We’re entering the second half of the Eagles schedule, and I think it’s safe to say that while some questions have been answered (Chip’s offense works, Barkley fell for a reason, Cole/Graham are not the answer at OLB, etc…) many more persist. Unfortunately, the Eagles look like they’re too good to secure a top draft pick and too bad to really threaten anyone in the playoffs. still plenty of time for that to change, but for now, it’s best to focus on the questions we CAN answer, or should be able to. For today, mine look like this:
– What’s Nick Foles’ ceiling? Let’s start with the obvious one. He’s either a starting caliber QB with good accuracy and the ability to consistently pilot the team on scoring drives, a solid backup who can step in for short stretches and avoid turnovers, or completely overmatched (see Dallas game). We’re not going to answer that definitively today, but every start Foles gets is another piece of evidence with which to judge his potential. I don’t think he’s Chip Kelly’s “guy”, but if he plays well he may have some trade value or at least provide a viable enough option that Chip can take his time to find “his guy” instead of reaching for one in next year’s draft.
– What’s Bennie Logan’s deal? I didn’t like this pick when the Eagles made it, but that was more value-based than commentary on Logan’s potential. With Sopoaga gone, Logan knows the job is his if he can handle it. He’s still a bit undersized, so he might deserve some leeway until he fully adjusts; but make no mistake, the clock’s ticking. I don’t know how Davis or Kelly feel about the NT position, but in my opinion, it’s an area where you can’t settle for just adequate. So keep an eye on Logan and see how often he “flashes” above-average potential.
– Is the defensive improvement an aberration, or has Davis figured a few things out? A lot of people are claiming the Eagles have turned a corner of defense…I’m not so sure. They’ve benefited from facing some very bad offenses recently (Giants twice, Bucs). Of course, you can only beat who you play, so we can’t write the performances off entirely, but it’s something to keep an mind. Unfortunately (for an answer, not for the Eagles), Oakland isn’t a very good offense either. They’ve looked a bit more dangerous with Pryor under center, but they still rank 28th overall in DVOA (Football Outsiders). In particular, the Raiders’ passing game has struggled (30th by DVOA). So, if the Eagles really have improved on defense, they should have another strong game today. However, even if they do, we should probably still be skeptical.
– What is Chip Kelly’s strategic philosophy? I thought he’d be more “aggressive”, making higher-risk calls when the associated return warranted it (think optimizing expected points). I also thought he’d be more aggressive on 4th downs. That hasn’t really panned out, but we don’t know exactly why. My guess is that if he had “his guy” at QB, we’d see a lot more of that stuff. This team’s got a lot of weaknesses, and it’s possible Chip just doesn’t trust it enough to execute. Or, I and many others just misread Kelly and he’ll be much more conventional when it comes to strategic decisions than I’d hoped. This question, in particular, will not be answerable for quite some time. However, it’s arguably the most important one I’ve posed here, so we’ve got to look for hints of an answer every game.
I’ll leave it there for now. As far as the game goes, I think it’s simple, if Foles can split the difference between his performances against the Bucs and Cowboys, the Eagles win. If he’s worse, they lose, barring a corresponding bad game from Pryor. Meanwhile, the Cowboys play the Vikings, so a loss today for the Eagles will probably leave them 2 games out of the division race.