September 24, 2019
Make no mistake about it — the Eagles are staring a 1-3 start directly in the face as they head into Lambeau Field on Thursday night looking to upset the Packers on a short week. And if we're being honest, it never should've gotten to this point to begin with.
The Eagles have now lost a pair of games in a row that have been marred by not only dropped passes, but also poor coverage, little-to-no pass rush, and just general sloppy play all around. And now, the Birds will take the field in Green Bay as five-point underdogs in a game they desperately need to win — these non-division NFC matchups could play a huge role as playoff tiebreakers as the season unfolds.
There are a lot of things working against the Birds currently, most notably injuries to several key starters on both sides of the ball. Although given this team's history over the last few seasons, that's basically just business as usual. After dropping two straight games as the betting favorites, can the Eagles turn things around on Thursday night and pull off the upset at Lambeau? Has this team hit bottom, or can it get worse? And can a timely in-season trade (or two) help the Birds get back on track?
We'll examine all that and more in this week's edition of What They're Saying...
In McManus' piece, which is pretty much an emergency state-of-the-team breakdown of the Birds, he didn't write the Eagles off for the season, but he made it quite clear that the odds are now stacked against this team, given all their injuries and where they are in their schedule.
But maybe that's just how they like it...
Serious trouble might be a touch strong given how early in the season it is, but there is reason for concern. DeSean Jackson's injury is key. One doctor recommended surgery to fix his abdominal injury, a source said, but he's opting to play through it and is expected to return after Thursday's game in Green Bay. The idea that he will be at 100 percent at that time seems like a stretch. If he is limited, or ends up sidelined long-term, the offense will be without the explosive element central to the operation.
That would only heighten the importance of younger players such as rookies Miles Sanders and Arcega-Whiteside and second-year tight end Dallas Goedert (calf) to mature quickly, and for some of the veterans such as Cox and members of the offensive line to look like more youthful versions of themselves.
The schedule has little give to it from this point forward. Thursday's game is the start of three of four on the road, followed by home games against the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.
If there is in fact championship mettle inside this team, it's time to show it. [espn.com]
Over at The Ringer, Robert Mayes took a look at a handful of teams that have failed to live up to their big preseason expectations. And the Eagles are certainly one of those teams. And, as Mayes outlines below, the concerns currently surrounding the Eagles go well beyond their ever-growing injury list.
The Eagles were also a popular playoff and Super Bowl pick coming into the year, but after a 27-24 loss to the Lions on Sunday, Philly is now 1-2 and two games behind the undefeated Cowboys in the NFC East. Injuries have already taken their toll on what some considered the deepest roster in the NFL at the start of the season. The Eagles were without both Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson on Sunday, and a rash of mistakes by their reserve wide receivers—including a lost fumble by Nelson Agholor and a pair of offensive pass interference penalties by Mack Hollins—had a hand in the loss. Jason Peters was sick Sunday and forced out of action in the second quarter, but the 37-year-old left tackle was put back into the game after swing tackle Andre Dillard suffered a foot injury. There’s a distinct, “Our pets’ heads are falling off!” vibe to this team right now.
Outside of all the injuries, there are concerns about the healthy areas of this roster as well. The secondary was probably Philly’s weakest position group heading into the season, and it’s played out that way through three games. Cornerback Ronald Darby has struggled in coverage so far this season; the once-dominant front four—which is without defensive tackles Malik Jackson and Timmy Jernigan, who both went down with serious foot injuries—hasn’t been able to control games like in years past. Detroit was buoyed by a kick-return touchdown and a 44-yard gain on a jet sweep, but the Eagles defense is still far from the lock-down group it had the potential to be this season. When Jackson and Jeffery return, there’s a good chance the Eagles offense will open up and Carson Wentz will look more like the quarterback we saw in Week 1 against the Redskins. Over the last two weeks, Wentz has tried to carry the offense on his own and has occasionally held onto the ball far too long as he waits for a receiver to pop open down the field. With his top two targets back in the next couple of weeks, this offense should settle back into its normal timing. But the Eagles have already lost plenty of valuable ground in the NFC playoff picture. [theringer.com]
Of course, there's always the possibility that we were all simply wrong about this team heading into the season. Maybe the Super Bowl run of two seasons ago was simply a fluke and the Eagles are simply an average team?
While I'm not totally buying that, it's hard to argue with right now given what we've seen so far this season. First, the Eagles barely beat the 0-3 Redskins, which they could've easily lost. Then they lost to the now 1-2 Falcons. And on Sunday, they lost a home game to the Lions in which they had more than one chance to win. They could just as easily be 0-3.
Aside from about a quarter and a half against Washington, this Eagles team hasn't just looked mediocre this season, they've looked bad. If that's not the team they truly are — and I don't believe it is — a statement win on Thursday against 3-0 Green Bay could go a long way to calming some fears.
Until then, however...
The Eagles, considered by many to be one of the best teams in the league both last season and heading into this season, are a very pedestrian 10-9 in the regular season since Week 1 of 2018. Take out the games started by quarterback Nick Foles, and the Eagles are 6-8 in the last 14 games with Wentz and Pederson running the show. They don't have a quality win over a good team without Foles at quarterback since the start of last season.
They have achieved that disappointing 10-9 record since Week 1 of last season by playing sloppy football. Turnovers at inopportune times, penalties to negate big plays, special teams mistakes, dropped passes — all of them have played a role in the Eagles’ being the definition of average since they won their Super Bowl in 2017.
