Well, that fucking sucked.
After taking a commanding 17-0 lead late in the second quarter, the Eagles seemed well on their way to a 1-0 start to their 2020 season. Carson Wentz and his battered offensive line began to unravel at the end of the first half, with Wentz throwing an interception with about 1:30 left in the second quarter. Washington capitalized on the turnover, punching it into the end zone to cut the lead to 10, and the Birds offense never recovered after that. The Eagles got outscored 20-0 in the second half and eventually lost by a score of 27-17.
There are several things worth noting from this deflating week 1 loss, so let’s just jump right into it.
Carson Wentz’s inconsistencies are too great to ignore anymore
For as good as Carson Wentz was to start the game on Sunday (14-for-18, 199 yards and two touchdowns), his performance from the end of the first half on was some of the worst football I’ve seen Wentz play during his career (8-for-21, 71 yards and two interceptions). It’s hard to fathom how a quarterback can do a complete 180 like that.
Obviously the abysmal offensive line play didn’t help, but even when Wentz had time to throw the ball, he routinely missed open guys or just didn’t read the defense correctly. Wentz was out of sync with his receivers throughout the entire second half. Brian Baldinger breaks it down perfectly in this clip he posted to his Twitter Sunday night:
These are simple reads and throws that Wentz just isn’t hitting on. His accuracy has always been inconsistent, but he’s told us multiple times throughout the offseason that this was an area he was going to fix. Wentz simply isn’t developing as an NFL passer, there’s no other way to put it at this point.
He still has all the tools to fix these issues, but how long can we sit here and use that as an excuse? We’re in year five now and Wentz is still dealing with the same issues that plagued him since his rookie season. Yes, he has gotten better in certain areas (still great in the red zone and on third downs), but his accuracy issues are just too glaring to ignore anymore.
He also needs to learn when to give up on a play. That’s easier said than done for a competitor like Wentz, but you’d think a guy with an injury history like his would eventually learn that taking all these hits is unnecessary. The line didn’t do him any favors, but a handful of the sacks were on Wentz. Just take this clip from Dan Orlovsky as an example:
I’m not sure how this coaching staff can get through to him. Maybe they should take Orlovsky’s advice here and bench him if he continues making bone headed plays like this.
In a game where Wentz gave himself a nice 17 point cushion, he did everything in his power to let Washington storm right back into the game. It’s inexcusable, the bulk of the blame for this loss falls on Wentz’s shoulders.
The offensive line gave up 8 sacks, most in Doug Pederson era
Wentz was not good in this game, but like I said earlier, his offensive line did him no favors. They gave up eight sacks, the most in the Pederson era and the most since 2007 when they gave up 12 to the New York Giants.
We all knew this was going to be a pivotal matchup in this game, and Lane Johnson being out certainly didn’t help. Ron Rivera and his defensive coaching staff took advantage of the Eagles inexperience up front all game. There were at least three instances where guys got to Wentz untouched.
Both Nate Herbig and Jack Driscoll made their first NFL starts on Sunday and it showed. Driscoll ended up leaving the game in the second half due to injury, but Jordan Mailata didn’t do much better at tackle. Matt Pryor remained on the bench the entire game, which was pretty surprising given the fact that we all thought we was the likely starter at right guard.
Pederson didn’t help his offensive line either with his play calling. He continuously tried to get the ball down the field, the screen game was non-existent and he rarely ran bootlegs to get Wentz outside of the pocket. Lane coming back should help a lot, but it seems like we could see a revolving door at the right guard spot. This coaching staff needs to find the right combination of big guys and stick with it. Otherwise, this subpar offensive line could be a running theme throughout the season.
Despite giving up 27 unanswered, Jim Schwartz’s defense played well
That statement seems pretty contradictory, but when you look at the stats and how the game progressed, it’s hard to blame the defense at all for the outcome on Sunday.
Schwartz’s unit held Washington under 250 yards of total offense, allowing just 159 through the air, which is a stark contrast from what we saw out of this defense last season. The secondary, albeit going against a mediocre quarterback and receiving group, played really well.
Terry McLaurin is the only weapon on Washington’s offense that poses a serious threat. Darius Slay matched up with him for the majority of the game, holding McLaurin to just 5 catches for 61 yards. On the ground, Washington only averaged 2.2 yards per carry. The offense just kept putting Schwartz’s crew in a bad position the entire game.
Washington’s longest scoring drive was 48 yards, and three of their scoring drives were under 30 yards. You can’t expect your defense to consistently keep the opposing offense off the board when they start every possession in your territory.
The one thing they need to improve on, though, is creating turnovers. This has always been a struggle for the Eagles defense, they only recorded 11 interceptions last year and just 10 the year before that. They had opportunities in this one, Avonte Maddox dropped an easy interception and Josh Sweat forced a fumble on a sack when Washington was backed up against their own goal line, but they didn’t convert on either.
Capitalizing on those opportunities could’ve changed the outcome, but at the end of the day, it’s hard to really place much of the blame on the defense.
With an assortment of new offensive coaches, Pederson’s offense looked just as bland as it ever has
Look, it’s hard to execute a game plan when your offensive line isn’t blocking well and your quarterback isn’t having a good day, but it didn’t seem like Pederson and his new coaching staff made any adjustments throughout the game.
They kept trying to run the same concepts, but once Washington figured out what Pederson was trying to do, the Eagles had no counter move. While they did run some play action passes, the bulk of them were designed to hit Jackson or Reagor deep. The line was so clearly over matched, but Pederson insisted on running these plays.
The best thing they could’ve done was try to get the ball out of Wentz’s hands quickly, run some screens or bootlegs to mitigate the pass rush a bit. Pederson did none of this. It’s especially disappointing when you consider Rich Scangarello’s role on this staff. He was supposed to bring some of the bootleg concepts that Kyle Shanahan popularized, but it didn’t appear any of that was in this week’s game plan.
Maybe we were naive to think any of these coaches would have much influence on Pederson’s established system. But the whole point of shaking things up in the coaches room was to add more layers to what we already had. I just hope this changes moving forward.
I can sit here and act like the season’s over after one week, or that we need to start looking for Carson Wentz’s replacement, but the reality is this was just one game. Obviously it was disappointing, and the Eagles certainly should’ve ended week 1 1-0. But we still have a long season ahead of us, and I’ve seen this group pull it together in times of desperation more times than not.
Next week isn’t a ‘must win,’ but taking a W against the team that just beat the Dallas Cowboys would make me and the rest of this fanbase feel a lot better about our chances in 2020. We need to take this week 1 game for what it was, improve on the mistakes and move on to the next. The season is far from over, and I’m still confident the Eagles can win the division when it’s all said and done.