Eagles Defense and Rookie Carson Wentz Has Philly Buzzing After 3-0 Start


Eagles wide receiver and Carson Wentz shake hands after they connected on a 12-yard touchdown pass in the Birds 34-3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday.


During bye week, there’s a lot for Birds fans to feel good about.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The Philadelphia Eagles enter the bye-week on the kind of good note that they probably weren’t expecting at this point in the season with an untested rookie quarterback.

The Birds are 3-0 for the first time since 2014, thanks to a stout defense and an offense designed around the skills of rookie Carson Wentz and the City of Brotherly Love is buzzing with excitement again, especially after last Sunday’s 34-3 thrashing of a Pittsburgh Steelers team considered a major contender in the AFC

While it’s easy to focus on the stellar play of Wentz, the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week, the defense has managed to shut down opposing offenses.  So far, this season the Eagles defense has allowed just two touchdowns in three games.

The Eagles are fourth in the NFL in total defense, second in stopping the run, allowing just 71 yards per game, and eighth against the pass.  In fact, the Eagles defense has yet to allow a touchdown pass this season.

Yes, it’s only three games into the season, but considering that they were next-to-last in touchdown passes allowed and 28th in passing yardage allowed last season, it’s definitely an  improvement. If they can maintain this level of play, the Eagles will be tough to beat for the rest of the season.

But don’t tell the team that.

“We can still be better,” said Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who had two sacks in Sunday’s game. “We can grow. We’re not comfortable. That’s what I think about this team. Nobody is comfortable or patting themselves on the back.”

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz deserves credit for creating an aggressive, attacking 4-3 defense that puts pressure on opposing quarterbacks and gives very little yardage in the running game. Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said Schwartz does a good job of rotating fresh bodies on the defensive line.

“It’s a good thing because when you rotate, you do not want to drop off,” said Graham, who had a sack and a fumble recovery against the Steelers. “The backups are just as good as the one guys. When you have a good rotation, you have a good bench. You don’t want it to drop off.”

The Eagles shut down down one of the league’s best ground attacKD when they held the Steelers to just 29 yards on the ground for the game. The Birds made the Steelers a one-dimensional team and sacked Ben Rothlisberger four times and forced two turnovers.

“[The]Defense has been getting big stops whenever we get the opportunity. Getting pressure on the quarterback; doing a great job stopping the run,” said Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.  “And as a team, we just are staying patient in these games and as soon as our opponents make mistakes we pile it on. Just a patient team.”

Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the ball, Wentz is doing a good job of managing the game thanks to a short, but accurate passing game that patiently moves the ball down the field and lulls the defense to sleep to come up with the big play.

Wentz, who completed 23-of-31 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns, spread the ball around to seven different receivers. He didn’t try to force anything and didn’t make any mistakes with the football.

“He puts himself in a position where he doesn’t have to put pressure on himself,” said Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who caught a 12-yard touchdown from the rookie in Sunday’s game. “He works his butt off every day.”

It also helps that Wentz has enough mobility to buy time when rushers are on his heels.  In the third quarter of Sunday’s game, Wentz escaped the Pittsburgh rush and found a wide-open Darren Sproles, who sped into the end zone untouched for a 73-yard touchdown pass.

One of the things that will help the Eagles down the road is if they improve the running game.  Both Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner showed speed and quickness in the running game. Smallwood gained 79 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown. Barner added 42 with a touchdown as well.

“(Smallwood) is a downhill runner. A one-cut runner. He did a great job for us,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, said. “Darren, Kenjon and Wendell really stepped up and did a nice job.”

After taking this week off, the Eagles will hit the road to Motown to take on a lackluster Detroit Lions squad Oct. 9th at Ford Field.

Truly Offensive: The New-Look Philadelphia Eagles are 0-2 With an Offense That’s Bringing New Meaning to the Term

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles running back DeMarco Murray gets run down by Cowboys middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens during the Eagles 20-10 loss to Dallas last Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Eagles running back DeMarco Murray gets run down by Cowboys middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens during the Eagles 20-10 loss to Dallas last Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

When Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly shipped LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills, Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams and gave an unceremonious heave-ho to Pro Bowl offensive guard Evan Mathis, the warning from fans and the media was “You’d better replace them with something better…”

Did the Birds do that?

If the last two games are any indication, the answer has to be an emphatic Hell No!

After a heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Falcons and the debacle that was last Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles are hoping to redeem themselves on Sunday at MetLife Stadium when they take on a 2-0 New York Jets squad.

The big question that everyone is asking now is whether or not the Eagles offensive line can protect quarterback Sam Bradford and open up the kinds of holes that will allow running back DeMarco Murray, who was held to two yards on 13 carries and has only 11 yards after two games this season.

Murray led the NFL in rushing in 2014 with over 1,800 yards.

The Eagles offensive line got beat down by the Cowboys front seven that had seven tackles for a loss of yardage. A quick Dallas defense outmuscled center Jason Kelce, guards Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner and tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson.

Two plays, in particular, symbolized the Eagles’ frustrations.

On a running play late in the first quarter, Murray lost two yards when Cowboys defensive tackle Terrell McClain got into the Eagles backfield by slicing between Kelce and Gardner. The penetration forced Murray to go right where he was taken down by linebacker Sean Lee.

