The Eagles lost to the Packers on Monday Night, and they keep having the same issues nearly every week. Again, that is by comparison a good problem to have. A rebuilding team that encounters the same issues week in and week out is, in terms of offseason strategy and future improvement, in a better spot than another struggling team that has a different problem every week. A team with different problems each week has deep systemic issues that probably require a full reboot. The Eagles are freshly rebooted, and it’s going to take at least another season to fully get up and running. A lot of the growing pains are ones we expected.
Like last week, we’re once again not really learning anything new anymore. But unlike last week, the Eagles didn’t go on the road and face the best home team over the past half decade. They played a team that hadn’t won on the road all year, and the things that led to their loss were, frustratingly, not anything new. We’re no longer learning anything, we’re running around the block.
1 The wide receivers are fucking terrible
We’ve known this all season long, but it really got hammered home on Monday against a truly awful Packers secondary. Dorial Green-Beckham is only good at catching slants. Nelson Agholor wouldn’t have done anything to positively change the game if he played. Bryce Treggs has speed and nothing else. Paul Turner did nothing. Jordan Matthews is the best of the bunch, and he’s had some brutal drops, though not on Monday. There isn’t a worse group in the NFL.
2 The tight ends stink too
Another year, another season where Zach Ertz doesn’t do much for the first three months of the season. Ertz was given a huge pay day to be one of the best players on the Eagles offense and a great safety valve for Wentz. Instead he’s having the worst season of his career, and it isn’t for a lack of opportunities, only Jordan Matthews has more targets per game. He can’t separate from defenders and when he catches the ball he almost never breaks a tackle or has any yards after the catch. Trey Burton looked like he could have a bit of a break out season as a dependable receiver, he’s been mostly invisible when he’s not on the sidelines. This was supposed to be a position of strength.
3 This team lacks depth
Marginal differences add up, and the Eagles lack of depth on both sides of the ball leave them at a stark disadvantage. The lack of starting talent at WR is compounded by the depth players being a UDFA waiver wire pick up and a UDFA practice squad player. The lack of depth at defensive back means when a 7th round rookie or a backup safety who was cut twice last year comes in to play, QBs have targets to pick on. The lack of depth at DT made it easy for offensive lines to double team Fletcher Cox, and the lack of depth at pass rusher meant the Eagles can’t take advantage of those double teams. This is all to be expected of a rebuilding team, but in the middle of a season it’s easy to get frustrated by it.
4 All things considered, the OL has held its own
Offensive line depth has been tested all year through suspension and injuries, but unlike the rest of the Eagles, the o-line keeps on keeping on. Brandon Brooks was hospitalized with an illness and the Eagles had to make a last minute adjustment and start Isaac Semualo at right guard, giving the Eagles three different starters from just a few weeks ago. The patchwork line held last week against Seattle, and they kept the pace this week despite the last minute adjustments. Sure, the line could be better, Jason Kelce and Stefen Wisniewski had bad games and Jason Peters could be more disciplined this season, but around the league there are teams with first choice lineups getting less than the Eagles are with rookies and journeymen.
5 Jim Schwartz isn’t going anywhere
There’s an underlying fear that Jim Schwartz will leave the Eagles after this season to take a head coaching job, and it rises after every win. Schwartz is a damn good coordinator, but the past two games show that teams won’t be lining up to interview him in January. His defenses have always been overly aggressive, and it’s burned the Eagles:
All 3 of Fletcher Cox's roughing the passer penalties have come on 3rd down and would have ended drives. All 3 eventually resulted in TDs.— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) November 29, 2016
And too often after the offense scores the defense lets the opposition march down the field and into the end zone. Schwartz might want to unwind his players a little.
6 Doug Pederson makes a pretty good game script
A staple of West Coast offenses is to script the first 10, 15, sometimes even 20 plays. For the most part this season, especially the last couple of games, the Eagles offense has played very well on the opening drive. They scored on their first drives in seven games, and did it by moving the ball in a variety of ways. That’s a great start in any situation, to do so with the skill position players the Eagles have is impressive work by the coaching staff.
7 Cornerback is a big draft need
We’re going to have months and months to talk and debate all the various needs the Eagles have and how to fix them, but we know and have known that corner is a serious draft need, and Monday showed it. Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll are about what you’ll get in free agency: fine “#2s” who can give you a good game but rarely a really strong one. There doesn’t look to be a guy worth paying big money to in free agency (not to mention it’s never worked out for the Eagles), so the draft will have to be the way to get some corners who can run with top tier WRs. Luckily, this draft looks to be a good one for them.
8 Screw the numbers with Wentz
Way back before the season started, I said don’t worry too much about the numbers with Carson Wentz. He’s got a terrible supporting cast, a rookie head coach and he is a rookie. The naysayers will point to the stats, and they’re not pretty. But statistically, Donovan McNabb was worse in his rookie season than Tim Tebow’s career. Worse than Tim Tebow. But you could tell he had the tools to be great. It’s the same with Wentz, he’s clearly the best player on the offense and makes plays that only a handful of QBs can make. Everyone relax.