Eagles Wake-Up Call: Ready Or Not, Wolff Likely To Start

0V3J0410 (1)Chip Kelly had the following to say about Earl Wolff last week when asked if he was considering starting the rookie safety against the Chiefs.

“No, we’re still — I think Earl is growing, and we’ll continue to grow him, but he’s still making some mistakes out there,” said Kelly. “I think they’re bringing him along and we’re excited about what his future is, but we still don’t think he’s ready to go the whole way.”

The plan was to ease the fifth-round pick in; to feed him game situations in doses before giving him a full workload. The NFL has a way of cancelling your plans without much notice. Patrick Chung went down with a shoulder injury against the Chiefs and has yet to practice this week. Wolff will not only make his first NFL start this Sunday in all likelihood, but do so against Peyton Manning.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Don’t Blame Offense For Struggles On ‘D’

DeMeco RyansDeMeco Ryans doesn’t buy the theory making the rounds that suggests the Eagles’ offense is putting its defense in a tough spot.

The thinking goes like this: The offense plays fast all game long, but doesn’t always score or string together long drives. This leads to short breaks for the defense, too much time on the field and late-game fatigue.

On its surface, the theory seems to have some merit. The problem? There’s no real evidence to back it.

“Each team’s gonna get their number of possessions in games,” Ryans said. “I don’t feel like it’s totally skewed one way or the other.”

And he’s absolutely right.

Football Outsiders tracks such things, and their numbers show that 11 teams have been on the field for more drives than the Eagles through the first three weeks of the season. The Eagles’ D has been on the field for 36 possessions; the league average is 35.

In other words, the offense is not putting the defense on the field more. The defense is just doing a poor job of getting off the field.

“It’s getting better on third down and getting ourselves off the field,” Ryans said. “I feel like we keep shooting ourselves in the foot so much that we’re playing more plays because of the mistakes that we’re making.

“The point is we have to get off the field. We’ve been on the field you said 40 minutes a game. Most of those times we probably missed a tackle, missed a play, missed an assignment where we could have been off the field, and that time could have been shortened. So as we focus on ourselves more and play better, tackle better, communicate better, we’ll get off the field. And we’ll spend less time on the field.”

The numbers back Ryans’ sentiment. The Eagles’ D has been on the field for an average of 6.47 plays per drive. That ranks 29th in the NFL, per Football Outsiders. They’ve forced a three-and-out 11.1 percent of the time. Only the Vikings have been worse.

Again, the issues right now on defense have nothing to do with the offense’s pace. The Eagles’ defense is not on the field for more possessions than the average NFL team. Projected over a 16-game season, the D will be on the field for 192 possessions. As friend of the blog Sam Lynch points out, that’s not really different from previous seasons.

From 2008 to 2012, the Eagles’ D averaged 188.6 drives per season. If the defense keeps its current pace, we’re talking about 3.4 more drives over the course of an entire season, an insignificant amount.

The bottom line? The defense needs to do a better job of getting off the field, regardless of what’s happening on the other side of the ball.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Billy Davis is turning to the Eagles’ past for help with Peyton Manning, writes T-Mac.

“If I was a betting man, I’d take the Eagles,” says LeSean McCoy.

All-22: Behind the read option, the Eagles have turned into the best rushing team in the NFL.

A roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles this week.

DeSean Jackson is looking forward to his matchup with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Also, be sure to give Birds 24/7 a follow on Twitter. In addition to sending out links, there will be additional contests/promotions. Rumor has it that T-shirt giveaways may even be involved!

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Doug Farrar of SI.com gives Chip Kelly a B for his performance so far:

The grade would be lower if I was expecting the Eagles to compete for the division this season, and if Philly’s secondary could do … well, much of anything. Kelly has revitalized Michael Vick’s career to a point, but the quick-quick nature of his offense also plays to Vick’s decision-making liabilities, and it’s clear that there are times when this offense is moving too quickly for just about everybody. On the plus side, he’s got a potential NFL MVP in LeSean McCoy, and everybody knows that this will be a process that takes multiple seasons, probably a different quarterback and definitely a few new pieces on defense.

