PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Running back LeSean McCoy has regained his 2013 form.
All is well with the Eagles offense, coming off a 33-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys which moved the Eagles into sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
And the offensive line is a big reason for the improvement.
After using seven different combinations, due to suspension, injury and poor play through the first 10 games, it appears the Eagles have settled on their five linemen for the rest of the season.
Jason Peters, the only player to start all 12 games, is the left tackle. Evan Mathis, who missed seven games with a knee injury, is the left guard.
Jason Kelce, who missed four games with a sports hernia, is the center. Andrew Gardner, who played two games early at right tackle, is the fourth, and the Eagles hope final, right guard. And Lane Johnson, who was suspended the first four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substance, is the right tackle.
“I just think there’s a continuity,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Monday. “The same guys are playing next to the same guys and communication has been better. As a group, they’ve gotten the chance to line up next to each other for a few weeks and that’s one of the reasons and also, Jason (Kelce) is healthier and Evan (Mathis) is healthier, so that helps.”
From the start of the season when Johnson was suspended, the Eagles have never been able to put their five preferred linemen on the field.
That would have been Peters, Mathis, Kelce, Todd Herremans and Johnson.
Not only that, but even the backups got hurt.
Allen Barbre, the team’s “sixth man” went down in the season opener, as he filled in for Johnson at right tackle, with a season-ending broken ankle.
That’s the same game Mathis injured his knee.
“We’ve been through a lot of changes,” Peters said. “Guys up, guys down, it’s not easy. But the other guys played hard and we won games. Now, we’re getting most everyone back and there’s that sense of continuity again.”
In 2013, Kelly’s first year as head coach, he had all five linemen start all 16 games and the playoff game against New Orleans.
This year he’s used seven different combinations and 10 different linemen, with Gardner, Herremans, Dennis Kelly and Matt Tobin all playing two different positions.
Now, as the team reaches its stretch drive to repeat as division champions and advance in the playoffs, the line is starting to get that feel back.
“I feel pre-injury healthy,” Mathis said after the win over Dallas. “My conditioning is up to par. … I think we’re just getting better and better at hitting the blocks, playing as a team more so and more so every week. We’re blocking better up front as five offensive linemen, with the tight ends, the wide receivers and the backs are hitting the holes. We’re just trying to grow each week as a team.”
NOTES: Kelly confirmed Monday that quarterback Nick Foles had a CT scan on his broken left collarbone. It is healing as expected, but he was not cleared to return because the bone is not fully healed. Kelly did not know when Foles would get checked again. … Kelly also brushed off an on-field argument between quarterback Mark Sanchez and wide receiver Riley Cooper. “They were talking about what they were going to have for Thanksgiving dinner,” Kelly said. “Really, it’s no big deal. Guys argue all the time during a game. You should put on my headset.”
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