On top of the disastrous, catastrophic start to the Philadelphia Eagles 2014 season was the burden that encumbered not only the coach, but the media and fans alike.
Midway through the first half, left guard Evan Mathis limped off the field with a ligament injury; several minutes later, interim right tackle Allen Barbre left the game with a similar injury. While the first half scare was chased away by the Eagles in a soaring comeback, the ghosts of Mathis and Barbre will haunt the team for the forceable future.
On Tuesday, the Eagles placed Barbre on season-long Injured Reserve, spelling an end to his 2014 campaign. Barbre was filling in for suspended tackle Lane Johnson, and could well have taken the starting job with strong play. Fresh off a three-year contract extension, Barbre’s hope of landing a starting gig went into a tailspin. Evan Mathis was placed on the short-term IR list, meaning he is eligible to return to game action in week eight(and can practice in week six).
If anyone believes Chip Kelly was caught off guard by these injuries, they are sadly mistaken.
The same day, the Eagles signed former Pro Bowl left guard Wade Smith. Smith will add depth to the line at both guard spots, and some veteran experience to what is now a very young line, besides left tackle Jason Peters. By reshuffling the depth chart, Kelly will be rewarding the players who performed best in preseason. Matt Tobin will likely return Sunday, and should suit up as the starting left guard; likewise, Andrew Gardner will resume his post at right tackle, where he fared rather well against Jacksonville.
Kelly will also focus his game plan on using the three starting linemen he has remaining: Peters, Jason Kelce, and Todd Herremans. The play calling will heavily favor the left side on counter and power running plays. LeSean McCoy also seems to have a knack for jump-cutting to his right, which will favor the Eagles when he gets into the second level of the defense. A lot of mid-draw plays will also be called to use the inside lineman, and allow McCoy to beat the defenders to and through the running lanes.
Obviously, the Eagles can’t avoid the leaks for all too long. In the passing game, it will be imperative that tight end Brent Celek stays in to block. Celek will likely line up on the right side, and assist Matt Tobin in protecting Nick Foles. Fortunately, Jason Peters will still be protecting Foles’ blindside. Since Foles ill be able to see the right-sided rush coming, he should be able to time his release to beat it. Indianapolis’ weak linebacking group will allow second-year man Zach Ertz to run amuck in the seam, which should relieve some of the blitz pressure the Colts send.
The Eagles will have to curb their passing options, and limit their running variations; however, Chip Kelly has never been one to favor variation. If the offense can get on a rhythm, Kelly will be able to consistently expose the Colts’ weaknesses and score his way to a victory.