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com offers thoughts on fixing the defense:

Time and experience will only cure so many things. Some of the errors come down to guys just being sloppy and not executing well. Mychal Kendricks is too talented to miss as many tackles as he is. I think his biggest problem is playing too fast. He ends up off-balance and reaching or diving for the ball. Kendricks needs to play more under control and keep his feet under him so he’s got a good base and can be in good tackling position. Before you get too worried about him, remember that another Eagles 2nd round pick had tackling issues when he was young…some kid named Brian Dawkins.

The coaches are working with players to fix their issues. Some of the problems will go away this year. Others will take longer. Some will never go away, which may lead the player to go away.

COMING UP

We’ll hear from Kelly and the players. Tonight is Birds 24/7 Radio on 97.5 The Fanatic. We’ll be broadcasting live from Smiths at 6 p.m.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: DeSean Versus DRC (And Company)

DeSean JacksonDeSean Jackson knows that if the Eagles are to hang with the Broncos on Sunday, their offense is going to have to be in high gear.

“As an offense we just feel like we have to go out there and basically go battle for battle with them, and be able to score as many points as they can and hopefully more,” he said.

The Eagles’ offense cooled off against Kansas City after two strong performances versus Washington and San Diego to open the season. It was no coincidence that Jackson’s game cooled right along with it. He had three catches for 62 yards and was kept out of the end zone Thursday. In the previous two games, he racked up 24 catches, 297 yards and a pair of scores.

“A lot of times guys are focusing on myself. Doing some good things in this offense obviously caused that,” he said. “It’s not a matter where I get frustrated. I understand at times when I run a certain route there might be two guys on me instead of one. I think that will help out the other receivers to be able get open and make big plays to help us win games, so guys aren’t always zoning in on me.”

One defender that could be keying on Jackson regardless is Domininique Rodgers-Cromartie. The former Eagle has been covering the opposition’s top receiver with Champ Bailey (sprained foot) sidelined. Bailey could make his season debut Sunday, but Jackson believes he will be locked up with DRC.

“I’m sure he will probably be on me,” said Jackson. “He is a good friend of mine. The past two years we have been going at it a lot. I know him just as well as he probably knows me, so it will be a great opportunity for both of us to go out there and just compete against each other at a high level. I played against him before he came here, when he was with Arizona. It will be a good challenge for both of us. He’s a good player, I’m a good player so we’ll go out there and fight, battle. We’re friends but once that game starts, I just need to do what I need to do to win the game.”

Chip Kelly was complimentary of Rodgers-Cromartie when asked about the corner on Tuesday, but noted that the Broncos’ safeties do a good job in support. Jackson enters Week 4 as the league’s second-ranked receiver, so it’s a good bet those safeties will not leave DRC out on an island with his former teammate very often.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles’ defense begins its preparations for Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ attack.

Jason Peters is dealing with a finger injury that he believes will be around for the entire year.

Kelly responds to Manning’s comments about the Eagles getting so much extra time to prepare.

The Eagles worked out a linebacker and a receiver recently.

Sheil looks at the offensive line miscues with help from the All-22 tape.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

ESPN has the Eagles at No. 23 in its most recent power rankings.

Whatever bump the Eagles got from their nationally televised debut at Washington is gone. After two home losses, both games in which they were favored, the Eagles have slid almost back to where they were in the preseason rankings.

It doesn’t help the Eagles that the win at Washington has been diminished by that team’s ensuing two games. Winless Washington (No. 27) and the New York Giants (No. 29) have the NFC East anchored as the worst division in the NFL so far this season.

Chris Burke of SI.com already has a mock draft up for 2014. He has the Eagles picking 10th, and selecting QB Johnny Manziel.

Mariota is the rather obvious match here — he played for Chip Kelly at Oregon and is thriving in the offense Kelly left behind. The MMQB’s Greg Bedard reminded us, though, that Kelly recruited Manziel partially because Johnny Football played in a high school offense similar to Kelly’s attack. This one would be a lot of fun if it happened.

COMING UP

We’ll talk to the coordinators in the morning. Practice starts at 10:50.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: The State Of the NFC East

Chip KellyWith a trip to Denver looming and back-to-back losses in the rear-view mirror, finding positives this week may prove to be a bit challenging for Eagles fans.

But there’s one simple reason to be optimistic that the season won’t be lost in mid-November: Chip Kelly and company are playing in the worst division in football. The Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins and Giants are a combined 1-7 against non-NFC East teams.

After this weekend’s matchup with the Broncos, three of the Eagles’ next four games are against division foes. Keeping that in mind, now seems like a good time to check in on the state of the NFC East.

Dallas Cowboys (2-1) - After a shootout win over the Giants in Week 1, Jerry Jones’ boys have split their last two games against the Chiefs and Rams. Tony Romo is completing 72 percent of his passes (second to only Peyton Manning) and has thrown just one interception in 115 attempts. He has an array of pass-catching options, and DeMarco Murray piled up 175 yards against the Rams last week.

Defensively, Monte Kiffin’s group sacked Sam Bradford six times, and the Cowboys’ D has allowed a total of 24 points the last two weeks. DeMarcus Ware is still doing DeMarcus Ware things with four sacks in three games.

Dallas faces a couple challenges the next two weeks, traveling to San Diego to take on the Chargers before a home date with the Broncos.

New York Giants (0-3) – Only the Jaguars (-64) have a worse point differential than the winless Giants (-61).

“It’s part of the game,” Hakeem Nicks said after being targeted once in the team’s 38-0 loss to the Panthers. “You’ve got to control what you can control. I can’t throw it to myself.”

And Tom Coughlin’s response: “I’ll talk to him. That’s not a smart thing to say. He’s on the field, quarterback was sacked seven times, hit what, 15 times? That’s not a smart thing to say. Oh, I’ll talk to him about it, sure.”

Eli Manning has been sacked 11 times and thrown a league-high eight interceptions. The Giants’ offense is averaging 18 points per game, 27th in the NFL. On the ground, New York is averaging an NFC-worst 2.7 yards per carry.

Defensively, the Giants are giving up a league-worst 38.3 points per game.

Up next is a meeting with Andy Reid and the Chiefs at Arrowhead. Then it’s a home date with the Eagles.

Washington Redskins (0-3) – There’s been plenty of Robert Griffin III talk, but Washington’s defense has been a complete disaster. Only the Giants are giving up more points than the Redskins (32.7). And Jim Haslett’s group is allowing a league-worst 488 yards per game.

Last year, RGIII averaged one INT every 78.6 attempts. This year? It’s one every 34.8.

The Redskins will try to turn things around at the Raiders next week. Then it’s at Dallas, home against the Bears and at Denver.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Why aren’t the Eagles’ tight ends being used as expected? T-Mac takes a look.

Using the All-22 to examine the issues that plagued Michael Vick vs. the Chiefs.

McManus on the offense’s issues in pass protection.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz reviews Vinny Curry’s performance vs. the Chiefs:

Exploded into the backfield on 3rd/3 late in the half and rushed a pass by Smith that was almost picked off. They had no idea how quick Curry would be. Got his first NFL sack in the 3rd Qtr. Chiefs tried to block him with a TE on what was going to be a play-action pass. Curry was so fast off the ball that the blocker had no chance. Nor did Smith. Curry got a handful of jersey and dragged him down. Great play for the young man.

Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com on Chip Kelly:

Kelly’s admitted ignorance of a timeout rule in the San Diego game didn’t help. Neither did the gimmicky two-point conversion play that failed Thursday night and sapped the Eagles’ hard-earned momentum.

It would be going way too far to suggest that Kelly has lost his team. But it is fair to say that is what is at stake after two bad losses in five days. Kelly is facing his first real test as an NFL head coach.

