With a 23-23 tie with Cincinnati, the Eagles fall to 0-2-1… it’s definitely fair to describe this as rock bottom for an organization less than three years removed from a Super Bowl. Here are four thoughts in the aftermath of a tie that is more fittingly described as a moral-loss.
Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson, and the offense continue to struggle mightily
Through three games the Eagles offense averages just 4.5 yards per play, and is a bottom-five unit in terms of efficiency, ranked among the likes of the Jets, Bengals and Washington. A while ago it would have been hard to convince me that an offense led by Carson Wentz could be this bad, but thus far he’s been largely to fault. For me, the bulk of the blame for this start belongs to Wentz and Pederson. Of course I look at Howie Roseman for a poor string of drafts and some negligence at WR/LB, but I’ll posit that this is a roster that would otherwise be 2-1 if not for lousy quarterbacking and poor play calling/decision-making from the head coach.
Wentz now leads the NFL with six interceptions through three games, and it’s fair to say he looks like one of the worst quarterbacks in football right now. His ability to miss the open receiver continues to astound—both in the sense that he’ll misplace easy throws, and at times completely fail to see the open man altogether. In his defense, his pass-catchers have been unable to consistently separate downfield, but that’s not an excuse for routinely blowing the opportunities that do present themselves. Last week I wrote that it’s time to accept Wentz for the average quarterback that he is, and right now I’ve never felt more comfortable with that assessment.
As for Pederson, I’m not sure what to say. A guy who was once lauded as an offensive genius has proven to be unadaptable. There are plenty of smart minds in this league, but the elite coaches are the ones who continue to evolve both in scheme and tendency, and as best I can tell Doug is the same guy he was in 2017. Sooner or later the league catches up with you, and if you’re unable adapt in response to the league then you’ll be chewed up and spit out before you know it. For the first time in his tenure I’m starting to wonder: is Doug Pederson more Chip Kelly than Andy Reid?
Speaking of Pederson… his inability to stick with an effective running game once again cost the Eagles
Miles Sanders only finishing with 18 carries to Wentz’s 50+ drop backs is downright criminal. I’m not one of those people who just blindly hollers for the team to run the ball more when the offense is stagnating, but when your quarterback is clearly lacking in confidence and your running game is producing over 5 yards per touch, it’s as good a time as ever to lean on your backs. Sanders is the only real weapon in this offense outside of tight end, and when he’s running the way he was today (95 YDS, 5.3 ypc) Doug needs to ride him. This isn’t the first time Pederson’s pass-happy tendencies have burned our offense, and given this reoccurrence and the team’s poor start it’s time for him to reconsider his play-calling duties.
Probably the most agregious of these instances came on the second to last possession of OT when Doug elected to throw with the team positioned on the edge of FG range (42-yd line). The main problem with this is that it opens up the door for a sack or holding penalty knocking the team out of range, and that’s exactly what happened yesterday. Obviously the counter concern is that you don’t want to be overly-conservative in that instance and reserve yourself to a long FG (see the next possession), but that decision should be based on context; if you’ve been moving the ball all day (the Eagles hadn’t) then it makes sense to be aggressive in moving the ball to better FG range; if you haven’t been moving the ball with confidence (which was the Eagles case) then it makes sense to mitigate risk and run the football. And when you’ve been running the ball for over 5 yards per carry, that decision becomes even more obvious.
With Dallas and New York at 1-2, the Eagles are just 0.5 game back in the NFC East—should this matter?
Absolutely not. Truthfully, it wouldn’t matter for me if the Eagles had won yesterday’s game, this is clearly not a good football team. Not all 1-2 teams are bad, but you wouldn’t have heard anybody in Philly defending the Birds even if they pulled out the win.
It doesn’t matter that they’re still well within reach of this division (and thus the playoffs), unlike the past two seasons it’s pretty clear that these problems are more deep-seeded than injury or a stretch of inconsistent football. This isn’t a “we’re 0-2-1, but we can turn it around” situation, this is a “we’re 0-2-1, and I wonder how bad it’ll get” situation. So far the 2020 season feels a lot more similar to the 2012, 4-12 debacle, than it does to the early struggles of 2018 or ‘19.
Are there any silver linings whatsoever?
The core of this roster is old, there’s no youthful talent in the pipeline, the cap is strapped and injuries are a constant. If you’re looking for a unit on this football team to hang your hat on, rest assured, there isn’t one.
Where we could once lay claim to a mean O-line and suffocating run defense, we’re now wounded, old and talentless. Blame Howie, blame the coaches, blame the players, blame whomever you like, but none of this appears to be changing this season and I’m hard pressed to see how it can be improved over one offseason. One week ago I was taking a wait-and-see approach with this team as it pertains to 2020, now I’m pretty confident they’ll have to consider a rebuild this offseason—life really comes at you fast these days.