NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles play the Tennessee Titans, AFC South strangers with a 2-8 record, on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. About 96 hours after that game ends, the ball will be kicked off for the Eagles’ Thanksgiving Day matchup with their ancient rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.

It certainly looks like the kind of scheduling quirk that could lead a 7-3 Eagles team to overlook the Titans and sneak a glance ahead to Dallas. To Eagles coach Chip Kelly, though, there is no danger.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
Bob Stanton/USA TODAY Sports"I think everybody knows in this league, everybody can beat anybody on any given day," Chip Kelly said in dismissing trap games.
“No. 1, I don't believe in trap games,” Kelly said Thursday. “I think everybody knows in this league, everybody can beat anybody on any given day. There are a million examples of it, and I think it doesn't help anybody if you're looking (past) one team to go to the next game. The great thing about our league is you only have to play one game a week, so our focus and attention is on the one game we have this week.”

That sounds good, and that may be the way Kelly would like his players to behave. But it was just 11 months ago that the Eagles were traveling to Minneapolis to play the Minnesota Vikings. The Eagles had won five games in a row to move into first place in the NFC East. The Vikings were 3-9-1 and would be playing without running back Adrian Peterson, who had a foot injury.

Trap game?

Trap game. The Eagles got crushed, 48-30. Running back Matt Asiata, whose name you do not recognize from your fantasy league draft this year, ran for three touchdowns. The game was an aberration, as the Eagles rebounded by defeating Chicago and Dallas in their final two games of the season.

The day after the Minnesota loss, Kelly was asked about how it could happen.

“I think you should go into every game with the same mentality whether it's people from the outside that consider you the favorite or don't consider you the favorite,” Kelly said. “I think if you're paying attention to that type of stuff, you're not focusing in on what you can control. The message I give and the message I've always lived with is worry about what you can control.

“You don't control what other people's opinions are. If you are, you're going to be a yo-yo up, yo-yo down guy depending on how people tell you what they think going into the game. I think your preparation should be the same. Your mindset should be the same. Sometimes it's easier said than done. It's not an easy thing to get accomplished, but I think that's ultimately the way you should get it done.”

Kelly will get more help from the Green Bay game than from the Titans on that front. A 53-20 loss should keep the players focused on the task at hand. As for the Dallas game, it will mean much more if the Eagles can win Sunday against Tennessee and be in a position to get a leg up on the Cowboys in the NFC East race.

Lose to the Titans, and the Eagles could be chasing the Cowboys the rest of the season.

Talk about a trap.
PHILADELPHIA -- For a game-and-three-quarters, Mark Sanchez was golden. His first action as the Philadelphia Eagles' starting quarterback had gone about as smoothly as possible, and Sanchez was riding high.

Then came the Eagles’ 53-20 defeat in Green Bay. Sanchez was hardly to blame for that comprehensive beating. But he did throw two interceptions, one that Julius Peppers returned for a touchdown, and was charged with two lost fumbles. It was Sanchez’s first taste of the kind of disappointment that he’d grown accustomed to as a New York Jet.

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
AP Photo/Michael PerezAfter a strong couple of games, Mark Sanchez made several costly turnovers in the Eagles' loss to the Packers.
That makes Sunday’s game against Tennessee Sanchez’s first opportunity to show some resilience, to bounce back and demonstrate the ability to right the ship.

“You’re always competing against yourself and trying to be better, and to be the best version of yourself for your teammates,” Sanchez said Thursday. “That’s really where the competitive side comes in. More than anything, you want to win. That’s really our goal each week. This is a really fun job when you’re winning. So we’ll just try to keep winning.”

Eagles coach Chip Kelly said he thinks Sanchez has “done a good job. He's played a lot of quarterback in this league. He's been very successful in what he's done, and I thought he played really well against Green Bay. He made a really bad decision on the pass where Peppers dropped into coverage, but besides that I thought he did a really good job.”

The interceptions were troubling, because Sanchez turned the ball over a lot during his tenure in New York. He threw two interceptions in Houston after replacing the injured Nick Foles. He did not throw any in the Eagles’ 45-21 victory over Carolina the next week. So Sunday’s four-turnover performance was a return to a not especially good form.

“The second interception to [Jeremy] Maclin, I’m kind of throwing off my back foot,” Sanchez said.”It’s kind of a desperation situation, but did we really need it? We’re in four-down territory anyway. We’re thinking we have to get this third down, but we’re in four-down territory, anyway. So even if I throw it in the stands or take a sack, we’re coming back and trying to convert on fourth down, anyway.”

Sanchez was being pressured from his right by Peppers. Instead of stepping up to his left and taking a fresh look at Maclin, Sanchez rushed the throw. So he didn’t see cornerback Tramon Williams knock Maclin down. At worst, he could have thrown the ball out of bounds there.

