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November 18, 2019

What they're saying: Eagles have gone from would-be dynasty to total disappointment

During the NFL season, Mondays are typically reserved for overreactions. And that's obviously the case in Philadelphia, whether the Eagles win or lose — although it's usually way worse after a loss. 

On Sunday, the Eagles lost to the New England Patriots to fall to 5-5 on the season, one they entered with sky-high expectations after a busy offseason for Howie Roseman and the rest of the front office. However, as we've seen through the first 10 games of the season, some of those offseason moves by Roseman have come back to bite the Birds, despite them being largely praised at the time. 

And Sunday's loss to the Pats — if it didn't hurt enough already — caused many of those lingering concerns with the Eagles, especially on the offensive side of the ball, to be thrust to the forefront, leaving fans with a sour taste as they begin to shift their collective focus to an equally difficult test next week in Russell Wilson and the Patriots. 

There's a very real chance that the Eagles head into their Week 13 game in Miami with a losing record if their offense plays anywhere near the level at which they preformed against New England. And that's hardly what was expected from this team when they opened the season among the favorites to make the Super Bowl out of the NFC.

It's been less than two season since the Eagles took the NFL by storm in 2017 on their way to their first Lombardi Trophy, but they already appear to be closer to the bottom than they are to the top.

So, what exactly happened? Well, it depends who you ask. Let's take a look at a few different assessments (and not overreactions) of where the Eagles currently stand and how they got here in today's edition of What They're Saying...

The dynasty that never was?

Robert Mays | The Ringer

As recently as this offseason, the Eagles were being talked about as potential Super Bowl contenders, and while their season certainly isn't "over" as they still have a reasonably attainable path to the postseason by winning the NFC East, do you really expect them to make any noise in January? 

Two winters ago it looked as though the Birds were poised to be a force to reckon with in the NFL for years to come. That, decidedly, has not been the case for Doug Pederson's team. Worse yet, they seem to be regressing year after year. 

Over at The Ringer, Robert Mays took a look at this troubling trend for the Eagles and what it means going forward. Needless to say, there's plenty of blame to go around. 

Disappointing and frustrating are apt descriptors for the 2019 Eagles, especially when you consider where this franchise was the last time it played New England. Philly finished off one of the most improbable championship runs in NFL history in Super Bowl LII by dropping 41 points on the Pats with backup quarterback Nick Foles under center. That 2017 roster was deep enough to overcome a season-ending injury to MVP front-runner Carson Wentz and bring home a championship, and, as Pederson raised the Lombardi Trophy that night in Minneapolis, it seemed like the start of a multiyear reign over the rest of the NFC. So far, though, that dominance hasn’t materialized.

Last year’s Eagles were absolutely decimated by injury. ... The Eagles still managed to slip into the postseason at 9-7, knock off the Bears in the Double Doink wild-card game, and give the Saints a real scare during the divisional round, but it was clear for most of the season that Pederson’s flawed team wasn’t a part of the NFC’s elite.

This offseason, though, brought plenty of renewed optimism. General manager Howie Roseman traded a sixth-round pick for wide receiver DeSean Jackson in March and signed recently released Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson that same day. With talented reinforcements coming to an already strong roster, Philly was once again a trendy preseason Super Bowl pick. But after a horrid offensive showing on Sunday, the 5-5 Eagles look firmly mired in mediocrity for the second straight season. And as Pederson’s team trudges through another disappointing and frustrating fall, it’s fair to wonder whether the Eagles’ magical 2017 run was lightning in a bottle that this group will never find again.  []

Is Howie learning his lesson?

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

As Reuben Frank noted, the Eagles have ditched some aging players in recent weeks and brought in some younger blood, although those guys are mainly depth guys that are hardly seeing the field on Sundays. Could Roseman's willingness to get younger be a sign that he's realized he made a mistake this offseason by relying on so many older veterans? 

Perhaps, but the fact remains that many key players on the team are getting up there in age. Moreover, there was a report on Sunday that the Eagles are looking to extend a trio of vets — Zach Ertz, Malcolm Jenkins and Lane Johnson — who are all over 29 years old. 

Sure, those are three of the Eagles better players, so it would theoretically make sense to keep them. But that only works if Roseman starts loading the rest of the roster with young talent, something he's struggled to do recently. 

The Eagles’ roster as Roseman built it through the spring and summer was too old.

We all knew it. We all saw it. ...

If you have a guy 31 or 32 who’s able to stay healthy and play at a high level, there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s actually unusual. Only two Eagles since Brian Dawkins more than a decade ago have started 16 games after their 32nd birthday — Evan Mathis and Jason Peters.

That’s why the Eagles are in dangerous territory.

