Many have checked out on the playoff-bound 11-5 Eagles.
What’s important is that the Eagles have not checked out on themselves. The 5-11 New York Giants have nothing to play for and nothing more to lose than they already have when the teams meet on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. at MetLife Stadium.
We’re going to reroute again this week and instead of taking aim at an opposing player to stop, because the Giants do not have anyone dangerous to stop, the team or player the Eagles need to stop this week, no drum roll required, are … the Eagles.
This team has been its worst enemy the last month of the season.
The Eagles are hemorrhaging at the wrong time.
They are 1-4 over their last five games—turning the ball over eight times, going minus-five in the giveaway/takeaway metric and have been outscored 155-113, giving up an average of 31 points a game while scoring 22.6. In the meantime, the Eagles are giving up 1,888 yards of total offense in that span, which translates into 377.6 yards a game to gaining 1,718, which translates to 343.6 yards of total offense a game. Right now, the Eagles rank 23rd in total defense, surrendering 352.4 yards a game. For all the “pundits” that criticized in past years Jonathan Gannon, whose Cardinals just trounced the Eagles in a game that was not even as close as the final 35-31 score indicated, the Eagles were giving 292.8 yards a game last season—that’s a 59.6-yard difference.
Part of the persisting problem is the Eagles’ inability to get off the field. They are ranked No. 30 in opponent third-down conversions, allowing opposing teams to convert 46.58% of the time, a metric that received a jolt by Arizona converting 50% of its third downs. Arizona’s season-high 32 first downs is the second most allowed by any NFL team this season.
It’s reached a point in the season when the pieces of the Eagles’ defense, terribly overrated in preseason, are falling off. Second-year defensive tackle Jordan Davis looks done. Google his game log and you will see a lot of zeroes. He has not had a sack since Week 7’s 31-17 win over Miami and has not had a tackle for loss since the Eagles’ 34-28 Week 2 win over Minnesota. That now seems like light years ago in comparison to the way the Eagles presently look, which is a tired, worn team limping to the finish. Jalen Carter, too, has fallen off. He took 36 snaps against the Cardinals, and he has not taken more than 40 snaps since the Eagles’ 37-34 Week 12 win over Buffalo.
The Eagles received no push up front against Arizona, while offensively, they have failed to get the ball into their best player’s hands—A.J. Brown. Whether it was Gannon’s scheme to take Brown out, or the Eagles’ inability to get him the ball, Brown was only targeted five times—once in the second half. It was his penultimate total to his season-low four targets in the Eagles’ 21-17 Week 11 victory over Kansas City. And it makes sense. Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is one of the gurus in the game, and for all the criticism Gannon took during his stay in Philadelphia, he has a keen defensive mind and knew enough to double Brown, which bit the Eagles’ offense.
It is really as simple as that: Take out A.J. Brown and the Eagles’ offense collapses?
“That seems to be the case,” one NFL scout said. “They have weapons. The quarterback (Jalen Hurts) seems to lose a little faith when he doesn’t have (Brown) to go to.”
The Eagles do not need to cure the problem of the New York Giants this Sunday—they have plenty of problems of their own to solve before they may soon head off to the same offseason resorts the Giants’ players will be.
Joseph Santoliquito is a hall of fame, award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.