The Philadelphia Eagles are now 1-1 on the 2018 NFL regular season schedule after losing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a final score of 27 to 21 (recap here). Frustrating game. Here’s a look at what we learned.
1 - The Eagles have a lot mistakes to clean up
Doug Pederson said the Eagles had “a lot of self-inflicted wounds” today. He wasn’t joking.
Some of the mistakes that come to mind: Malcolm Jenkins biting on DeSean Jackson’s route on the first play of the game (Jenkins owned up to this after the game), Ronald Darby whiffing hard on O.J. Howard’s touchdown catch-and-run, sloppy penalties leading to a 3rd-and-41 situation, Zach Ertz being unable to pick up a first down on 4th and 4, Jake Elliott’s 41-yard miss, Doug Pederson’s conservative draw play on 3rd-and-11, Jalen Mills’ penalty on 3rd-and-3 late in the fourth to let the Bucs convert and essentially win the game.
Mistakes are always going to happen. It’s part of life. But the Eagles just had way too many today. They shot themselves in the foot too often, especially early in the game.
The good news, I think, is it’s not like the Eagles were just simply outclassed. I think they can work on some of these small things that added up to a loss today. It hurts now, for sure, but hopefully this will serve as a learning lesson and a wake-up call.
2 - This team still fights
You have to give this team some credit. They easily could’ve folded down 27-7, but they didn’t. They got back in the game and gave themselves a chance to win at the end.
That’s not to say this was a moral victory by any means. I just go back to what I wrote about this team last week:
I know this point might come off as very sports cliche but I really think there’s something to be said about the character of this team. It’s a new season, yes, but there’s clearly been some carry over from a 2017 team that won the Super Bowl. They’re fighters.
I believe they’ll fight back from this loss as well.
3 - The Buccaneers deserve credit
Let’s give the Bucs some credit here. They’re certainly better than everyone expected heading into this season. Going into New Orleans to beat the Saints and then beating the reigning Super Bowl champions is worthy of respect. Ryan Fitzpatrick is just on a hot streak right now. New offensive coordinator and play-caller Todd Monken is clearly making a big difference for the Bucs’ offense. DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard are legitimate weapons that aren’t easy to stop.
4 - The Eagles need more help on offense
The Eagles ended up being seriously undermanned on offense in this game.
We already knew that Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery, and Darren Sproles were going to be out. But then Jay Ajayi, Mike Wallace, and Jason Peters got hurt early on as well. That’s six key offensive players missing right there.
The skill player positions became especially dire.
At running back, the Eagles were essentially down to only two players: Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood.
At wide receiver, the Eagles were down to only four players: Nelson Agholor, Kamar Aiken, Shelton Gibson (who entered this game with a knee injury), and DeAndre Carter.
That’s just not a ton of great weapons to work with there.
EAGLES WR STATS THROUGH TWO GAMES— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 16, 2018
Nelson Agholor: 16 for 111, 1 TD
Kamar Aiken: 5 for 39
(Nick Foles: 1 for 15)
DeAndre Carter: 1 for 10
Mike Wallace: 0
Shelton Gibson: 0
Markus Wheaton: 0, cut after Week 1
Agholor is clearly very good. Outside of him, it’s just a whole lot of nothing. Your offense is not in good shape when Aiken and Joshua Perkins (more on him later) are combining for 12 combined targets.
I still don’t think Josh Gordon is a reliable cure-all for this group but, I mean, it sure wouldn’t hurt to check in on the price it’ll take to acquire him.
I also imagine the Eagles will be bringing in more receivers/running backs for tryouts this week.
5- Carson Wentz’s return will be welcomed
Nick Foles is not the sole reason the Eagles lost this game today. The reigning Super Bowl MVP went 35/48 (72.9%) for 334 yards (7.0 average), one touchdown, zero interceptions, and a 98.8 passer rating. You’ll certainly take that from your backup quarterback. His touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor in the back corner of the end zone was an absolute dime. Just a great ball.
With that said, Foles still did leave some plays on the field. For example, Jimmy Kempski of the PhillyVoice noted Foles had Ertz open for a touchdown on the fourth down play where he ended up throwing an incompletion to Clement instead. Foles also looked slow reading the defense and getting the ball out at times.
The point is that Foles wasn’t so great that he carried the team on his back to a victory in spite of the adversity he had to deal with. And that’s fine. We know he’s not that type of star player. It’s certainly not easy to be that guy. They’re rarities in the league.
