The Eagles lost again Sunday, this time to the Ravens 27-26. At the very least, Carson Wentz was able to finally put together a successful two-minute drill and get his team a touchdown. If he connects on the two-point conversion, he and coach Doug Pederson are geniuses. The pass unfortunately got tipped at the line and fell incomplete, making them “idiots” to some pundits.
The loss is the Eagles’ 5th straight and their 8th in the past 10 games following a 3-0 start. Sunday was the first time since September the Eagles scored more than 25 points in a game. Sunday also marks the 8th straight week Wentz threw more than 35 times in a game, after Pederson said he would “…probably lean more towards not wanting Carson to throw the ball 35 times in a game or 40 times in a game.”
The defense, in turn, has struggled along with the offense. While statistically they rank amongst the top half of the league in most prominent defensive categories, real-world application of those stats shows a concerning lack of a consistent pass rush (despite the talent in those key pass-rushing positions) and a lack of quality cornerback play. The defense faced similar problems during the Kelly era, where the offensive ineptitude put more pressure on the defense. The defensive players are human after all, and expecting them to play more to compensate their offense is a recipe for disaster.
There’s just one problem with that thought process when talking about this game: the Eagles defense played less than the offense.
The Eagles won the time of possession battle, the turnover battle, penalties, and pretty much everything other than passing and total yards (and, you know, the game.) At the end of the day, what killed the Eagles were the same mistakes the Eagles have faced all year: drops, overthrows, poor line play, and the inability to convert on 3rd down.
Drops have killed the Eagles since the pre-season and are probably what the doctor will put on the autopsy of this season as the cause of death (along with “Lane Johnson’s suspension.”) Whether it’s Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, Dorial Green-Beckham, or the much maligned Nelson Agholor, the Eagles receivers can’t seem to consistently catch passes. Wentz hasn’t been perfect with his passes all year but anyone watching can easily see the mistakes the receivers are making. It’s a bit difficult to call yourself a “receiver” when you can’t receive, right?
The problem compounds itself when the receivers are dropping passes on 2nd and 3rd down. This halts any offensive rhythm and ultimately will prevents the team from putting points on the board. This leads to the coaching staff calling a more predictable passing attack, with nothing but short passes, leading to an easier team for defenses to cover. If only they could get their hands on a dynamic speedster who could stretch the field (and also catch the ball.)
The post-Lane Johnson line play and the poor accuracy on Wentz’s passes also go hand in hand. Shoddy line play means defenders are getting to Wentz faster than usual, leading to bad decisions from the young rookie. In fact, it was Johnson’s 4th string replacement Matt Tobin who gave up the game-ending sack from Ryan Kerrigan last week against the Redskins. With Johnson back for the last two games of the season, we shall see how much of an impact Johnson’s departure had on the line. The eventual (and hopeful) return of Brandon Brooks will also help the line.
But enough with the bad, let’s look at next year (what this year was all about, anyway) and talk about what we have to look forward to:
- Clear Defensive Stalwarts
For the first time in a long time, the Eagles have a few defensive stalwarts worth a damn. First and foremost of course is Fletcher Cox. Cox struggled in the middle of the season but has turned it up a notch in the month of December, racking up 2.5 sacks this month. He has 6.5 sacks this year, which puts him 5th amongst defensive tackles in the NFL and a trip to the Pro Bowl. The linebacking core, led by Nigel Bradham, Brandon Graham, and Jordan Hicks, also shows immense promise and could be primed for an even better year next year. Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod could be a tandem as close to Brian Dawkins and Michael Lewis as the Eagles have had in years and Jenkins’ leadership in the locker room and in the community is something to be very proud of as an Eagles fan.
- Carson Wentz
The Golden Boy of Philly is going to be something special. His poise, his determination, his drive, and his passion for the game of football have been refreshing. Considering what the Eagles could have had in this position, they’re lucky to have Wentz on their team. He is going to be the face of this franchise for the next decade and then some.
- They’re not the Browns, Jaguars, or Rams
I mean, seriously. At least there’s a direction, and that calls for optimism in Philadelphia.