Eagles at the Bye: A look back at the highs and lows
A look back at the best and worst of the Eagles in their first seven games:
Offense – Ryan Mathews
It's an ominous sign when your most valuable player has played only 26 percent of the snaps. But Mathews has been the one skill position player on offense to exceed expectations this season. The running back rushed for over 100 yards when an injured DeMarco Murray missed the New York Jets game, and he averaged 7.3 yards per carry in spot duty in the six other games. Chip Kelly has done a questionable job of getting Mathews, who appears to have better physical skills than Murray, more involved in the offense. When both have been active, Murray has averaged 4.0 yards per touch and Mathews 7.4 yards.
Runner-up: Jason Peters remains the best player on the offense by position, but injuries and age have made the left tackle less dominant. He's still a force, as he showed in the Eagles' wins over the Saints and New York Giants.
Defense – Fletcher Cox
Everything starts up front, to repeat a commonly used phrase, and it's no truer than with Cox and the Eagles. The end has been the anchor of a defensive line that has arguably been the team's best unit over the last two years. Cox leads the Eagles with five sacks and three forced fumbles and has been just as disruptive a pass rusher as he has been against the run. Defensive tackle Bennie Logan deserves a nod for his improved play, particular on run downs.
Runner-up: Malcolm Jenkins is a close second behind Cox. The safety has become an invaluable piece in the Eagles' pass defense. Jenkins has seamlessly stepped into the slot role and leads the defense with eight pass breakups. But he may be most valuable in how he sets the coverages pre-snap.
Offense – Sam Bradford
Even the most optimistic didn't expect Bradford to suddenly morph into an elite quarterback after a near two-year layoff. But they certainly didn't think he would turn the ball over at a significantly higher rate than he had in four seasons with the Rams. Bradford has thrown a league-worst ten interceptions and has a 3.6 percent interception rate. His pre-Eagles interception percentage was 2.2. His receivers haven't helped. Three of the picks caromed off of Bradford's intended target's hands. But the quarterback has been careless with the football, particularly in the red zone, where four of his interceptions have come.
Runner-up: Jason Kelce showed grit returning early from a sports hernia surgery last season, but the injury limited the center. He's healthy this year, though, and has been inconsistent. Playing alongside two new guards may have had something to do with his slow start, but Kelce has had far too many slip-ups.
Defense – Jordan Hicks
The Eagles beefed up the inside linebacker position this offseason, but drafting Hicks in the third round seemed like overkill at the time. Who could have predicted he would be the rookie to have the greatest impact this season? With Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans all missing games at various points, Hicks has stepped into lineup and performed like a savvy veteran. Even after Kendricks returned last week, it was Hicks that wore the call-playing headset and played every down. He leads the Eagles with 48 tackles and has one sack, one interception, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.
Runner-up: The Eagles deserve props for looking at Walter Thurmond -- a career cornerback -- and realizing he could be just as effective as a safety. Bill Davis has limited his responsibilities, thanks in part to Jenkins' versatility, but Thurmond has solidified a position that has been a trouble spot for years.
Offense - DeMarco Murray
His woeful start was hardly all his fault, but Murray's failures and successes through seven games have hinged far too often on the production of the offensive line. He's done less with less and about what you would expect with more. In the first three games, as the line worked out the kinks, he averaged 1.6 yards per rush. In the next four, as Kelly found ways to help his line, Murray averaged 4.4 yards. Mathews benefitted from the variety and improved blocking, as well, but he has been much better after contact. While Murray is averaging only 1.42 yards after initial contact, Mathews is averaging 2.27 yards, per ESPN.
Runner-up: Jordan Matthews seemed poised for a breakout season after an impressive rookie campaign. But drops and general sloppiness has marred the slot receiver's sophomore season. Matthews leads the Eagles in receptions (39) and receiving yards (398), but he's dropped at least six passes – two of which were deflected for interceptions – and had a fumble.
Defense – Byron Maxwell
A free agent contract that pays Maxwell $10.5 million annually raised expectations that he would be a No. 1-caliber cornerback. Unfair or not, Maxwell never had that skill set. He got off to a rocky start, but has improved as the season's progressed. But a missed assignment here, and a half-hearted tackle attempt there have placed Maxwell under the microscope. And whatever happened to having him shadow a team's top receiver? It's clear that Davis hasn't felt comfortable placing so much responsibility on the 27-year old's plate.
Runner-up: Kiko Alonso has missed five games because of a knee sprain, but injuries have to be part of the equation when evaluating the linebacker. Kelly gave up LeSean McCoy for Alonso, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, and the Eagles have gotten little in return thus far. He made a one-handed interception in the opener, but otherwise looked rusty before the injury.