Where the 2014 Eagles Stand After Week 9

eagles-week9Well, we don’t have Nick Foles to kick around anymore. At least until the end of the regular season. For better or worse, the engineering cap to the 2014 Eagles playoff train has been handed to Mark Sanchez. Yeah, that Mark Sanchez. Oof.

To recap, Sanchez was run out of NYC after suffering a slow-healing shoulder injury and committing the infamous “butt-fumble.” Never forget:

Mark Sanchez of the 70-71 career TD-INT ratio. Mark Sanchez of the career 20 lost fumbles. Mark Sanchez of the career 55.2 completion percentage. I’m not crapping on the guy as much as I’m pointing out the facts. If you thought Foles was turnover-prone and inaccurate, Sanchez is the definition. In other words, be careful what you wish for, Birds backers.

The one good thing about Sanchez being under center is that it should help balance the offense. Chip Kelly claims he doesn’t give two shits about balance, but he knows better than anyone that his up-tempo attack is fueled by running, not passing. Defensive alignments and offensive line injuries certainly contributed to the increased number of dropbacks over the last few weeks, but J.J. Watt terrorizing the entire line last Sunday served as a reminder that going Andy Reid pass happy isn’t conducive to consistent offensive production.

LeSean McCoy and Chris Polk’s second-half domination was vintage 2013 Eagles. They neutralized the Texans’ fervent pass rush and controlled the clock. With Jason Kelce back at center and Evan Mathis set to return Monday night, the line will be stronger than it has all season. Even without Todd Herremans, who was wisely placed on IR with his torn left biceps. Matt Tobin now shifts to right guard; he’s been okay thus far, but Herremans will still be missed.

Defense:

Speaking of missed, DeMeco Ryans was the one guy, besides Malcolm Jenkins, the defense could ill afford to lose. Ryans was playing at a Pro Bowl level and was a huge reason why the run defense has been so stout. The prospect of facing DeMarco Murray twice, Eddie Lacy, Marshawn Lynch, and Alfred Morris without Ryans is daunting. Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho have massive shoes to fill. Let’s hope Mychal Kendricks uses this opportunity to fully realize his potential, because his speed and playmaking will be needed.

The pass rush notched four sacks and harassed Ryan Fitzpatrick early and often. However, the lack of forced turnovers is the missing piece on this defense. Twelve fumble recoveries is great, but only four interceptions, and none by Brandon Boykin or Carey Williams, is weak. Overall, Billy Davis is doing a solid job with a unit low on talent. That said, more disruptive plays are needed.

Special Teams:

Cody Parkey was clutch. Ho-hum. Having Darren Sproles back returning punts was nice to see. Again, no complaints from Dave Fipp’s charges.

Turnovers/Penalties:

I’m paraphrasing, but the Eagles are something like one of five teams in league history to be 6-2 with such a piss-poor turnover differential. That number is -10, which is atrocious. And given Sanchez’s history, not likely to improve. Careless blunders cost them against Arizona and will do so again until they clean it up. 7 penalties for 55 yards. Oddly, Jason Peters leads the team with 7 infractions, although only one has been for holding. Silver lining, I guess.

Looking Ahead:

Monday night at the Linc wearing midnight green (hooray!) versus the Panthers. To be kind, the ‘Cats have looked horrendous of late. The offensive line is a disaster, the defense a mess, and Cam Newton erratic as hell. Carolina will either fight tooth and nail to get a win, or completely fold their tent and get destroyed. Sanchez under center is too great an unknown to predict how this one will turn out. I feel good about the Eagles in this spot, but the loss of Ryans is a concern when facing an athletic freak like Newton. Speaking of freaks:

How ’bout that Jeremy Maclin!

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