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June 28, 2019

10 reasons the Eagles will be a dumpster fire this season

Eagles NFL
062619CarsonWentz2 James Lang/USA TODAY Sports

After a win over the Houston Texans, Carson Wentz admires Nick Foles' healthy back while pondering the possibility of drugging him in a bathtub and stealing his vital organs.

This week, all week long, we took a 100 percent vitriolic look at each of the teams in the NFC East, in detail, while ignoring the positives. The first target on Monday was the Dallas Cowboys. On Tuesday, we roasted the Washington team. On Wednesday, we focused on Dave Gettleman's insistence on destroying the Giants. On Thursday, we poked a little fun at the rest of the NFC.

Today, we'll finish off the series with the Philadelphia Eagles.

1) Can Carson Wentz finish a season worth finishing?

You all knew this would be the first one, but to recap, Wentz has had four significant injuries since 2015.

  1. 030719CarsonWentz
    Oct 2015 (NDSU): He broke a bone in his right wrist that required surgery.
  2. Aug 2016 (Eagles): He fractured ribs in the preseason against the Buccaneers. This injury caused him to only miss a few preseason games, though he would have also likely missed some "real" time had it occurred during the regular season.
  3. Dec 2017 (Eagles): He tore his ACL and LCL. He did not return until Week 3 of the 2018 season.
  4. Oct (?) 2018 (Eagles): He played with a fractured bone in his back until he was replaced by Nick Foles with three games remaining in the regular season. He never returned, obviously. The exact date of Wentz's back injury is unknown, but he first appeared on the injury list with back issues in October last season. (We'll get to the Eagles' medical staff in a bit.)

Should we look at all his injuries? Sure, why not. Here's the play where he broke his wrist (2:21 mark). You can't actually see the hit here. There are no replays in the cutup, probably because Wentz got up, kept playing, and finished the game:


Here's the shot he took in the ribs: 

You've all seen the ACL/LCL tear: 


As for the fracture in his back, my regular readers have heard me laugh at this in the past, but I love the way the Eagles fessed up that Wentz was hurt. The Eagles normally reveal nothing about injuries, unless they absolutely have to. And yet, on the morning of Dec. 12, 2018, knowing that reporters would surely notice that Wentz wasn't practicing, Doug Pederson just decided to slide in during a pre-practice press conference that Wentz wasn't 100 percent, but it wasn't a big deal. Lol.

"Good morning," he said. "So before you ask, I'm going to run down the injuries for you for today. That way I don't have to go through every single one of them."

Oh what a treat! 

"Saves questions," a reporter responded. 

"Saves a lot of questions," Pederson acknowledged. "So let's start with the defensive line: Tim Jernigan; he's doing better. Obviously, day-to-day. We'll evaluate him today and see where he is.

"You know about Corey [Clement], Josh [Sweat], Jalen [Mills]. Made those decisions to put them down [to injured reserve]. Avonte Maddox is improving. Again, he's day-to-day. See how he gets through today, and there is a chance he practices, but, again, we'll see where he is physically.

"Jordan Hicks, another one that's improving. Still day-to-day. See where he is again after today and tomorrow with a couple of workouts.

"A new one: Carson has a little bit of back soreness, a little tightness, so we're going to rest him today. Continue to evaluate him and make sure he's good. But we'll have more information on all these guys later in the week.

"Is there anybody else?"

Is there anybody else. Lol.


MORE: 10 reasons the Cowboys will be a dumpster fire this season


2) BDN is gone

In 2017, with Wentz done for the season, Nick Foles led the team to a Super Bowl win. In 2018, after he went down, Foles guided the Eagles to the divisional round of the playoffs. 

In 2019, Foles is in Jacksonville.

062519NickFoles

The Eagles' new No. 2 is Nate Sudfeld, who the team has been grooming for two years after the Washington team waived him at 53-man cutdowns in 2017. 

Sudfeld has 25 career pass attempts.

3) This medical staff...

A couple weeks ago, Tim McManus of ESPN first reported that the Eagles were shaking up their medical staff. And with good cause! All season long, Eagles players were on the shelf longer than expected, or they suffered recurring injuries, seemingly because they returned from injury too soon.

