Just a few weeks ago we were riding high, we thought we knew what path we were on and that we could relax. We were wrong.
No, I’m not talking about the election. I’m talking about the last five weeks of Eagles football.
After their blowout of the Steelers, many people, myself included, thought it was time to change the expectations for the Eagles and consider them favorites for the NFC East. Carson Wentz looked like another hit-the-ground-running rookie, the WRs didn’t look so bad, Doug Pederson could do no wrong, the defense was going to lead the league in scoring and make every game easy for the offense. Then 1-4 happened, and the Eagles are in last place in the division.
So we need to adjust our expectations again. Reset them really, back to the eve of the season. This year has always been about the development of Carson Wentz. So far it’s been pretty good and there is little cause for concern. If the Eagles should lose to the Falcons to fall to 4-5, they’re probably out of the playoff picture and should focus even more on player development.
That means playing Isaac Semualo, though not starting two rookies on offensive line to protect Wentz is a defensible option. As an undersized UDFA, Bryce Treggs probably won’t amount to much beyond a 4th/5th WR deep threat, and may not even be that, but with the total lack of a downfield threat, he should see consistent playing time to attempt to open up the offense a little. I’m not saying he needs 50 snaps a game, but there’s a place for him to get 20-30. If Ryan Mathews is going to spend most of the game on the bench, then the coaching staff needs to see if Wendell Smallwood is capable of being the every down back they have said they feel he is rather than lean on Darren Sproles, as good as Sproles has been. For the offense, the future has been now since Week 1. Embrace it.
So of course, watch them win on Sunday and the rest of the division lose, leapfrogging them into 2nd and a wild card spot. I’ll take it.
1 This seems like a trap game for the Falcons
The Falcons blew out the Bucs on Thursday Night Football last week, giving them extra rest. On one hand, that’s unfair to the Eagles, who just played three games in a row against teams coming off their bye. But there’s the makings of a trap game for Atlanta. They just came off a divisional blow out win, and teams can experience big swings after that. The extra rest might add to an overconfidence the team could have against a team on a losing streak. And they’re on the road (again), while the Eagles have played their best at home. The Falcons defense isn’t good, and it’s particularly not good on the road, where they’ve given up passing TDs on 163 attempts compared to 11 on 220 attempts at home, and they’ll be missing Desmond Trufant. The Eagles defense has been lights out at home, allowing just two—two touchdowns in three home games. That’ll change on Sunday, but will it be enough? It might not be.
2 Doug Pederson’s sheilding of his players is a little much
Pederson laid the “father figure” on a little thick after Josh Huff’s arrest when a boilerplate statement about reviewing all the facts and not rushing to judgement immediately after his arrest, yada yada. He looked bad when they released him the next day. This week, he coddled Dorial Green-Beckham, who is deservedly facing the same criticism he got in Tennessee for playing lazy. There’s a not so fine line between not criticizing your players through the media and coddling, and Pederson has been on the wrong side of it with his worst producing unit.
3 Keep being aggressive Doug
Whenever a team fails to convert a fourth down in field goal territory (not counting a late game 4+ point deficit), we lament that they should have kicked the field goal. But I’m reminded of a Saints game where Sean Payton sent the field goal unit out down 24-3 with 5 seconds left in the first half. But then the Dolphins called a time out to try ice the kicker. During the timeout, Payton changed his mind and went for it. The Saints scored, cut the lead to 14, and the Saints went on to win 46-34. The aggressive mindset that Payton turned to came in handy later that year in a play you might remember: the onsides kick in the Super Bowl.
4 NFL has it all wrong with their officials
Roger Goodell said that he thinks having full time officials won’t solve anything, and to help him on the PR trail he got his minion Peter King to say the same. This is the NFL saying they would rather not try anything and find out they were doing it wrong. Of course full time officials would help. They wouldn’t make it perfect, because humans make mistakes and the NFL can’t do things like clarify what a catch is, but rather than go back to their day jobs, officials would be so much better if they spent the week training. There is no downside to better prepared, better educated officials.