Thing is, the Eagles would have lost that game whether Sanchez handed Peppers a touchdown or made one rushed, ill-advised throw to Williams. The Packers jumped to too big of a lead for the rest of the game to mean that much. So Sanchez can write the mistakes off as hard lessons and come back Sunday with a clean slate.

“There’s good and bad,” Sanchez said, citing his successful throws to Jordan Matthews and Jeremy Maclin. “You correct the bad and reinforce the good.”

Titans vs. Eagles preview

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
When: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia TV: CBS

The Philadelphia Eagles are bouncing back from a 53-20 trouncing in Green Bay last week. They need to regain their sense of confidence as they enter the part of their schedule that will determine whether they are contenders or pretenders.

The Tennessee Titans are coming off a tough Monday night loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are a team still trying to find a new identity under coach Ken Whisenhunt.

The two teams meet Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. NFL Nation reporters Paul Kuharsky, who covers the Titans, and Phil Sheridan, who covers the Eagles, discussed the matchup.

Phil Sheridan: The Eagles led the NFL in rushing last season but are now down in the middle of the pack. They've been trying to get their running game back to a high level all season. After the Titans allowed 206 rushing yards to the Steelers Monday night, is there anything they can do to stop LeSean McCoy after a short week?

Paul Kuharsky: Well, the first time they were that bad against the run, allowing Dallas 220 yards in Week 2, they rebounded and fared much better in Cincinnati (116). But several good backs have fared very well against them -- DeMarco Murray, Arian Foster and Le'Veon Bell chief among them. The combination of players and scheme isn't particularly good at this stage at holding ground games down.

I think if McCoy is McCoy and Darren Sproles is Darren Sproles, the Titans could easily yield plays to each. Bell clobbered them inside the tackles, and I see the Eagles have sent nearly 62 percent of their rushes that way. They'd be wise to make the Titans prove they've fixed the issue.

Have the Eagles been able to maintain the pace of their offense and the big edge in plays that Chip Kelly covets? How much have things changed with Mark Sanchez at the controls?

Sheridan: The Eagles have run 24 more plays than their opponents this season (748 to 724). But that number is a little misleading. The Eagles have had a few games with Kelly's ideal of a significant advantage in the number of offensive plays run: They ran 92 to Arizona's 70 and 83 to Houston's 60, for example. Meanwhile, Carolina ran 82 plays to the Eagles' 62 and San Francisco had an 83-60 advantage.

So it's hard to draw many conclusions. They lost in Arizona, where they ran more plays, and in San Francisco, where they ran fewer. They won against Houston and Carolina, despite the difference in plays in those games.

The Eagles' running game has not been as consistent this season, which has hurt their ability to control the ball and pound out first downs when needed. And they have turned the ball over 25 times, which means 25 possessions have ended prematurely. In general, the Eagles have been trying to work their way back to the kind of offense they had last season.

Sanchez hasn't changed things as much as you might think -- or the Eagles might have hoped. Like Nick Foles, he turns the ball over quite a bit. While he was very good against Carolina, he was just OK against Houston and Green Bay. The Eagles are hoping to see Sanchez get into a good rhythm against the Titans this week.

Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said that Zach Mettenberger seems remarkably aware and in command for a rookie quarterback. Considering he threw a pick-six on the first attempt of Monday night's game against the Steelers and then played pretty well, is maturity a notable trait of Mettenberger's? Do you see him developing into a winning quarterback?

Kuharsky: I think he has a chance. It's a real small body of work, and on such a bad team any sign of hope can get looked at disproportionately. But he's shown week-to-week improvement. A rookie having success against a Dick LeBeau defense is rare, and Mettenberger really rebounded from that first pass to have a solid night. Two weeks ago in Baltimore, he held the ball too long too often and was sacked five times. Against the Steelers he and the protection were better, and he didn't get sacked at all. He's completely willing to stand in against the rush and make throws as people close around him. Chaos doesn't fluster him much, and that's a good sign for an immobile guy drafted to stand tall in the pocket and deliver. Pair that with his big arm and it's certainly intriguing. He's got six games left in this nine-game audition.

McCoy's production is way off from what he did last season. How much of that's been him, how much of it's been defenses and how much is it hurting the Eagles?

Sheridan: It is definitely hurting the Eagles. It seems like a long time ago now that McCoy was talking in training camp about rushing for 2,000 yards this season. We didn't even laugh at the idea, although it seems ridiculous now.

The first problem was the rash of injuries along the offensive line. That group stayed healthy all of last season, which had a lot to do with McCoy's success. It has been slowly returning to health, but still hasn't gotten its mojo back yet. Starting to wonder whether it will, at least this season.

