The Philadelphia Eagles are on their bye in Week 9. Here are nine thoughts on my mind.
1 - This team is exhausting.
The Eagles beat their most hated NFC East rival by 14 points on national television and yet it wasn’t even all that enjoyable.
Think about that.
I don’t know about you but the fan in me can’t help but feel beaten down by this team. Defeating the Dallas Cowboys is always preferable, sure, but the reality is it just wasn’t any fun to watch. It was tiring.
Being first place in a division is so undeserved. The Eagles are 20th in point differential and 28th in DVOA. They’re not actually any good. Far from it. Just look at how they compare to other projected leaders via FiveThirtyEight:
You can say I’m being too negative — which I often heard throughout the offseason — but I’m just telling you how I honestly feel about this team. I wish I felt better. But I don’t. And it’s annoying because usually the Eagles are usually a welcomed distraction from harsh reality but now they’re just exacerbating already stressful times.
The bye week comes at a welcomed time because we need a break from sorting through this mess.
2 - Carson Wentz looked worthy of being benched on Sunday night.
There are MAJOR concerns about the Eagles’ starting quarterback.
Wentz turned the ball over FOUR times against a Cowboys defense that had only forced three takeaways in their previous seven games. Awful.
Wentz is up to 55 fumbles in 64 career games played. No player has fumbled more since he entered the league in 2016. He’s in his fifth year and he turns 28 in December. It’s not like youth and inexperience are to blame at this point. This is just who he is. It feels like ball security is always going to be an issue and it’s hard to see how that’s tenable.
Wentz really continues to be one of the worst players at his position this season. Here’s how he ranks in a number of key categories:
- Completion percentage: 31st
- Yards per attempt: 29th
- QBR: 28th
- Passer rating: 30th
- DYAR: 32nd
- DVOA: 31st
- PFF grade: 33rd
The supporting cast hasn’t been ideal. The coaching staff could be doing better. I get that. Those issues can reasonably explain why Wentz is playing like a top 10 player this year. They do NOT solely justify his status as arguably the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. His performance this season on the whole is simply unacceptable.
Carson Wentz leads the NFL in Turnover-Worthy Plays with 23.— PFF (@PFF) November 2, 2020
No other QB has more than 13 pic.twitter.com/Jr4FsI1Tuv
I really felt like the coaching staff would’ve been justified for pulling Wentz after his fourth turnover. To their credit, not pulling him worked out as he delivered the go-ahead touchdown pass.
But if Wentz continues to struggle this badly, the Eagles shouldn’t be so reluctant to bench him during a game in the way that Andy Reid did with Donovan McNabb back in 2008. That strategy clearly lit a fire under No. 5. It’d be really interesting to see how Wentz responds in a similar scenario. It’d also be interesting to see how Jalen Hurts fares in relief duty.
To be clear, I don’t think the Eagles are at the point where they should be making a permanent change right now. They’re basically stuck with Wentz for 2021 so they have to find a way to try to get him right. But benching him should not be entirely off the table.
Dan Orlovsky said it perfectly. pic.twitter.com/N3ViQxL7YL— Brenden Deeg (@eaglestalk_) November 2, 2020
3 - Remember when the Eagles didn’t hire a real offensive coordinator? That was cool.
Totally unrelated but the Eagles only managed 222 yards and 15 offensive points against the league’s worst defense that was allowing 408.1 yards and 33 offensive points per game.
I mean, the offense’s struggles had the Eagles down at halftime to freaking Ben DiNucci. That’s pathetic and embarrassing.
Wentz deserves most of the blame but this is ultimately Doug Pederson’s offense. He calls the plays. He obviously shoulders a lot of responsibility for the failures. I don’t think the Eagles are at the point where he should or will lose his play-calling duties this season. But maybe that’s something that has to happen after the year to draw an actual play-calling OC in to the building.
On a related offensive coaching staff subject, can someone tell me what Press Taylor has done to justify keeping his job as quarterbacks coach for three straight seasons? Wentz has only gotten worse and worse during his tenure. To be clear, I’m not trying to shirk Wentz or Pederson of any blame. But I’ve long questioned Taylor’s role in the offensive struggles and I’m failing to see how he’s part of the solution. Seems to me like getting someone who can actually seriously challenge Wentz would be a good step to take.
“I don’t know if a good buddy can also be your coach. There is no secret here. The media knows this, and the fan base knows this. That Press Taylor and Carson Wentz are buddies. They’re pals.”https://t.co/4HuPtSUiTh— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 20, 2020
4 - Let’s get Brandon Graham to the Pro Bowl!
