NFL Wire News

Eagles struggling on offensive line

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The Sports Xchange

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles’ underperforming offensive line is the biggest reason the team has lost three of its first four games.

“The only reason we’re losing football games right now is because of offensive mistakes, penalties and us not being able to run-block well,” center Jason Kelce said.

The Eagles signed free-agent running backs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in the offseason and waited for the good times to roll. But through four games, the Eagles are averaging just 3.1 yards per carry, which is the second lowest rushing average in the league.

The problem hasn’t been Murray or Matthews. It’s been the line, which has been unable to open holes for them.

“We’re not facing anything this year that we haven’t faced before in my opinion,” said Kelce. “Teams have tried to stop our inside zone play for the last three years. And that’s been the No. 1 thing that we’ve been great at.

“When they try and stop that, there are other plays that are open. The problem is, we’re not executing on the other plays. We’re not executing on our sweep play that we’ve done really well when teams want to take away our inside zone play.

“We’re not executing on our outside zone play, with the exception of the Jets game. If we can execute on those plays that are kind of our counter plays to teams trying to stop our inside zone, then we’ll start running the ball effectively. But right now, we’re not doing a great job of that. And that’s what we’re trying to fix.”

Complicating their attempts to fix it are injuries. Two weeks ago, guard Andrew Gardner suffered a season-ending foot injury. Last week, both of their starting tackles – Jason Peters and Lane Johnson – got hurt. Peters, the team’s seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle, suffered a quad injury early in the Eagles’ 23-20 loss to Washington. Johnson, the right tackle, suffered ankle and knee sprains.

Peters left the game and didn’t return. He didn’t practice Wednesday and is very questionable for Sunday’s critical game against 1-3 New Orleans.

Johnson did practice Wednesday and actually took reps at left tackle. If Peters can’t play against the Saints, Johnson likely will move to the left side, where he hasn’t played since his college days at Oklahoma, even though he’s practically playing on one leg.

“It’s not going to be easy by any means,” Johnson said Wednesday after practice. “But the more I play (on the left side) the better I’ll get. I was used to it in college. It’s just a matter of going out there (in practice) and getting reps.”

Matt Tobin, the Eagles’ top offensive line backup, replaced Peters at left tackle last week after he got hurt. But he struggled and had his fingerprints on three of the five sacks of quarterback Sam Bradford.

“I thought he competed when he was out there,” head coach Chip Kelly said of Tobin. “That’s the one thing you’ll get out of Matt. He’ll fight when he’s in there.”

SERIES HISTORY: 27th regular-season meeting. Eagles lead series, 15-11. The Saints have won the last three meetings, including the most recent one in the 2013 playoffs, a 26-24 win in the wild-card round.

GAME PLAN

The Eagles are 31st in the league in third-down efficiency. The main problem has been too many third-and-longs, which have been the result of a lack of productivity on first and second down. In order for the Eagles’ offense to be successful Sunday against the Saints, they need to put themselves in more third-and-manageable situations.

On defense, they need to stop the Saints’ run game and get pressure on quarterback Drew Brees with an inside rush that will force him off his spot and hurry his throws.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Eagles RBs DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles vs. Saints front seven.

The Eagles are averaging just 3.1 yards per attempt. The Saints are giving up 4.2 per attempt.

–Eagles DL Fletcher Cox vs. Saints LG Tim Lelito and LT Terron Armstead.

Cox is playing at an All-Pro level. He has been practically unstoppable. Lelito and Armstead are going to have their hands full.

–Eagles Ss Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond vs. Saints RBs Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller.

QB Drew Brees likes to throw to his backs. Spiller is a poor man’s Darren Sproles who is dangerous in space.


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