Andy Reid

Plenty of blame to go around for Eagles' rushing struggles

Plenty of blame to go around for Eagles' rushing struggles

Breaking news: The Eagles are not running the ball well. More specifically, they’re just not running the ball. Fifty-six called passes to 13 called runs vs. the Chiefs. The Week 1 ratio in Washington was 39 passes to 24 rushes. That excludes Carson Wentz's scrambles. That’s a grand total of 95 passes to 37 rushes. Even in the pass-happy league, the NFL has become, those numbers are an extreme.

So who’s to blame? There appear to be several branches to climb, so here goes.
 
Let’s start with the head coach. The three-headed monster of Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and LeGarrette Blount had 13 carries for 52 yards combined. Blount did not have an official rushing attempt. Doug Pederson doesn’t seem to grasp that you don’t have to rip off giant chunks of yardage early in games to stay true to it. He didn’t need to look any further than the opposing sideline where his mentor, Andy Reid, stuck with his running attack even though it did not flourish through three quarters.

Big Red’s commitment to the run eventually wore the Eagles down. And the K.C. rushing attack took the considerable heat off of Alex Smith, who was under serious fire from the Birds' defensive front.
      
Could it be the offensive line, which was billed as one of the better units in the league going into the season?  Isaac Seumalo has been a turnstile through two games. And really, the entire group has underperformed in both run and pass protection. Wentz was sacked six times and hit 10 more against the Chiefs. That’s eight total sacks through Weeks 1 and 2. As young and big and strong and agile as he is, Wentz will not make it through the season at this rate.

Hey kids, who’s ready for Nick Foles 2.0? Woo-hoo.

Door No. 3 leads us to the talent pool of the backfield, which is a direct reflection of the Eagles' front office. Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas and crew chose to go to battle with this group. There was immediate help in the draft. Dalvin Cook went to the Vikings two spots ahead of the Birds in the second round of the draft. The Eagles went with a long-term investment of the injured Sidney Jones instead of trading up. They understandably passed on Joe Mixon and his baggage. He was taken five picks later by the Bengals. Kareem Hunt, remember him? He was also an option. He lasted into the third round and was selected by the Chiefs. Hunt has 355 total yards and five touchdowns through two weeks.

All of the above appear to be better options than what the Eagles came away with. They took a 5-foot-8, 176-pound halfback in Donnell Pumphrey in the fourth round with the 132nd overall pick. After an awful camp and preseason, Pumphrey is now on injured reserve with a torn hamstring. So they’re left with the short-yardage specialist, Blount, the unproven Smallwood and the always productive, but age-challenged, Sproles. Clearly, Pederson has little confidence in Blount and Smallwood, and Sproles' touches need to be rationed if you want him to be fresh later in the season. Maybe undrafted free agent Corey Clement is the answer, but who knows at this early juncture?

Perhaps we could check every blame box here. Regardless of where the fault lies, the running game needs to improve and improve quickly. To expect a 50-50 ratio is foolish. Ezekiel Elliott’s is not running through that tunnel. But some semblance of balance is not too much to ask. It will eliminate their predictability and help keep your franchise quarterback upright. There are a lot of positives with this team. And there’s no shame in a 1-1 record after two tough road games, one in the division.

But if the hope is playoffs, the Eagles must get better on the ground.   

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Alshon Jeffery doesn't give a bleep about stats

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Alshon Jeffery doesn't give a bleep about stats

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Alshon Jeffery had a strong performance Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium and looked like the guy the Eagles expected to get when they paid him this offseason. 

He just didn't give a bleep. The Eagles lost. 

"They won the game," Jeffery said in the locker room. "None of that s--- matters." 

The bleep that didn't matter to Jeffery was his stat line, which read seven catches for 92 yards and a touchdown, his first as an Eagle. When he scored his 16-yard touchdown, it gave the Eagles a 10-6 lead in the third quarter. It was their only lead of the afternoon. 

Initially, Jeffery was ruled down at the 1-yard line on his touchdown, but the replay clearly showed he went down on his own and wasn't touched before he reached across the goal line with the football. 

Even before the refs announced that the call was overturned, Jeffery watched the replay on the big screen at Arrowhead and began to jump in celebration. He knew it. 

"It was a touchdown," he said. 