COMING UP

After a four-day break, Eagles players are back at NovaCare. We’ll have everything covered.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Vick Under Pressure

0V3J9160Michael Vick only completed 43.3 percent of his passes against the Chiefs on Thursday. The last time he had a completion percentage that low was 2006, when he went 9-of-24 (37.5%) against the Saints while employed by the Falcons.

He made poor decisions with the football at times and too many of his throws were off target.

Chip Kelly, though, seemed to come down harder on the offensive line than he did the quarterback following the 26-16 loss to Kansas City.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Three Locker Room Leftovers

Chip KellyThe Eagles dropped their second game in a row Thursday night, suffering a 26-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. There’s plenty to discuss the morning after. Here are three leftovers from the locker room and press conferences.

1. The talk among offensive players was more about individual mistakes than Chip Kelly’s concepts not working.

The Eagles turned the ball over five times, Michael Vick played poorly, and the offensive line had issues all night long. LeSean McCoy, who still managed to run for 158 yards, was asked about the excitement following the victory over the Redskins, compared to where the Eagles are now.

“I don’t want to forget about that game,” he said. “We’re still that dominant offense. We’re still that dominant team. …I think as an offense, we’ve just got to make it easy for ourselves. Execute the play that’s called, get them guys tired, get the tempo up and keep going.”

Added Kelly: “We have to come back and not put ourselves in these situations. You can’t turn the ball over like that in this league and expect to win. We can move the ball up and down the field. We’ve proven that. But if we’re going to put the ball on the ground as we did in the first half and throw interceptions, that’s not going to win football games for us.”

2. The Eagles went for two after Vick’s touchdown pass to Jason Avant in the first quarter. The “swinging gate” formation is something Kelly used at Oregon, but when Alex Henery lateraled the ball to Zach Ertz, he was stuffed.

“We thought we’ve worked on it for awhile,” Kelly said. “We thought when we scored our first touchdown, we were going to try to line up. If the number count was right, we were going to fire it over there and see if we could get it in.”

Asked if the number count was right, Kelly said: “Yeah, we thought it was. The guy came from the inside and tackled us.”

It’s worth noting that the two-point conversion is not a pre-determined call. If they don’t get a look they like, they can shift back and kick the extra point.

3. For much of the game, the defense played pretty well. But early in the fourth quarter, when it looked like the Eagles might have a shot to steal a victory, Billy Davis’ unit came up short. The Chiefs had just botched their kickoff return and had starting field position at their own 5-yard line. Earl Wolff brought Jamaal Charles down after a 3-yard reception. And Brandon Graham then sacked Alex Smith for a 3-yard loss.

But that’s when Smith reached back and made his most impressive throw of the night, fitting the ball into a tight window between Bradley Fletcher and Nate Allen. Donnie Avery came up with the 15-yard reception, and the Chiefs were able to kill 8:15 off the clock before adding three more points to the scoreboard.

“It’s tough because we had them early,” said DeMeco Ryans. “We had ‘em in third-and-long. They make a play on us and I think that kind of took the energy out of us defensively. But we still gotta stand up and hold. But we had ‘em right there. Credit to them. They made a play.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Post-game observations from the Eagles’ loss.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com offers his thoughts on Vick:

Big-time regression from Michael Vick Thursday night. Yeah, the Chiefs are by far the best defense he’s faced this year, but the mistakes he made were awfully discouraging. You’d like to think he was beyond the poor decisions that led to the two interceptions he threw (two more were negated by penalties, another was dropped) and the five sacks he took. But it wasn’t just the mistakes. Vick was really inaccurate, too, misfiring on some pretty routine throws. He finished 13 for 30 for 41 percent — his second-lowest completion percentage as an Eagle. Without an efficient and productive Vick, the Eagles really have no chance.

Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com chimes in on Kelly:

With so much attention on the return of Andy Reid, Kelly’s predecessor, the first-year coach could have made a bold statement about the Eagles’ new world order. Instead, Kelly has lost his first two home games and seen his offense solved by an NFL defensive coordinator. Four days after admitting he didn’t manage the clock properly in the final minutes of a 33-30 loss to San Diego, Kelly has even more profound questions about the long-term effectiveness of his scheme.

