You asked me questions on Twitter. Now, I’ll answer them!
A few long ones
@SQRMYWORMY: How do you think this whole Kendricks situation will pan out? And what happened to the run defense?
Dave, Ben and I discussed this in a group chat the other day, just a few minutes before the Ben Simmons news broke (RIP). We came to a mild consensus: Kendricks is going to be traded. The questions are: when, and for what?
It shouldn’t be terribly hard for Howie Roseman to unload Kendricks for a quality asset. He’s still relatively young (26) and extremely athletic. The upside, while slightly spoiled by the last 21 games, is still there, and we think there’s a general manager + head coach duo somewhere around the league who looks at Kendricks and thinks, ‘We can fix that.’ Because, really, he seems like a guy who needs a change of scenery and a new start.
When could Roseman do it? Not before the trade deadline, for certain. The Eagles’ linebacker depth isn’t very good, and mid-season trades are pretty rare in the NFL, anyway. With a playoff spot on the line, Roseman won’t want to shift a player who still, in theory, makes the defense better. We decided the NFL Draft was more likely. By then, you’ve stared free agency in the face, and you can size up prospects who could help you out at linebacker in case you move Kendricks. You have plenty of options to protect yourself from a serious drop off in roster talent.
What could the Eagles expect in return? Well, his contract isn’t awful, but it also isn’t ideal. He’s got three years left on the deal after this season, and his cap hit increases with each year, although his dead cap reduces all the way to just $1 million by the final year. So a team could take a chance on Kendricks, pay him for two years, and then if he doesn’t blossom shed him after 2019 to avoid that brutal $8.6 million cap hit in 2020. They could probably snag a third-round pick for Kendricks, although that’s probably the ceiling. Still, a third-round pick for a player who seems to have hit a wall on your team would be more than solid.
@DanTheMan906: what are the three main things the Eagles need to fix if they want to win
These will all seem pretty obvious, but sometimes the obvious is the correct answer, so here we go:
1. Pass protection
The Eagles can win without much of a run game. They can’t do it without giving Carson Wentz enough time to throw the ball. So to say the offensive line needs to be solved in all arenas, from last week’s awful showing to this week’s big-time test, is a bit superfluous. It would be nice, but it’s not necessary. They just need to give Carson Wentz time to throw, which starts, of course, with Halapoulivaati Vaitai. I’ve said it a few times: I think we saw Vaitai’s basement against Washington. I don’t think he can play worse than that, and I also think going up against a player as talented as Ryan Kerrigan amplified his trouble spots. The Vikings’ defense is obviously a juggernaut, but I have a feeling Jeff Stoutland has Vaitai playing better by Sunday. And the guys around Vaitai — all of whom are playing their usual spots, mind you — need to be better than they were last week, namely Brandon Brooks, who can and should help the rookie on the right side of the line.
2. Linebacker play
Before the Washington game, the Eagles had held opposing tight ends to six catches for 43 yards. That was it. They’d faced Gary Barnidge and Zach Miller, two guys who are certainly no scrubs. Nigel Bradham was doing his thing in coverage, locking down on guys like Miller and the Steelers’ Jesse James, and Jordan Hicks was doing enough to make sure Mychal Kendricks didn’t look awful. But against Washington, Vernon Davis — 32-year-old Vernon Davis! — took advantage of a very, very bad game from the Eagles’ linebackers. Mychal Kendricks was bad and couldn’t tackle. Jordan Hicks was invisible and couldn’t tackle. Nigel Bradham even blew coverages, and he also couldn’t tackle. If the Eagles want to have any shot against Minnesota this Sunday, that can’t happen again. Tight end Kyle Rudolph has become Sam Bradford’s second-favorite target, and if he has a big afternoon, it’ll get ugly.
3. Catching the dang football
Zach Ertz’s drop in the red zone late in the fourth quarter against Washington typified a big problem in the Eagles’ offense to date: the people catching passes don’t always catch passes. Ertz’s catch rate this year is 76.9 percent, higher than I expected it to be. Jordan Matthews’ rate is 59.5 percent, Nelson Agholor’s is 61.5 percent, and Dorial Green-Beckham’s is 61.1 percent. Now, think about how many times Carson Wentz’s passes have been woefully off target. Not that often, right? A few times per game. A lot of his incompletions have been drops; both Matthews and Green-Beckham have dropped gimme touchdowns this season, while Ertz dropped a pass against Washington that would have extended a crucial drive late in the game. You can’t surrender points because a player being paid to catch the ball doesn’t catch the ball. Right now, the Eagles’ offense can’t get out of its own way.
@ProtoTyler: why is everyone up in arms about flaws that we already knew about before the season (OL/LB depth, bad CBs/WRs, Rookie HC/QB)?
A lot of it comes down to wanting to believe those first three games were sustainable across a 16-game season, which they weren’t. The Eagles faced a lot of situations conducive to winning: the Browns are awful, the Bears are bad and lost Jay Cutler during the game, and the Steelers lacked Le’Veon Bell and a few key defenders. Also, the Eagles played to the absolute best of their abilities for three weeks.
When a team starts 3-0 and looks good doing it, people — both fans and reporters alike — adjust their expectations, for better or worse. The Eagles looked better than we’d expected, but those flaws still existed, they just laid dormant. The lack of talent at wide receiver is painfully evident, and has been for two weeks, but also was occasionally visible in those wins. The weak depth at offensive line is showing itself now with Lane Johnson out. Doug Pederson finally looked like a rookie coach last week.
These aren’t necessarily huge problems as far as the franchise’s direction is concerned, even if they hurt the team in the immediate. That’s why people are up in arms. This is still a team that is very much growing into its ceiling. There are going to be rough patches, like these last two weeks, as they stretch their legs and see what they have at each position. It’ll always be frustrating when you see what a team could do, and then don’t see it again. But fans should remind themselves that, with a little work and a little time, Howie Roseman can probably get the team to that level again, but in a sustainable way.
A few quick ones
@joshbritt803: what would be your solution to solve the discipline problem? All these penalties gotta stop
Repetition, and a good Jim Schwartz yell.
@robertdjones17: will there be any key changes made to the roster before the trade deadline?
I doubt it, but never count out Touchdown Howie.
@AlanDivver: Is this losing streak just bad luck/apathetic performance or is it respective of the teams true nature?
Bad luck, and bad playing.
@blue_94_trooper: Can we go over the mechanics of the practice squad? Ad nauseum.
Just wait on it.
A few silly ones
@JasonForTheLove: Is it safe to say we can blame this losing streak on @BrandonGowton’s height?
100 percent. Everything falls on Brandon being the tallest dude in the entire freaking city. He is so tall.
@DanS_SotS: what does Connor Barwin think of the Monsanto/Bayer merger?
This is my favorite question and I promise if the Eagles win on Sunday, I will ask him at NovaCare next week.
@EaglesIntel: wha....wha......wh....what did we do to deserve this
Nothing, and yet everything. You were born into this. Good luck, friend.