Sunday, April 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Scouting the Eagles and Raiders

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer) (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer) (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer) (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP) Gallery: Scouting the Eagles and Raiders

Chip Kelly is not thinking about next season. He said that's a disservice to the players and the fans. But if the Eagles keep losing, Kelly might not have a choice.

Kelly's philosophy is to view each week as a "one-week season," and that season this week requires a trip to the Black Hole to play the surprisingly pesky Raiders.

Oakland has not finished with a winning record since 2002, and it did not look as if it would have one in 2013. But a steady defense and the playmaking ability of quarterback Terrelle Pryor has the Raiders at 3-4 after winning two of their last three games.

The Eagles have lost two in a row to fall to 3-5, but they play in the only division in football that does not have a team with a winning record. Three of the Eagles' losses have come against teams from the AFC West. Another loss and they would finish the season winless against that division. A victory would be needed good news before a visit to Green Bay.

When the Eagles run

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    LeSean McCoy is still the NFL's leading rusher, but he has totaled just 103 yards during the last two games. The offense requires a potent McCoy. This will be a challenging week for McCoy. The Raiders have the No. 6 rush defense in the NFL and have kept opponents to 89.9 yards per game. No rusher has a carry longer than 19 yards against Oakland, which is the best mark in the NFL. (The next stingiest team against long runs is the Eagles, with a long of 24 yards against them.)

    Defensive end Lamarr Houston has been a standout on the Raiders defensive line, and defensive tackle Vance Walker is also stout. Kelly singled out linebacker Nick Roach as someone who has played well this season, and fellow linebacker Kevin Burnett is better against the run than the pass. Safety Charles Woodson has always been strong in run support. The Raiders do a good job of setting the edge and funneling rushers inside. McCoy is one of the best in the NFL at finding space, but it will be up to his linemen to create rushing lanes. It would also help if the passing game keeps the defensive backs from creeping into the box.

    EDGE: EAGLES

    When the Eagles pass

    Nick Foles' performance against the Cowboys was concerning, but he's a capable passer who can develop a rhythm and manage the offense. The Raiders have the No. 16 pass defense in the NFL and allow 241 yards per game. They have played some capable quarterbacks this season, including Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. Personnel-wise, they're not especially strong. Woodson is a dependable player. Cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins are experienced, though they are journeymen. Their pass rush relies on Houston, who has five sacks this season. There is not a real potent player besides him.

    The Eagles, however, don't have elite personnel in their passing game besides DeSean Jackson, who had 84 combined yards the last two weeks. The Eagles are still waiting for a secondary target to emerge. Riley Cooper's best game came with Foles at quarterback. Tight end Zach Ertz is returning to the Bay Area, where he was raised and played college football at Stanford, and he could become a reliable option in the offense.

    The Raiders defense has five interceptions over the last three weeks. Foles has not thrown an interception this season. The turnover difference will be key in this game.

    EDGE: EVEN

    When the Raiders run

    The Raiders average 138.9 rushing yards per game, making them one of the top rushing offenses the Eagles will see. It helps that Terrelle Pryor plays quarterback. Pryor had an NFL-quarterback-record 93-yard run from scrimmage last week, and he averages 7.4 yards per game. Pryor is their leading rusher despite missing one game. Darren McFadden, who also has missed time this season, averages just 3.7 yards per carry, but he's still a talented running back who has averaged 4.3 yards per carry during his six-year career. The Eagles must make sure Pryor does not get loose. He has 15 first-down runs in five games this year.

    Look for the Raiders to use a "21" personnel package, which has two players in the backfield and a tight end. Fullback Marcel Reece starts and plays 41 percent of the Raiders snaps. The Eagles will likely stay often in their base defense. They traded nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga this past week, so 39 percent of the Eagles snaps are available. Bennie Logan will see a significant bump in playing time. The Eagles also are high on Clifton Geathers as a run-stopping lineman. The defense has kept opposing rushers to 2.8 yards per carry during the last two weeks.

    EDGE: RAIDERS

    When the Raiders pass

    The Eagles will like it if the Raiders are passing the ball, because that's when Pryor is less dangerous. But Pryor is still a capable passer, with a big arm and some good games as evidence. Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis pointed to an Oct. 6 win over the Chargers, when Pryor completed 18 of 23 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. But he has seven interceptions this season, including five in the last two weeks. Pryor threw for only 88 yards last week against the Steelers.

    Pryor doesn't have top pass catchers. Temple product Rod Streater (23 catches, 319 yards) is a big target, and top receiver Denarius Moore (27 catches, 431 yards, four touchdowns) is a capable deep threat. They don't challenge much at tight end, where rookie Mychal Rivera is the top target.

    The Eagles pass defense has shown improvement, although the team still needs more of a pass rush. Trent Cole remains sackless this season, and the defense has only seven in the last five games. Safety Nate Allen has improved each week, and he's key in ensuring the Raiders don't connect on a deep pass. The Eagles haven't allowed a pass of more than 52 yards this season.

    EDGE: EAGLES

    Special teams

    Former Eagles special-teams coordinator Bobby April oversees the Raiders units. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski is often reliable, but he has missed four of his 11 field-goal attempts this season. Kick returner Jacoby Ford has four touchdowns the last two seasons and is always dangerous. Their kickoff-coverage unit is one of the best, but they allow 9.1 yards per punt return. The Eagles have not received much production from Damaris Johnson, who missed time this past week with an ankle injury and is questionable for the game.

    EDGE: RAIDERS

    Intangibles

    The Raiders have been tough at home this season, winning three of four games at O.co Coliseum. The lone loss came with backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who has since been released. The Eagles are winless in three games in Oakland. Kelly had the team leave for the West Coast on the same day as other road games and will keep the team on Eastern time while in the Bay Area.

    EDGE: RAIDERS

    Predictions

    Zach Berman: Raiders 17, Eagles 16

    Jeff McLane: Eagles 23, Raiders 17

    Zach Berman Inquirer Staff Writer
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