COMING UP

We’ll hear from Kelly at 1 and have plenty more.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Reid Back By McNabb’s Side

photo (48)Donovan McNabb said that 65 friends, family members and former teammates will be in attendance Thursday to watch his No.5 go into the rafters. His parents, Sam and Wilma, will be there. Brian Dawkins will emcee the ceremony. Chad Lewis, Correll Buckhalter, Jon Runyan, Bobby Taylor, Jamaal Jackson and more are expected to show.

And, by no coincidence whatsoever, his former head coach will be in the building as well.

“That was part of the decision-making,” said McNabb to a small group of reporters Wednesday evening at Lincoln Financial Field. “I wanted him to be a part of it. I think it it’s rightfully so, for me to go into the ring of honor and have my number retired, I want the person who was more than responsible for it, took a chance on me, stuck with me for 11 years and had success with me [to be there.]”

It was often said that the coach and quarterback were “attached at the hip” during their time in Philly. But Easter, 2010 served as a reminder that all unions in the NFL are temporary. McNabb was shipped to Washington, and headed south with a bad taste in his mouth. The negative feelings lingered for a couple years.

A lot of the ice was chipped off during a face-to-face meeting with Reid in March.

“We had lunch together at the [owners] meetings in Arizona. He ate more tacos than I did,” said McNabb. “It was needed. I wish it could have happened earlier but it was needed. We were able to talk about a few things and get some stuff out on the table. I think that conversation alone has given us the opportunity to move forward.

“I thought that it was important that we sat down and looked each other eye-to-eye and got a chance to talk about a few things.”

Such as?

“First and foremost I wanted to know whose decision it was to move on, and what was the next step? What was your game plan when you decided to trade me? Was it to play Kevin Kolb or start a new regime to see what happens?”

Did he just blame Joe Banner?

“No. Well…No,” he said, drawing laughs.

McNabb did not reveal the answers to those questions, but obviously felt good enough with the answers to move on. And, as he gets set for Thursday’s retirement ceremony, he appears to be in a good place when it comes to the relationship with both the organization and his longtime coach.

That doesn’t mean he’s ready to take a bullet for the Chiefs’ head man. Reid has been joking that he wants McNabb to come out of the tunnel with him Thursday night to absorb any of the potential punishment that might come his way from Eagles fans.

“No I told him if they boo him, they’re booing him,” said McNabb. “I’m not being a part of that one.

“Andy’s just going to keep the same straight face, he’ll probably pump the fist or something. I think the fans will truly show their appreciation for what he was able to do here.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Good All-22 look from Sheil on how Chip Kelly is getting DeSean Jackson loose.

What will the Eagles do to mark McNabb and Reid’s return?  Here’s a look. 

Stanford head coach David Shaw talks to The MMQB’s Peter King about Kelly.

Here’s a link to the Birds 24/7 podcast if you missed it. How can you resist Kapadia in stereo?

The Eagles sign cornerback Roc Carmichael.

Checking in on Fletcher Cox.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Ray Didinger shares an interesting conversation he had with Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi before the 1999 draft.

Accorsi knows a quarterback when he sees one and he was high on McNabb. He stunned me by comparing McNabb to Roger Staubach. “He is like Staubach,” he said. “He can do everything.”

Accorsi related a story from the Scouting Combine.  He was in a restaurant one evening and a group of players were seated across the room.  All were college stars in town to take part in the combine testing.  They were from different schools and different conferences. Most had not met prior to that week.

“All through the meal I watched them,” Accorsi said.

Hey, when you’re a GM, you never stop scouting. And what did Accorsi see?

“McNabb ran the show,” he said. “All the conversation, all the energy revolved around him. He just had a way about him. The other guys – and, remember, they’re all big-timers themselves – deferred to him. He had that ‘It’ thing we talk about.  I thought, ‘That’s a quarterback.’”

