PHILADELPHIA -- Can an injured veteran starter lose his job to a younger player with more potential upside?
Patrick Chung should provide an interesting test case for how Chip Kelly might handle his quarterback situation. The Philadelphia Eagles safety missed the past two games after injuring his shoulder. Rookie Earl Wolff started in Chung’s place.
After that 52-20 blowout loss in Denver, Chung almost certainly would have been restored to the starting lineup if he’d been healthy. But he was inactive for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants and, while the Eagles’ secondary wasn’t exactly airtight, it did make some big plays and is showing signs of progress.
A good secondary has chemistry. The Eagles aren’t there yet, but will Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis tamper with this group now?
“Pat’s another guy ... to keep an eye on,” Kelly said Monday. “I think he’s improved. I think the strength is back. So it’s a matter of how he functions and carries himself around the field.”
The Eagles will have options when Chung is healthy. They could line up with Chung and Wolff, or with either of them and Nate Allen.
“I think Nate’s improved,” Kelly said. “I think he is starting to see things. Things are starting to slow down a little bit for Nate.”
Meanwhile, Kelly acknowledged that Brandon Boykin has been among the team’s best defensive players. But Boykin has excelled because of his role as a nickel corner, so Kelly sees no reason to change up. “He’s doing a really good job in nickel,” Kelly said. “We’re in nickel enough that I see Brandon as a starter, so I think it’s really difficult. If we say, hey, we’re going to flip Brandon out and got make him play outside, then who is going to play nickel? I think he’s fit in really nicely there.” Boykin made a spectacular interception of an Eli Manning pass intended for Victor Cruz Sunday. He also helped pressure Manning to create the first interception thrown by the Giants quarterback.
By winning Sunday, the Eagles increased their chances of making the playoffs from one-in-20 to better than one-in-five. That’s based on the Week 5 records of playoff teams since 1990, when the current postseason format began. According to ESPN Stats & Information, just 5 percent (6 of 112) of 1-4 teams have gone on to make the playoffs, while 21 percent (41 of 191) of 2-3 teams have done so. The Eagles’ chances are actually better than that, however. Because no one in the NFC East is above .500, the Eagles are tied for first with the Dallas Cowboys. Somebody from the division has to make the playoffs.
Kelly said his call for a running play third-and-9 in the first quarter was meant to catch the Giants off guard as they focused on stopping the pass. LeSean McCoy was brought down after a 5-yard gain. “We thought it was a good play call at the time based on the defense they were deployed in,” Kelly said. Eagles center Jason Kelce was called for holding on the play. Giants coach Tom Coughlin has been criticized for not declining the penalty. That would have brought on fourth-and-4. Instead, the Eagles had third-and-19, with another chance to convert. Michael Vick broke off a 34-yard run for the first down. Kelly said the Eagles likely would have gone for it on fourth down from the Giants’ 47 if the penalty had been declined. “We were talking about going for it,” Kelly said. “We weren’t going to take a knee.”