The Eagles season will be on the line this Sunday when they matchup against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. After suffering the worst loss ever by a defending Super Bowl champion, the Birds are left searching for answers.
The offense has struggled immensely since returning from their bye week. Even after adding Golden Tate to the wide receiving corps, Mike Groh and company have yet to get their new playmaker involved in the offense. In both the Dallas and the New Orleans games, Tate was targeted only 12 times and only managed to catch seven of those targets. When teams like Dallas and Houston are able to integrate their new receivers (Amari Cooper and Demaryus Thomas) almost seamlessly, it starts to raise some red flags.
This is a clear reflection on coaching and offensive game planning. We bash the Cowboys for how basic and one dimensional their offense is, yet their offensive coaches were able to essentially turn Cooper’s season around once he got there. There’s really no excuse as to why the offensive brain trust can’t find ways to get Tate the ball.
The offense also needs to find a way to come out with more fire power in the first quarter. This season, the Eagles have the worst first quarter offense in all of football; averaging a pedestrian 2.3 points per game in the opening quarter. The New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Cleveland Browns are all higher in first quarter scoring (2.4 points per game). How does one of the most creative, explosive offenses from a year ago turn into one of the worst offenses in just one year’s time? I think it’s a culmination of a few things.
First off, the game planning and coaching has to be better. We can go on and on about how the loss of Frank Reich and John DeFilippo has doomed the offense. And while we can all acknowledge that they’re absence has had a direct impact on the offensive struggles, they’re not coming back, so Doug and company need to figure this out on their own.
Promoting former wide receiver coach Mike Groh to offensive coordinator over the offseason was their first mistake.
While Groh played a role in resurrecting Nelson Agholor’s career last season, he doesn’t necessarily have a great track record of success in the NFL. The first opportunity he was given to be more than just a position coach was with the Rams in 2016 as their passing game coordinator. The Rams ranked 31st in passing yards and had their 15th lowest scoring season in franchise history that year. On top of that, Jared Goff and Case Keenum’s numbers combined that season (Goff/Keenum 2016: 14 TDs, 18 INTs, 3,290 YRDs) didn’t even equal what Keenum put up last year with Minnesota (Keenum 2017: 22 TDs, 7 INTs, 3,547 YRDs).
Although the Rams didn’t have the greatest set of weapons on their offense that season, we all saw what Sean McVay was able to do the following year with essentially the same group of offensive players.
Doug expressed just how important Reich was to game planning and play scripting last season; giving him praise during almost every press conference. If he was as important to the offensive game planning as Doug made it seem, then just promoting an average position coach to be your right-hand man on the offense was just a bone-headed move.
If the Eagles come out sluggish again this week and fail to find a rhythm throughout the game, it might be time to fire Groh. They would probably promote Duce Staley to OC if he were to get fired mid-season.
Personally, I don’t have much faith in Groh at all, so I’m all for letting him walk and giving Duce a trial run for the remaining games. It’ll allow the Eagles to accurately assess whether Duce is the man for the job or not. And if he ends up not being much of an improvement, then move him back to his current coaching position and bring in a fresh face in the offseason.
So if you couldn’t already tell, I feel like the bulk of the blame for the offensive struggles this season falls on coaching, but I don’t think Carson Wentz is blameless either.
He’s struggled to find a rhythm early in games all year, and there has also been a few times where he had the chance to win the game late and didn’t capitalize.
He’s continually tried to do too much and it just ends up hurting the team in the end. The aspect of Foles’ game that made him so efficient last season was taking what the defense gave him. Wentz still needs to learn that, and I think he will as he continues to grow into an elite quarterback.
Wentz is still a young quarterback who still has a lot of maturing to do, and I think us as fans forget that this is only his third season. After seeing him play at an MVP level last season, I fully expected him to be back to that form once he returned. And looking back on it, I just don’t think those kinds of expectations were fair for a young QB in Wentz’s position.
He had to rehab his injury the entire offseason and didn’t get to fully participate in training camp; he missed OTAs and Minicamp; and he lost his QB coach and OC from last year. Those aren’t ideal circumstances at all.
Given all that, Wentz has still had an above average year. I firmly believe that once Wentz is given a full offseason to prepare himself for football and not rehab a torn ACL he’ll be much better than what we’ve seen this season. I also think it’s imperative that Doug and Howie find another OC who can come in and help Wentz reach his full potential.
The bottom line is, Wentz has all the talent in the world and he has a superb work ethic to go along with it. Any offensive mind would be chopping at the bit to work with a young QB like Wentz. He needs a strong support system of coaches around him, and outside of Doug it doesn’t seem like he has much of that at all.
If Wentz continues to struggle next season with a new OC, then maybe it’ll be time to panic. But as of right now, more of the blame for the offensive struggles should be given to the coaching rather than Wentz.