1 - I am a fool
I wrote this on Sunday morning:
At the risk of sounding like a total fool (what’s new, though?) I think there’s a 100% chance the Eagles win this game. I have a really good feeling about this one after previously feeling uneasy about Week 1. Getting Miles Sanders and Lane Johnson back is really big. Carson Wentz won’t be as bad as he was against Washington and Doug Pederson is quite capable of outcoaching Sean McVay.
I was wrong. The Eagles are even worse than I thought.
2 - The Eagles stink
They Eagles are one of the worst teams in the NFL through two games.
They’re 0-2 and tied with the New York Jets for the second worst point differential (-28) in the league. Only the Houston Texans, who’ve had to play the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens, rank worse (-31).
3 - The turnovers are killer
Miles Sanders fumbling on his second carry against the Rams set a bad tone.
The Eagles now rank dead last in turnover differential (-5) with just one takeaway and six giveaways.
Their opponents have scored 30 points directly off turnovers. The Eagles are way too generous.
4 - Carson Wentz is on the struggle bus
2020 has been an awful year for many, Wentz included.
The Eagles’ franchise quarterback through his first two starts: 50/85 (58.8% completion), 512 yards (6.0 yards per attempt), 2 TD, 4 INT, and a 68.3 passer rating. Oh, and he’s fumbled twice and lost one of them.
Wentz is the eighth highest paid NFL quarterback in terms of annual salary at $33 million. His $18.7 million cap hit ranks second on the Eagles. So far, the Birds aren’t coming close to getting their money’s worth.
Wentz’s inaccuracy — which we wrote about last week — continues to be a major problem. He simply misses way too many easy throws. He had Zach Ertz open on 3rd-and-5 at one point and threw wide/high by a mile.
Much more costly, he couldn’t put the ball in the right place to give the Eagles a lead when they were trailing by five points and had 1st-and-10 at the Rams’ 21-yard line.
.@eagles v @RamsNFL and the #Birds have a chance to take control of this game despite the rocky start. When you have a great chance to make a BIG PLAY; you have to execute. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/DbAx3hBHjF— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 21, 2020
Instead of taking a lead, the Eagles fell further behind with the Rams driving down to go up by eight points. Costly 10 point swing.
The Eagles aren’t going to bench Wentz anytime soon; they’ve invested too much in him to give up on him so quickly. But make no mistake: there are real concerns about the long-term outlook here.
Since the beginning of 2018, Wentz is merely 14-15 as a starter. The Eagles have been outscored 663 to 674 in those games. He’s 7-14 in matchups that aren’t against the New York Giants or the Washington Football Team.
The Eagles need Wentz to be much better, and fast. History suggests their season is already on the brink at 0-2.
It’s hard to believe Wentz is going to continue to be quite as bad as he has. We’ve seen him play much better. Then again, there are concerns about him being able to correct the ongoing issues that are plaguing him. My recent conversation with Joe Santoliquito feels relevant in this regard. Highly recommend you listen:
Here’s an excerpt:
“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. And the last time I looked, if I’m running a business, I don’t care if it’s a professional football team or a professional tiddlywinks. If I have a superior over me or I’m the one that’s a superior, I’m going to turn around and say ‘You’re going to do what I say.’ Or we’re going to work as a collaboration, we’re going to work together, and we’re going to collaborate. But you’re going to follow my lead. And if I find you out of line, I’m going to kick you in the tail. I’m going to turn around and make sure you’re on point. And when [Wentz] had not one but two guys [in John DeFilippo and Frank Reich] kicking him in the tail in that 2017 season, we saw the results. We saw him bend, we saw him become flexible, we saw him accepting — sometimes reluctantly, but still accepting — coaching. And that’s an issue. And it’s a major issue. He’s not going to get any better unless he’s willing to turn around and take hard coaching.”
I’ve defended Wentz in the past but there’s no defending him right now. He’s been really bad. He’s not inspiring any confidence.
5 - Can’t blame the offensive line in this one
After getting sacked eight times and hit 14 times in Week 1, Wentz wasn’t sacked at all and was only hit three times in Week 2. Pass protection was not the issue with Wentz’s struggles. He failed to take advantage of clean pockets, just like he did at times against Washington.
Overall, the offensive line held up well despite losing Isaac Seumalo. In addition to keeping Wentz relatively clean, they paved the way for 121 yards (4.7 average) and two touchdowns on the ground.
6 - Jim Schwartz got schooled by Sean McVay
Call me crazy if you must but I’m of the belief that Schwartz is good defensive coordinator.
Heading into this season, the Eagles had allowed the fewest points at home since Schwartz was hired in 2016. They had allowed the fifth fewest points regardless of location.
Schwartz accomplished as much despite the Eagles having two of the most injured defenses in the NFL over the past two years. Not to mention the Eagles ranking closer towards the bottom of the league in defensive spending.
With all that said, Schwartz was obviously not a good defensive coordinator on Sunday. Sean McVay totally pantsed him.
The Eagles offered no resistance as the Rams opened the game with three straight touchdown drives. Schwartz’s defense looked wholly unprepared to handle anything McVay threw at them. It was a historically poor performance for Jimbo:
Rams' 191 rushing yards are the second-most Eagles have allowed under Jim Schwartz, most since 2016. Jared Goff's 142.1 quarterback rating is the third-highest by an opposing QB under Schwartz. Good stuff.— Bo Wulf (@Bo_Wulf) September 21, 2020
The same milquetoast Jared Goff that had an 83.4 passer rating through his last 25 games prior to this one carved the Eagles up with ease. You have to go back to Week 4 of the 2018 season to find Goff with a passer rating reaching 142.1 or higher.
It wasn’t just a bad day for Schwartz as a coach. It was also a bad day for him as someone who has “unparalled” influence over player personnel as a coordinator. The Eagles spent nearly all of their free agency resources on defense. And what did they have to show for it today? Darius Slay played well again and it didn’t mean a thing as the Eagles still gave up 37 points. Javon Hargave didn’t log a stat. Nickell Robey-Coleman was a liability.
And speaking of liabilities, let’s talk about some players that Schwartz seemingly loves a lot more than anyone else does. The Rams had success picking on Nathan Gerry, the Eagles’ top linebacker in terms of playing time, all game long. The Rams also went after Avonte Maddox. Derek Barnett, whom Schwartz staunchly defends, didn’t offer a ton of impact outside of an offside penalty that turned a tackle for loss into a Rams first down. It felt like Marcus Epps — or “Eppsy” as Schwartz calls him — played a ton of snaps despite being a fringe NFL talent.
Meanwhile, with the Eagles struggling at linebacker, L.J. Fort continues to have success with the Baltimore Ravens. Schwartz wouldn’t put him on the field when he was with Philly last year, though.
Terrible day for Schwartz all around.
7 - The Eagles’ interior defensive line investment isn’t paying off
The Eagles have three of the highest 19 annual 4-3 defensive tackle contracts on their roster in Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Malik Jackson. Through two games, that trio has combined for ... zero sacks and two quarterback hits. That’s just not good enough when the Eagles are paying for elite production from that spot.
Jackson is responsible for both of those hits, by the way. So, Cox hasn’t logged a pass rush stat in the box score despite carrying the highest cap hit on the team at $22.8 million. The Eagles are paying Cox and Wentz to be star players and they’re not nearly living up to that status. Kind of a problem.
8 - What happened to Doug Pederson being fearless?
Down by eight points with 12:07 remaining in the fourth, the Eagles could’ve had a 4th-and-3 from the Rams’ 10-yard line. Los Angeles was offside on Jake Elliott’s 33-yard field goal attempt from 4th-and-8.
Pederson instead decided to take the points. That really paid off, too, with the Rams immediately ripping off a 40-yard run to move into field goal range themselves. Los Angeles would go on to score a touchdown to bring the game to 31 to 19 with 10:53 remaining.
There’s no guarantee the Eagles would’ve gotten the first if Pederson went for it. But can someone tell me why taking the points and trusting a porous defense was definitely the better option? The Eagles needed to be more aggressive.
9 - Don’t forget Howie Roseman’s role in the Eagles’ failures
Wentz, Pederson, and Schwartz all deserve your ire after Sunday’s game. But do not let Howie off the hook.
Of course, that’s awfully predictable of me to say as someone who’s been critical of the Eagles’ general manager.
Roseman has built the NFL’s second highest priced roster and an 0-2 record to show for it.
Poor drafting has contributed to the Eagles’ need to spend big money. Let’s look back at the five draft classes since Roseman regained power after Chip Kelly was fired. Table via Pro Football Reference:
2016 was good, although Wentz sucking right now hurts that evaluation.
2017 went terribly. Barnett and Gerry are the only remaining players. Barnett is looking like JAG (Just A Guy) and Gerry ideally needs to be replaced. Missing badly on Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas prompted more significant resources to be spent on acquiring Slay.
2018 could be worse but it’s not great. Dallas Goedert is good but his role is limited with Zach Ertz’s presence. I don’t know that any other player is an ideal long-term starter.
2019 could be a disaster. Andre Dillard struggled as a rookie and in training camp this year before suffering a season-ending injury. Taking J.J. Arcega-Whiteside over D.K. Metcalf is just sickening. Hitting on Miles Sanders is cool but running backs is the NFL’s most fungible position.
2020 offers some promise; Jalen Reagor clearly has potential. But Roseman used his Day 2 picks on two players who were unlikely to make much impact as rookies and maybe beyond.
The bottom line is that these draft assets haven’t come close to being maximized. And that truth is manifesting in a bad team that doesn’t boast many young studs to be super excited about.
10 - Things might only get worse
The next four games on the Eagles’ schedule:
Week 3 - vs. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2)
Week 4 - at San Francisco 49ers (2-0)
Week 5 - at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0)
Week 6 - vs. Baltimore Ravens (2-0)
Going 2-2 in this stretch could be considered good and yet that would still leave the Eagles at 2-4. Given the way they’re playing, I hardly think it’s impossible they could lose all four.
The Bengals game figures to be the most winnable but I wouldn’t count on Joe Burrow picking up his first win in Philly. Keep in mind that Cincy is coming off extra rest after playing on Thursday night.
This season has real disaster potential.