2012 and 2014 both saw the Eagles lose offensive line starters like horror movie victims. For as rough as the offense has been in 2014, the line has played far better than in Andy Reid's swan song season. Jason Peters being healthy has much to do with this.
There was no Peters to smack around Jason Pierre-Paul in 2012, so much so that this past Sunday night, the Giants had to move 'JPP' to Lane Johnson's side of the line in the hopes of generating a pass rush. Peters has been an outstanding pass-protector, remains a quality run-blocker, and figures to earn yet another All-Pro designation at season's end.
Step it Up: Todd Herremans
Herremans was cited as the weakest link of a great offensive line during Chip Kelly's first year as coach, and he's had his struggles this season as well. The only offensive player, besides Nick Foles, to take part in every snap this season has been inconsistent overall.
Most of the pass rush has gone through his part of the line, as Herremans has struggled with the likes of Cullen Jenkins, Chris Baker, Ian Williams, and Aaron Lynch. His run blocking has been more reliable, especially when forced to play right tackle due to line depletion, but his pass protection needs to improve. He is, after all, a legitimate starter.
Biggest Surprise: David Molk
From the time Jason Kelce went down with the abdominal hernia, Molk's been pressed to try and replicate the all-around dynamite play of the Eagles' bearded goliath. It was a slow start for Molk, whose pass protection left much to be desired against the Redskins and 49ers.
However, Molk's run-blocking gradually has become one of the best parts of the offense, culminating with an inspired performance against the Giants. New York's line collapsed into ruins with Molk's dive blocks and wedging, opening up LeSean McCoy and his best game of the season to date. Molk's as big a part of restoring the missing run as anyone.
Biggest Disappointment: Riley Cooper
You'd think McCoy would be in this slot, given he's way way WAY off of his 2000-yard goal, but that's not the case. While McCoy is only on pace for 1125 yards, Cooper's been a bigger disappointment, in correlation to the five-year deal he signed in February.
Cooper's made some costly drops, as well as some poor decisions in blocking that have led to unnecessary penalties. Before the win over the Giants on Sunday, Cooper was merely fifth on the team in receiving yards. A solid performance in that game (five catches, 59 yards) bumps him up to fourth, where he remains nine yards behind slot-rookie Jordan Matthews.
Best Game: The Blackout (October 12)
Despite Foles throwing two interceptions off of bad decisions (namely the Antrel Rolle one where Rolle apparently hologrammed in like The Predator), the offense found its groove against the mostly-harried Giants defense, namely through the running game.
The Eagles ran for a season-high 203 yards, behind great efforts from Peters, Molk, and Brent Celek downfield, with Darren Sproles taking in a 15-yard score. Zach Ertz continued to solidify his name as a premier tight end, as he and James Casey each hauled in touchdown passes. The offense regained the confidence, tempo, and fluidity that it had been lacking all year.
Worst Game: Where's the Offense? (September 28)
Generally, when you score twice on special teams and once on a pick-six, you win the game, right? The Eagles took a 21-13 lead over the 49ers into the locker room at halftime, and proceeded to collapse in the second half through sheer ineptitude.
Foles played his worst game of the season, throwing two picks, while McCoy could get nothing going, rushing for 17 yards on ten carries as the line collapsed. Philadelphia could have won had they managed to punch in a late red zone chance, but fell two yards short, and left Levi's Stadium with the knowledge that six more feet and they'd have been 4-0.
Best Play: Sproles is Mini-Beast Mode (September 15)
Remember when the knock on the Eagles this season was 'slow starts'? Philadelphia found themselves down 20-6 midway through the third quarter against the Colts on Monday Night Football. McCoy scored from one-yard out to cut the gap to a single touchdown, and then it happened.
Fletcher Cox forced Trent Richardson to fumble, giving the Eagles a chance at Indy's 26. Seven plays later, on a second-and-19, Darren Sproles took a run to the right, and the diminutive running back broke free from a gang tackle, shedding three defenders en route to the tying touchdown. Sproles would haunt the Colts as a Charger, and paid them a harsh reminder of old times.
Worst Play: Cooper's Untimely Drop (September 28)
Not even one of Foles' head-scratching turnovers. Despite the offense falling apart like a cheap watch in Santa Clara, there lay a chance to win the game. Foles led a magnificent drive, with Jeremy Maclin making catch after catch to get them into scoring range.
17 yards away from the go-ahead touchdown, Foles fired a catchable pass to Riley Cooper, who had a beat on Chris Culliver. The pass was dropped, and quickly discarded as the Eagles gained about 15 and a half yards over the next three plays to get to the brink. After Foles and the Eagles failed on third and fourth down, that dropped pass ended up magnified far more.
Best Pass Protector: Jason Peters
What is there to say about a potentially Canton-bound lineman? He hasn't allowed a sack since Week 1 (his only one allowed), and has only allowed six hurries in six games. Watching Peters bully around Pierre-Paul is merely second to him engaging Chris Baker like an angry bull.
Best Run Blocker: Jason Kelce
Molk's breakout game against the Giants doesn't erase the fact that there's a great center on the mend. Kelce helped spring Darren Sproles for the first strike against the Jaguars, and was highly effective through the Colts game with his second-level blocking.
Best Playmaker: Jeremy Maclin
Mr. Fourth Quarter Touchdown. Maclin has come through when the Eagles have needed him, all but wiping a certain No. 10 out of existence. Maclin's sideline grabs and timely touchdowns edge out Sproles' versatility as the most important playmaking after six games.
Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used to write this story.
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