On Sunday, Jeffery looked more like what Eagles fans probably expect from him this season. His strong performance against the Chiefs comes a week after a disappointing debut in which he caught just three passes for 38 yards. 

"Honestly, I've always felt really good chemistry with [Jeffery]," quarterback Carson Wentz said. "Obviously today, I think he was almost 100 yards or something like that. Felt good with him, felt good with the other receivers. And we're just going to keep working on that."

Much of the conversation during the summer and the preseason was about Wentz and Jeffery needing to get on the same page. They looked like they were Sunday. 

But the Eagles still lost 27-20, so Jeffery didn't care about that bleep. 

"Like I said, we didn't win the game," Jeffery mumbled. "None of that s--- matters to me." 

Kickin' it
Just before the end of the first half, the Eagles had a golden opportunity to tie the game at 6-6 and then get the ball back for the start of the second half. 

Zach Ertz caught a 53-yard pass down the sideline after Chiefs defensive back Terrance Mitchell should have had an easy interception but popped the ball into the air and into the hands of Ertz at the perfect time. Ertz was tackled at the Kansas City 11-yard line with just two seconds left when the Eagles called their third and final timeout. 

Then Andy Reid iced the kicker. And it worked. 

Jake Elliott missed a 30-yard field goal. A 30-yarder!

"I don't think so," Elliott said when asked if the timeout took him off his rhythm. "It just made me sit out there a little longer. It shouldn't affect anything. It's just not a good kick."

While Elliott missed that chip shot, he did make a 34-yarder before it and a 40-yarder after. 

Elliott was signed last week after Caleb Sturgis was placed on IR with a hip injury. Before signing Elliott off the Bengals' practice squad, the Eagles worked out a trio of kickers. If Elliott misses another 30-yarder, the Eagles might want to bring one of them in. 

Odds and ends 
• Vinny Curry missed a huge opportunity in the fourth quarter. He had Alex Smith in his paws but somehow let the QB slip away and scramble for a five-yard gain on 3rd-and-4. Had Curry sacked him, the Chiefs would have been at the very edge of their field goal range. 

"I had him," Curry said. "He just broke loose. If we play again, he won't break loose." 

• Before the start of this season, Ertz had just one 90-plus-yard game before December in his career. He has two already in 2017. He has a total of 190 receiving yards through the first two weeks of this season. It's the first time an Eagle has done that since DeSean Jackson in 2013 and just the 17th time in team history. Ertz is third in the NFL in receiving yards, behind only Antonio Brown and Adam Thielen.

• Wendell Smallwood is having a slow start to his second year in the NFL. Through two games, he has nine total touches for just 10 yards. 

• You've probably already heard this one, but Wentz leads the Eagles in rushing through two games with 61 yards. That's obviously not very good for the Eagles. But Wentz is just the fourth Eagles QB to have 60 rushing yards through the first two games of a season. The other three are Mike Vick, Donovan McNabb and Randall Cunningham. 

• Speaking of Wentz, here's what Chiefs pass rusher Dee Ford said about him: "He's a great quarterback. We call him a smaller Big Ben. He is going to make his mark as a quarterback." 

• Trey Burton made a great play on the onside kick to recover and give the Eagles a little bit of hope at the end. But with just five seconds left, they elected to heave up a Hail Mary.   

Reid said with five seconds left, his defense was covering the deep ball but also covered the sidelines. He didn't want the Eagles to throw a quick strike to get closer. 

In the end zone, Jeffery was in the area of where the ball went before it landed on the ground. He thought he had a shot at it. 

"Yeah, I believe so," he said. "But unfortunately, plays like that … I don't know the percentage of it, but it's very rare."

Eagles-Chiefs thoughts: Despite reputation, Andy Reid's teams beatable on extra rest

Eagles-Chiefs thoughts: Despite reputation, Andy Reid's teams beatable on extra rest

Eagles (1-0) at Chiefs (1-0)
1 p.m. on FOX
Chiefs -6

Arrowhead Stadium will be the site of Andy Bowl II on Sunday, when the Eagles take on the Kansas City Chiefs in a battle of the undefeated.

