Eagles Wake-Up Call: Red Zone Woes

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The Eagles’ offense has gained 1,835 yards in four games. That is an average of 459 yards per game, second only to the the team that just throttled them — the Broncos.

Denver only has 97 more yards total on the year, yet averages 45 points per game compared to the Eagles’ 25 points per game. The difference? The Broncos finish. Denver is coming away with a touchdown on 81 percent of its trips inside the 20. The Eagles convert only 42 percent of the time, good for 26th in the NFL.

What is going wrong?

“It’s a lot of things,” answered Chip Kelly. “You look at specifically [Sunday], penalties and drops, we are in the red zone, we drop the ball.  We are in the red zone or potentially in the red zone once, get a penalty.  In the red zone another time and get a penalty.

“So when we get in the red zone we talk about no sacks, no turnovers, no penalties and no drops and those are the things that are hurting us, right now it’s been the penalties and it’s been the drops.”

Brent Celek‘s drop on the team’s second possession of the game was a killer. The Eagles responded to Denver’s first touchdown drive by mounting an attack of their own. On third-and-4 from the Broncos’ 17, Michael Vick found Celek over the middle at the four and threw a perfect strike. Celek appeared to turn before he secured the catch, and the ball dropped to the ground. They had to settle for a field goal.

Later that quarter, with the Eagles set up at the Denver 13, rookie Lane Johnson was whistled for a hold. Again, the drive ended with an Alex Henery field goal.

Last year, the Eagles ranked 28th in red zone efficiency with a rate of 44 percent.There was optimism heading into the season that things would improve in that area. Kelly’s teams did well in that department at Oregon (the Ducks were second in the nation in red zone scores per game last season). The new head coach would run the ball more; he brought in a pair of tight ends that could help the cause; and the offensive line was expected to be much improved.

Instead, it’s been pretty ugly.

Through four games, Michael Vick is just  3-of-15 for 31 yards and one touchdown on his passes inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. That’s a 20 percent completion rate, and an average of 2.1 yards per attempt. Drops need to be factored in, but those are unacceptable numbers no matter how you slice it.

DeSean Jackson, meanwhile, does not have a single red-zone catch so far this season. That shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise. Jackson has never been much of a red-zone target. He had only two catches inside the 20 last season. And two the year before that. He has 16 red-zone catches in all over five-plus seasons in the NFL.

As for the tight end trio of Celek, James Casey and Zach Ertz that was supposed to help the cause? Not a single red zone catch among them.

The Broncos only had 22 more total yards than the Eagles Sunday, but were 5-for-5 in the red zone compared to 2-of-5 for Kelly’s squad. Both teams can move the football, but only one team is moving it where it needs to be with consistency.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Kapadia breaks down the offense’s performance against Denver.

Kelly talks about the struggles of Henery and Earl Wolff’s first start.

Peyton Manning sliced through Billy Davis‘ defense in the second half.

Vinny Curry wasn’t given much of a chance to make an impact. More in Sheil’s weekly snap count analysis.

If the Eagles are going to turn this thing around it will be on the back of the offense.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Domo handed the Eagles’ special teams an “F” for their performance Sunday in Denver.

They gave up a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. They had a punt blocked for another touchdown. For the third straight game, their kicker missed a makeable field-goal attempt. It doesn’t get much worse.

NFL.com’s Gil Brandt lists Kelly as a top candidate to replace Lane Kiffin at USC:

It would not shock me to see Kelly, 49, leave Philadelphia after one season, especially if the Eagles have a down year. Kelly knows better than most the kind of job this is and can be. He has never been in pro football before this season, and to tell you the truth, I’m not sure he’s made for it. He reminds me of Steve Spurrier and Bob Stoops; they were destined to be college coaches. Kelly is similar. Being around him a little, I know he’s a rah-rah, enthusiastic guy. Guys like that don’t cut it for very long in the NFL. What he did at Oregon, transforming an OK program when he got there to what it is today, is nothing short of remarkable. This one could potentially get messy because of the sanctions leveled against Oregon. Kelly received an 18-month show-cause penalty, which would make his re-entry into college football problematic, but not impossible.

COMING UP

Eagles right back to work as practice for the Giants begins.

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