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November 18, 2018

First half observations: Saints 24, Eagles 7

Eagles NFL
111818-NewOrleansSaints-USAToday Derick E. Hingle/USA Today

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Austin Carr (80) celebrates with wide receiver Keith Kirkwood (18) following a touchdown catch against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

A first half with more Eagles injuries on both sides of the ball ended how you'd expect, with the Saints leading Philadelphia comfortably by a score of 24-7 after 30 minutes in New Orleans. I'm not telling you to abandon all hope of a comeback, but I think you should probably abandon all hope of a comeback from this raggedy group.

Here's what I saw in the first half in New Orleans that went according to the script.

The Good

• Holding the Saints to a field goal on their opening drive is a borderline win for this M.A.S.H. unit. Forcing them into a three-and-out in the second quarter was basically a miracle.

• Corey Clement had a couple nice returns to start off the game, even if the first one got wiped away by a penalty. Dynamism on special teams has been close to zero this season, with a unit that used to be one of the league's best looking painfully below average for most of this season.

They'll take any positive flashes they can get, I'm sure.

• Look, I may not be a certified football genius, but it sure seems like Josh Adams is better suited to run the ball between the tackles than he is outside of them. The Eagles have failed repeatedly when they've asked him to do the latter, and the process behind the decision was never good in the first place.

Lo and behold, when you let him hit the hole and get a head of steam going, the kid looks pretty good.

Good for Adams, who has shown nice burst and a reason to be trusted when he's had chances to carry the ball this year. After the Eagles' first scoring drive of the day, Adams was starting to build some momentum before he, too, was temporarily forced to the sideline. The story of Philadelphia's season.

In any case, it's on the coaching staff to use him in spots where he can be most effective because it's pretty apparent to anyone with a working set of eyes that the kid can play a little bit. Enough of the toss plays — let the big dudes up front go to work and clear a path for this kid. It can't go any worse than their offensive gameplan to date has.

• Malcolm Jenkins has been one of the few guys to consistently step up and make plays this year, maybe because he's one of the only members of the secondary left standing. So kudos to him for doing his best to hold the secondary together with rubber bands and glue, while also doing his thing against the run game.

The Bad

• There was a lot of talk about the Eagles' need to start fast in order to deal with a dynamic Saints offense. They came out looking like the proverbial tortoise, only the rabbit standing across from them gave a damn about the race and was trying to set his own personal record. Three-and-outs are not going to get it done against this Saints offense.

Eventually, the finger has to be pointed directly at the coaching staff. The Eagles have consistently gotten their butts kicked out of the gate, and that comes down largely to gameplan, prep work, and all the things Doug Pederson's staff are supposed to do. They sure haven't looked good at it this year.

• Is the guy in a Nigel Bradham jersey actually him, or do we need to file a missing persons report for a linebacker who was instrumental in Philadelphia getting stops on third down during the Super Bowl run?

His drop in production has been absolutely baffling. Running backs have gashed the Eagles on passing plays at the worst possible times this year, and there have been so many backbreaking third downs converted in general this year that Bradham was great at preventing last season. There's no real explanation for it beyond general decline on the age curve, but it's terrible for the Eagles all the same.

(Have to acknowledge his coverage on a third down stop midway through the second quarter, though. So at least he isn't totally done, I guess.)

• I understand Carson Wentz is desperate to make something happen, but he continued a worrying trend of struggling to throw the ball down the field with a ghastly interception in the first quarter, underthrowing a ball that was trying to beat double coverage in the first place.

Even if you don't want to debate the decision, it's a horrible throw, and Wentz has thrown a few ducks on deep balls in spots where the Eagles could have put points on the board with better-thrown balls. The big-play element has simply not been there for the Eagles as a result, and it's pretty hard to scare teams on any level when you have pedestrian running backs and no ability to hit on explosive plays.

If all you can do is try to methodically move the ball using intermediate routes, you're pretty cooked with the way the NFL has moved.

• The Eagles are so out of their depth on defense against a team like the Saints that Mark Ingram straight up jogged into the end zone for their second touchdown of the day.

These guys should just be embarrassed at this point. The injury list is what it is, but come on, man.

• The Eagles managed 15 yards of offense in the first quarter. Their only first down came on a penalty from New Orleans. I wish I was lying to you about either of these facts.

A lot of this can probably be placed on the shoulders of the offensive line. They have not been good enough this season, and when one of the strengths of a Super Bowl winner turns into a weakness of the team, it's pretty hard to recover from structurally. Even with Jason Peters up there in age, there was nothing to suggest they would crash and burn as a unit like they have.

Health isn't doing them any favors either, of course. And with Jason Kelce ruled out for the day after an early injury suffered to his arm, they lost one of the only decent performers they've had in this group all year. Hard to make things work when that's the case.

• Speaking of line play, the Eagles have zero chance to stop Drew Brees if they can't make him feel pressure in the pocket. His white jersey looked like it came straight out of the wash heading into halftime — that ain't going to cut it.

The Ugly

• It's always good when you can't even get through the opening kickoff return before taking your first penalty of the game.

• Jason Kelce was being worked on by trainers after the second offensive series on Sunday, and Erin Andrews had this to say about what it looked like was happening:

We'll see how Kelce is impacted by whatever issue he's dealing with, but considering he was ruled out before the first half was even over, I can't imagine great news is coming down the pipeline.

• Avonte Maddox, one of the few nice stories of this Eagles season before it went off the rails, was swallowed up the the Super Bowl hangover in the first half on Sunday. Maddox had an awkward landing in the end zone and immediately grabbed his knee, and he looked to be in a ton of fain as he struggled to make his way to the sideline.

Let's face facts everybody: there just aren't enough bodies to really compete at this point. The injury toll is too high to expect the Eagles to do much of anything.

• Why does Sean Payton bother wasting plays on Taysom Hill? You have the MVP frontrunner, a dynamic running back group, and one of the league's best receivers. The Eagles will surely take it, but the usage of Hill is and was mind-boggling. Are you experimenting and failing with it against a bad Eagles team in the hopes of succeeding against a better one in the playoffs with this stuff?


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