Bob Ford notes that Thursday’s game marks the end to the Eagles’ prime time schedule.

There is always the possibility, if the Eagles win more than expected, that some of their late-season games could be switched to showcase programming, but that seems like a long shot right now. Thursday’s game will probably be the last one in the national glare and if it also represents the final closing of the door on the Reid Era, then bring up the lights, cue the Liberty Bell and the city skyline and offer a hearty farewell to the guy who made the team a prime-time staple in the first place.

COMING UP

Game day. Eagles host Reid and the Chiefs at 8:25. We’ll hold a live chat during the game.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Checking In On Fletcher Cox

Fletcher CoxWhen the Eagles drafted Fletcher Cox in 2012, then-defensive line coach Jim Washburn was ecstatic.

“When God made him, he made him to be in this system right here,” Washburn said at the time.

He was of course talking about the Wide-9. Cox’s job last year was to pin his ears back and get into the backfield on every snap. On a defense that was a disaster, Cox was one of the few bright spots, finishing the year with 5.5 sacks, 24 hurries and seven tackles-for-loss.

But with the offseason changes came a new defensive scheme that now calls for Eagles defensive linemen to two-gap (All-22 explanation here) and play with discipline, rather than just attack.

“I think I’ve been doing a good job at it,” Cox said. “A lot of room for improvement. Just a lot of little things that I’m not doing right. At the end, once I get rolling, I think it’ll all come together.”

When the Eagles drafted Cox, they liked his versatility and felt he could play in a variety of schemes. While he’s been relatively quiet through the first two games, it’s not as if he’s been invisible. According to stats kept by Eagles coaches, Cox leads the team with three hurries and is one of four defenders who’s notched a sack. He also has been in on 10 tackles.

Asked if the scheme limits his ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage, Cox said: “There are no times where I feel like I can’t be in the backfield. I feel I can be in the backfield every play.

“That right there always comes down to want-to. You never let things like schemes and all that get to you. I mean, you’ve gotta have the want-to to go make the plays no matter what kind of position they put you in.”

When the Eagles are in their sub packages, Cox turns into an interior pass-rusher. Sometimes the Eagles go with three down linemen in those situations, and other times it’s four. Cox often lines up at right defensive end in base, but has been moved over to the left side as well.

The 23-year-old figures to be one of the players the Eagles build their defense around, and he sounds confident he’ll find his way as the season goes on.

But asked if he prefers playing in a one-gap scheme to a two-gap scheme, Cox said: “Of course. Everybody wants to be in the backfield.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

T-Mac takes a look at Earl Wolff, Nate Allen and the continuity question.

Chip Kelly explains what he tells Michael Vick through the headset during games.

The second part of our game review goes position-by-position on the Eagles’ defense.

The stars are aligning for DeSean Jackson, writes McManus.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com looks ahead to Thursday night’s Eagles-Chiefs matchup:

The Chiefs have a pair of good CBs in Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith. However, both players are at a matchup disadvantage against DeSean Jackson. Flowers has gotten every little bit out of his less than impressive measurables, but the bottom line is that he is simply not a fast player.

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com weighs in on the Colin Kaepernick/Russell Wilson rumors:

The part about focusing on Russell Wilson in the 3rd round is utterly ridiculous to me. If the Eagles made draft plans around Wilson, they would have taken him with pick 59, which they got when they moved down from 51 in a deal with the Packers. You don’t build a draft plan around a 3rd round player. If you like someone that much, you take them in the 1st or 2nd round, especially as a QB. I have a hard time believing this report as stated.

COMING UP

We’ll look ahead to Eagles-Chiefs and break out the All-22.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Stars Aligning For DeSean Jackson

0V3J0331DeSean Jackson caught a career-high nine passes on Sunday against the Chargers. He finished with 193 yards, second only to his memorable 210-yard outburst against the Cowboys in December of 2010. It was a monster day. And it could have been much bigger.

