In four regular season games, the Eagles offense has gained a total of 1835 yards, which is an average 459 yards per game. That’s second in the NFL, about 25 yards per game behind the Denver Broncos, which is very impressive. Still the Birds record is only 1-3 because they average twenty points less than Denver. That’s three touchdowns a game. The Broncos are averaging 45 points a game while the Eagles are averaging only 25.
The Eagles are nearly as good as the Broncos when it comes to moving the football out in the middle of the field. The difference in these two offenses can be found in the red zone and that’s a big difference because winning and losing involves points, not yards.
The Eagles score a touchdown less than 50% of the time when they get in red zone. That’s terrible and 26th in the league. It’s the main problem on the offensive side of the ball.
It may seem like an easy problem to solve if you’re an Eagles fan, but it’s not. Offenses that do better in the red zone are tougher mentally, more focused and more disciplined. They’re able to concentrate more in the red zone, while offenses that make mistakes in that area, lose their concentration in when they get near the end zone because there’s more pressure and less area to work in.
This isn’t a one year thing for this Eagles offense and that’s very problematic information. Usually people form habits and have a tough time changing them. Unfortunately, there seems to be something that has passed from the Andy Reid regime to the Chip Kelly era and Chip must find out what it is, then eliminate it.
Peyton Manning and his Broncos offense get better and more effective in the red zone, while the Eagles self-destruct. The Birds offense winds up getting a holding penalty or they drop the football, or they do a poor job of executing the play. I will also give credit to Manning and the Denver Broncos game planners over Chip Kelly and the Eagles game planners, in that they have a better game plan for the red zone than the Eagles have been putting together.
This problem in the red zone started on the first drive of the season when Michael Vick tried to hit LeSean McCoy on a wide route. The ball was tipped by Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and picked up by Dante Hall and returned for a touchdown. I thought it was a bad call by the referee, but that still shows the problems the Eagles has had in the red zone.
It’s tougher to gain yardage in the red zone than out in the field. The Broncos have three big receivers in wide outs Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, as well as tight end Julius Thomas. The Eagles don’t have that level of size and ability amongst their receivers. Manning is more accurate than Vick and is able to get the ball to all of his receivers with fade routes, slants and out routes.
Denver’s smallest receiver Wes Welker might be their most effective red zone receiver, which says something about the value of play design. They put him in bunch formations and allow him to run “pick and rub routes” which get him open all the time. The Eagles have little DeSean Jackson running fade routes which makes no sense. Why aren’t they letting Jackson run crossing routes off of picks like the Patriots are doing with Welker?
“It’s a lot of things,” Chip Kelly said on Monday while putting all of the responsibility on the players. “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.”
Vick has completed only 3 of 15 passes in the red zone. That’s pathetic and everybody has to take responsibility for it. Vick has only one touchdown pass inside the red zone.
On the positive side of things, I’ve been really encouraged by two things that have happened between the game and yesterday at the Nova Care Complex.
I liked the fact that Vick didn’t throw the ball up for grabs on Sunday. Yes, he’s old at 33 to be just coming to the realization that you can’t turn the ball over in the NFL and win. On Sunday, he had plenty of chances to throw the ball up for grabs against the Broncos secondary and help Denver rout the Eagles. He showed discipline by refusing to give in to that impulse which has hurt his career year in and year out.
Most of the time that Vick has been in those situations, he has decided to try to force the throws and that would get the ball picked off. If he had helped the Broncos, the Birds would have been down 35 to 13 at the end of the first half. Instead they were still in the game.
Yes it wound up 35-13 early in the second half because the Eagles aren’t on the same level as the Broncos, but Vick showed some growth on Sunday and that’s going to help the Birds as the season goes along.
This is what you call looking for something good in the middle of the garbage. The Broncos are right now the best team in football and the Eagles have no business trying to play on their level. The Denver offense didn’t even stress themselves in scoring 38 points in three and half quarters.
Yesterday Jackson was interviewed by the local media for what seemed to be about ten to fifteen minutes. He was given numerous opportunities to take shots at his wide receiver teammates who can’t get open against man-to-man defenses. Despite ten to twenty opportunities to take shots at his teammates, Jackson avoided criticizing his teammates and answered the questions like a leader should do.
The Eagles season isn’t about beating the Denver Broncos, it’s beating the teams they can beat and benefitting from playing in a division that is one of the worst if not the worst in football. Let’s be honest a bad football team is probably going to make the playoffs, the Eagles might as well be that team.