Also, it turns out that if you lead the league in something, the league notices. Yes, opposing defenses are doing things differently against the Eagles this year. One trend: The Eagles keep encountering defensive strategies that their opponent hasn't shown on film in any previous game. Some of that is simply defensive coordinators prepping for the Eagles' no-huddle offense, which doesn't allow for much substitution or adjustment. Some of it is to stop McCoy. Either way, the Eagles have had to constantly adjust their approach because they've game planned for an entirely different look.

When they do focus on the run, the target is the inside zone blocking schemes the Eagles had so much success with last season. Second-level defenders keep appearing in the holes just as McCoy starts toward them. Since the Eagles' most mobile linemen, Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis, have just returned from injuries and are still rounding into shape, those defenders are not getting blocked this season.

A year ago, the Eagles were the team switching to a 3-4 defense after years in a 4-3. So it's not surprising to see the Titans near the bottom of the NFL against the run. They are ninth against the pass, though, which is pretty respectable. Is there something they're doing especially well, or is it a case of teams running the ball so well they don't have to throw that much against Tennessee?

Kuharsky: Well, some of those big run games we discussed have made it so opponents haven't needed to throw so much, yes. That's a factor. They have blitzed more and more, and more effectively. And while they have question marks in the secondary, they've played OK there. Jason McCourty has tracked top receivers and fared pretty well. Even when a guy like Antonio Brown was making a lot of catches to convert third downs, McCourty was right there a lot of the time. I expect he will spend time on Jeremy Maclin.

The other starting corner, Blidi Wren-Wilson, is making progress but is beatable and probably will be targeted. The Titans have been bouncing between base and dime, without a lot of nickel, so it will be interesting to see what grouping the Eagles prefer to get on the field when they can control it.

The Titans fare pretty well at avoiding big plays -- and some of the big ones they've allowed this season have been short or mid-range catches they've allowed to turn into big plays with missed tackles or bad angles. Opponents have connected on just 15 passes in the air 20 yards or more. That seems like a pretty good number considering their people in defense.

What is Season 2 of the 3-4 looking like in Philadelphia? Connor Barwin has 10.5 sacks. A week after sorting through LeBeau's defense, what will the Titans see Davis dial up?

Sheridan: The defense has, for the most part, been much more sound and more versatile in Year 2 under Davis -- example, they have a dime package this season, which they did not have during the 2013 season. Let's pretend that farce in Green Bay never happened, for the sake of our discussion here. I mean, it did happen, but it seemed like a perfect storm of a deeply misbegotten game plan and some very poor play by the Eagles.

Before that, the Eagles' defenders had finally gotten the hang of two-gapping, making them fairly sound against the run all season. And they have had some games where they've been excellent at generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Throw in some turnovers and it's as disruptive and effective as the Eagles defense has looked in almost a decade.

The Eagles have faced Kirk Cousins and Austin Davis this season, so they have seen a couple of young quarterbacks. They try to disguise their coverages and bring pressure from unexpected places in order to take advantage of the inexperience. I'm sure they'll attempt to do that with Mettenberger. Then again, the Eagles had their most significant defensive success against Cam Newton and Eli Manning, so maybe Mettenberger has the edge
PHILADELPHIA -- LeSean McCoy has drawn the spotlight by proclaiming himself the best running back in the NFL, dissing Adrian Peterson and declaring a goal of 2,000 rushing yards this season.

 That spotlight doesn’t switch itself off when things aren’t going so well. McCoy has as many games below 25 yards rushing (two) as he has games above 100 yards. He is averaging 3.7 yards per carry, 1.4 yards below his 5.1-yard average last season. After leading the NFL in rushing yards in 2013, McCoy is sixth in 2014 -- respectable but no threat to the 2,000-yard barrier.

So it wasn’t a big surprise when McCoy lashed out at reporters this week. Indeed, McCoy lashed out partly because the reporters asking him questions know that he is prone to such outbursts. It’s not that they dangle bait and see if he’ll bite, exactly, but it’s close.

"I'm not even going to address 'am I the same player?'" McCoy said. "That's for you all to figure out. Are you crazy? I am the same player. I'm not going to sit here and play that game, like, 'Am I the same player?'"

One reason for McCoy’s quick trigger: His contract guarantees him just $1 million of his 2015 salary of $9.75 million. He will count $11.9 million against the salary cap. Considering the Eagles released Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson last winter, it may have crossed McCoy’s mind that no one is secure here. Coach Chip Kelly seems to have a genuine affection for McCoy -- which was not the case with Jackson -- but affection doesn’t overrule logic. Being the key to a league-leading running game provides better security than the coach’s affection.

