Cheat Sheet: Eagles Offense Vs. Chiefs Defense
1. Two weeks into the Chip Kelly experiment, the Eagles boast the NFL’s leading rusher, leading receiver and third-best offense, according to Football Outsiders. And the truth is, the Birds have left plenty of points on the field. But the Chiefs figure to present a bigger challenge defensively than either the Chargers or the Redskins. Kansas City is No. 1 in overall defense, per Football Outsiders, and has allowed 18 points through two weeks. Sure, they got to face the Jaguars in Week 1, but Kansas City held the Cowboys to a touchdown and three field goals last week.
2. Offensively, the most encouraging sign for the Eagles might be that they’ve shown they can be productive in multiple ways. In Week 1, it was a heavy rushing attack behind LeSean McCoy, who has piled up 237 yards and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. San Diego moved a safety up for much of the game and challenged Michael Vick to hurt them through the air, which he did. Vick completed 64 percent of his passes, averaged 11.9 yards per attempt, threw two touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over. He looked like he knew where to go with the football all day long, made quick decisions and avoided big hits (except for that final drive in the fourth quarter). When given time, he’s generally an accurate quarterback, but Vick missed a few throws against the Chargers that could have led to an even bigger game. He leads the NFL in yards per attempt (10.34) and is third in passer rating (119.0).
3. McCoy and the Eagles’ rushing attack will be challenged by a talented front seven. The Chiefs run a 3-4 and have a tackling machine in Derrick Johnson at inside linebacker. Eagles offensive linemen have been outstanding at getting their hands on linebackers in the run game, but Johnson will be the best they’ve faced so far. At the other inside linebacker spot is a familiar name: Akeem Jordan. The former Eagle was active last week against the Cowboys, forcing a big fumble in the third quarter. The Chiefs limited DeMarco Murray to 25 yards on 12 carries. The previous week, Maurice Jones-Drew managed just 45 yards on 15 carries against them. McCoy will get plenty of touches, and Bryce Brown will provide him with breathers.
4. The Chiefs have a talented group up front. Dontari Poe’s stock rose during the combine, and he appears to be taking a nice leap forward in his second season. Poe is tied for third in the NFL with 3.5 sacks, and he played all 67 snaps last week against Dallas. Eagles center Jason Kelce is playing at a really high level, but he’ll be challenged with Poe lining up across from him all night long. Kelce had his right thumb wrapped after suffering an injury against the Chargers, but he’s listed as probable. Keep an eye on his snaps in the early going.
5. Elsewhere up front, the Chiefs go with defensive end Tyson Jackson, a former first-round pick (2009) and Mike DeVito, whom the team signed away from the New York Jets as a free agent. Evan Mathis played well against the Chargers, but Todd Herremans had issues. Communication, as always, will be critical. Bob Sutton, the Chiefs defensive coordinator, spent the past several years under Rex Ryan and is not afraid to dial up blitzes when he has the opponent in obvious passing situations. According to Pro Football Focus, the Chiefs blitzed Tony Romo on 19 of 46 dropbacks last week. He went 12-for-18 for 108 yards and was sacked once in those situations.
6. Kansas City has impressive rush linebackers too. Tamba Hali, the Penn State product, had 35.5 sacks from 2010 to 2012. He has rushed 77 percent of the time and dropped 23 percent of the time on passing downs this season, per PFF. Hali will most often line up against Jason Peters, who has played well the first two games. On the other side, Justin Houston had 10 sacks and made the Pro Bowl last year. On the season, he’s rushed the passer 61 percent of the time and dropped 39 percent of the time. Houston already has three sacks in two games and will often get lined up against Lane Johnson. The rookie had a critical penalty last week and allowed a hit on Vick that caused hm to overthrow a wide-open DeSean Jackson deep. Overall, Johnson looks good, but he’s had his share of rookie mistakes, which is to be expected.
7. Jackson leads the NFL with 297 receiving yards, and Kelly is doing a remarkable job of maximizing the wide receiver’s ability in this scheme (All-22 breakdown here). Jackson said earlier this week that he’s expecting the Chiefs to play man coverage against him quite a bit. But that might depend on who Kansas City has healthy. The Chiefs’ top corner, Brandon Flowers, is questionable with a knee injury. At the other spot, Kansas City signed Sean Smith in the offseason. At 6-3, 218, he’s one of the bigger corners in the league. Last week, Tony Romo completed 30 of 42 attempts (71.4 percent) against the Chiefs. Nine of those completions (and 141 of his 298 yards) were to Dez Bryant, who looked un-guardable for much of the game.
8. At safety, the Chiefs go with Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis. Berry, the No. 5 overall pick in 2010, is a two-time Pro Bowler. Lewis has 37 starts under his belt. The Chiefs will show some “big nickel” looks too, playing with three safeties. They’ve got former Eagle Quintin Demps and Husain Abdullah on the roster. The Chiefs limited Jason Witten to three catches for 12 yards. Brent Celek was shut out last week, but rookie Zach Ertz had a pair of catches for 58 yards. Despite all the talk about using 2-TE sets under Kelly, the Eagles had just one tight end on the field for 81 percent of their snaps last week.
9. Special teams has been a major difference for the Eagles this year. The offense, on average, is starting drives at its own 30.92 yard line, per Football Outsiders. That’s sixth-best in the NFL. Last year, they started at their own 25.19, which ranked 27th. Turnovers on defense have helped too. The Eagles have five takeaways and are a +3 in turnover differential. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are a +4. They are one of two teams (Tennessee) that has yet to turn the ball over this season.
10. The Eagles used the read-option nine times for 54 yards last week. In Week 1, they used it 49 times. …The Eagles have scored touchdowns on three of six red-zone possessions. …The Chiefs have the second-fewest penalty yards through two games. The Eagles have the eighth-most. …The Chiefs have nine sacks, tops in the NFL. …The Eagles are 3.5-point favorites, according to Bovada. The over/under is 51.