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6 thoughts from the Eagles’ loss to the Patriots

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Another lame game.

NFL: New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles are 5-5 after losing to the New England Patriots on Sunday evening, 17 to 10. Here are some thoughts coming out of the game.

1 - The Eagles are who we thought they were

Often times I use the title “6 things we learned” for this weekly postgame article. But lately I don’t think that’s very fitting. What are we truly learning about this Eagles team that we don’t already know? It’s essentially the same shit every week.

I previously described the Eagles as “a boringly average team.” I’d like to add that they’re also perfectly mediocre, as evidenced by their .500 winning percentage and their 16th place ranking in point differential.

And it’s not just this season, either. The Eagles are now 15-13 in games since winning Super Bowl LII. The Birds ranked tied for 12th in point differential last year and finished 16th in DVOA.

Being mired in mediocrity sucks. It’s obviously not as enjoyable as being legitimately good. And the upside to being flat out bad is that it creates motivation to actually change for the better.

The Eagles are currently stuck as a middling team that plays an aesthetically garbage brand of football. It’s just not fun to watch.

2 - More than one thing can be true when it comes to Carson Wentz

Carson Wentz played poorly in the Eagles’ loss to the Patriots. There’s no getting around that.

Wentz completed just 50% of his passes for 5.4 yards per attempt and a 74.4 passer rating. He took five sacks, including one where he fumbled the ball to give the Patriots a possession starting at the Eagles’ 22-yard line.

Wentz really struggled to make accurate throws. He also left too many plays on the field, most notably on the team’s penultimate drive:

Wentz’s annual salary has him ranked fifth among all NFL quarterbacks. The Eagles needed him to be much better than he was against the Patriots.

This isn’t to suggest Wentz’s circumstances were anything close to ideal. Far from it. Wentz entered Sunday’s game against the NFL’s top ranked defense with four wide receivers who combined to average 2.5 receptions for 21.2 yards per game and zero touchdowns over the past six games. To no surprise, Wentz completed just 35% of his throws to wide receivers for 75 yards (4.4 average) and zero touchdowns against the Patriots. Contrast those stats to his numbers throwing to tight ends: 70% completion for 130 yards (7.6 average) and one touchdown.

Wentz was also hurt by the injury to Lane Johnson, which occurred after the Eagles went up 10-0.

Wentz ultimately put the Eagles in a position to at least tie the game (and potentially win with a successful two-point conversion try) before Nelson Agholor dropped his fourth down pass in the end zone. It was just another example of how Wentz isn’t getting ANY help from his pass catchers. None.

But that drop doesn’t absolve Wentz of his struggles. If he plays a cleaner game, the Eagles don’t need to rely on Agholor in that spot.

The Eagles need Wentz to be better down the stretch. The Eagles also need his receivers to help him out more often than literally never. Both things can be true.

3 - This Eagles offense sucks

Yes, there are acknowledgements to be made. The Patriots’ defense is great. The Eagles were notably missing Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Jordan Howard, and Lane Johnson.

Still, this offense sucks! They had more drives (13) than points (10). They converted just three of their 14 combined third/fourth down attempts.

There are a lot of issues!

The lack of speed continues to be one of the biggest problems. It was nice to see former Eagles scout Daniel Jeremiah publicly recognize as much:

There just aren’t any explosive play-makers, unless you think Boston Scott drawing 49-yard pass interference penalties down the field is sustainable. (Spoiler: it’s not.) The Eagles’ biggest chunk gain through the air was Wentz’s 29-yard completion to JJ Arcega-Whiteside.

Speaking of those Scott and JJAW plays, they both came when Wentz extended the play. So, for all the “Wentz holds on to the ball too long!” ire, that’s something to keep in mind. (By the way, he entered this game with the eighth quickest time to throw in the NFL.) Further — and this relates to the speed issue — who, pray tell, is Wentz supposed to be getting the ball out quickly to? Which one of these slow pass catchers is doing a great job of getting a quick release?

In addition to adding speed and quickness, the Eagles really need to take a hard look at their coaching staff. Doug Pederson obviously shouldn’t be going anywhere but changes at the assistant level are overdue.