Perhaps the most blatant example of how poorly the offensive line performed in the running game was the Eagles first possession of the third quarter. On first and 10 from the Birds 32, Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence streaked past tight end Brent Celek and dropped Murray for a six-yard loss.

On the next play, Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey sped past Peters and tackled Murray for a loss of another five yards. No matter how you slice it, Dallas owned the trenches and the Eagles didn’t.

“There were a couple times … when the linebacker level would shoot through and then kind of disrupt and knock our guys off of our double teams,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “Then there were other times when we got split, whether it be the double team or the edge block with the tight end. So there was no consistent one reason. It’s just areas where if we just block better, I think we’ll get it fixed.”

With an even better Jets defense on the horizon, the Eagles have to do something, anything to fix the offensive line.

“We just couldn’t get things going at different times. We have to be better, no matter what the play calls are,” Murray said after the game. “I think individually and collectively, as an offense, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror, watch the film and go on from there.”

The Eagles coaches have been saying that their issues in the offensive line can be fixed by the offensive line simply executing and doing their jobs. I don’t know if it’s really as simple as that. Not the way they were dominated by Dallas.
I don’t pretend to be an offensive coordinator, but from what I saw on the film, the Cowboys had the Eagles number. Usually, when the middle is jammed in Kelly’s offense, the running backs can find a cut back lane and bounce it to the outside.

The Cowboys, especially linebacker Sean Lee, had the edges covered. Lee had two tackles for a loss as a result. It was that kind of a day for the Eagles.

Now Kelly has to figure out a way for his offense to get its mojo back because if it doesn’t, it’s going to be a long year for Eagles fans.

Free Falling: The Eagles Can’t Block Anybody or Tackle Anybody

In Monday’s loss to the New Orleans Saints, LeSean McCoy gained 119 yards rushing on 19 carries and touched the ball just once during the Eagles five trips inside the red zone.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

The problem for the Eagles in their 28-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints had little to do with swag, mojo or even their je ne sais quoi as much as they are need of an offensive line that can block people, the ability score in the red zone and a defense that can actually stop somebody.

When they start doing these things effectively and actually start winning games, the swagger might come back. For now the Eagles (3-5) have to face the reality that their season is in the midst of a free fall and quite frankly they are not a good enough football team, at this point, to recover from it.

For everyone who has been insisting the Eagles offensive woes are the sole fault of quarterback Michael Vick, you have Monday night’s game as evidence that the Birds issues are a lot deeper than their starting signal caller.

On offense, Vick was running for his life even before they lost right tackle Todd Herremans because of strained ligaments in his ankle. The former Virginia Tech star, playing behind a patchwork offensive line, was sacked seven times by one of the league’s worst defenses.

Oddly enough, the Eagles rolled up 447 yards of total offense, including 221 yards rushing. LeSean McCoy gained 119 yards by himself.  All those numbers are meaningless because the Birds were inside the New Orleans 20-yard line five times and ended up with just two field goals.

More importantly, they didn’t win the game, which renders those stats to be as useless a three-legged mule.

You can blame that on the goofy play-calling and also lack of execution in those situations. Two plays after Bryce Brown broke off a 40-yard run to get the Eagles to the Saints 6-yard line, Vick threw a pick-six on a pass that tipped off the hands of Brent Celek into the hands of Patrick Robinson who took it 99 yards for a touchdown.

On that play, you can argue there should have been a defensive holding or an illegal contact penalty called on the guy defending Celek, but the ball was in the receiver’s hands.  What bothers me about that particular sequence is why not run the ball, especially when they had been killing the Saints in the running game. For all of the Eagles trips to the redzone, McCoy had just one carry for minus-one yard and Brown carried it once for no gain.  Really? C’mon, man.

In the third quarter, the Eagles recover a fumble on the kickoff after Vick’s 77-yard touchdown pass DeSean Jackson brought the Eagles to 21-10. They eventually move the ball to inside the Saints 10. Given how hot the Eagles rushers had been you would think, they would have run the ball  at least once in that sequence.

But as usual, you saw an empty backfield set and New Orleans blitzed past the Eagles injury-riddled offensive line, forcing a sack and a couple of incomplete passes. The Eagles got the second of their two field goals and that was the last score of the night.

The Eagles last foray into to red zone resulted in a fumble at the seven-yard-line  by Celek. It was another opportunity to make it a game and the Birds blew it.

The defense complicated things on their end by not tackling and letting a team came into the game ranked 30th in rushing offense to run for 140 yards. The Eagles did get a sack and they got a turnover.

Meanwhile, Drew Brees was efficient enough to put the Eagles in a hole as he completing 21 of 27 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns.

In these last two weeks, the Eagles haven’t given folks any reason to believe that they are going to recover from a snowball that is about to consume the Birds season. The Eagles are a terrible football team on both sides of the ball.

The offensive line can’t protect the quarterback and it has the coaches to the point to where they are reluctant to run the ball in the red zone. Meanwhile, the defense since the firing of Juan Castillo has been a joke and hasn’t come close to stopping anybody.

The good news for Eagles fans is that the 3-5 Dallas Cowboys and the 3-6 Washington Redskins are on the schedule. But don’t even think about the playoffs (Jim Mora’s voice), the Eagles need to be happy to win a game, any game, another game.