The Eagles’ run game was just getting going. Although they only averaged 3.2 yards per carry against the Jets, it was a season-high and they totaled 123 rushing yards, nearly double what they combined for in their first two games.
Then, starting right guard Andrew Gardner injured his foot in the first half against New York.
“It does suck because I was getting comfortable next to Gardner,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “Me and Andrew were starting to jell pretty good.”
One of the biggest reasons the run game has struggled so far is the unit’s chemistry issues. With Gardner’s placement on injured reserve, the communication troubles may compound.
Although offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said both Matt Tobin and Dennis Kelly will practice as the starting right guard this week, Tobin replaced Gardner on Sunday. Tobin played 44 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps against the Jets, while Kelly played 11 percent after Jason Peters left the game and Tobin shifted to left tackle.
Johnson, however, doesn’t expect any chemistry issues with Tobin.
“It’s just as good as me and Gardner out there,” Johnson said. “He’s one of the smartest guys on the team. When I’m out there with him, there’s no trouble communicating.”
Before exiting the game, Gardner graded as the Eagles’ best run blocker whereas Tobin received a negative grade, according to Pro Football Focus. Although it’s fair to question PFF’s method of evaluation at other positions, this analysis seems to be correct after re-watching the game.
One reason Gardner excelled was his physicality. In the play above, Gardner is to the right of Jason Kelce and taps the center before the snap. Although Gardner lets former All-Pro defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson momentarily slip by him, Gardner finishes the play by pancaking Wilkerson and opening up a running lane that Ryan Mathews uses to pick up 11 yards.
When asked to compare Gardner and Tobin, the first thing Johnson mentioned is that Gardner is stronger, before adding Tobin is more athletic and has the explosiveness to play both guard and tackle. Although Tobin’s quickness to the second level was apparent Sunday, he also had several bad plays.
Keep in mind that Tobin is blocking Wilkerson, a very talented defensive lineman, in both of these clips below, but Wilkerson hits the ball-carrier in the backfield both times.
In the play above, Wilkerson quickly sheds Gardner and appears to hit Mathews. At the very least, Wilkerson forced the running back outside and into a zero-yard gain.
In the next play below, Wilkerson again sheds Tobin quickly. This time, he clearly hits Mathews two yards behind the line of scrimmage and makes the tackle.
As for Kelly, Shurmur explained that he’s also stronger than Tobin. “Dennis is a bigger guy,” Shurmur said. “And then probably Tobin has got good quickness. He does a good job getting to the second level and I would say probably Dennis is maybe just a little firmer at the line of scrimmage.”
However, Kelly also had difficulty with Wilkerson Sunday. In the play below, the defensive lineman tackled Darren Sproles for a three-yard loss.
Despite his shortcomings, Tobin did have some good blocks against the Jets. Everyone I talked to praised his athleticism, and Johnson explained that it’s critical for the Eagles’ offensive line to get vertical into the linebackers.
One good example is the play below. Tobin does a nice job of getting to the second level and angling himself so he’s in between the linebacker and the ball-carrier. Mathews fumbled the ball, however, and Allen Barbre appeared to miss a block on the linebacker.
According to Tobin, he wasn’t very comfortable on the right side of the offensive line last season, but he is now because he practiced at right guard for most of this summer. Although he exclusively played left tackle in the preseason, Tobin also said he’s happy about his chemistry with Kelce and Johnson.
The man to the right of him, however, emphasized that this week of practice will be crucial for their performance Sunday against Washington.
“The big deal is we got to get it right in practice,” Johnson said. “These next couple of days of practice are going to be key to get our communication down and try to get into a rhythm so going into the game, it’s not uncomfortable.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“It just gave out on me.” Cody Parkey on his injury and future with the team.
Keeping an eye on the departed Eagles, including a big Monday for Jeremy Maclin and a question about LeSean McCoy’s future.
Plenty of Eagles injury notes, including the team’s plan for plugging the hole at right guard.
The Eagles placed Andrew Gardner on injured reserve, less than a month after signing him to an extension.
“You to want to dig a little bit deeper and find out a little more about him.” Leftovers from Chip Kelly about Jordan Hicks and more.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jeff McLane explores whether Ryan Mathews’ big Sunday earned him an increased role in the Eagles’ offense.
Did the Eagles running game rebound because of Ryan Mathews or did he benefit from a better plan and improved blocking?
If Chip Kelly comes to the conclusion that it was the former, there could be a change at the top of the running back pyramid or at least a more even snap distribution when the injured DeMarco Murray returns to the lineup.
More than likely, the Eagles coach will digest the entire palate of possibilities and come to the conclusion that three games – two with Murray as the lead tailback and one with Mathews – are not enough of a sample to drastically alter his backfield.
Chip Kelly likes what he’s seen from rookie defensive back Eric Rowe, writes Reuben Frank.
[Kelly] wasn’t worried about Rowe getting beat. Every rookie corner gets beat. He wanted to see how he responded to some adversity.
And he was impressed with what he saw.
“He’s been really, really good,” Kelly said Monday. “I think he understands that if you play that position in this league, people are going to catch the ball on you. No one is going to shut anybody down for every single play.”
Chip Kelly will address the media at 10:50 a.m.