1) Canal Street Chronicles: Chip Kelly is a bit of a lightning rod for either praise or criticism, which was exacerbated by the release/trade of several key players, most notably running back LeSean McCoy. How does the Eagles fanbase view Kelly? Has the belief in his "revolutionary" system wavered or are people still completely on board?
Brandon Gowton: Chip Kelly isn't the most well-liked guy these days. Despite high expectations, the Eagles are off to a 1-3 start. Kelly is to blame for a lot of the struggles. He's not only the head coach; he's also the de facto general manager. He has final say on player personnel decisions. A number of those decisions aren't looking so hot right now. Sam Bradford has struggled. Kelly failed to address the offensive line and DeMarco Murray is struggling as a result. A lot of fans are upset with how Kelly has essentially dismantled the top offense the Eagles had early on in his tenure. With that said, I don't think everyone is giving up on him just yet. There is some faith he can turn things around, but he needs to get started on that quickly.
2) CSC: Speaking of the departed "Shady" McCoy, his replacement, DeMarco Murray, was supposed to be as good as McCoy was in Philly, if not better. Coming off a monster year in Dallas last season, to everyone's surprise, Murray has only 47 yards on 29 carries on the season. A baffling 1.6 yards-per-carry average! What exactly is going on there?
BG: There are really a number of issues. The offensive line isn't blocking well, so that's obviously a big problem. The Eagles just aren't executing their blocks. They're missing assignments and/or getting beat by defenders. Even when Murray has had blocking at times, he hasn't exactly looked spry. Prior to the Washington game, Bradford was reluctant to throw the ball down the field. Teams have been able to cheat against the run if Bradford isn't going to make them pay through the air.
3) CSC: The other big time offseason acquisition by the Eagles was quarterback Sam Bradford. Through four games, Bradford's stats aren't devastatingly bad (60.7% completion rate, six touchdowns, four interceptions and a QB rating of 82.2). However, I have to imagine that the Eagles' organization was expecting a little better. What are the main causes for Bradford's average play?
But yeah, the Eagles were absolutely expecting Bradford to be better than this after trading away a 2016 second round pick and Nick Foles to get him. He's really struggled with accuracy issues, which is kind of surprising considering how accurate he looked in preseason and training camp. He's just missing easy throws at times. The ball isn't being put where it needs to be. For the most part, pass protection hasn't even been a big issue. The Eagles rank 15th in pass blocking by Football Outsiders. He's also not seeing the field well at times. He's had the opportunity to go deep in games and he hasn't pulled the trigger. He did a better job of throwing deep against Washington, but it hasn't been something he's done on a regular basis yet.
4) CSC: This is one of my go-to questions doing these "Five Questions" pieces: If you were Saints' defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, how would you go about stopping the Eagles' offense? And on the other side of the ball, if you were Sean Payton, how would you attack the Eagles' defense?
BG: If I'm Rob Ryan, I'm really glad that I get to face the Eagles offense this week because it feels like you can almost just show up and the Eagles will find a way to hurt themselves. The Eagles can't run the ball, they can't throw the ball, they can't catch the ball (tied for the first most drops in the NFL), and they can't really block well.
Sean Payton dared to attack Philadelphia's strong run defense the last time these two teams played, which was back in the 2014 NFL playoffs. The Eagles prepared for the Saints' passing game and were left vulnerable against the run. The Eagles' run defense is still very strong, and probably better now than it was back then. Where Payton will want to attack the Eagles' defense is through the passing game. Starting cornerback Byron Maxwell is going to try to play through an injury. He struggled even when he was healthy, so Drew Brees should be throwing his way early and often.
5) CSC: Prediction time, Mister Gowton: Who wins this game and more importantly: why?
BG: I can't pick the Eagles to win because I have zero confidence in their offense. The Saints defense isn't very good, but I just won't believe this Eagles offense can actually get going until I see it happen.
Many thanks to Brandon for taking the time to chat with us.
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