Earlier in the season, McCoy chafed at the ongoing questions about what was wrong with the Eagles’ running game. Injuries along the offensive line were part of the picture. So was the way defenses were approaching the Eagles’ zone blocking schemes. Several teams came out in defensive looks that the Eagles had not seen them play on game film.

McCoy had two rough games against Washington (19 carries, 22 yards) and San Francisco (10 for 17). Then he had four consecutive games above 80 yards, including those two games above 100 yards. With the offensive line returning to good health, it seemed like the problems were over.

And then McCoy ran for just 19 yards on 12 carries in a win over Carolina. In Green Bay Sunday, he amassed 88 yards on 23 carries in a 53-20 loss.

So the questions began again. McCoy heard them. Clearly, he didn’t like them.
PHILADELPHIA – Andrew Gardner has moved a lot, from city to city as well as along the offensive line.

A left tackle at Georgia Tech, Gardner was a sixth-round draft pick by the Miami Dolphins in 2009. He has been with the Dolphins, Ravens, Vikings, Bengals and Texans. He has played both tackle spots and both guard positions.

So it’s not odd to find him playing right guard for the Philadelphia Eagles. If Matt Tobin is unable to play Sunday after sustaining a concussion in Green Bay last weekend, Gardner is in line to start in his spot. Gardner took all the first-team practice reps Wednesday.

“I’ve been the backup at every spot but center here, basically the whole season,” Gardner said. “People keep asking me where I’m the most comfortable. And it comes down to where I’ve practiced the most, most recently. So today, I am most comfortable at right guard.”

Earlier in the season, Gardner started two games at right tackle. Lane Johnson was still serving his four-game PED suspension, and Allen Barbre had been lost for the season with an ankle injury.

“That was nice – what was it, Week 2 and 3 – where, 'You’re going to play right tackle,’" Gardner said. “But that’s not my job right now. My job is to do what I’m asked when I’m asked to do it. As of right now, that’s play right guard. We’ll see what it is on Sunday.”

Gardner would be playing alongside Johnson, the man he replaced earlier in the season. Johnson spent last season, his rookie year, working alongside Todd Herremans. This year, he has played with Herremans, Tobin and Gardner at different times.

“I feel fine with Tobin and Gardner there,” Johnson said. “As long as we communicate well and we’re on the same page, everything should be all right.”

Tennessee, the Eagles’ opponent on Sunday, is an aggressive blitzing team. That makes communication and cooperation among the offensive linemen extremely important. A breakdown could get Mark Sanchez crushed on any given play.

“Communication is always key, especially for O-line play,” Gardner said. “You’ve just got to listen to the center, listen to the quarterback, know where you’re going. As long as you’re all on the same page, things will turn out right. We have a good group dynamic. There’s a lot of cohesion, even from the ones and the twos. There’s a pretty good comfort level with everybody in the [meeting] room.”
PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles' quest for cohesion on their offensive line may not be possible this week.

Matt Tobin, who has replaced Todd Herremans at right guard, sustained a concussion late in Sunday’s loss in Green Bay, according to Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. Tobin did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday as he goes through the NFL concussion protocol.

If Tobin is able to play, it would allow the Eagles to start the same five linemen at the same positions for the third week in a row. That would be only the second time they’ve been able to do that all season. If not, either Andrew Gardner or Dennis Kelly would start at right guard.

“Andrew is real versatile,” Chip Kelly said. “He’s a guard/tackle for us. He’s played both positions for us. When he’s been in there, he’s done a good job for us. He’s a veteran. He’s been in the league for a while. He has a good amount of experience that I think he can draw on. Dennis is a guard for us. He’s done a good job for us. He’s battling in there.”

David Molk and Julian Vandervelde, who are primarily centers, can also play guard in a pinch.

The Eagles were unhappy with their line’s play in Green Bay Sunday. They were hoping to get more solid play as the group remained intact and spent more time playing together. Last season, when all five linemen started all 16 games, they developed excellent chemistry together. This year, that has not been possible.

Left guard Evan Mathis injured his left knee in the season opener and missed seven games. Dennis Kelly started two of those games, while Tobin filled in and started the next five. Jason Kelce suffered a sports hernia tear in the third game of the season and missed four games.

Herremans tore his left biceps in Arizona four weeks ago. He played the next week at Houston but opted for surgery and has missed the last two games. Herremans started one game, at San Francisco, at right tackle. Dennis Kelly started at right guard in that game.

Left tackle Jason Peters is the only lineman who has started all 10 games. The Eagles have had four starters at right tackle. Lane Johnson, last year’s first-round pick, was suspended for the first four games for a PED violation but has started all six games since his return.
PHILADELPHIA -- Getting hurt dictated the first half of the season for the Eagles’ offensive line. Getting better turns out to be the theme for the second half.