Most of their key players are 29 or older, and it’s safe to assume that in the next couple years key guys like Jason Kelce, Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Nigel Bradham and Brandon Graham either won’t be here or won’t be the same players. We’ve already seen that dramatic decline in Alshon Jeffery.

If you don’t nail your draft picks — or replenish the roster with young talent in other ways — you’re in trouble.  []

Time to panic?

Sheil Kapadia | The Athletic

Over at The Athletic, Sheil Kapadia posted his weekly Panic Meter, and the Eagles popped up following their Week 11 loss to the Patriots. 

Unfortunately, his advice for Eagles fans was to watch a replay of Super Bowl LII to help them get over Sunday's loss. If that's the best you can offer, I think it's time to start worrying. 

Panic level: Try to remember the good times

If you thought the Eagles’ offense might look different after the bye: They entered the day in a first-place tie with the Cowboys in the NFC East. By the end, they’d left their fans with another frustrating loss and looked like the same team we’ve seen for the better part of two seasons. Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz offered hope early on that they might have come up with some answers during their bye week. They scored a field goal against the Patriots on their opening possession and then strung together a 16-play, 95-yard touchdown drive to take a 10-0 lead. After that, it all fell apart — for the offense that is. Playing without DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and Jordan Howard, the Eagles’ final 10 drives resulted in seven punts, a fumble, a turnover on downs and a failed Hail Mary attempt. The Eagles averaged 3.86 yards per play — the lowest average in any game that Wentz has started (that includes his rookie season). The Eagles’ season is not over. They’re 5-5 and still have two games against the Giants, one against Washington and one against Miami. The season very well could come down to a Week 16 home game against the Cowboys. But the bottom line is that the same issues surface in pretty much every loss, and this isn’t a good team. Since their Super Bowl win, the Eagles have gone just 15-13 in 28 games. Eagles fans are encouraged to watch highlights of the 41-33 win over the Patriots from Feb. 4, 2018, instead of highlights of this 17-10 loss.  []

Wentz' struggles were real vs. Pats

Jeff McLane | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Sure, Wentz was without several key playmakers against New England, but that doesn't mean he gets a free pass. Life isn't binary, and two things can be true at the same time. The Eagles receivers let Wentz down, for sure, but there were plenty of instances on Sunday in which Wentz let his receivers down. Even he admitted it after the game, saying that he left some plays out on the field. 

The numbers support it, as the Eagles only finished with 174 total passing yards, something that doesn't happen without poor play on both sides.

But, as Jeff McLane of The Inquirer pointed out in his Monday column, Wentz came up small when it mattered most, continuing a troubling trend that dates back to at least the beginning of this season. Just look at these numbers, courtesy of Jeff Skversky:

Of course, all this comes with the caveat that Wentz was playing without his full complement of weapons. Here's more from McLane: 

It should be pointed out that Carson Wentz was without his top wide receiver, his top running back, and was facing one of the NFL’s best passing defenses with a suspect group of outside receivers Sunday.

But the Eagles quarterback had a first down, trailing 17-10, on the Patriots’ 26-yard line with under a minute and a half left in the game. Despite a long stretch of ineffectiveness, Wentz had driven the offense into game-tying or game-winning territory.

It was money time. And Wentz had the opportunity to deliver a signature moment in his young career.

But the $100 million man came up small. There just isn’t any way else to put it. ...

That may be harsh considering all the aforementioned qualifiers. But that’s the lens you must be viewed through when you’re paid to be elite. Sometimes you just have to be expected to strap the team on your back and lead.  []

No mincing words

Brandon Lee Gowton | Bleeding Green Nation

Over at BGN, Brandon Gowton offered up six thoughts on the Eagles' loss to the Patriots, and when it came to the state of the offense, he didn't hold back. But his best point might be about the coaching staff, specifically the assistant coaches who were promoted to replace some bigger-name coaches who departed following the Super Bowl win.

3 - This Eagles offense sucks

Yes, there are acknowledgements to be made. The Patriots’ defense is great. The Eagles were notably missing Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Jordan Howard, and Lane Johnson.

Still, this offense sucks! They had more drives (13) than points (10). They converted just three of their 14 combined third/fourth down attempts.

There are a lot of issues! ...

In addition to adding speed and quickness, the Eagles really need to take a hard look at their coaching staff. Doug Pederson obviously shouldn’t be going anywhere but changes at the assistant level are overdue.

Offensive coordinator Mike Groh, quarterbacks coach Press Taylor, and wide receivers coach Carson Walch shouldn’t be back. There’s a common thread with all three of those guys and it’s that they were automatic internal promotions who are now overseeing struggling units. The Eagles need to take coaching hires more seriously, like when they made an effort to bring in experienced and well-regarded offensive minds like Frank Reich and John DeFilippo. The Eagles should interview external candidates and hire the best person for the job, not just assume they already have all the answers in their own building.  []

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