Guard Andrew Gardner and the offensive line have to do a better job protecting Eagles QB Sam Bradford and opening holes for the runnings backs!
By Peter Gleason
It’s always dangerous to draw conclusions about NFL teams after only two regular season games, but it’s also difficult to come to any other definitive view except:
The Eagles and New York Jets seem to be two ships passing in the September night!
New York looks impressive defensively despite the departure of its coach who is regarded as a top defensive mind.
Chip Kelly retooled his offense in Philly the way he saw fit, but the results have been disastrous so far.
The Jets will try to continue their hot start and knock off the visiting Eagles for the first time ever Sunday.
New York (2-0) has outscored Cleveland and Indianapolis 51-17 after getting outscored by an average of 25.1-17.7 while going 4-12 last year.
“They know how long of a season it is and this just tells us we can be 2-14 right now,” said new coach Todd Bowles, the replacement for Rex Ryan. “They understand that, too, but I’m not going to temper them from being excited.”
The Eagles, in contrast, are in danger of dropping their first three games for the first time since an 0-4 start in 1999. The Eagles have been one of the biggest busts in the league, putting together a particularly pathetic offensive showing in Sunday’s 20-10 loss toDallas.
Philly, which managed 21 yards of offense in the first half, is averaging 35.0 rushing yards and has converted five of 23 third downs.
“I was embarrassed,” Kelly said. “That’s not the way we’re supposed to play football.”
The Jets’ hot start has been fueled by an opportunistic defense. Their 10 takeaways, including three fumble recoveries by Darrelle Revis, are a team record through the first two games and marks the first time it’s been done since 2005 (Cincinnati).
New York ranked last in the league from 2012-14 with 51 turnovers forced.
“The coaches have been preaching (turnovers) ever since Day 1 and we were able to get some for the second week in a row,” nose tackle Damon Harrison said. “Any time we can get turnovers, it greatly increases our chances of winning. First couple weeks of the season, it’s true.”
The Eagles will likely have to get their running game untracked, specifically DeMarco Murray, to improve to 10-0 in the series. Philly’s seven rushing yards against the Cowboys were its fewest since a team-record minus-12 against Washington in 1961. The Eagles have lost yardage on 21.2 percent of their carries.
Murray had two yards on 13 attempts against Dallas and has 11 yards on the season, with 16 after contact – an indictment of the offensive line’s play. Guards Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner have especially struggled in replacing Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans, who were released in the offseason.
“It doesn’t matter who the running back is, we are not doing anything upfront to give him an opportunity,” center Jason Kelce said. “We have got to get this fixed up front. We have to get it better.”
Making matters worse, Murray left practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury. The team did not give details of the injury or a timetable for return.
Backup running back Ryan Mathews, who would take over if Murray was out, said after practice that he didn’t think the injury was serious and that Murray would be back at practice Thursday.
Nick Foles took a step back in 2014 with an 81.4 passer rating after a 119.2 mark in 2013, and was traded to St. Louis for Sam Bradford. However, Bradford’s been even worse with a 72.3 rating, throwing four interceptions and two TDs.
The loss of Jeremy Maclin has also been felt in the receiving corps, with Jordan Matthews the only wideout with more than four catches.
New York’s passing game has been a pleasant surprise behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, who Bowles said would remain the starter even when Geno Smith returns from a broken jaw.
Fitzpatrick has made good use of top offseason acquisition Brandon Marshall, who has 13 receptions and two scores. He’s 66 receiving yards shy of becoming the 45th player with 10,000.
The duo could look to exploit top Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell, who has been targeted 18 times, allowing 224 yards and two TDs.
Fitzpatrick could be without a key receiving option in Eric Decker, however. Decker is day to day after spraining his knee against the Colts on Monday, though he hasn’t been ruled out.
“I’ll have to see how he’s doing later in the week,” Bowles said. “If he’s not moving well, obviously he’s not going to play. Time will tell.
“We have a little bit of time, so I’m hopeful, but it’s not out of the realm that he won’t play, either.”
The Eagles could be without three defensive starters. Kiko Alonso and Cedric Thornton have been ruled out while linebacker Mychal Kendricks may also sit out due to a hamstring injury.