We spoke with Brandon Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation for the inside scoop on the upcoming game between the Eagles and the Patriots.
1. The Eagles haven't met the expectations set during the offseason. What is the biggest difference on offense and defense?
The Eagles' offense has been mediocre at best for most of the season. More often, it's been bad. The Eagles thought Sam Bradford would be an upgrade at quarterback but he's been thoroughly uninspiring and turnover prone. The Eagles got the run game going for a few weeks before being completely unable to run the ball efficiently at all. The offensive line has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency. The wide receivers have struggled to get separation, and even when they do, they drop the passes anyway. The whole offense is really just a mess.
The defense is a different story. Leading up to Week 11, Philadelphia's defense actually ranked No. 2 overall in DVOA. They were a very solid unit. But something happened and now they're just awful. The Eagles allowed 45 points in their last two games to both the Buccaneers and the Lions. A once-strong run defense has become porous. The secondary is getting burned. Tackles are being missed. Effort is being questioned. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis has drawn criticism from his own players for being too predictable. It's a disaster.
2. Fletcher Cox is an absolute animal on the defensive line- who are the other defenders the Patriots should know about?
Fletcher Cox is pretty great, but the guy he lines up next to isn't too shabby either. Bennie Logan has developed into a really good starting nose tackle. Starting outside linebacker Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are two guys who can generate a pass rush. Starting safeties Walter Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins are prone to making plays on the ball, though they've struggled recently.
3. The Patriots are really hurting with injuries to the #1 starter at each position (Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis). Are there any injuries on the Eagles defense that level the playing field?
Philadelphia's defense has been so bad recently that I don't think the Pats need to be too concerned. I think even newly signed Damaris Johnson, whom I was very high on during his time with the Eagles, could go off for a big day at this point.
But to answer your concern, no, there aren't really any major injuries that should have an impact here. Thurmond has missed practice but he said he expects to play. Starting defensive end Cedric Thornton hasn't practiced but the Eagles have depth at defensive end. Inside linebackers Mychal Kendricks, Kiko Alonso, and DeMeco Ryans aren't currently listed on the injury report but they've all been dealing with some injuries this season and have struggled recently.
4. LeSean McCoy is now a regular face in the AFC East. Have any players stepped up to take his place in the Eagles offense?
No, not really. DeMarco Murray has been a big bust. He looks sooooooo slow when he's running the ball. Ryan Mathews has has a really good season for the Eagles, but the problem with him is that he can't stay healthy. Mathews hasn't played since suffering a concussion in Week 11. He's also dealing with a groin injury. He hasn't been cleared to return to practice yet. No one else on offense has really been able to make big plays happen for the Eagles on a consistent basis.
5. Chip Kelly is one of the biggest innovators in the league. How has he changed over the past couple of years?
Chip Kelly doesn't suddenly seem so innovative given the way the Eagles' offense has gotten worse ever since his debut in 2013. The offense has regressed because he's gotten rid of talent and defenses have had time to adjust to what he's doing.