From Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
The Eagles did not have their starting quarterback. They did not have their starting running back and the engine of their offense. They were without one of their starting wide receivers.
None of that mattered on Sunday. They were playing the Chiefs.
If you want an idea of how far the Hunt Family franchise must go to become a contender again then simply refer to what happened here when they came to Pennsylvania to play a hurting Eagles team.
Over the last decade, the Eagles have been a lot like the Chiefs were in the 1990s. They are always contenders, they win a lot of games and they are still searching for a championship to validate everything that they’ve done. They have kept themselves among the league’s best teams with judicious use of free agency and heavy reliance on the NFL Draft.
QB Donovan McNabb couldn’t go because of his cracked ribs, so Kevin Kolb started; he’s a second-round pick from 2007. RB Brian Westbrook’s ankle was too sore in warm-ups to play, so rookie LeSean McCoy stepped into the starting lineup for him. McCoy was a second-round choice in this year’s Draft.
Curtis has a knee problem that kept him off the field. Starting for him was Jeremy Maclin, a first-round selection in this year’s Draft out of Missouri.
Now maybe the baby-faced Eagles would have struggled on Sunday if they were playing the New York Giants, or even the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings or other NFC powers. But they weren’t. They were playing the Chiefs, and right now the Philadelphia youngsters are better than the best players that Pioli/Haley can put on the field, no matter their age.
“I had high hopes coming into this game that we had a good chance to win the game,” Todd Haley said afterwards.
Head coaches are supposed to be optimistic, especially in front of the public and his players, so we shouldn’t expect Haley to say anything else. But after watching what went down in Sunday’s game, there’s no way he can believe that he has the talent to match with a team like the Eagles. Andy Reid had one hand tied behind his back and still his team was able to dominate the action.
Yes, the Chiefs were without WR Dwayne Bowe and ILB Derrick Johnson. That hurt because in the first two games they were two of the few guys in red and gold who actually made plays. But their absence would have made little difference in this game on this day.
If you’ve been under the delusion that the problems the Chiefs have had in the last two seasons was due to something other than a serious lack of talent, then get a tape of this game and watch closely. You will see a team in white with talented starters off the field, replaced by talented if unproven youngsters. And you will see a team in red that can’t match the Eagles on offense, defense or special teams.
Take Philly LB Omar Gaither. Ever heard of him? Me either. But he was all over the Chiefs offense over the afternoon. He made tackles, he pressured Matt Cassel, he ran Jamaal Charles down from behind and he shut down a sweep by taking out the blocker and still making the tackle. Post-game press box statistics had him for nine total tackles and one sack. It seemed like so much more.
Gaither is a fifth-round pick from the 2006 Draft out of Tennessee. He’s 6-2, 235 pounds, just 25 years old with four years in the league and he would easily be the best linebacker in the Chiefs defense.
Starting free safety Macho Harris is a fifth-round rookie out of Virginia Tech. He’s moved right into the starting lineup this season and had four tackles.
Check out their offensive line. With the exception of LT Jason Peters who they picked up in a trade with Buffalo back in the spring, this is a fairly non-descript group. LG Nick Cole and C Jamaal Jackson were signed as free agents. RG Max Jean-Gilles is a fourth-round pick and RT Winston Justice is a second-rounder. The oldest guy among the five is Jackson at 29. Cole, Jean-Gilles and Justice are all 25.
Match the Chiefs and Eagles up position-by-position, player-by-player and I’m don’t think there’s a single spot where the Chiefs would have the edge.
The way that will change is through the NFL Draft. Scott Pioli and his personnel operation have but one draft under their belt, so the sample size is not enough to make firm judgments. But they should still be getting more out of their ’09 draft class than the Eagles are getting out of theirs.
But that’s hardly the case. Pioli’s No. 1 pick LDE Tyson Jackson started and the post-game stats credited him with nothing: not a tackle, not an assisted tackle, not a QB hurry, or pressure. It’s like he didn’t play. But he did; he played a lot. Third-round pick Alex Magee was not on the field as often as he’s been in the past, when he usually comes in with the nickel defense. Fourth-rounder Donald Washington got some playing time as the nickel back and his contribution was a 15-yard facemask penalty that wiped out the only sack the Chiefs had all day. Fifth-rounder Colin Brown is on injured reserve, sixth-rounder WR Quinten Lawrence was inactive and of the trio of seventh rounders, only K Ryan Succop was on the field.
Now we wouldn’t expect all those draft choices to be tearing up the league after just three games. Hopefully maybe one of them breaks through early and creates an impression. That hasn’t happened.
Now, let’s look at the Eagles draft class. There’s Maclin in the first round; he caught four passes for 33 yards. There was McCoy in the second round; he ran for 84 yards on 20 carries. There was fifth-rounder Harris, who finished with those four tackles.
Again, that’s with a team that last year went to the NFC Championship Game.
The Chiefs like to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel they are in. That might be the case. But Sunday, that light was a train being run by the most baby-faced Philadelphia Eagles you could imagine.