His 37-yard touchdown was negated by an illegal formation penalty in the third quarter. And he and Michael Vick just missed hooking up on a few long bombs before finally connecting on a 61-yarder late in the third.

“That’s very frustrating, honestly. The touchdown got called back, there was one I caught out of bounds when my right foot stepped out, then the overthrown one that slipped off of my hands,” Jackson said. “But that’s part of the game. We just have to keep going and keep working. Overall, I felt I had a great game.”

A big reason Jackson was still able to excel is because he was active in the short game as well. In seasons past, it was often feast or famine, where productivity was largely tied to whether he hit on the big play. Not so much this year. Of his 16 catches on the season to date, 10 have been within nine yards of the line of scrimmage, per Pro Football Focus. Four of those grabs came behind the line as part of Chip Kelly‘s bubble-screen game. (He caught seven passes behind the line all of last year.) Kelly is dialing up Jackson’s number quite a bit on the short routes and allowing him to create, which is a big part of it.

But it’s not the only difference. Some of it relates to a change in Jackson himself.

“DeSean is a totally different football player right now,” said Vick. “There are things that he wants to accomplish in this game and things that he wants to accomplish for himself. In doing that you have to make sure you’re taking care of your business on the field. And it’s not just playing on Sundays, it’s things that you do when you’re not playing on Sundays, throughout the course of the week, and I think DeSean is starting to understand that, he is doing a great job of that and I’m proud of him.”

His boost in production over the middle is particularly telling. Jackson was targeted 28 times between the hash marks last year and caught only 15 of those balls for a 54 percent completion rate. This season he has been targeted nine times over the middle so far, and has caught every one of them, per PFF.

“He’s willing to do a lot of things and he realizes the offense can utilize his abilities,” said Jason Avant. “He’s probably our second or third best player on offense and our best deep threat and weapon as far as passing, so he has to do everything that comes with being a receiver and he’s doing that — he’s blocking, he’s going over the middle, he’s doing a lot of things that people criticized him about and he’s doing a good job at it.

“The God-given ability that he has far exceeds many people even in the National Football League. He is a talent of talents. Anything with him is all willingness and he has the belief in Coach Kelly’s offense and has the trust in Mike and he’s been doing a great job with being willing to do those things.”

The stars appear to be aligning for Jackson, who leads the league in receiving yards (297) through two weeks.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil takes a thorough look at the offense’s performance on Sunday.

Mychal Kendricks, Jason Kelce just two of the names on most recent injury report.

Kelly takes ownership of late-game missteps. 

Kapadia takes a look at the safety situation. 

Snap count analysis from the Chargers game.

Lane Johnson learned some hard lessons versus San Diego.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Domo says that the type of game that unfolded Sunday will be the norm for the Eagles.

Brace yourself, because this is the kind of season it’s going to be. An explosive offense. A bad defense. A lot of 33-30 games like Sunday. Some they’ll win. Some they’ll lose. My preseason prediction of 8-8 still looks like a good bet.

If you’re looking for hope, focus on the 2008 Cardinals, who beat the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. They managed to make it to Super Bowl XLIII with a defense that gave up 26.7 points per game.

Tommy Lawlor offers some thoughts on Billy Davis.

It is possible he will prove to not be the right guy to run the D. I’m saying things like “give it time”, but I do fully acknowledge this group may be a major problem for a couple of years and then change will be needed.

The Skins hired a veteran DC in Jim Haslett and their D has been a mess for 4 years. They’ve changed players. They’ve tweaked the staff. Haslett is an overrated defensive coach (I’m not sure why) and WAS has made some bad signings/picks. The situation was supposed to get better this year with the return of Orakpo, but somehow has gotten worse. You guys think Nate Allen is bad, but Bacarri Rambo makes Nate look like Wes Hopkins.

My point with Davis is not to have blind faith in him. Let’s give the guy at least half a season before we start to form definitive opinions. We can judge him each week, but just keep it in context. You need a decent sample size before really knowing a player/coach/team.

