Biggest overreactions from first 8 weeks: About Chip Kelly's offense
At the season's halfway point, we take a look at three of the biggest storylines that didn't quite pan out over the last two months.
New storylines emerge every week. Some are reasonable, most are not. "The Week in Overreactions" focuses on the latter. Those items that offer a cursory "How do you do?" as they blow past reality straight for THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER! We're here to keep everything in perspective. Questions, comments, casserole ideas? Hit us up on Twitter at @ryanwilson_07.
Chip Kelly's offense hasn't revolutionized the game
The Eagles were desperate. They were coming off a four-win season, coach Andy Reid had been run out of town, and a rudderless organization needed some direction. Chip Kelly and his high-powered offense seemed like the perfect solution to jump-start a lifeless team.
In the season opener, the Eagles thumped what turned out to be an awful Redskins team and, man, this looked like something special.
Then the cold, hard reality of life in the NFL set in. Salary caps, 53-man rosters and the relatively level playing fields the draft and free agency create meant that Kelly would be without one of the biggest advantages he enjoyed at the University of Oregon: Having better players than everybody else.
And that razor-thin margin has everything to do with the Eagles' 3-5 record.
Here's what we wrote after that convincing Week 1 win over Washington:
Let's pump the brakes on this "Eagles are going to the playoffs!" bandwagon. The reason? It's not because we don't think Chip Kelly's uptempo offense can't work -- clearly, it can -- but because of something much more mundane: injuries. Specifically: to Michael Vick, who in August professed his undying devotion and dedication to football thanks to Kelly, and LeSean McCoy, a running back you shouldn't expect to carry the ball 20-25 times a game.
Vick lasted five weeks before suffering a hamstring injury against the Giants. The Eagles were 2-3 when Vick was replaced by Nick Foles, who maded it two games before he was sidelined with a concussion. Now there's a chance rookie Matt Barkley could make his first NFL start this Sunday.
The good news is that Philly has the NFL's best rushing attack. The bad news is that Kelly's high-flyin' offense isn't raining touchdowns. But that doesn't mean the rest of the league has caught on to what he's doing.
“I don’t think that people have it figured out,” Kelly said, via PFT.com.
“I can tell you what Peyton Manning is going to do, but you still have to stop them and you still have to execute,” Kelly continued. “I watched Aaron Rodgers last night, his first touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, where he whizzed it by the kid’s head before he had a chance to turn around, put it right on the money where Jordy, the only thing he could do is catch it. It’s still about executing and I think everybody kind of knows going into the game plan, you’re not going to surprise people eight games in.”
Unfortunately, the Eagles' defense is, well, atrocious. They're 29th, according to Football Outsiders, and unless Peyton Manning is your quarterback, that's an obstacle not easily overcome (Denver's defense ranks 26th).
Still, there's reason for optimism in Philadelphia. Injuries aside, Kelly's offense has shown plenty of potential. And when he gets "his" players, you'd like to think things will improve. That said, unless the Eagles are going to hang 35 points on opponents every week, the defense has to be at the top of the to-do list.
But hey, it could be worse, Greg Schiano could be the coach.
Texans are much worse than anybody imagined
How did we get to this point? The Texans won two in a row to start the season, and even though those victories over San Diego and Tennessee were far from convincing, we still believed that not only was this the best team in their division, but one of the best teams in the league.
Then Matt Schaub got the pick-six yips and the Texans dropped four straight. Schaub was injured in a blowout loss to the Rams in Week 6, was replaced by hometown favorite Case Keenum in Week 7 ... and the Texans lost again, this time to the Chiefs.
So what the hell happened?
Here's what we wrote following the Rams game:
For starters, Schaub's been awful. But the Texans have institutional issues that extend beyond one player.
This isn't about a few sociopaths cheering for an injured quarterback, but an organization that was supposedly in its prime suddenly looking like the window on a championship run had slam shut before it ever really opened.
While Schaub seems perfectly equipped to run Gary Kubiak's west coast scheme, things break down when Schaub is forced to go off-script. He also seems to get consumed in big moments. But shrinking when the lights are brightest extends beyond Schaub to the entire team. Going back to 2009, the Texans are 3-8 in nationally televised regular-season games.
There may be no easy fix, either, at least not in the next 10 weeks. The good news is that the 2014 draft class is stacked with quarterbacks. One monkey wrench in that plan: What if Kubiak survives, returns to coach in 2014 and decides to go with either T.J. Yates, or hometown favorite Case Keenum?
Or worse: Trades, say, a second-rounder for Kirk Cousins, the Redskins' backup who is familiar with Kubiak's offense because he plays for Mike Shanahan, the man who was Kubiak's boss when both were in Denver? Then we'll be in full-on rebuilding mode a season after a lot of people thought this team could represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Houston has nine games to salvage this mess. And maybe something special happens over the final two months. But if the first seven weeks are any guide, the season's already lost.
Dolphins' big free agency hasn't meant more wins
We were never convinced that this was the Dolphins' year. Not because Mercury Morris came to us in a dream or we had some great insights, but because Miami spent nearly a quarter-billion dollars on new contracts. Rarely does a team sign what amounts to a new roster and have immediate success. (This is anecdotal, but we've been scarred by years of Dan Snyder repeatedly and unsuccessfully using this strategy.)
The Miami #Dolphins have spent an est. $248.06M in new contracts since February (Re-Signing, FA, Draft); $116.8M of which is guaranteed.— Spotrac.com (@spotrac) June 5, 2013
The Dolphins' high-priced acquisitions included wideouts Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson, tight end Dustin Keller, offensive linemen Tyson Clabo, linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Brent Grimes.
On offense, Keller landed on injured reserve during the preseason. There has been no bigger disappointment than Wallace, who was targeted 10 times in Sunday's loss to the Patriots and mustered just three receptions for 41 yards. And Gibson, one of the few bright spots, just suffered a season-ending knee injury. Clabo, meanwhile, rates as one of the league's worst tackles, according to ProFootballFocus.com. And the team's offensive line woes weren't magically fixed when they traded for left tackle Bryant McKinnie during the Week 7 bye.
The defense, which ranks 20th, hasn't been much better.
Then there's this from the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson: "It’s notable that many of the veterans that moved on from Miami during [general manager] Jeff Ireland's tenure have performed clearly better elsewhere."
The takeaway, according to Jackson: "Of the veterans that joined the Dolphins from other NFL teams in recent years -- via trade or free agency -- several have become less productive after coming here. Conversely, several key veterans who recently bolted Miami have become more productive elsewhere.
"What does this say about the Dolphins? In many ways, it’s a reflection of coaching, of personnel evaluation, of the player’s maturity, of the quality of players around them, among other factors."
Wherever the blame lies, the reality is that the Dolphins have lost four in a row, are 3-4, and look like the worst team in a division that includes one club starting a rookie quarterback and the another starting Thad Lewis.
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