So, all that preseason concern about the corners holding up, and the Eagles’ biggest problem through the first two weeks of the season is their running game.
Even with top corner Ronald Darby injured in Week 1, and Jaylen Watkins, the first choice to replace him, injured in Week 2, the defense getting incinerated through the air has not been a theme.
We’re working with a very small sample size, but it sure looks as if Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, and Patrick Robinson can play a little. Especially if the front seven can continue to get the kind of pass-rush pressure it has managed against Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith.
Cousins threw for 240 yards in the opener, with a longest gain of 34. Smith managed 251 passing yards, with a long of 44, to tight end Travis Kelce, one-on-one early against Malcolm Jenkins. The major difference between the games for the defense was that unlike Cousins, Smith didn’t turn the ball over three times. Or at all.
Secondary depth was considered a huge Eagles weakness heading into the season, and maybe it will still turn out to be, but it hasn’t been yet. We’re about to increase that sample size, since Darby’s ankle dislocation recovery should take another month or so, and Watkins and starting safety Rodney McLeod suffered hamstring strains in Kansas City that a source close to the situation said Monday should keep them out of action a few weeks.
The Eagles face the Giants this week, then travel to play the Los Angeles Chargers. Doug Pederson acknowledged Monday that with three injured d-backs and a roster position open after running back Donnel Pumphrey was placed on IR, an addition there is likely.
At K.C., if Andy Reid had any visions of piling up points by having Tyreek Hill (four catches, 43 yards) work double moves or other complicated stuff, those visions disappeared right around the time Smith took his third sack of the first half, and had to be checked out by a team physician.
Reid’s second-half plan – which was a good one – involved a lot more short, quick throws. Douglas, especially, did a solid job of keeping receivers in front of him and making solid tackles. He played 39 of the defense’s 53 snaps.
Douglas’ best play came with the score tied at 13. Smith seemed to have wideout Albert Wilson open down the middle, with no one between Wilson and the end zone, but Douglas, a stride behind the receiver, reached out and tipped the pass away.
“I thought he played well,” Pederson said. “He’s so long. He’s got great ball skills, and the confidence is just going to continue to grow with him.”
*Mychal Kendricks seems to be playing with more confidence and physicality than last season. Sunday he notched his first sack since 2015. Got 20 snaps, 38 percent of the defensive total. Defended a pass very well on the opening drive.
*Given the struggles their respective offensive lines are having, and the strength of their defensive fronts, next Sunday’s Eagles-Giants game could go to the first team to get to double figures. Speaking of such things, heading into Monday night, a dozen teams had failed to score as many as two touchdowns in their Week 2 outings. Offensive lines are struggling for a lot of teams.
*A lot of people seem to be taking the sane, understandable view that the Eagles were underdogs at Kansas City, against a top Super Bowl contender, and they played reasonably well. Of course, if they lose to the Giants this week, all that will change in a hurry.
*Had forgotten until I rewatched the game that in fact, LeGarrette Blount’s only touch, a catch for no yards, came on the Eagles’ first series. A Jason Kelce hold then wiped out a short Blount run.
*Wasn’t able to watch the all-22 yet on Monday, but just rewatching via broadcast, I kinda shifted my view on the offensive line play. Most of the huge problems involved Isaac Seumalo. The run blocking, overall, was better than I thought in person. The pass blocking was better than I remembered, especially considering the opponent, until the Eagles fell behind in the fourth quarter. But Seumalo really got abused.
*You could see confusion and gesturing among Eagles defenders before the ball was snapped on that Chiefs shovel pass touchdown to Travis Kelce.
Nelson Agholor has a two-game touchdown streak heading into Week 3.
That Fox play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt, a North Jersey-New York guy, knew us so well? After a few promising Eagles running plays Sunday, Burkhardt opined that the relevant question to Eagles fans was “are they gonna stick with the run?”
Later in the broadcast, Burkhardt recalled having asked this, and supplied his own answer: “No.”
Though, Burkhardt tried to frame this positively, in terms of what Doug Pederson had told him about passing game goals.
Doug Pederson downplayed it Monday, but one under-the-radar shortcoming Sunday was that the Eagles took a lot of deep shots, and for whatever reason, Carson Wentz and his receivers couldn’t connect.
There were a few drops, most notably that first-drive end zone throw to Torrey Smith, but more often than not, the receiver seemed to be thinking one thing and Wentz was thinking another, or the throw just wasn’t where it needed to be. This is far from a crisis, with a really electric quarterback who was making his 18th NFL start, but it is an area where significant progress is needed.
“There were throws and opportunities down the field that we didn’t capitalize on,” Pederson said. “To me, a shot down the field doesn’t have to be a vertical drop back and throw it as far as you can. That, to me, in this game, is hard. Those are hard to do. Shots for me are deep crosses, could even be a deeper out-route.”
Pederson noted that the Eagles managed four plays of 20-plus yards. But of course, their longest gain, the 53-yard carom to Zach Ertz just before halftime, should have been a Chiefs interception.