COMING UP

Eagles practice at 11:30. Andy Reid will speak to Philly reporters via conference call at 1 p.m.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Offense Knows It Needs To Do More

0V3J0109The Eagles’ offense piled up 511 yards Sunday afternoon, scoring 30 points and averaging 8.8 yards per play.

Michael Vick completed 23 of 36 passes for 428 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 11.9 yards per attempt. LeSean McCoy totaled 167 rushing/receiving yards. And DeSean Jackson had nine catches for 193 yards.

In the second half, the Eagles scored on every possession except for the final one when they got the ball with seven seconds left.

Yet, given the nature of Sunday’s three-point loss, it was clear afterwards that Chip Kelly and the offensive players felt they should have done more.

“We left points out there offensively,” Kelly said. “You can’t do that against a good team. So when you play against a good quarterback, you have to be as sharp as you can. I think offensively, [we] had a touchdown called back, had a drop, missed a field goal.

“You can come down to – in a game like this that is decided at the end of the game – you can take a pick and look at every play, but to me, it’s not nit-picking. One play is the difference in a game and we talked about it all the time. You don’t know when that play is going to impact the game. And we have to understand how important it is to make plays when you have an opportunity to make them.”

Tight end James Casey had a drop in the end zone in the first quarter, and the Eagles were forced to settle for a field goal on that drive. Jackson had a 37-yard touchdown in the third called back because of a Lane Johnson penalty. Later, Jackson couldn’t keep his feet in bounds on a deep ball from Vick, and another one hit him in the fingertips, but he couldn’t hang on.

Vick overthrew Jackson for what could have been a 69-yard score, but he was hit on the play by Dwight Freeney, who beat Johnson with a spin move.

And this goes back to last week 2. Against Washington, the Eagles had a red-zone turnover and left several plays on the field.

Two games in, the theme is clear: The offensive concepts are working beautifully, but the execution has to be more crisp, especially considering the struggles of the defense.

“I think it’s always frustrating as an offense when you can’t really produce how you want to,” McCoy said. “It was always a play too short, or you don’t quite get it so it’s always frustrating.”

Added Vick: “Regarding the things we were able to do [offensively], I thought it was a success. But it’s tough, maybe we need to score 37 points. I think that’s what needed to happen in order to win this football game.”

The four teams in the NFC East have two total wins. If the first couple weeks are any indication, the Eagles have a chance to be a competitive team.

Defensively, Billy Davis has tried to temper expectations from Day One. But Kelly is giving his offense chances to make plays and put points on the board on every possession. If they can continue to figure things on that side of the ball, this will be an entertaining season.

WHAT YOU MISSED

“Phillip Rivers just seemed to know everything that we were trying to throw at him,” said Cary Williams. Telling quotes from the Eagles defenders about what went wrong.

A closer look at how Kelly managed the final offensive possession. Vick could have stayed on the field after the injury had Kelly used a timeout.

Post-game observations from Sunday’s loss.

According to a report, the Eagles backed out of a deal to land Colin Kaepernick in 2012.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com hands out his post-game awards:

The “What the Hell Was That Play Call” Award: Chip Kelly (I presume) And then, after Vick was forced out for a play, the Eagles inserted an un-warmed-up Nick Foles, who threw a fade pattern to the shortest player on the field. Whaaaaat? Disclaimer: This is Chip’s second negative award in this column. But just to note, you’re still awesome, Chip.

CSNPhilly.com’s Reuben Frank offers 10 post-game observations:

Speaking of Earl Wolff, he got far more playing time Sunday than he did Monday night in Washington, and he hung in there. He’s still going to make mistakes, but does Nate Allen have upside at this point? Wolff at least is a sure tackle and seems to take the right angle on the ball, two things that Allen has struggled with. Wolff might not be ahead of Allen in every area right now, but he’s certainly got more upside. Time to make Wolff the full-time starter and see what the kid can do. Time to move on.

COMING UP

We’ll hear from Kelly and the players. Short week with the 2-0 Chiefs coming to town Thursday  night.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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