By Kevin McGuire
The home frustrations continued for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, with a 15-7 loss to the NFC East rival New York Giants. The loss dropped the Eagles to 3-5 and was the second straight win for the Giants, now 2-6. As far as the Eagles are concerned, the return of quarterback Mike Vick was welcomed with no positive results. The veteran quarterback was pulled in favor of fourth-round rookie Matt Barkley before halftime. It was a rough afternoon, as the Eagles defense kept the Giants out of the end zone but still managed to fall behind as the Giants kicked five field goals to pick up the victory.
So how do the grades for the Eagles stack up this week? For the most part, poorly.
Quarterback Grade: F
With Nick Foles ruled out for the game after sitting out of practices last week due to a concussion, the Eagles needed Mike Vick to return to the starting line-up. Vick’s return did not last very long. Vick completed six of his nine pass attempts but only accounted for 31 yards and he was intercepted during a woeful return to the field that also saw Vick take losses in the backfield and look shaky from the start.
With Foles unavailable, the Eagles were forced to send Matt Barkley in to the game. Barkley completed 17 of his 28 pass attempts for 158 yards but failed to lead the Eagles into the end zone. He also fumbled the football three times, losing one, as the Eagles were close to a potential score in the first half. Barkley’s limited exposure on an NFL field in recent weeks has left plenty to be desired by fans and unless he can turn things around when given an opportunity to do something with the offense, the calls to find a franchise quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft will only grow louder than they are now.
Offense Grade: F
For the second straight week an NFC East opponent shut down the Eagles offense. After managing nothing more than a field goal last week against the Dallas Cowboys, this week the Eagles offense was kept off the scoreboard. Coming in to the game still boasting the NFL’s top running game, LeSean McCoy was held to just 48 rushing yards on 15 attempts and the team averaged 2.5 yards per rushing attempt. The Eagles also had three turnovers and were just 3-for-12 on third down conversion attempts (and 0-for-2 on fourth down). Twice the Eagles committed a penalty on first down. Rather than try running the football on first down, which the Eagles did just three times, the Eagles tried passing 10 times on first down. The Eagles managed to pick up just 201 yards of total offense.
Defense Grade: B
At the start of the year the general feeling about the Eagles was they would have a defense that gave up points and an offense capable of scoring some points. On Sunday, it was the exact opposite.
The Eagles defense kept the Giants out of the end zone and instead fell victim to the kicking of Josh Brown, who booted five field goals to account for all of the scoring by the Giants. Only one of those field goal attempts came from inside the red zone. The Eagles held the Giants to just 2.8 yards per run on 31 attempts and sacked Eli Manning four times.
This was the second week in a row the Eagles held their division opponent to fewer than 20 points and were unable to come away with a win. The Eagles have held their opponents to fewer points than the previous week for four consecutive weeks but are now on a two-game winning streak. This one was not on the defense, although they did allow the Giants to convert eight of 19 third-down attempts.
Special Teams Grade: C
The Giants thrived on special teams on Sunday, using five field goals by Josh Brown to leave town with a 15-7 victory. Alex Henery of the Eagles never attempted one field goal in the game, and with only two kickoffs in the game Henery had very little impact on the outcome.
Punter Donnie Jones had a much busier afternoon, punting six times for an average of 44.3 yards per punt and pinning two of those punts inside the Giants 20-yard line. Giants punt returner Rueben Randle returned just two punts from Johnson for a total of nine yards.
Philly return man Damaris Johnson had one punt return for 16 yards and two kick returns for a total of 56 yards.The special teams did, however, score the only points of the game for the Eagles, with Najee Goode picking up a fumble off a high snap over the Giants punter’s head and returning it two yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Overall Evaluation: F
Where this team goes from here is a question that will be asked plenty on sports radio this week. While the defense does seem to be coming together and playing well on a more regular basis, the offense continues to flounder. It all starts on offense, where the Eagles have a serious concern at the most important position in football, quarterback. That answer may be found in the college game right now. Marcus Mariota makes sense given his brief experience under Chip Kelly. Teddy Bridgewater combines accuracy and a solid arm and is one of the toughest options available. But for now none of those options, or others, will help solve the problem for this season. Is it too early to bail on Matt Barkley? Will Vick be healthier next week? Will Nick Foles be back?
Perhaps more importantly, will it matter who lines up under center in practices this week and against the Oakland Raiders next Sunday on the west coast?
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.