The Inquirer's Jeff McLane did a good job of rounding up all the players with questionable circumstances related to the medical staff:

Carson Wentz’s back injury was the most notable abnormality. The Eagles shut him down in December, after they revealed he had a stress fracture. The quarterback first popped up on the injury report with a “back” injury in October, but he didn’t miss a game, even though several players said Wentz was playing in pain.

Running back Darren Sproles and cornerback Sidney Jones missed significant time with recurring hamstring injuries. Wide receiver Mack Hollins said he would play in the season opener after having offseason sports-hernia surgery, only to be placed on injured reserve. On Tuesday, he practiced in public for the first time since last year.

Jalen Mills’ foot injury in November was deemed minor by coach Doug Pederson, but a few weeks later he was spotted in a walking boot and eventually placed on IR. He has yet to practice this offseason.

Safety Chris Maragos never returned from anterior cruciate ligament and posterior cruciate ligament injuries in October 2017, even though others have needed only a year to return. Maragos was released this offseason and isn’t on an NFL roster.

Running back Jay Ajayi tore the ACL in his left knee in September, but he was was outfitted with a brace in the second half and kept playing. Ajayi is an unsigned free agent.

Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan missed the first 10 games with a back injury, but after playing in one game, he experienced back spasms and missed three more games.

Defensive end Derek Barnett missed a game with a “shoulder” injury but returned to play in two games. The injury turned out to be a torn rotator cuff that required season-ending surgery. Barnett has not practiced this spring.

That's a long list. #Analysis.

I'll also note that Mills' rehab device progression went backwards. As McLane notes above, Mills was initially in a walking boot. 

Well, then he added crutches. Then he had one of those Roll-a-Bout things.

4) A lot of other guys still recovering from injury missed spring practices

The following players did not participate either at all during spring practices, or they were missing due to injury when the team's final mandatory minicamp wrapped up:

  1. RB Miles Sanders
  2. RB Corey Clement
  3. WR Nelson Agholor
  4. WR Mack Hollins
  5. RG Brandon Brooks
  6. DE Derek Barnett
  7. DT Fletcher Cox
  8. LB Nigel Bradham
  9. CB Jalen Mills
  10. CB Ronald Darby
  11. S Rodney McLeod 

Some of those guys should be ready for training camp, some should be ready for Week 1 of the regular season, and some others... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. We took our best guess on each of them here. But again, with the Eagles' medical woes, who knows.

062619DrNick

5) Defensive end depth is shaky

When you compare what the Eagles were going into the season with a year ago, and what they’re likely going into the season with in 2019, it looks something like this:

Position 2018 2019 
 Starting LDEBrandon Graham Brandon Graham 
 Starting RDEDerek Barnett Derek Barnett 
 Backup LDEChris Long  Josh Sweat
 Backup RDE Michael BennettVinny Curry 


Going from Bennett to Curry is a downgrade, and there's no obvious "feel-good about it" candidate to take over Long's role. Sweat appeared to be in the lead for the No. 4 DE spot during spring practices.

In Jim Schwartz's scheme, it is imperative that the front four is able to get to the quarterback without the aid of blitzers. It is also important that there is quality depth along the defensive line, as Schwartz likes to rotate them heavily. The Eagles will still be able to get to the quarterback when Graham and Barnett are in the game, but the combination of Curry and someone from the "maybe they show something" group of Sweat, Shareef Miller, Daeshon Hall, and Joe Ostman could be a significant liability when they go in for their line shifts. 

Bennett and Long combined for 15.5 sacks last season. Granted, that was partly because Bennett became a starter when Barnett went down, but that is still a hell of a lot of production to replace. If Graham or Barnett go down, the Eagles' pass rush from the edges could be in serious trouble.

6) The pass defense was often bad last year, and not just when street free agents were brought in

The Eagles were 30th in the NFL in pass defense last year, and part of the reason why was because they racked up an absurd number of injuries. The five corners on the roster at the start of the season in 2018 -- Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, and Avonte Maddox -- missed a combined 35 games. On top of that, at safety, Rodney McLeod, and his replacement, Corey Graham, missed a combined 18 games.

As a result, the Eagles were forced to start guys like Chandon Sullivan and DeVante Bausby during the season, and they predictably got lit up like a Christmas tree, notably by the Saints and Cowboys. So to some extent, you can hand-waive away the Eagles' troubles against the pass last year, however, they weren't exactly awesome before their corners and safeties started dropping like flies. 

