The Philadelphia Eagles are playing terribly.
Nick Foles has been blind to wide-open receivers and throws erratically when he does spy them. LeSean McCoy, 2013’s leading rusher, has yet to reach 80 yards by land in a game. Four of the seven offensive linemen and three of five interior linebackers (if you count ILB/OLB Travis Long) are out injured and their replacements are struggling, at best.
The defense made Jacksonville’s pass attack and the Colt’s infamous run game (Trent Richardson, anybody?) look good, and the Birds have almost given up hope in the red zone (on both sides of the ball). Even Cody Parkey, the rookie kicker who is one of the few bright spots for this team, missed a 38-yard field goal Monday night for no good reason.
There’s just one little thing — a running back named Darren Sproles. He’s 5’6″ and 31 years old, discarded by the New Orleans Saints because they thought he was old and declining. Chip Kelly nabbed him in return for the 5th round draft pick he got for Isaac Sopoaga (who really is old and declining) and was barely able to contain his excitement over the summer. Two games in, Sproles has shown everybody why. He already has 350 all-purpose yards, and the Eagles’ offense leads the league in both scoring and total offense. While playing terribly.
Sproles led the Eagles to a heart-stopping, come-from-behind victory on a last-second field goal by Parkey against the team that cut him in training camp. Just as impressively, the team shut down Andrew Luck — the best comeback QB in the NFL — with a crucial interception by Malcolm Jenkins and a three-and-out on his last two drives to lock it down.
Only three NFC teams are now 2-0. The Eagles are one, the Seahawks and 49’ers are not. Both teams are on the Birds’ schedule, but the Birds are one-up on each at the moment.
Oregon fans will recognize the pattern of Philadelphia’s first two games this year. The team struggles in the first half, giving up points and struggling to get even a first down. After halftime, though, the offense explodes and the defense ratchets down.
Against Michigan State, the Ducks scored 28 straight in the second half; against the Jaguars, the Eagles ran up 34.
Against Chip Kelly’s teams, you’re juggling dynamite. You think you’re pulling it off, juggle juggle juggle, almost done, oh crap, BOOM.
I’ve said it before – Chip Kelly likes his wide receivers big (and strong), and his running backs small (and strong). If LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner didn’t convince you, here are two great examples from the win against the Colts.
1) McCoy scores a touchdown by getting extremely low and sliding in for a touchdown.
2) Sproles lowers his shoulder at the 5-yard line to a depth no one else can match (what, 4’8 or so?) and plows through several defenders using his strength. No one can get lower than Darren. (photo above)
Feature photo by Dan Oropeza, Flickr
Mark Saltveit’s book, The Tao of Chip Kelly, is widely available. His second book Controlled Chaos: Chip Kelly’s Football Revolution will be released by Diversion Books of New York in November.