Panic? What panic? Kelly stays course

OAKLAND —

Give Chip Kelly credit for not panicking. That wouldn't do anyone any good, regardless of what is really wrong his Philadelphia Eagles offense.

Panic is for the fans only at this stage, not that they don't have good reason to question whether this offense can function effectively with the players they have now.

"I believe we do," Kelly said when asked that question directly in the wake of a 15-7 loss to the New York Giants last Sunday. "We were successful for six games."

The Eagles offense failed to score against the Giants, first with Michael Vick running the offense, then with No. 3 quarterback Matt Barkley after Vick aggravated a hamstring injury. No. 2 quarterback Nick Foles was unavailable due to a concussion he suffered against another NFC East rival, the Dallas Cowboys, when the best he could muster was one field goal in three full quarters. Barkley relieved in that one too, with no success.

"The last two [games], if I look at the last two and just analyze what the situation is, in both games we got to our third quarterback," Kelly said. "I think that's a difficult proposition, you know, especially when you don't have a lot of reps for those guys to go around at practice. We have to execute it.

"We have to … put a game plan together that's going to give us a chance to win."

That plan is counting on Foles to be the enabler, as Vick sits in limbo, having possibly played his last game as an Eagle, and Barkley knowing he won't get another chance if Foles makes the most of this second chance.

Foles attempted 29 passes against Dallas and completed just 11 for 80 yards in one of the NFL's all-time worst performances. Those are the kinds of numbers put up by a bad high school quarterback for a bad high school team, not the ones of a reigning NFC offensive player of the week, which is what Foles was going in.

So that's the bad news.

The good news is that Foles attempted 29 passes in that game and completed just 11 for 80 yards.

It means that there were a boatload of plays that he missed. It means that while the quarterback has more pressure on him whenever the running game is shut down like it was that week and the next, there are open receivers and other ways to move the football. It means that opponents haven't exactly figured out Kelly's offense as much as they just went back to basics that started with stopping LeSean McCoy.

McCoy was limited last week to 48 yards on 15 carries. The week before, he could manage just 55 yards on 18 carries.

Despite that, he remains the NFL's leading rusher, with 733 yards through the first eight games.

But there's no way he comes close to matching that production in the next eight, unless Foles or Barkley or whomever else may be in charge can exploit defenses for selling out like the Cowboys and the Giants did to the run.

Yet even with the defensive adjustments Eagles opponents are starting to make, they wouldn't be working without the porous contributions of the Birds' offensive line. They haven't been solid, particularly on the perimeter, where bookend tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson operate.

Right guard Todd Herremans isn't having his best year, either.

Combine these developments with the lack of a true deep threat beyond DeSean Jackson and you have what the Eagles have now: trouble.

But the players can tell from the films that the design and the concepts of this offense are sound, so they carry on with no threat of turning on themselves or Kelly, according to Jason Kelce, who is generally believed to have the team's pulse.

The Eagles were 3-5 at this time last season as well. They won just one more game.

"I don't think there's any thought we're going to finish out the season the way we did last year," Kelce said. "It's just a different situation, and it really didn't get that ugly [last year]. I think guys, for the most part, were all in together, and I think we have a lot better leadership [now] on the defensive side of the ball than we did last year, and I think we just have a better team overall."

Kelce is confident the team will find a positive identity in the second half because of the leaders who will pull it through.

"I think that if you have [leadership] when you're losing games and stuff is going wrong for you, it finds a way to manifest out even more and guys hunker down, trying to will games forward, be one," Kelce said. "But you can never underestimate the importance of leadership."

The players know and still believe in the system.

Whether they have the ability to make it function at a high level following the league's adjustment is the variable that will make these next eight games so darned interesting.

nick.fierro@mcall.com

610-778-2243

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