For example, the Buccaneers, the Titans' garbage passing offense, and the Vikings all had their way with the Eagles' secondary early in the season. Mills in particular gave up big plays to all three of those teams.

062619JalenMills
And if your response is, "Well, Mills might lose his job this season to (fill in the name of any other corner on the roster)," then you haven't been paying attention to Schwartz's unrelenting love for him.

7) The loss of Frank Reich was felt last season

The Eagles were down in just about every offensive metric you want to find when you compare 2017 to 2018. Of course, that was expected, seeing as Carson Wentz was an MVP candidate in 2017, and he was still recovering from a torn ACL/LCL in 2018 (not to mention playing through a fractured bone in his back).

Still, that doesn't excuse the Eagles' anemic first quarter offense last season, when they script their plays after a long week of game-planning. A comparison of first quarter scoring from 2017 to 2018:

Eagles 1st quarter points 2017 2018 
 Game 1
 Game 2
 Game 3
 Game 410 
 Game 521 
 Game 614 
 Game 7
 Game 8
 Game 917 
 Game 10
 Game 11
 Game 12
 Game 1314 
 Game 14
 Game 15
 Game 16
 Game 17
 Game 1814 
 Game 19N/A 
 TOTAL129 (6.8/game) 58 (3.2/game) 


There is zero question that the Eagles missed the contributions that Frank Reich provided in 2017, and his replacement, Mike Groh, still has plenty to prove. 


MORE: 10 reasons the Washington team will be a dumpster fire this season


8) "Better" RBs doesn't necessarily mean "good" RBs

The Eagles' running backs will be better in 2019 than they were in 2018. Of course, that's not exactly a high bar, considering that they arguably had the worst set of backs in the NFL last year. Hell, their leading rusher was Josh Adams, with 511 yards, who was dreadful in chain-moving opportunities. For example, in seven carries on 3rd or 4th down and 1 or 2, Adams had -8 yards, and no first downs. Ew.

This offseason, the Eagles invested in the position, trading for Jordan Howard, and drafting Miles Sanders in the second round. 

• Howard is an upgrade over Adams, for sure, however, there are concerns about his decline in production since his rookie season. He had 5.1 yards per carry as a rookie in 2016, 4.1 yards per carry in 2017, and 3.7 yards per carry in 2018.

• A rookie camp aside, Sanders missed the entirety of spring practices with a hamstring injury, which wouldn't matter much for a veteran player, but absolutely does for a rookie with question marks in pass protection, fumbling, and receiving.

• Corey Clement still hasn't practiced yet after suffering an unclear knee injury in 2018.

Those are the top three backs. Will they be better? Yeah, sure. Will they be good relative to the rest of the league? Eh.

9) Some of Carson Wentz's teammates bashed him anonymously

Back in January, PhillyVoice published a sourced column by Joe Santoliquito in which teammates painted Wentz as 'selfish,' 'uncompromising' and 'playing favorites.' 

It was, um, criticized harshly. Hell, I didn't even write the damn thing, and I caught a ton of shrapnel for it. I can only imagine the blowback that Joe received. To note, I do fully understand the varying reasons readers took issue with the column.

Personally speaking, I had a unique perspective as that day unfolded. It was interesting to watch as there was no response to the column from anyone directly affiliated with the team for literally hours after it was published, and then, BAM, all of a sudden, one player after the next (mostly the best players) were offering messages of support on social media for Wentz in close succession, as the team likely nudged them to do so. Kudos to them on that one, as it provided all the evidence that most in the fan base wanted to hear that there were no in-house issues to speak of.

Kudos to Wentz as well, who handled the adversity like a champion, answering questions about the piece head-on, and even acknowledging that he can be a better teammate behind the scenes.

Still, say whatever you will about that piece, but the fact remains (and yes, it is indeed a fact) that some of Wentz's teammates bashed him anonymously to the press, and it can happen again if the season has its rocky moments.

10) The Eagles only have one training camp practice open to the public

The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl in a season in which they had fewer than two training camp practices open to the public.


MORE: Boom roasted: Poking fun at the rest of the NFC's teams


Email Jimmy: jimmy@phillyvoice.com.

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