That, it turns out, is a process. Simply getting center Jason Kelce and left guard Evan Mathis back did not solve everything. Each of them has to get back up to speed, and the group has to learn how to play together again. That takes a bit longer than anyone expected.

[+] EnlargeEagles offense
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsProtecting Mark Sanchez was an issue at times for the Eagles in Sunday's loss to the Packers.
The offense did not perform well in last week’s blowout win over Carolina. It surprised some people to hear that judgment from coach Chip Kelly. After Sunday’s 53-20 loss in Green Bay, it should surprise no one to hear that the offense wasn’t up to snuff.

“We didn't play near well enough,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said Tuesday. “We didn't execute at a level that's consistent with our standards, and we got beat.”

The line wasn’t terrible. Tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson actually played pretty well. According to grades assigned by Pro Football Focus, which evaluates every play, Peters and Johnson both had positive grades.

The interior of the line didn’t do as well. Kelce, Mathis and right guard Matt Tobin gave up two sacks and three quarterback hurries, according to PFF. Kelce received a grade of minus-2.1. Peters and Johnson both received grades of plus-1.4, by comparison.

“You remember last year that was a model of consistency for our offense because they were the same guys playing all the time,” Shurmur said. “When that happens, you can play better together. The guys are coming back and they are battling. We did not play well Sunday. We need to train better this week and get it going against Tennessee. But they're battling and doing what we ask of them.”

Johnson missed the first four games of the season because he was suspended for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing drugs. By the time he returned, Kelce and Mathis were out. Right guard Todd Herremans, the guy Johnson relied on as a rookie last year, went on injured reserve with a biceps injury. Johnson is now the senior partner with Tobin on his left.

“It’s tough,” Johnson said. “Guys are still coming back from injuries. Evan and Kelce are still trying to get in the swing of things. Matt’s playing a new side. We’ve got six games left, so we’re trying to get better each week.”

Kelce has been errant with snaps in the shotgun formation the past two games. Sunday, the ball sailed over Mark Sanchez’s head and was returned for a touchdown by Green Bay’s Casey Hayward.

“There’s no doubt I have to play better,” Kelce said. “The snaps are the concerning thing right now. I’ve got to make sure I get that better. And I will. Physically, I’m getting back. I think I’m better this week than I was against Carolina. But I’ve got to play better. We’ve all got to play better. The way we played Sunday afternoon and night was unacceptable. Quite frankly, the cohesion really isn’t there.

“We’ve been letting the mistakes and the stalled-out run game dictate how we feel and dictate our mindsets rather than imposing our will on the defense, which is what we did so well last year. As an offensive line, we’ve got to get back to that. We have to be the aggressor.”

They will get to try this Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, whose 3-4 defense is ranked 31st in the NFL against the run. Of course, the Packers are ranked 29th, so that doesn’t solve every problem.
PHILADELPHIA -- This is not the rookie season that Josh Huff envisioned back in May, when the Eagles selected the Oregon wide receiver in the third round of the NFL draft.

Huff hasn't played that much on offense. He's seen most of his time on special teams. On Sunday, he was the gunner on the punt team with the best chance to stop Green Bay's Micah Hyde before Hyde got going on a 75-yard return for a touchdown.

To make matters worse, Huff's comments after the game seemed critical of the Eagles' coaching staff. Huff said he did as he was told to do and that, if he'd done what he preferred, he would have made the tackle.

Watching the tape, Huff comes from Hyde's right and slows to a near stop before he gets to the return man. If Hyde had called for a fair catch, that would have been the right thing to do. Hyde did not, and he ran right past Huff. Nolan Carroll, the gunner on the other side, was taken out of the play by a blocker.

Brandon Boykin, who is normally one of the gunners, was being evaluated for a concussion at that time. Boykin later returned to the game.

"Would I have done something better? Would I have done something different?" Huff said. "Probably so. At the same time, there's nothing I can do about it now. It's over and done with. I just have to learn from it and move forward."

Huff said Tuesday that his comments after the game were misconstrued.

"First of all, to clear it up, I've never been a disrespectful person," Huff said. "I've never been one to point fingers. Part of what I said afterward was frustration. A lot of it was frustration. A lot of it was anger. Everything that I've done so far this season has been going bad. It's not a negative thing, but it's also not a positive thing. I know what type of person I can be. I know what type of player I can be. I know what I can bring to this team. There's nothing I would rather do than play the game I know that I can play."

Huff did not have a catch in the game. He dropped one pass from Mark Sanchez. That's pretty much how his rookie season has gone. Meanwhile, second-round pick Jordan Matthews has been one of the bright spots on offense.

