Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Eagles are average at best

The Eagles have a bye. They don’t play again until Nov. 8 in Dallas. That’s good for them and you, too. Everyone could use a break and some rest. It has not been an easy season.

The Eagles are 3-4. Even in the NFC East — a division full of teams that are the NFL equivalent of those CBS alphabet-soup procedurals (they’re all pretty much the same, and none of them are very good) — that’s a disappointing record.

This is not how the season was supposed to go. Not according to the experts. And certainly not if you believed Chip Kelly. He dismantled the roster and rebuilt it with his hand-picked parts. Ah, but his man-made monster has mostly lurched and stumbled so far, and it hasn’t frightened the rest of the league nearly as much as it has terrorized this very town. Just in time for Halloween. The Eagles are under .500. Boo.

Here’s another scary thought: The Eagles aren’t very good. Unless you ask Kelly, who said he thinks the Eagles are “a good football team” and just “need to get things cleaned up.” They’re almost halfway through the season. At what point do you step back and admit that the mess is too big to wipe away?

More likely, they’re what they’ve appeared to be all season, something much closer to average than awesome. So many of us keep waiting for the Eagles we were promised to show up and dominate. But you can only wait so long before you realize the promise probably isn’t possible.

If you’re confused about why the Eagles haven’t delivered on those preseason expectations, you aren’t alone. What happened to playing fast and scoring a ton of points and bulldozing everyone on the way to a deep playoff run? What happened to Sam Bradford being worthy of that second-round pick they unloaded to land him? What happened to DeMarco Murray being a better fit for the offense because he runs north/south/blahblahblah? What happened to Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor replacing the production that disappeared when Jeremy Maclin decamped for Kansas City? What happened to that team we saw in Green Bay in the preseason? What happened, period?

As absolution goes, the defense can (mostly) sit out this bye-week blame game. Considering the injuries to Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks and others at various points, the unit has acquitted itself nicely. At the very least — the absolute least — the defense has not been the problem. Which means the other unit — the one engineered by Chip the GM, in concert with Chip the Coach — has been the problem. Which is a problem.

The offense was supposed to carry this team. Instead it’s weighed the Eagles down. They tend to start slow. Bradford is tied for the league-lead in interceptions. The highest-paid running back hasn’t been the best performer. The best running back hasn’t been given enough opportunities. The receivers have too many drops and not enough big plays. These are Kelly’s guys. He keeps saying he has the right personnel. He keeps saying that they just need to execute. But if the personnel he picked doesn’t execute, how can they be the right personnel? And doesn’t that all come back to Kelly?

Maybe, against all the evidence to the contrary, you’re still convinced the Eagles will emerge from the bye and stomp the competition just like we’ve expected them to do for much of the season. Here’s the remaining schedule, in order: At Dallas, home against the Dolphins and Buccaneers, at the Lions and Patriots, home against the Bills, Cardinals and Washington, at the Giants. To go 10-6, the Eagles would have to finish the season 7-2. (That’s quick math.) Look at the games that are left and find seven certain wins. Or six, if you think 9-7 takes the division. Or even five if you want to be really charitable. Pick out the games. Circle them. Then write down all the reasons you think the Eagles will win. The first item on your list will likely be “blind faith,” but what will the list say thereafter?

Before the Eagles headed off into their bye week, Kelly said the same familiar things about how they have enough talent and they just need to execute. You’ve heard it all before.

“We’re close,” Kelly insisted.

The Eagles are 3-4. Close to what, exactly?

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