Hey, finally a positive point to discuss! See, it’s not ALL negative here!
Long-time BGN readers will recall Jimmy Kempski’s “Project Donolulu” that involved getting Donovan McNabb to the Pro Bowl so the Eagles could get a more favorable draft pick in return from the Washington trade. Unfortunately, that valiant effort failed.
I say it’s time for another Pro Bowl campaign. Unlike the intentions of Project Donolulu, this effort is more about sincerely rewarding a player who deserves to go down as an all-time: Brandon Lee Graham.
My fellow BLG came up huge for Philly on Sunday night by strip-sacking Ben DiNucci (and then recovering the ball!) to wipe a potential Cowboys field goal or touchdown off the board after Wentz’s first fumble. Instead of going down 6 to 0 or 10 to 0, the Eagles were able to capitalize on Graham’s turnover and make it a 7 to 3 game. Huge swing.
Graham is now up to seven sacks through eight games. He only ranks behind Aaron Donald and Myles Garrett in that category. Graham is first in sacks and second in tackles for loss among NFC edge rushers.
At the very least, Graham deserves to make his first Pro Bowl. It’d be awesome to see him earn All-Pro honors as well. But the latter decision is up to the media while the fans can help with the former.
Vote for Brandon Graham when Pro Bowl voting opens on November 17!
5 - On repeat: Travis Fulgham is the truth.
I basically write this same point after every game but, hey, it shouldn’t get old to see Fulgham looking awesome. He’s legitimately good!
Most Receiving Yards (@NFL Players Since Week 4)— John Gonoude (@john_gonoude) November 2, 2020
435 - Travis Fulgham (4 TD)
430 - George Kittle (2 TD)
413 - Tee Higgins (1 TD)
410 - Robby Anderson (0 TD)
407 - Stefon Diggs (1 TD)#FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/fpE0fGIDuu
Fulgham is the seventh highest graded player at his position by Pro Football Focus this season. Wild.
The Eagles don’t really deserve him falling into their laps with how they mismanaged their receiver situation. But they’ll take it!
6 - The Eagles might have a worthwhile linebacker?
Good game for T.J. Edwards on Sunday, who led the Eagles with 13 total tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, and one quarterback hit. Edwards is now up to being PFF’s 16th highest graded linebacker this year.
He’s only graded out average in coverage, which is to be expected for a player who lacks ideal athleticism. But at least he’s been strong in run defense and giving the team some pass rush juice. It’ll be interesting to see how he continues to fare while Nathan Gerry is on injured reserve. Edwards just might establish himself as the No. 1 linebacker option.
Alex Singleton, meanwhile, not so much. He was the worst graded Eagles defender from Sunday’s game. He missed three tackles and struggled in coverage.
7 - Jason Peters needs to be playing guard when Lane Johnson or Jack Driscoll are healthy
Jordan Mailata needs to be playing left tackle when either Johnson or Driscoll is ready to return at right tackle. Peters should be playing at guard. Not having Mailata in the starting lineup would be disappointing.
8 - What happens with Alshon Jeffery?
The NFL trade deadline has come and gone and he’s still here. So ... what happens next?
Is he actually going to be healthy enough to play in Week 10? And if he is, who is he taking snaps away from?
The current top four wide receivers are Fulgham, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, and John Hightower. Taking targets away from Fulgham and Reagor would be foolish. Ward plays the slot so it’s not like a 1-to-1 replacement there. Hightower’s had some rookie struggles but he offers the Eagles a deep element that Jeffery doesn’t provide.
So, yeah, how does he fit in?
9 - Is Jalen Reagor cursed?
The real reason that Wentz is struggling is because Reagor is on the team. TCU’s quarterback was terrible when Reagor was his teammate. Now it’s Wentz who is suffering.
Just kidding but it’s unfortunate that Reagor continues to be hindered by struggling passers. Then again, it’s Reagor who didn’t help himself on Sunday night by dropping a touchdown throw from Wentz. The Cowboys defender did a good job of knocking the ball out of his hands but Reagor also didn’t manage to initially catch it cleanly. Had he done so, maybe he would’ve been able to hold on for the score.
In any case, Reagor has shown some encouraging potential to this point. It’d be nice to see the Eagles utilize him (as opposed to Hightower, especially) as more of a deep threat like we did in Week 1. Would also be nice to see Wentz him on those opportunities.