"I can't listen to what the naysayers say," Huff said. "I can't listen to the outside. I have to continue to work each and every day and get better."
PHILADELPHIA – There’s bad and then there’s unacceptable. The Eagles saw plenty of bad on the game tape from Sunday’s 53-20 loss in Green Bay. Only one play really struck them as unacceptable.

Early in the fourth quarter, Aaron Rodgers flipped a short pass to running back Eddie Lacy. It should have been, at most, a 5-yard gain. Lacy went 32 yards for a touchdown to make the score 46-13.

Safety Nate Allen had the first shot at Lacy. He failed to slow him down even a little bit. Defensive end Vinny Curry grabbed Lacy around the waist but fell to the ground empty-handed. Cornerback Nolan Carroll and safety Malcolm Jenkins caught up to Lacy near the goal line but were unable to prevent him from getting into the end zone. Cornerback Cary Williams managed to stay blocked by a wide receiver.

“We had the good, the bad and the ugly,” Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “We had one play that really stood out -- it wasn’t us. It wasn’t us. The Lacy touchdown was probably our worst defensive play of the season. We hit the frustration mode, the old this-isn’t-going-well mode. We talked a lot about it today. It was one of the things we had to do to move forward, not have those plays no matter what happens.”

In 2012, the Eagles defense had more than a small handful of such plays. That’s when cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were seen jogging along behind opposing players, content to avoid confrontation. That hasn’t happened under Davis, at least until this one instance.

“When you turn on the tape, there’s guys all over the field -- me, included -- that, when we talk about the standard, effort was one thing that was never questioned,” Jenkins said. “For that play, I was disappointed. You can always look at other people and tell them, `Oh, you’ve got to go harder.’ But when you evaluate yourself, you’ve got to answer that. You know your intentions and what you had in the tank. If it’s not up to your own standard, it’s a little tough to watch.

“At the same time, it needs to be addressed. It’s something we don’t want to do again.”

There wasn’t a repeat of that effort after Lacy scored. That also caught Davis’ eye.

“To their credit, after that play, there was a whole bunch of everybody flying to the ball,” Davis said. “That was a pressure point. We talked about it and addressed it. This group is a great group of guys. That’s not us.”

“Noobody’s will was broken,” Jenkins said. “But regardless of the frustration, we’ve got to give that 100 percent. Regardless of what the situation is, we’re going to hang our hat on our effort.”

The Film Don't Lie: Eagles

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
A weekly look at what the Philadelphia Eagles must fix:

Aaron Rodgers is good on every down, and he was better than good on first and second downs against the Eagles on Sunday. But the Green Bay Packers' quarterback really killed the Eagles on third-and-long plays, and that's an area the Eagles have to fix immediately.

Rodgers converted third-and-6 or longer plays on three of the Packers' scoring drives Sunday. Getting stops on those plays would have reduced the Packers' scoring by 17 points.

Improvement on third downs will help next Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, but it will become really urgent after that. The Dallas Cowboys, whom the Eagles play twice in 17 days, have a 50 percent conversion rate on third downs. That is second best in the league, behind only the New Orleans Saints, while the Eagles are ranked 14th in the NFL at forcing opposing offenses to punt the ball by stopping them on third down.

So consider the Titans, who rank dead last in the NFL in third-down conversions, an opportunity for the Eagles to improve that part of their game. The Eagles will need to pressure rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger, creating some havoc on third downs and getting off the field. The next week, against Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, the Eagles will be glad they did.
PHILADELPHIA – Eagles quarterback Nick Foles has been off the radar since fracturing his collarbone in Houston two weeks ago. Once it was clear Foles would be unable to play for at least six weeks, attention turned to his replacement, Mark Sanchez.

But Foles was running with the other inactive players on the field in Green Bay Sunday afternoon. He has been seen on the sideline at practice, as well, often holding a ball while watching his teammates prepare.

So what’s Foles’ status now?

“He'll get a recheck at some point in time, but they said it's usually three to four weeks out before they ever take another X-ray,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. ”So he has not had that done yet.”

That X-ray will be the first time doctors can determine whether Foles’ bone is healing properly.

“He can work out now, but it's `Does the bone heal?’ “ Kelly said. “That's the biggest question, at least what's been relayed to me. They're not going to take an X-ray for a little bit here.So, until they get an update from an X-ray standpoint, he'll just continue to work out and continue to stay in shape.”

Foles was working out at the Eagles’ team hotel in Wisconsin on Sunday morning before heading to Lambeau Field for the game.

“He worked out early at the hotel and did some running stuff in the fitness center early in the morning,” Kelly said. “He'll continue to do those things to make sure that when he does get cleared, when the bone is healed, that he's not, ‘Oh, now I need a couple of weeks to get in shape.’ He's that type of guy. He'll always be in shape. He's been cleared to work out, but he has nothing to do with contact or anything like that.”
PHILADELPHIA – For weeks, Eagles fans saw injured offensive linemenJason Kelce and Evan Mathis as the cavalry that would ride in at the last minute and save the day. Nick Foles would return to his 2013 form and LeSean McCoy would vault to the top of the NFL rushing lead.

Well, it hasn’t been quite like that. Kelce has played three games. Mathis has played two. Right guard Todd Herremans has been placed on injured reserve with a torn biceps.

Foles broke his collarbone two weeks ago and has been replaced by Mark Sanchez. Kelce has struggled with snapping the ball to Sanchez in the shotgun. In Green Bay, one of those snaps sailed over Sanchez’s head and was returned for a touchdown.

McCoy was held to just 16 rushing yards last week against Carolina. Things were better in Green Bay, but not anywhere near last year’s level of effectiveness. McCoy carried the ball 23 times for 88 yards, an average of 3.8 yards per carry.

It was always a little unrealistic to expect Kelce and Mathis to step right in and play as if they hadn’t missed time with injuries.

“This game happens at such a speed, it’s not plug and play,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “If that was the case, we wouldn’t train. No one would have practice. It wouldn’t be important. When teams are really good, it’s because they’re practicing really good. You can’t just show up on Sunday and play. You have to be able to train at a certain level.

“Those guys were out, no control of their own, with legitimate injuries. They didn’t have the opportunity to train. Now that they’re getting back into it, they’re getting more acclimated. That’s what this league is all about, in terms of how we prepare. The ability to prepare at full speed – or as close to full speed as you can without getting anybody injured -- it’s kind of a Catch-22 you’re always working on from a coaching standpoint.”

Kelly said the film showed inconsistency in the run blocking.

“It was just a combination,” he said. “There’s time it was blocked up pretty good and we hit a couple in there. Then there were some other times where we’re just slipping off the blocks, we’re not sustaining blocks. There’s positives to gain out of it when you look at film in terms of how you did it the right way. There’s obviously a lot of things we have to correct.”

As for McCoy, Kelly said the running back’s performance has been fine.

“A lot of runs he made, when you really watch them, I thought he did a good job of being patient, getting up inside, following blocks and doing things on the outside,” Kelly said. “So I don't think LeSean played poorly yesterday. I think you've got to add everything to it. It's not just one guy.”
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Philadelphia Eagles cornerbacks are easy targets, and not in the way you’re thinking.

Sure, Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams seemed like easy targets for Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers here Sunday. But that’s because they were being asked to cover talented receivers for too long when the pass rush couldn’t get through to Rodgers.

“We needed to get pressure on him and we didn’t do a very good job getting pressure on him,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “He was on fire early. He is an extremely accurate passer. We knew that was the deal coming in and we didn’t do a good enough job getting after him.”

It didn’t take Rodgers long to find Fletcher. On the Packers’ first possession, Rodgers found wide receiver Jordy Nelson running behind Fletcher for a 64-yard gain. Fletcher also had coverage on two of Rodgers’ touchdown throws, to Davante Adams in the first quarter and to Nelson in the second.

“He made a lot of plays,” Fletcher said of Rodgers. “He was on target on a lot of throws. He was able to scramble today. He did a lot of good things.”

The Eagles tried blitzing. They tried rushing just three or four men and having everyone else drop into coverage. No matter what they tried, Rodgers had the answer for it. And it was the cornerbacks who had to clean up the mess.

“It’s already difficult to be a corner as it is,” Williams said. “When you’re playing a guy of that caliber -- he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the game -- those guys get paid, too. They were able to execute and get the job done. We just didn’t play our best ball.”

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis has frequently been asked about his cornerbacks. Davis says that no one outside of the team knows what he’s asking the cornerbacks to do on a given play. Mistakes by linemen and linebackers are often hard to see for casual fans. But everyone sees the cornerback running behind a wide receiver when he gets beat.

“It was a combination of everything,” Davis said. “There was no pressure on him. I was happy to see Bradley Fletcher stay in there and compete and make the plays on the vertical ball. That’s how Fletch is wired. He’s not going to quit. He’s not going to give up. He had a rough start, but all of us had a rough start.”

Rapid Reaction: Philadelphia Eagles

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16

GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- A few thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' 53-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

What it means: The Eagles have played three games on the road against NFC contenders this season. They are 0-3 in those games against San Francisco, Arizona and now Green Bay. The Eagles are 7-0 in the rest of their games. That 7-3 record is pretty good, but the losses were all in playoff-type games. This Eagles' performance was the kind of all-around stinker the team seemed to be beyond. The defense could not pressure Aaron Rodgers and let Green Bay's quarterback stand in the pocket and choose from his array of weapons. The most recent time the Eagles' defense looked this vulnerable was last season in Denver, when Peyton Manning picked it apart in a 52-20 win. The Eagles recovered from that beating and improved steadily the rest of the season. That will be the challenge with games against Dallas and Seattle in the next month.