Offensive coordinator Mike Groh, quarterbacks coach Press Taylor, and wide receivers coach Carson Walch shouldn’t be back. There’s a common thread with all three of those guys and it’s that they were automatic internal promotions who are now overseeing struggling units. The Eagles need to take coaching hires more seriously, like when they made an effort to bring in experienced and well-regarded offensive minds like Frank Reich and John DeFilippo. The Eagles should interview external candidates and hire the best person for the job, not just assume they already have all the answers in their own building.

4 - Nelson Agholor’s time with the Eagles can’t end soon enough

Eagles fans should always be grateful for 2017 Nelson Agholor, a player who helped them win the Super Bowl. But that version of Agholor is clearly the outlier when you look at the big picture.

Agholor’s been truly terrible to watch this season. The latest frustration was this drop:

Different angle:

Agholor is the Eagles’ best vertical threat in theory but it’s incredibly evident by this point that he can’t track the ball to save his life.

Agholor dropped a game-winning touchdown pass in Week 2. He dropped at least a game-tying touchdown pass against the Patriots.

Agholor’s averaging 22 yards per game in his last seven games.

He’s the 26th highest paid receiver in terms of annual value this season. It’s insane.

I can’t help but believe his presence on the team makes them worse. His absence could be a case of addition by subtraction.

The Eagles shouldn’t cut him because he can help count towards the team’s compensatory pick formula by signing with another team in free agency. It goes without saying the Eagles should have zero interest in re-signing Agholor.

It’ll be a relief to not have to watch him.

5 - The defense deserves the game ball

Hey, some positivity!

It wasn’t all bad for the Eagles on Sunday as their defense did a real nice job of keeping the team in the game. Jim Schwartz’s unit only surrendered 17 points to a Patriots offense that ranks ninth in offensive points per game with 24.7. Three of the 17 points came after the Pats recovered Wentz’s fumble in short field goal range. Another seven points — the Patriots’ only touchdown — came on a double pass trick play. Hard to be real mad about that.

The Eagles’ defense has allowed an average of just 14.7 points in their last three games. It sure helps that they’ve faced Josh Allen, Mitchell Trubisky, and a past-his-prime Tom Brady.

Still, there have been some encouraging signs regardless of the opponent. The secondary, for example, has been stabilized with the return of Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby. The Eagles’ starting cornerbacks are far from flawless but they’re upgrades on Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones.

The pass rush has also been coming on. The Eagles only sacked Brady once but they did hit him six times and generally made him uncomfortable. Brady’s 14 incompletions in the first half of Sunday’s game were a career high for the 42-year-old quarterback.

We’ll see if the Eagles’ defense can continue to keep this up but for now it looks like they won’t be the problem unit down the stretch. The offense remains the much bigger concern.

6 - This loss doesn’t change a ton for the Eagles’ playoff hopes

Updated look at the NFC playoff picture ...

The Eagles’ remaining schedule:

vs. Seattle Seahawks
at Miami Dolphins
vs. New York Giants
at Washington
vs. Dallas Cowboys
at New York Giants

If the Eagles manage to beat the Seahawks, they could reach 9-5 ahead of a crucial Cowboys game. I tend to think the Birds will be 8-6 before playing Dallas, though.

The Cowboys’ remaining schedule:

at New England Patriots
vs. Buffalo Bills
at Chicago Bears
vs. Los Angeles Rams
at Philadelphia Eagles
vs. Washington

The Eagles sure would love to see the Cowboys lose next weekend. That’ll be an important game for Philly’s common games tie-breaker over Dallas. The feeling here is that the Cowboys will drop at least two games ahead of the Eagles game, also putting them around 8-6.

So, as we continue to point out, the Eagles’ playoff hopes will likely come down to Week 16. The path is still there. Sunday’s loss to the Pats doesn’t change that.

It’s just hard to feel great about the Eagles’ chances of beating quality opponents with where they’re at right now. And it’s not easy to envision drastic improvement in the short span of the final six weeks. It seems more likely the Eagles will continue to be the average team they’ve been since the start of 2018.