Although the Eagles were outplayed by Atlanta for the majority of the game Sunday night, they still had a real chance to steal the W in the final minutes. Despite the multitude of injuries and the egregiously slow start on offense, Carson Wentz and Co. fought the good fight. But sometimes, the good fight just isn’t enough in the NFL.
There are several observations I have from this game, so let’s get right to it.
Slow Starts Continue to Plague Doug Pederson’s Offense
I don’t know why the Eagles continue to struggle in the opening quarter of games. It’s a problem that has carried over from last season and I have a hard time pinpointing how to solve the issue.
Pederson seems to always struggle with effective play calling in the first half, before coming into his own in the second. Getting off to a slow start this week was more excusable though, with Dallas Geodert, DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery all sidelined within the first five minutes of the game, any head coach would struggle adjusting his game plan on the fly like that.
But what I don’t understand, is why Doug opted to lean on the passing game so much despite three of his top receiving options out with injury. The Vikings absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage against Atlanta in week 1, leading me to believe the Eagles would employ a similar game plan.
The Birds ran the ball on just 30% of their snaps, and Wentz struggled immensely to find a rhythm with his pass catchers in the first half.
On the road, down three pass catchers, facing a team who just got dominated on the ground one week prior, I really don’t know why Doug chose not to pound the rock more. I think it would’ve helped the offense sustain drives early on and allow Wentz to settle in.
But nonetheless, these slow starts are really starting to get old. It’s almost expected at this point. If this team expects to compete for another championship in 2019, this trend needs to end.
Establishing the Run Needs to be a Priority
The Eagles possess one of the deepest backfields in the NFL. Yet, they’ve done little to nothing in the first two weeks of the season.
Rookie Miles Sanders has been the go to guy through two weeks, but he’s struggled to have much of an impact, averaging just 2.5 yards per carry. He certainly has the highest ceiling of all the RBs on the roster, but I think it’s time to feed Jordan Howard some carries. He’s averaging 4.4 yards per carry this season and has a track record of being a workhorse back.
I understand why Doug utilizes multiple backs, it keeps them fresh and prevents them from getting worn down as the season progresses. But I also think it’s important for backs to get into a rhythm, especially a guy like Howard.
A balanced attack is crucial in Doug’s offense. It’ll take some of the pressure off Wentz and it should help the offense sustain drives early in the game.
Ronald Darby is Burnt Toast
I’ve always tried to defend Darby, but his performance on Sunday night was just inexcusable. It seemed like he was the only corner getting beat, he seemed like the only corner who was even allowing receptions. He just sucked, straight up.
He spent most of the night chasing Calvin Ridley, who finished with with five catches for 106 yards and a 34-yard TD that was on Darby too. He was also torched by Julio Jones more than once.
The Eagles resigned him this offseason with the hopes that he’d help solidify their young secondary, but in reality, he’s been the worst corner on the roster through two weeks.
Could his ACL still be bothering him? Perhaps. But if it’s truly bothering him he just shouldn’t be on the field.
Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas split the snaps at the other corner position, and I thought they both played well on Sunday night, with Jones snagging his first career interception.
Darby has the highest payroll of all the corners, so it’s hard for the team to justify flat-out benching him at this point. But if he continues to get picked on throughout the season, Jim Schwartz may have no choice but to sit him down in favor of the young guys.
What to Make of Carson Wentz’s Night?
Like the rest of the team, Wentz was dreadful in the first half, going 6-16 with 47 yards and two interceptions. He came alive in the second half though, and nearly brought home the victory for his team, going 18-26 for 177 yards with one passing and one rushing touchdown.
He made some vintage plays in that second half, but at the end of the day, it just wasn’t enough. It’s easy to point the finger at Nelson Agholor for dropping that pass down the sideline on the final drive that would have surely been a TD, but it really shouldn’t have come down to a play like that.
Wentz had his opportunities in the first half and dug himself into 17-6 hole. He needs to be better early on so he doesn’t have to do his best superman impression in the second half.
I liked the fight he showed us in the second half, but we need to see him put it together for a full four quarters. He was so close to pulling off the comeback, but at the ed of the day, he has no one to blame but himself for not coming out victorious.
It’s easy to pin Wentz’s struggles Sunday night on a handful of different things. But, I expect Wentz to overcome the adversity that faces him, that’s what truly elite QBs do.
I’m sure some of the league’s young QBs like Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield or Dak Prescott would have struggled given the circumstances that Wentz was dealt against Atlanta. Three of his weapons were sidelined, his offensive line had a hard time containing the pass rush and his receivers didn’t consistently catch the ball. That’s a lot to deal with, no doubt about it. But if we really want to crown Wentz as one of the elite QBs in this league, he needs to will his team to a victory in that type of situation.