Stock watch: Mark Sanchez's stock took a plunge after he finished at a three-year high last week. Sanchez couldn't consistently hit open receivers. He threw a pass to Packers linebacker Julius Peppers, who returned it for a touchdown. Sanchez failed to hand the ball off securely to LeSean McCoy, which led to a fumble that derailed the Eagles' first possession of the second half. Sanchez, who had been 7-for-7 in the red zone in his first two games, went 0-for-2 in his first two opportunities at Lambeau Field.

Blowouts: The Packers beat the Chicago Bears 55-14 last week. They are the first team to score more than 50 points in consecutive games since the Denver Broncos did it last season. The Eagles were on the receiving end of one of those beatings, too. After the Broncos beat the Eagles 52-20 at home, they went to Dallas and beat the Cowboys 51-48. The Broncos scored two return touchdowns against the Eagles in their game. The Packers scored two return touchdowns -- one interception, one fumble -- against the Eagles, too.

Game ball: In a game with few bright spots for the Eagles, rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews stood out. Matthews continued to thrive with Sanchez. A week after he caught 12 passes for 155 yards, Matthews gained 107 and scored a touchdown on five catches.

What's next: The Eagles (7-3) have a chance to get well Sunday against the Tennessee Titans at Lincoln Financial Field. It will be the Eagles' last game against AFC South opponents. After that, things get very intense. Five days after the Titans' game, the Eagles play on Thanksgiving in Dallas. They then host Seattle before getting the Cowboys again at home. That three-game stretch is going to go a long way toward deciding how the Eagles' season turns out.
PHILADELPHIA -- Nobody asked Jeremy Maclin if he was frustrated. The Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver caught 18 passes for 345 yards and four touchdowns in the two previous games, at Arizona and Houston.

Against the Carolina Panthers Monday night, Maclin caught three passes for 38 yards. Mark Sanchez threw the ball 37 times, but he found the team's leading receiver just three times. Jordan Matthews caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. After the game, he joked, “I feel like Jeremy Maclin.”

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
Bill Streicher/USA TODAY SportsThe Panthers lost to the Eagles, but they were able to bottle up LeSean McCoy, limiting him to a 1.6 yards a carry.
How did Maclin feel? Nobody asked. How did running back LeSean McCoy feel after carrying the ball 12 times for 19 yards, a 1.6-yard average? That, we know, because McCoy was asked about it every which way. He was asked Monday night, immediately after the Eagles' 45-21 victory. And he was asked about it Thursday afternoon, when he held a brief news conference after practice.

“I think the individual goals and achievements are always second,” McCoy said. “We’re winning games and being a successful team so that’s all that really matters at the end of the day. I mean, sure, I would like it different. I think every player would like it different. But the main focus and the main thing that matters the most is that we’re winning.”

The Eagles are 7-2 and in first place in the NFC East. Injuries along the offensive line and the approach of opposing defensive coordinators have made McCoy’s preseason boasts about rushing for 2,000 yards feel like echoes from another era. McCoy is sixth in the NFL in rushing yards, nearly 600 yards behind Dallas’ DeMarco Murray.

That’s tough to swallow for the guy who led the league in rushing last year.

“I think he takes it a little bit personally,” center Jason Kelce said. “I think it has more to do with us up front than it has to do with him. They did a great job of doing some things schematically in that Panthers game and really tried to take away the things we did on the ground.”

At times, coach Chip Kelly seems content to respond to such defensive tactics by throwing the ball more, as he did against Carolina. But as the weather gets cold and conditions become worse, it will be important for the Eagles to establish their running game regardless of what the defense does.

“Teams are going to try to take the run away from us,” Kelce said. “That’s what we do really effectively. Teams are trying to do some things that are tough from a blocking perspective. But we have to do a better job. Even when it’s hard to run, you’ve still got to be able to get three, four, five yards out of it and still move the chains. We haven’t been very effective this year doing that.”

The Carolina game was the first with left guard Evan Mathis, who injured his left knee in the season opener. That made it the first game with Matt Tobin playing right guard after filling in for Mathis on the left side. It was Kelce’s second game since a month-long hiatus due to surgery on a sports hernia.

That might explain why the line wasn’t as effective as it could be. It also suggests things could improve as the five linemen play together more.

“I think LeSean is doing a really good job,” Kelly said, “but there are a lot of times it’s not blocked up well enough for him to hit anything. So it's not all on one guy.”

Even if it feels sometimes like it is.