Disconnect between Foles and wideouts
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and starting wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper aren't on same page yet.
IF I MIGHT briefly wrest your attention away from the elevation of Darren Sproles to Taney Dragons status (call him Mo'ne Sproles?), the Eagles have issues, as they face the short turnaround to Sunday's matchup with DeSean Jackson and the Redskins.
Bringing DeSean back to the Linc - assuming the AC sprain he suffered Sunday really isn't a big deal - will bring sharp focus to what's going on with Nick Foles and his starting wide receivers.
Short answer: not enough. You might recall that Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper were targeted 17 times against Jacksonville, and caught eight balls between them. Monday night, it was 14 targets and only five catches. (Rookie Jordan Matthews, the slot receiver, plays far fewer snaps than Maclin and Cooper, though Matthews could technically be considered a starter.)
This is not all clearly the fault of Maclin and Cooper, though Cooper did manage to avoid catching the best ball Foles threw all night in Indianapolis, a sure touchdown down the left side, beautifully placed.
The way things look two games in, I think we might be headed for a whole season of chicken-vs.-egg debate. Foles didn't look great, but his wideouts didn't do him any favors. Yeah? Well, maybe the wideouts didn't do much, but they were open at times and Foles missed them. And on and on and on.
Eagles fans can hope that this is still a matter of timing, Maclin and Cooper having missed much of the preseason. And that Foles, clearly being challenged more by defenses intent on taking away his first read this season, will settle in, raise his game and start hitting some of the throws he's missing. He did look more comfortable and decisive in the pocket Monday night, even if he wasn't all that accurate.
Last season, Foles never posted a passer rating below 100 two weeks in a row. In fact, he did that only twice in his 10 starts. Against Jacksonville, Foles' rating was 87.5. In Indianapolis, it was 84.4.
Those numbers aren't disastrous, but they won't earn franchise-QB money when the season ends and Foles' contract is eligible for reworking. Last year, Foles performed at a level that made it hard to label him only a game manager, a guy who benefited from Chip Kelly's system. So far this season, it isn't hard to label him that. Dumping it to Sproles and having him scamper 50 yards is just fine, but you could run the offense that way with Matt Barkley or probably even Charles Barkley at quarterback.
"It's not alarming to me," Chip Kelly said yesterday, asked about the wideouts. "I think we lead the league in yards. We lead the league in points."
Kelly said Foles needs to sharpen his throwing fundamentals in more than one area.
Developing story lines
* Colts fullback Mario Harvey really blasted, then flopped on, Nate Allen on that early, 29-yard Ahmad Bradshaw run that ignited the Indianapolis offense. It was the Colts' longest play from scrimmage.
* The Eagles were outplayed in just about every special-teams phase Monday night, a big step backward from the Jacksonville game. They took three penalties on punts and kicks, two by supposed special-teams ace Bryan Braman, the other by his fellow specialist, Chris Maragos. Pat McAfee came away with a huge, 49.0-yard net on his four punts, to Donnie Jones' 42.8. Griff Whalen's 11.0 punt- return average bested Darren Sproles' 6.3. The Eagles' average kickoff start was their 20, the Colts, their 26. And Cody Parkey missed a 38-yard field goal, before nailing the winner.
* I counted five hits Darren Sproles pinballed through on his amazing, 19-yard TD run, two of them from the repeatedly unfortunate LaRon Landry.
That the man of the hour, 5-6 dynamo Darren Sproles, who is frequently kidded about his "Napoleon complex" by Malcolm Jenkins, was actually born at Waterloo — Iowa, that is.
Until the final play Monday night, the Eagles had led the Colts for all of 4 minutes, 30 seconds, in the first quarter, when it was 3-0. They led for 6:59 of the opener against Jacksonville. So that's a 2-0 start, with the Birds having spent 11:29 on top, of a possible 120 minutes.
Brandon Boykin was moved enough by criticism of his play on T.Y. Hilton, which led to the big Malcolm Jenkins interception, to provide a helpful diagram for "haters" to follow yesterday on Twitter. It, uh, instructed them on how they might insert their opinions, um, into themselves. Boykin later deleted the tweet.
I've watched the play a bunch of times now. As Hilton slows to turn outside, Boykin gets his right hand, then both hands, on Hilton's right shoulder. Hilton staggers and falls, either from being thrown off balance, or, as Boykin asserted after the game, in an attempt to dramatize the contact and draw a flag.
Boykin grabbed/pushed him. Under the preseason rules crackdown, that's a penalty. But, with a few exceptions, so far in the regular season, officials haven't called contact the way they called it in the preseason. Also, Boykin made contact at the Eagles' 18. The line of scrimmage was the 22. Boykin was within the 5-yard legal contact area. Last season, legal contact in that 5-yard buffer meant you could do anything you wanted, short of attacking the receiver with a chain saw.This season, well, who knows?
"There was contact," coach Chip Kelly conceded yesterday. "It seemed like to me, when you watch the coaches' tape, it was a bang-bang play, but if they threw a flag, you couldn't argue a flag, because there was contact."
Boykin, by the way, played only 21 defensive snaps in Indianapolis, after getting 23 in the opener. Last week he definitely thought that he would be in the action more, that the Colts would use three wideouts a lot. They didn't, instead loading up for the run. Andrew Luck threw for only 172 yards, with a long completion of 19.