The Eagles have the NFL’s fifth-ranked offense through the season’s first three weeks, averaging 416.7 yards a game. They are eighth in both rushing yards (135.0) and passing yards (281.7). Philadelphia’s problem has been turnovers. The Eagles’ 12 giveaways are three more than any other team in the NFL. Their six lost fumbles are a league-high and their six interceptions are tied for the most with Chicago and Cleveland. Philly’s minus-six turnover differential is ahead of only Kansas City (minus-eight). The Eagles are the NFL’s second-youngest team, with an average age of 25.5 years.
Philadelphia has suffered numerous injuries on offense. All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters, arguably their best player on that unit, ruptured his Achilles tendon in May and will miss the season. Peters’ replacement, King Dunlap, hurt his left hamstring vs. Baltimore in Week 2, so Philly is down to its third left tackle in Demetress Bell, a free agent acquisition from Buffalo. Center Jason Kelce tore two knee ligaments against the Ravens and was placed on injured reserve. He was replaced by Dallas Reynolds. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin missed last week’s loss in Arizona with a hip injury, but is expected to play Sunday.
With Michael Vick at quarterback, the Eagles run a vertical power offense. Vick is a rare athlete who can make plays all over the field with his arm and legs. He does a good job of keeping his eyes down field and extending plays. But Vick has been sacked nine times, thrown six interceptions and lost three of five fumbles for an NFL-high nine turnovers. His backup is rookie Nick Foles, who played extensively in the preseason.
Running back LeSean McCoy was a first-time Pro Bowler in 2011, when he led the NFL and set team records with 17 rushing touchdowns and 20 total scores. He ran for 1,309 yards. McCoy has excellent run skills with an uncanny ability to quickly change direction. His backup is rookie Bryce Brown, a seventh-round draft choice from Kansas State, who is an athletic first and second-down back with impressive straight line speed. Chris Polk, another rookie, has yet to carry the ball and Dion Lewis has been inactive for all three games.
First-year fullback Stanley Havili is an aggressive, athletic lead blocker.
DeSean Jackson, Maclin and Jason Avant remain the Eagles’ big three at wide receiver. Jackson, a two-time Pro Bowler, is Vick’s most-targeted receiver. He has blazing speed and lines up all over the formation in an effort to find advantageous matchups. Jackson often gains chunks of yardage after catching the call. Maclin is a quick-footed athlete and crafty route-runner who leads the team with two touchdown receptions, despite sitting out last week. Avant usually lines up in the slot, where he is a physical and steady inside receiver. Rookie Damaris Johnson, a 5-8 rookie from Tulsa, has excellent quickness and is averaging 15.3 yards a catch. Riley Cooper is recovering from a fractured collarbone he suffered in training camp.
Tight end Brent Celek also lines up in numerous positions. Rarely off the field, Celek is a big target with outstanding receiving skills. He is tied with Jackson for the team lead with 14 catches – and Celek has the higher average (18.4-16.7). Clay Harbor plays in the two-tight end sets. He has more speed than Celek and is fluid running the underneath crossing routes.
With Peters sidelined, the Eagles’ best all-around offensive lineman is right tackle Todd Herremans, who is smart, tough and competitive and will punish defenders on contact. The Eagles like to run McCoy behind Herremans, who is a steady, solid player. Bell is expected to start Sunday on the left side. He started six games last season for the Bills and has good natural movement in pass protection. Dunlap is not as athletic, but is listed at 6-9 and 330 pounds. Left guard Evan Mathis is exceptionally tough, feisty and aggressive. Right guard Danny Watkins has started all 15 games in which he’s played the last two years. Reynolds spent the previous three seasons on the Eagles’ practice squad and took over at center midway through the Baltimore game. He is an alert player who makes all the protection calls and has good initial quickness at the snap.
Like the offense, Philadelphia’s defense is ranked fifth in the NFL, allowing 267.5 yards a game. The Eagles are 16th against the run (105.0) and third vs. the pass (162.5).
Philadelphia also lost an important member of its defensive front when Mike Patterson underwent offseason surgery to repair a rare brain condition called arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which he played with last season. He is on the Reserve/Non-Football Illness list.
The defense has five new starters and plays three rookies extensively – strongside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, tackle Fletcher Cox and cornerback Brandon Boykin. The new middle linebacker is DeMeco Ryans, obtained in a trade with Houston, and Derek Landri has taken over for Patterson.
In Patterson’s absence, the Eagles still have nine defensive linemen they rotate in and out of the game with the frequency of a hockey team changing lines. Philly’s line is not just deep, it is very good. Left end Jason Babin was a Pro Bowler each of the last two seasons. Since the start of the 2010 season he has 33.0 sacks, the NFL’s third-highest total. Babin has a good pass rush plan, uses a variety of moves and is violent on contact. At right end is another two-time Pro Bowler in Trent Cole, who has four double-digit sack seasons. One of the league’s best defensive ends, he is a big, thick, physical player with natural leverage. Tackle Cullen Jenkins is a quality every-down player with athleticism and range. Landri was released and re-signed last year and has since become a high-effort player who is strong vs. the run. The backups include Cox, the first-round draft choice from Mississippi State who plays as many snaps as any tackle. Darryl Tapp is a solid undersized pass rusher. Phillip Hunt has quickness and pass rush ability. Cedric Thornton has graduated from the practice squad and now produces as a sub tackle. Two years ago, the Eagles traded up to draft Brandon Graham two spots before the Giants selected
Ryans, yet another two-time Pro Bowler, is a smart, physical every-down linebacker who has quickly become a leader in the middle of the defense. He leads the Eagles with 26 tackles (24 solo). Kendricks is rarely off the field and has demonstrated very good pursuit range. He has already knocked down three passes. Weakside linebacker Akeem Jordan is a physical player who aggressively attacks the hole. He is also Philly’s leading special teams tackler. Backup Brian Rolle, who started 13 games last season, is an instinctive player vs. the run. Jamar Chaney plays when the Eagles use their 4-4 package. Casey Matthews is a backup at two spots.
Philadelphia has a pair of outstanding cornerbacks in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. Rodgers-Cromartie has size, quickness and range and is one of the NFL’s fastest players. Asomugha, a three-time Pro Bowler, is a classic bump-and-run corner who can get his hands on a receiver and reroute him. Boykin, a fourth-round draft choice from Georgia this year, has played well in the slot. Strong safety Kurt Coleman is a productive player who is quick to read the run. Free safety Nate Allen is more athletic and has good movement skills.
Long-snapper Jon Dorenbos has not missed a game since the start of the 2007 season. But he suffered a high ankle sprain in Arizona and missed practice Wednesday. Kicker Alex Henery set a franchise record and an NFL rookie mark by hitting 88.9 percent of his field goal attempts in 2011. Punter Chas Henry was released this week because he lacked consistency. The new punter is former Dallas Cowboy and two-time Pro Bowler Mat McBriar, whom the Eagles cut before the season opener. The veteran punter, who had offseason surgery to remove a cyst that was affecting a nerve in his plant foot, said that he was healthier than he was at the end of the preseason. Boykin, who set an SEC record with four career kickoff returns for touchdowns, is averaging 22.9 yards on seven runbacks. Johnson, the NCAA’s all-time leader in all-purpose yardage, is the punt returner, though he has struggled at times and fumbled last week. Coach Andy Reid said this week that Johnson would remain the punt returner, but that he “still has the option to use DeSean Jackson.”