Each week the excuse or reasoning seems to be different. They would have won if Nelson Agholor made that catch late vs. Atlanta. They would have won if the defense didn’t allow three fourth-downs vs. Tennessee in overtime. They would have won if the fumble to open the game vs. Dallas would have been ruled correctly their ball. They would have won if Alshon Jeffery doesn’t drop the ball in the playoffs vs. New Orleans.
The end result each week, however, is the same — they find a way to lose a game everyone thinks they should have won. [94wip.radio.com]
In a recent story, ESPN's Dan Graziano took a look at some bold predictions following
Week 3 of the NFL season and decided whether or not they were
overreactions. As it turns out, he is one of the people thinking the Eagles can turn it around, despite everything they have working against them.
The Philadelphia Eagles' injuries will keep them out of the playoffs
You knew when they switched from practice to a walk-through in the middle of the week because of injuries that things were serious on that front in Philly. Wideouts DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery missed Sunday's game and are in doubt for their next one, which not-so-conveniently comes Thursday against the 3-0 Packers. Quarterback Carson Wentz made it through the loss to the Lions without any new physical ailment, but that only extends that streak to one game. The Eagles are 1-2 and looking up at the 3-0 Cowboys in their division.
The verdict: OVERREACTION. There is too much recent history here of a team that overcomes its issues. Too much good coaching. Too much roster depth. The Eagles are taking their injury lumps right now, but they can't be ruled out. And even if they can't get it together in time for Thursday and they fall to 1-3, they'd still have three quarters of a season left to fix it all. They're not a team to bet against. [espn.com]
While the above vote of confidence is nice, it doesn't change the fact that the Eagles will have their work cut out for them. But it is worth remembering that the Eagles were 4-6 at one point last year before winning five of their final six regular season games and falling just short of a berth in the conference title game.
From another angle, though, Philly hung around in back-to-back outings that saw injuries tear through the roster. Starting wideouts DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery played a combined 17 snaps against the Falcons before sitting out the Lions loss. Stalwart left tackle Jason Peters was in and out of Sunday's lineup with an illness, while his backup, rookie Andre Dillard, suffered a knee injury five snaps in. On defense, the Eagles toiled without behemoths Timmy Jernigan (projected to be out a month) and Malik Jackson (on injured reserve) before losing cover man Ronald Darby midgame.
Cleaner play is a must. Wentz was undermined by a rash of drops, while up-and-down target Nelson Agholor lost a costly fumble in Lions territory, taking the shine off his two-score afternoon. Rookie runner Miles Sanders fumbled twice on one drive, with the second flub awakening an angry flock of boo-birds at the Linc.
I belonged to the offseason crowd that saw Philly as the franchise to beat in the NFC. Powered by a top-three front office and a Super Bowl-winning coaching staff, the Eagles have worked themselves out of multiple jams. Beyond the Nick Foles-led Super Bowl ride in 2017, Philly overcame one injury after another last season -- and a 4-6 record at one stage -- to journey within a touchdown of the NFC title game. That resiliency resonates, because so many of the same people remain inside the building.
Still, it might get uglier before it grows prettier. [nfl.com]
The Optimist of the Day award goes to NJ.com's Zack Rosenblatt, who came up with six (SIX!) reasons for Eagles fans to be optimistic despite the rough start to the season. Here's his final reason, which comes with a reminder that they could just as easily be 0-3.
Could (or should) be 3-0: It’s easy to play this game, especially this early in the season, but the Eagles truly are a play or two away from being 3-0 instead of 1-2.
If any one of Agholor’s drops (or fumble) to Goedert’s drop or Arcega-Whiteside’s drop or Sanders’ fumble or allowing a kick return touchdown against the Falcons — along with a host of other single moments — don’t happen, then the Eagles don’t lose.
They also could’ve lost the Redskins game, and this was the discussion far too often for the Eagles in 2018. Still, just three weeks in, it’s valid to look at that as a reason for optimism.
That will turn to pessimism if it keeps happening this way. [nj.com]
And now, here's what you've all been waiting for.
Over at CBSSports.com, Cody Benjamin took a look at six players that could make sense for the Eagles should Howie Roseman decide to turn his attention to the trade market. Obviously, Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey was one of the players listed, but since we've already discussed him at length, I decided to include another big name player that would help erase some of the injury concerns at defensive tackle.
DT Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals
Who he is: A fourth-round pick out of Georgia back in 2010, Atkins is easily one of the better interior linemen in the game, having gone to seven Pro Bowls in nine seasons (and counting) with the Bengals. A model of both durability and production, the veteran logged 10 sacks at age 30 in 2018 and remains an integral part of Cincy's defense, not to mention an all-timer for the Bengals.
Why it makes sense: Here we get our first go-big-or-go-home possibility for Roseman. The Bengals will be fighting to stay out of last place in Week 4, so they could be motivated to sell, and while Atkins just got a $65 million deal in August 2018, the extension was built for a potential 2020 out, and Zac Taylor might want every ounce of draft capital and salary-cap space he can get moving forward. From the Eagles' perspective, you'd be getting an instant star to plug in next to Cox, where injuries have ravaged Philly's defensive tackle depth, and have future flexibility to either keep him in favor of Malik Jackson or swallow some money and move on after '19.
Proposed compensation: While Atkins is worth far more than someone like Dupree, he comes with a heftier price tag ($14.6M in 2019, $7.8M if cut in 2020), so let's say a 2020 second or third, plus one or two 2021 late-rounders might do the trick. (Think Jadeveon Clowney here -- premiere player with cost concerns bringing the trade compensation down.) [cbssports.com]
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports