltimore Ravens win a Super Bowl. At safety, Patrick Chung is better inside the box, though admittedly, Allen has few redeeming qualities—at least he’s a warm body?
OK, we can all agree there are few building blocks back there. What exactly is the excuse in the front seven?
It didn’t matter whether defensive coordinator Bill Davis rushed three or seven, the Eagles were not able to muster a consistent pass rush against Rivers in Week 2. Connor Barwin logged the unit’s lone sack. Where was Trent Cole? Or Fletcher Cox? Mychal Kendricks?
They certainly were nowhere in coverage.
The Eagles’ secondary isn’t going to suddenly improve overnight, but it doesn’t matter who is in the defensive backfield once a stable quarterback gets comfortable inside the pocket. Davis must find a way to rattle opposing passers or those corners and safeties are going to be sitting ducks no matter what.
2. Alex Henery
Now into his third year as a place-kicker in the NFL, Alex Henery hasn’t been actively bad. In fact, by most metrics he’s actually been pretty good. Believe it or not, his 87.3 percent success rate is second all-time.
Yet Henery does not inspire a great deal of confidence. Maybe it’s the feeling that the Eagles have never relied on him on those tries from distance—his career long is only 51 yards, after all.
Or it could be simply a feeling that Henery keeps coming up short in clutch moments. While it sort of flew under the radar, thanks to a lot of the other controversies surrounding the Birds’ 33-30 loss to the Chargers, the 26-year-old whiffed on a 46-yarder toward the end of the first half that would have had obvious implications in the outcome.
Kickers miss kicks from time to time, and it’s entirely possible that Henery’s misses have been no more costly than many other kickers. Yet in the immortal words of Reid: “We can all count—those points would’ve helped.”
The Eagles were flagged a total of nine times for 82 yards in the loss to San Diego. These weren’t all ticky-tack penalties, either, nor were they contained to just the offense or defense. Meaningful flags came down on both sides of the ball.
On offense, an illegal formation penalty against rookie Lane Johnson nullified a 37-yard touchdown catch by DeSean Jackson and Philly settled for three points. Later, Jackson took a dumb unnecessary roughness penalty after a Birds' TD in the fourth quarter, setting up San Diego with great field position on its ensuing possession.
Meanwhile, cornerback Cary Williams was tagged three times for contact downfield, as was safety Patrick Chung once—and two of those calls came on third down. For good measure, Allen was hit with a facemask as well.
The Eagles hurt themselves in a variety of ways in Week 2. There were missed throws and tackles, dropped passes and questionable time management. Execution comes down to inches, moments and snap decisions, but discipline is just knowing and abiding by the rules. There’s no good excuse for why the zebras had to erase so many positive plays.