NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - INSIDE SLANT
The Philadelphia Eagles are hoping to jump-start their inconsistent running game Sunday against the 2-8 Tennessee Titans, who are ranked 31st in the league against the run.
A year ago, the Eagles led the league in rushing. LeSean McCoy ran away with the league rushing title, putting up a franchise-record 1,607 yards.
But injuries up front have forced them to shuffle their line around most of the season.
Two weeks ago, they gained just 37 yards on 23 carries in a 45-21 win over the Carolina Panthers. Last week, they did a little better, rushing for 109 yards in their ugly 33-point loss to the Green Bay Packers in frigid Lambeau Field.
"I thought we ran the ball with consistency the other night," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said.
Said center Jason Kelce, who returned to the lineup for the Carolina game after missing four games with a sports hernia: "I thought it was a lot better this past week. There's still a missed block here and a missed block there that keeps it from being a big (run). But I thought we were a lot closer Sunday (against the Packers) than we were against Carolina. Much, much closer.
"I think we're getting back to (where they were last year). We're starting to click a little better. We just have to keep improving each week. We have to really finish more (blocks). We were a dominating force last year. We played hard and physical. Right now, we're letting the defense dictate things, and it's slowing us down a little bit."
McCoy is averaging a career-low 3.7 yards per carry, which is nearly a yard-and-a-half less than last year. But he has rushed for 80-plus yards in five of the past six games.
Opposing defenses have been playing a lot of single-high safety and bringing the second safety down in the box to help with the run. But they did that last year and McCoy cut through it like a knife through warm butter.
McCoy has been letting his frustration affect his running. He has often been like a gambler on a losing streak who tries to get all of his money back in one bet, looking for the home run every time he carries the ball rather than just take what he can get and live to fight another day.
SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular-season meeting. Eagles lead series, 6-4, but Tennessee has won the last four meetings, including the most recent one in Nashville in 2010. The Titans won that game, 37-19. The Eagles turned the ball over four times in that game, including three by quarterback Kevin Kolb (two interceptions and a fumble).
NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - NOTES, QUOTES
--Second-year tight end Zach Ertz has been getting fewer snaps. He played 64.5 percent of the snaps in the first four games, but has played only 41.7 percent of them in the last six. In an attempt to jump-start the run game, Chip Kelly has been using Brent Celek rather than Ertz in most of the team's three-wide receiver sets.
"I get open as well as anybody in the game," said Ertz. "The blocking's coming along well. It's not a negative aspect of my game any more. But Coach makes the final decision. Brent is one of the best blocking tight ends in the game."
--Defensive coordinator Bill Davis admitted that he came close to benching cornerback Bradley Fletcher in the first half of Sunday's 53-20 loss to the Packers. Fletcher was targeted 13 times by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He gave up eight completions for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
Much of the damage came in the first half, but Davis said Fletcher played much better in the second half.
"I kept a really close eye (on him) because he had a bad start and it wasn't going well," Davis said. "And a lot of corners have a lot of outs. They don't keep fighting and battling. I've got a lot of respect for Fletch and how he responded.
"I was watching him close (and thinking), 'Wait one more? What do I do? Do I make a move?' then you watched him come out and play I the second half and he made those same plays that beat him in the first half. He was on it. He played the ball. His press was better. He got better and fought through it. He's a mentally tough human being and I was very impressed with the way he finished."
--Third-round wide receiver Josh Huff has struggled this season. He missed much of the preseason and the early part of the regular-season with a shoulder injury.
He has played in the last six games, but has only been on the field for 107 offensive snaps. He has as many drops (six) as receptions. Huff played for head coach Chip Kelly at Oregon.
"He's a rookie and he's missed a lot of time," Kelly said. "There's a maturation process no matter who you are and where you come in. It's not different than a high school senior coming into college and then all of a sudden you have got to start at the bottom again.
"It's a very difficult league. Not many players come in right away and make a huge impact as a true rookie, even thought they want to and they've been successful in the past. He's in the process of understanding that it'll come. We've got high hopes for Josh, and I think he's working extremely hard at it. But this isn't an instant success league."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Last year, we didn't have as many issues with it. This year we are. We're continuing to coach it. We're actually coaching it harder this year than we have in the past." - Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur on the Eagles' league-high 25 turnovers
NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--RG Matt Tobin didn't practice Wednesday. He suffered a concussion late in Sunday's loss to Green Bay. His status for this week's game against Tennessee is up in the air, depending on whether he passes all of the concussion protocol. Andrew Gardner took most of the first-team snaps Wednesday and likely will start there Sunday if Tobin hasn't recovered.
--CB Brandon Boykin is nursing a hamstring injury, but was a full practice participant Wednesday. Boykin, the team's nickel corner, will be getting a lot of snaps Sunday since Tennessee uses three-wide receiver sets 90-plus percent of the time.
--C Jason Kelce, who has been struggling with his shotgun snaps since returning from a sports hernia two weeks ago, was listed on the injury report with a thumb, but was a full practice participant.
--WR Jordan Matthews, the team's most productive red-zone receiver with six touchdowns inside the 20, was listed on the injury report with a knee Wednesday, but practiced fully.
GAME PLAN: The Eagles want to get their rushing attack going. And this is a good week to accomplish that. The Titans are 31st in the league against the run and have been gashed for 526 rushing yards in their last three games.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Eagles OLB Connor Barwin vs. Titans RT Michael Oher. Barwin has 10.5 sacks, the second most in the league. Oher has struggled, giving up six sacks, four QB hits and 24 hurries.
--Eagles slot WR Jordan Matthews vs. Titans nickel CB Coty Sensabaugh. Matthews, who has 17 third-down receptions, has a four-inch height advantage over Sensabaugh.
--Eagles RB LeSean McCoy vs. Titans ILB Wesley Woodyard. The Eagles need to get their run game going. Woodyard is the leading tackler on a defense that is ranked 31st against the run.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun