1 - The Eagles are exhausting
It’s only been three games but this season has felt like a lifetime.
My head has been swimming since the final whistle. I’ve been struggling to organize my thoughts about this bad and boring team, hence the delay in me publishing this weekly postgame article. Sorry about that.
2 - I can see the future
File this under “No one cares” but, hey, if I’m going to call myself out for being a fool like I did last week, I’m also going to excessively pat myself on the back when I’m actually right for once:
My prediction for this game is a tie because it’d be the least satisfying and most confusing result. A win keeps the Eagles’ hopes alive. A loss confirms this team needs a wake-up call. A tie does ... what, exactly?
Now, moving on to much more important stuff.
3 - “IT’S THE WHOLE TEAM!”
Except instead of Jason Kelce praising all the contributors to the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory, it’s me pointing out that there’s a lot of blame to go around for such a poor start to the 2020 season.
Most of the focus obviously belongs on the big three: Howie Roseman, Carson Wentz, and Doug Pederson. And, in my view, in that order from most guilty to least.
Roseman built the NFL’s second most expensive roster and has a 0-2-1 record to show for it. Spending all that money was necessitated by the Eagles regularly failing to add quality talent through the NFL Draft.
I know Lurie’s at the game, but I wonder if he’s really watching. If he is, he can’t miss the pervasive rot throughout this roster. They’re old, bad and expensive. Howie is responsible for all three.— Derek / IgglesBlog (@igglesblog) September 27, 2020
It’s especially frustrating that Roseman has failed to adequately support Wentz for years now. Just look at how other teams have built around their young quarterbacks. The Dallas Cowboys have given Dak Prescott a bunch of weapons to work with. The Buffalo Bills traded for Stefon Diggs this offseason while already having John Brown. The Arizona Cardinals went hard after DeAndre Hopkins after it was known he was available.
Meanwhile, Roseman passed on adding a sure-fire veteran receiver (outside of Marquise Goodwin, who opted out). He unwisely put all of his eggs in this year’s draft basket in addition to banking on a 33-year-old DeSean Jackson staying healthy.
The three receivers with the most snaps in Sunday’s game were John Hightower (fifth-round rookie), Greg Ward (8.6 career yards per reception), and Deontay Burnett (practice squad call up). Injuries clearly haven’t helped the team’s situation but excuses only run so far. Roseman is ultimately responsible for this mess.
I mean, one of his 2019 second-round picks (J.J. Arcega-Whiteside) and his 2020 second-round pick (Jalen Hurts) offered virtually no impact.
Imagine Andy Reid looking at Patrick Mahomes and saying “Hey man I got you JJ Arcega-Whiteside, a backup QB in the second round, and got us like 6 kinda-sorta offensive coordinators... lead us!”— Eagles Fan Problems (@EagleFanProbs) September 29, 2020
Meanwhile, D.K. Metcalf is still looking like a beast for the Seattle Seahawks on a weekly basis. He had four receptions for 110 yards and one touchdown (and would’ve had another score if not for celebrating too early) in a win over the Dallas Cowboys.
It was also interesting to see Justin Jefferson absolutely go off for 175 yards and one score on seven receptions in Week 3.
Felt like the Eagles drafting Jefferson would’ve been good #process.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 28, 2020
Wonder if they got too obsessed with fit & speed instead of focusing on just getting a really good player.
Will be interesting to see how both Reagor & Jefferson continue to develop. https://t.co/9jGl0j50e6 pic.twitter.com/zwtcADHcZy
It’s also been fun to follow how players available at pick No. 53 this year have been excelling while Hurts has been limited to playing a few snaps per game.
Each of these players were available when the Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts. pic.twitter.com/As2iH0gxCP— Patrick (@EaglesPMC) September 29, 2020
But, you know, quarterback factory and all.
It should be noted that this Roseman criticism isn’t just about hindsight. Revisit what I wrote back in March:
I don’t understand why some believe Roseman is so above reproach. The Eagles’ GM admittedly hasn’t helped the team effectively over the past two years. Such is reflected by their 19-15 record since winning Super Bowl LII. Yeah, I know they’ve made the playoffs in those seasons. But they made the No. 6 seed by the skin of their teeth in 2018. They also took advantage of a historically bad division to make the postseason in 2019. And I’d ague the success the Eagles DID have was more related to their coaching staff and players stepping up than it was some masterfully orchestrated work by the front office. To win a championship in today’s NFL, you really have to be one the league’s elite teams. Gone are the days of teams sneaking in as a wild card and winning a Lombardi. The bar is set high and I don’t think Roseman has done a great job of putting the Eagles in position to clear it. This isn’t to say I think the Eagles are having some disaster offseason and he needs to be fired immediately. I do think Roseman has added some good talent to the roster. They have gotten younger in some respects, which was needed. But I do wonder about the team’s resource allocation when it comes to investing so heavily in the defense. And in that vein I worry not enough emphasis has been put on improving the offense. Overall, I’m not feeling super encouraged by this offseason. I don’t think the team has dramatically improved to where they suddenly belong in the NFC’s elite. I think they’re more in the “good but not great” tier.
My only regret was being too generous. Roseman is a big reason why the Eagles are bad.
Before I rip him, I do want to give Wentz credit for battling back late in the fourth quarter and managing to tie the game. He didn’t give up.
But the reality is it shouldn’t be taking a last ditch effort just to go to overtime against the Bengals. That’s not franchise quarterback material.
Wentz is the biggest problem with the Eagles’ offense right now. He’s simply been dreadful.
His 63.9 passer rating ranks DEAD LAST IN THE NFL. He’s already thrown six picks in three games after only throwing seven in each of his last three seasons. He’s up to 41 interceptions and 51 fumbles in 59 career starts.
Most Turnover Worthy Plays in 2020:— PFF (@PFF) September 28, 2020
Carson Wentz - 12
Dwayne Haskins - 6
Mitch Trubisky - 6 pic.twitter.com/04YtmK4Q0q
Wentz’s inaccuracy issues are incredibly frustrating. He’s leaving so many plays on the field. I can only imagine how demoralizing it must be for his teammates to be busting their butts while blocking or route-running only for him to make some truly awful throws. The offense just can’t get in a rhythm when he’s playing like this.
.@eagles have to straighten out the QB. There are plays to be made. And it’s not a pass protection issue. DougP comes out of the West Coast System. Short passes; long runs...only if the QB is accurate #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/vW143yZyrd— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 28, 2020
Week 2 against the Rams was the same thing. A seemingly smart quarterback who can't get the ball to do the things he wants it to do— seth galina (@pff_seth) September 25, 2020
5 plays against Los Angeles in 125 seconds: pic.twitter.com/FT5NyiiaRr
Look, I’m not going to tell you that the Eagles’ offensive play-calling and scheming has been amazing. But I’m really not interested in focusing on that as the main issue when the quarterback can’t consistently complete entirely make-able throws. It’s a basic function of the job!
The Eagles just aren’t looking like a super well-coached team.
I’m rarely a “the Eagles didn’t run enough!” guy but that clearly applied this week. Miles Sanders only saw 18 carries despite averaging 5.3 yard a pop. Meanwhile, Wentz threw the ball 47 times.
The offense in general isn’t looking very creative.
The team had 11 penalties, including the one by Matt Pryor that ruined a potential game-winning kick.
And it was that Pryor penalty that caused Pederson’s biggest snafu. Instead of opting to kick a 64-yard field goal (remember that Jake Elliott previously made a 61-yard attempt) or going for it on 4th-and-12 from the Bengals’ 46-yard line with 19 remaining left in overtime, Pederson punted.
I couldn’t believe what I was watching from the press box. The guy nicknamed “Big Balls Doug” ... the guy who wrote a book called “Fearless” ... he really played for the tie! Not to win. Not to win. Not to win. But to tie.
They have next to no identity. They’re not good and young. They’re not explosive. They’re not methodical. They’re not analytically ahead of the game. They are a moribund team that can put together some adequate individual performances that add up to nothing.— Noah Becker (@Noah_Becker) September 27, 2020
Pederson has since admitted he made the wrong call. But the damage has already been done ... and not just in terms of the game result. I’m also talking about his relationship with the players.
The feeling here is that Pederson opted to punt because it his visceral reaction to watching Wentz and the offense ready to take the field on 4th-and-12. In that moment, he knew he didn’t trust them to blow the game. Kind of a huge problem when the coach proves he doesn’t have faith in his players.
4 - Hard not to think about the long-term
So, what are the Eagles going to do with their power triumvirate?
Well, there are still 13 games left, so it’s not like decisions will be made at any point soon. But it’s only natural to wonder.
I struggle to see Roseman getting fired after this season. Or ever, for that matter. Jeffrey Lurie has staunchly defended the Eagles’ general manager. But, really, it’s time.
For someone with a reputation as a great cap manager, it seems Howie has actually done a very poor job keeping cap and roster flexibility. https://t.co/QRfoiQByU4— Sam Lynch (@shlynch) September 28, 2020
The Eagles can’t really move on from Wentz directly after this year. Cutting him accounts for $59.2 million in dead money while trading him accounts for $33.8 million. And I don’t know that the Eagles would be so willing to move on anyway.
Pederson appears to be the least secure of this trio, which is a shame. Big issues remain even if the team moves on from him.
We’ll have a lot more time to talk about the status of these guys down the road. Just wanted to share some initial thoughts for now.
