The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Raiders

mccoy_400102713Editor’s Note: This feature will post every Friday. We’ll bring you nuggets from the locker room, scouting reports on the upcoming game, reader e-mail and more.

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LeSean McCoy took heavy breaths in between sentences, his forehead glistening with sweat from extra conditioning work after practice.

On the surface, everything is good for the 25-year-old running back. At the halfway point of the season, he’s the NFL’s leading rusher (733 yards). He’s carrying the ball more than ever (19.5 times per game). And he’s averaging a healthy 4.7 yards per carry.

Yet McCoy is in the midst of a mental tug of war in his fifth NFL season. In the past four games, he’s averaging 3.4 yards per carry. The Eagles’ offense has scored just three points the last two weeks, failing to hit on explosive plays and finding difficulty in sustaining drives.

“Just more attention to really try and contain the backs, keep everything in front of them,” McCoy said when asked this week about opposing defenses. “The backers are way more into the line than usual. And everything just seems so cluttered, seems so packed. That’s probably the biggest difference I’ve noticed. Even on some of the fakes, if it’s a half-fake or an average fake, they’re all on it. So that’s probably the biggest difference I’ve noticed from just early in the season to the last couple weeks.”

Defenses game-plan for the Eagles and make No. 25 their first priority. With a shaky QB situation and one true dangerous threat in the passing game in DeSean Jackson, it’s really a no-brainer. But that has led to tough times for McCoy, who has been critical of himself after each of the last two games. Read more »

All-22: D-Line Showing Progress

cox1400_all22_103113With the Eagles having scored 10 points in their last two games, Chip Kelly told his offense this week to take cues from an unlikely source: the defense.

“I don’t think there’s anything else our offense needs to look at except our defense,” he said. “They’ve stayed the course. They’ve worked continually on their techniques. We haven’t added a lot of new things for those guys. We continue to let them feel comfortable in what we’re doing. On a weekly basis, I see them getting better and better and better.”

Billy Davis and his staff are employing the same tactics they used early in the season, but the results have been vastly different. The Eagles allowed 34.5 points per game in the first month of the season. In the last four weeks, that number is down to 18.3. Granted, strength of opponent has played a major factor, and there’s still a long way to go, but the improvements are showing up on tape, and it starts up front with the defensive line. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Midterm Grades (Defense)

barwin_400_103013We went over the offense on Tuesday. Now here’s a look at how the defense grades out through the first half of the season.

Defensive line: B-

This group has shown more improvement than any other on the team from Week 1 to Week 8. And defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro deserves credit for that.

Cedric Thornton is playing lights-out on a weekly basis and leads all Eagles D-Linemen with 45 tackles. Fletcher Cox has really come on as of late and has three sacks to go along with a team-high 15 hurries (no other Eagle has more than seven). Isaac Sopoaga was a non-factor, but players like Clifton Geathers on the second team are starting to show flashes.

Opponents are averaging 3.7 YPC vs. the Eagles. Only five teams have posted a lower number. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Pass-Rusher Rankings

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A week after facing a run-focused offense and a rookie quarterback, Billy Davis and company now get Tony Romo and the Cowboys Sunday afternoon at the Linc.

Romo is completing 70.2 percent of his passes and has tossed 14 touchdowns to go along with just three interceptions. At 33-years-old, he’s making the most of the weapons around him and having a career year.

“I think one of the biggest things that Romo does is he extends the play,” Davis said. “If the initial play is not there, like a couple of quarterbacks in the league, the Roethlisbergers, they don’t necessarily run to run, they run to extend the play and the receivers do a great job of, when it breaks down, coming back to the ball, finding the open area.”

That means the defensive backs will have to hold their coverages longer. But just as importantly, the Eagles’ pass-rushers need to finish when they have opportunities.

Below is a look at where the pass-rush stands. Sacks and hurries are tracked by the Eagles’ coaching staff.
Read more »

Three-And-Out: Eagles-Giants Predictions

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Player I’ll be watching:

McManus: Zach Ertz. 

Michael Vick told us this week that he believes Ertz will turn into one of the best tight ends in the game. The sooner that happens the better for No. 7. Defenses are keying on DeSean Jackson, as they should. The Eagles need another option to emerge in the passing game to help loosen the clamps.

Ertz could be particularly useful in the red zone. The tight end trio of Ertz, Brent Celek and James Casey still does not have a single red zone catch. Consider that Jackson has also been shut out inside the 20, and it’s no wonder the offense is stalling. Read more »

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