But that’s the guy the Eagles needed on a day like today. With everything else going wrong, they really could have used a quarterback who elevates the team around him. That’s the quarterback Wentz has the potential to be. That’s why he was in the MVP race last year.
Now, I don’t think it’s fair to assume Wentz will automatically be that difference maker in his first games back from injury. There could be an adjustment period. But at his best, Wentz is a difference-maker who can help the Eagles win in spite of adversity. That’s why getting him back is so critical.
6 - Jim Schwartz’s defense just doesn’t travel well
The numbers don’t lie:
Since the start of last season (including playoffs):— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) September 16, 2018
Eagles defense in Philly: 12.3 points per game allowed
Eagles defense outside of Philly: 27.5 points per game allowed https://t.co/Ln4VbSirZH
The Eagles’ defense is just so much better at home than it is on the road.
I have a hard time believing crowd noise alone makes all the difference, but there’s clearly something going on with that split.
While today’s loss certainly isn’t a death knell for the Eagles, it’s not insignificant. This game could ultimately make the difference when it comes to competing for home field advantage in the playoffs. The Eagles’ defense certainly needs that boost.
7 - The Eagles’ cornerback situation might’ve been oversold
Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby had very strong summers. Darby looked really good in Week 1. Today was a step back for these guys. Darby’s whiff on the Howard touchdown was abysmal. Mills certainly doesn’t fail for a lack of effort but that’s not always enough.
I’m not just going to put the Eagles’ struggles on the corners. The coaching staff deserves blame too. It didn’t look like we were seeing effective adjustments when the Bucs were racking up easy completions with the corners playing off them.
It’s too much to say the Eagles’ corners are flat out bad. But they certainly might not be as good as some thought heading into the year.
8 - It’s frustrating that Dallas Goedert isn’t getting more playing time
The Eagles traded up in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft to select a dynamic tight end. It seems like Philadelphia’s coaching staff may have forgotten about this because they haven’t been using Goedert much in the first two weeks. DeAndre Carter thoroughly outsnapped Goedert in Week 1. Against the Bucs, Joshua Perkins saw six more targets than Goedert did. That’s to say Goedert didn’t receive a single one, based on ESPN’s charting.
I’ve often cautioned that rookie tight ends take time to develop. So it’s not like I’m asking the Eagles to throw Goedert in and make him the savior of a depleted offense. But it’s hard not to be disappointed when he’s basically a complete non-factor in a game where the Eagles were severely lacking quality offensive weapons.
There shouldn’t be worry about Goedert’s future outlook because he is legitimately talented. I do think it’s fair to bring up concerns about the use of resources involved in the Goedert pick. Back from May:
Look I have no doubt Super Bowl winning head coach Doug Pederson has a great plan for Goedert. Just wondering about the resources in relation to his playing time/impact. Eagles spent No. 49 and No. 169 on him.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) April 28, 2018
9 - DeSean Jackson continues to be an Eagles Killer
Jackson’s career numbers against the Eagles: 24 receptions, 569 yards (23.7 average), three touchdowns. Jackson’s teams are 5-1 in those games.
The Eagles just can’t stop him.
10 - Cameron Johnston is good!
Nelson Agholor and Cameron Johnston were among today’s top performers.
The Eagles’ first-year punter averaged 56 yards per punt on five attempts. Three of those were downed inside the 20. One had a shot to be downed at the 1-yard line but just missed for a touchback instead. Johnston’s longest attempt was a 65-yarder. He’s showing the makings of being a pretty good punter. Super Bowl repeat confirmed.
11 - At least two other NFC East teams lost
Washington dropped to 1-1 after losing to the Colts at home. That’s both good and bad for the Eagles. The good news is Washington lost. The bad news is the Colts pulled out a quality road win. The Eagles will host the Colts at home next Sunday.
The point here is that the Eagles are still in fine shape in their own division.
12 - Watching the Eagles lose doesn’t feel AS devastating as it used to
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Eagles lose a meaningful regular season game. You have to go all the way back to their loss against the Seahawks in Seattle last year on December 3. I almost forgot what it feels like.
Maybe you don’t feel the same way, but for me, this loss doesn’t feel like losses used to as an Eagles fans. That’s not to say it’s pain-free. It’s still very disappointing. It’s just not AS terrible as it used to be before the Eagles won the Super Bowl.
Every loss used to feel so devastating because it meant the Eagles were further away from achieving that ultimate goal I thought I might never get to see them accomplish.
Seeing the Eagles lose is still painful. But having a Vince Lombardi Trophy at least takes a little bit of the edge off.