5 - How far are we off from seeing Jalen Hurts?
Wentz can’t continue to play THIS poorly and keep his starting job all season long. Right?
It’s hard not to feel like this offense could have more life with Hurts. That’s not to say a quarterback change would solve all of the Eagles’ problems. But an upgrade in the accuracy and mobility departments could be nice to watch.
Pederson vehemently pushed back on the idea of benching Wentz when asked about the possibility on Monday morning. It’s hard for the Eagles to put the toothpaste back in the tube, so to speak, if/when they pull Wentz for Hurts. It’s not a decision to be made lightly.
But we draw closer to that moment the more that Wentz struggles.
6 - RIP Jason Peters
Peters allowed two sacks and four pressures according to PFF’s charting. My BGN Radio co-host Jimmy Kempski showed how Peters, who turns 39 in January, is in rapid decline:
Sam Hubbard gets JP's hands down and wins around the edge. Once again, Peters is bailed out by Wentz escaping the sack. pic.twitter.com/FiQuZKw07h— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) September 28, 2020
Lawson has a beat on the snap count, so this isn't entirely JP's fault, but JP also may not have even gotten a hand on Lawson here (tough to tell). pic.twitter.com/mEUitr2WDR— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) September 28, 2020
And finally, Lawson once again with an inside counter that gets JP off-balance, and he's toast on the inside. This probably would have been worse, but JP got away with a hold after he got beaten. pic.twitter.com/jfGkLIJnlr— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) September 28, 2020
Even more video analysis from my friend Tra Thomas:
I did not enjoy doing this breakdown because I have so much respect for what this man has done. I hate when I see things that could have helped and I hate seeing habits that should have been corrected. #TrenchTalk pic.twitter.com/isvmwvg5BE— Tra Thomas (@72TraThomas) September 29, 2020
Peters demanded a raise to pay left tackle and the Eagles gave it to him while trying to pretend like he did it out of the goodness of his heart. Not exactly money well spent.
Sad to see a legend deteriorate like this.
7 - Some positive stuff?
Or at least some back-handed compliments.
- The defensive line came to play! Eight sacks and 18 quarterback hits. That unit had been (rightfully) drawing criticism so this was needed. Good to see Fletcher Cox and crew step it up. Of course, it helped they were facing a trash Bengals offensive line that had allowed the third most pressures heading into Sunday.
- Greg Ward caught eight of his 11 targets for 72 yards and one touchdown (aided by a blown coverage). Ward is a reliable slot when it comes to moving the chains. Not exactly a big play threat as his 9.0 yards per reception mark indicates though.
- Jake Elliott made all three of his field goal attempts (long of 53) and his two extra points. Huzzah!
- Keeping on theme of special teams, Cameron Johnston 45.5 net yard average ranks third best in the NFL. Seven of his 13 punts have been downed inside the 20 and only one has gone for a touchback. Johnston’s average hang time ranks sixth best. Johnston is set to be a restricted free agent after this season but the Eagles might opt to sign him to a long-term deal like they did with Elliott and Rick Lovato during the 2019 season. That was so many words on a punter.
- Darius Slay continues to look good! And yet it doesn’t really matter when it comes to the team’s overall success. Wanted to revisit what I wrote about the Slay deal back in March:
I have mixed feelings on the Slay trade. On one hand, I’ve always liked the player from afar. I can envision him making some big plays (true to his nickname) for this defense. At his best, he’s easily a true No. 1 corner. But are the Eagles going to get Slay’s best? He’s 29 and he’s coming off a down 2019 season. He’s dealt with a number of nagging injuries. Giving up two draft picks just isn’t ideal when the Eagles have made the fewest selections (10) over the past two years. Giving up those picks limits the Eagles’ ability to trade up for one of the top three receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft. It’s also hard not to view the Slay trade through the prism of the DeAndre Hopkins deal (read: opportunity cost) and wonder why the Eagles couldn’t have been more aggressive when it came to acquiring a star player at a bigger position of need.
Still stand by what I wrote then.
8 - It only gets tougher from here
The Eagles have the NFL’s most difficult remaining schedule. The next three games are looking especially tough:
Week 4 — at San Francisco 49ers (2-1)
Week 5 — at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0)
Week 6 — vs. Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
It’s hard to see the Eagles escaping that stretch better than 1-4-1 at best. They could very well lose all three games and drop to 0-5-1.
I know it’s not fun in the short-term but I maintain that bottoming out this year could be the wake-up call that this organization needs. So, there’s your potential silver lining to the Eagles being a very bad football team.
The Eagles are 0-2-1.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 27, 2020
Most wins in an Eagles season where they didn’t win one of their first three games: 6.
Average wins: 3.3.