Both teams were victorious on the road in Week 1 — the Eagles escaping Washington with a win, and Kansas City knocking off the defending Super Bowl-champion Patriots in Foxborough. However, win-loss records have taken something of a backseat in the lead-up to this contest, with Chiefs coach Andy Reid going up against his former employer of 14 years.

Reid won the first return matchup with the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in 2013. The second time around won’t be any less significant, with former Reid apprentice Doug Pederson on the opposite sideline now.

Should be interesting, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that a shot at a 2-0 start is what’s really on the line here.

The mythology of Reid
Convincing an Eagles fan to soften their opinion of Reid is like asking somebody to change their political affiliation. Let’s talk about how his presence on the sideline pertains to this game instead — specifically, the fallacy that Reid’s teams are nearly impossible to beat with extra time to prepare.

The Chiefs are coming into this matchup on an extra three days rest, having played the Patriots in the Thursday night season opener. Ever since his time with the Eagles, Reid had this reputation for being unbeatable after a bye week or an additional break of any kind. Yet, Reid’s Chiefs have been uncharacteristically mediocre when there are nine or more days between games.

Reid is only 4-5 in such contests since 2013. So much for that narrative.

Reid is a great coach, whether people want to admit that or not, and the extra time between opening night and Sunday is still advantageous for the Chiefs. But look past the mythology. The reality is Reid is far from unbeatable in these types of situations.

The legend of Kareem Hunt
It’s going to be difficult watching this game, knowing the Eagles sorely need a feature running back, and could’ve had Hunt in the 2017 NFL draft. That outlook also requires a rewriting of history of sorts.

Hunt exploded onto the scene in Week 1, setting a new rookie record with 246 yards from scrimmage in his debut. The third-round draft pick from Toledo rushed for 148 yards and one touchdown and had five receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns against the Patriots. He looked like the total package — elusive, powerful and a dangerous receiver out of the backfield.

It was also only one game, against a New England defense that has some issues. The Eagles are much better up front and have a shot at slowing Hunt down. Don’t anoint this kid just yet.

Hunt would still look good in an Eagles uniform. LeGarrette Blount lacks burst, Wendell Smallwood seems to be an afterthought and Darren Sproles is a role player. However, seeing as the Eagles didn’t have a pick between Nos. 43 and 99, and Hunt went No. 86, this seems more like wishful thinking than anything else.

Key matchup: OLB Justin Houston vs. RT Lane Johnson
Ryan Kerrigan gave Lane Johnson all he could handle in Week 1, but ultimately, the Eagles' right tackle was able to contain the two-time Pro Bowl selection. Kerrigan was credited with half a sack — his lone hit on the quarterback in the contest — and zero tackles for loss in an Eagles win.

While Kerrigan is an outstanding player, Justin Houston has the potential to be the best pass rusher in the league. Houston became the NFL’s all-time single-season sack record holder with 22.0 in 2014, and though he’s been slowed by injuries in recent years, he looked dominant in New England in Week 1.

Houston registered 2.0 sacks, four quarterback hits and two tackles for loss against the Patriots, who have a pretty good right tackle themselves. Based on that performance, it’s safe to say Houston is back, and Johnson will once again have his hands full this Sunday.

Johnson faced Houston in his third game as a professional in 2013, and it was a disaster. Houston racked up 4.5 sacks, five quarterback hits and four tackles for loss in the contest. Johnson is a much better player now, obviously, but his assignment won’t be any easier.

Not so special
The Eagles have a built-in advantage over many opponents because they routinely field one of the best special teams units in the league. This week, that will not the case.

The clear issue for the Eagles is the change at kicker, with Caleb Sturgis going on injured reserve, and being replaced by rookie Jake Elliott. A fifth-round draft pick, Elliott was scooped up off the Bengals practice squad after failing to win the job, and … well, that’s about the extent of our knowledge. That’s not to say Elliott will not perform, but he’s an unknown.

What is well known is the fact that Tyreek Hill is arguably the most dangerous return man in the NFL right now, giving the Chiefs a slight edge in that facet of the game as well.

Special teams were an essential aspect of the Eagles’ Week 1 victory. Sturgis nailed three field goals. Coverage units consistently pinned Washington, including a fourth-quarter Donnie Jones punt at the 1-yard line. But in Kansas City, it’s far less likely the Eagles will dominate in each of these phases.