When the Eagles return to the field in two weeks to play the Dallas Cowboys in Texas there will be a great deal of anticipation because the anemic NFC East is still very much wide open for any team. In terms of that eagerness, from a fan’s perspective, it seems to end there. Half the season is basically complete and we’ve been disappointed thus far within Eagles Nation for fair, rationale reasons. Again, the themes of this season have been dropped passes, a bland rushing attack and costly penalties and turnovers. This Eagles offense continues, week after week, to reach the top of the mountain only to slip and fall halfway down, never being able to generate momentum to get over the peak. There are reasons why.
How many times can we talk about dropped balls, lack of concentration and execution by the wide receivers? Well, it will probably continue well into the weeks to come if something doesn’t change. WR Jordan Matthews has eight drops this season, many on plays that would garner a first-down and would keep drives alive. Josh Huff couldn’t catch a nice pass by QB Sam Bradford this past week against the Panthers in the end zone. Even RBs Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews are dropping swing passes in the flats. (Insert Eagles passing game is flat joke here). There are only so many hours these players can put into catching with the jug machines.
Penalties are made during the most inopportune times every single game. I know, you can say that any penalty is untimely. However, when your DT Bennie Logan is flagged for encroachment two times on consecutive plays inside the Eagles 10-yard line, that’s ill-timed. When your Pro-Bowl center, Jason Kelce, commits six holding penalties on the season, thus far, that’s undisciplined. RT Lane Johnson has five false starts. When the team has collectively garnered 51 total penalties (for 394 yards) – tied for 9th most in the league – there is a problem (Minnesota had the fewest with 35).
Of course, there is discussion among countless fans and Philly sports talk radio, blogosphere and podcasting community about Bradford and his abilities. I, for one, am under the impression that Bradford has progressed with this Eagles team from week one until now. Whether we refer to using words and phrases like inconsistent, shaky and up-and-down that describes his level of play, we cannot forget the hard, true facts about this quarterback. 1.) He did not garner “real time” practice and play during the OTA’s and within the preseason, 2.) He was out of the game for close to two years, 3.) He has more receivers dropping balls than any other quarterback in the league, 4.) He is still learning.
The real question surrounding Bradford is – while I believe he has progressed – will he get better? Or has he already hit his ceiling?
The long-term question we also have to ask is – what is the alternative if he has plateaued? After seven weeks of regular season play, these questions cannot be answered. It’s unfair to think remarkable dependability from Bradford should be evident within the confines of his return to the NFL. So as of week eight, there just isn’t a large enough sample size to make a convincing and credible argument that he’s total garbage.
Here’s another question void of an answer. If Bradford had a reliable, effective offensive weapon and true playmaker, would we be as frustrated with the quarterback position? No easy answer, right? But this question is a direct result of the personnel and receivers the GM Chip Kelly kept and brought on board.
WR Josh Huff was slated by many fans to have a break out season. He has 13 receptions for 141 yards. Rookie WR Nelson Agholor, who has been injured, has eight catches for 109 yards. TE Zach Ertz has been targeted 42 times and caught 24 balls in seven games. Matthews has been averaging 56.9 yards per game.
Listen, the “up in the airs” are plentiful at the moment. I bet the Houston Texans wish there were as many “up in the airs” as we Eagles fans have because they are a doomed team. The pendulum is still swinging after seven games for the Birds. We can only hope and keep our eye on whether or not that pendulum, coupled with their desire to play more disciplined football, can knock them over the mountain top peak.