Cracks appear as Eagles offense struggles

PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles offense hasn't scored a touchdown in nearly 134 minutes of football. So the hints of friction on display at the NovaCare Complex Tuesday were probably understandable.

First there was the gap between coach Chip Kelly's defense of his first-and-goal-at-the-2 play call and rookie quarterback Matt Barkley's version of events.

Here's Kelly on Monday: “That's the first play we've run since Day 1 here. We're going to go to kind of what we know the best, whatever everybody should understand is what we're going to do. If you ask everybody on our team, they know what we were going to call in that situation.”

And here's Barkley on Tuesday: “I never got a (practice) rep with that play. You see it on film. You see the other guys doing it and you go through it in your head. But the timing of getting it out, of somebody coming off the edge like that -- you just haven't experienced it yet.”

That's a pretty huge discrepancy.

Barkley held the ball too long and lost it on a fumble caused by cornerback Terrell Thomas. That raised the question of why Kelly would call a play that forced a rookie quarterback to roll out to his left. Kelly's explanation wasn't strong, but it certainly doesn't hold up if the play wasn't even “what we know the best.”

And then there is the mystery of the missing running game. LeSean McCoy took responsibility after the last two losses, saying he had to do a better job of reading the blocks and hitting holes. In reviewing video of the game, there seemed to be plenty of plays where McCoy just simply had nowhere to go.

It is a vexing problem even to the men involved.

“I felt like the last couple weeks, the backs and the offensive line have been on a different page, chemistry-wise,” center Jason Kelce said. “I think there have been some times when there's something there, or we've had it blocked pretty good, and for whatever reason, the backs really haven't been on the same page with us.”

That's a pretty strong comment coming from the thoughtful Kelce. And it may help explain why left tackle Jason Peters, who was seen gesticulating at McCoy after one poor running play, declined to talk to the media after the game.

“(It's) much like if you have inefficiencies in the passing game,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “It's not always the runner. It's not always the blockers. We as coaches have to do a better job of dialing up the right plays. It's a combination of all things, and we just need to get better.”

Shurmur dismissed the notion that the absence of Michael Vick, and his threat as a runner, is the main issue. McCoy did run for 116 yards in Tampa with Nick Foles at quarterback. Also, Shurmur explained, some of what appear to be read-option plays really aren't. The quarterback may be reading a particular defender, but there is no option for him to run.

“When you read a defender,” Shurmur said, “you can do other things with the football if you can't run it. You can flip it out on the perimeter. You can run it with anybody. You may not get the same amount of yards you would get if a guy is a better runner.”

With Foles back at quarterback in Oakland, it would certainly help if McCoy, Kelce, Peters and the rest can find that same page.

At least Foles should have practiced all the plays.