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October 22, 2019

What they're saying: What's wrong with the Eagles — and how can they fix it before it's too late?

Everything is not so sunny in Philadelphia after a 3-4 start to the season that has left many Eagles fans feeling like this season is a lost cause. Are the Birds, who face another tough road test this week against the 5-1 Bills, sliding down a slippery slope? Or can they turn things around like last season, when they also started 3-4 (and eventually 4-6 before winning five of their last six games to finish the season 9-7)? 

There's a lot going on down at the NovaCare Complex — from anonymous sources to claims that players are showing up late to practice to several roster moves in an attempt to bolster their on-field performance  — and that's not even taking into consideration the fact that they're coming off two terrible losses and need to get things right on the Sundays before it's too late. 

The Eagles' recent struggles have already caused their odds of making the playoffs to go from -200 before the season to +110 after the Cowboys loss on Sunday night, according to

The Eagles have been getting ripped by almost everyone this week, from analysts and fans to former coaches and ex-players, like Brian Westbrook, who went off on the Eagles on The Adam Lefkoe Show on Tuesday:

But as the saying goes, the night is darkest just before the dawn. And the Eagles will look to turn things around in Buffalo this weekend. Will they? Can they? We'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, here's a look at what the local and national media is saying about the Birds... 

Should Mike Groh go?

Brandon Lee Gowton | Bleeding Green Nation

There's no question that the Eagles offense hasn't looked the same since Frank Reich left the Birds to take the Colts head coaching job. And that's caused offense coordinator Mike Groh to take some heat in recent weeks as the offense has looked flat, to say the least. 

Over at Bleeding Green Nation, Brandon Gowton took a look at a few things the Eagles can do to shake things up and wake up their team, some of which they've already tried. The first two things Brandon mentions, however, involve getting rid of their coordinators. Could Groh find himself on the chopping block should the offense come out slow again against a very good Bills defense?

Do we know for sure that Groh is the issue behind the Eagles’ slow starts? No, we don’t. It’s ultimately Doug Pederson’s offense.

And yet we do know that Groh isn’t helping to fix the Eagles’ offensive issues. Where’s the evidence to suggest he’s part of the solution?

I’m not counting on this to happen but the Eagles should fire Groh and hire an experienced assistant like Jay Gruden to take his place. Gruden wasn’t the issue in Washington. He’s a worthwhile offensive mind who could bring some fresh perspective and new ideas to the table in Philly. Gruden might not be jumping at a non-play-calling offensive coordinator job but there isn’t a salary cap when it comes to coaching hires. Jeffrey Lurie has the ability to pay Gruden whatever it takes to convince him.

The more realistic option might involve the Eagles canning Groh and promoting assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley. I don’t really know if that accomplishes much, though. Does Staley really have a bunch of great ideas that the team just isn’t using right now? I think the Eagles would be better served adding an outside voice to the equation.  []

Pick up the pace

Danny Heifetz | The Ringer

One of the problems that have plagued the Eagles so far this season has been their slow starts. These have been well-documented by the local media and the fans, but it appears the national analysts, like Danny Heifetz of The Ringer, are starting to realize these are more than a fluke. And if they don't fix them, the second half of the season could be a long one... 

The Eagles have been sleepwalking through the beginning of games all year. Their season began by hosting Washington as 10.5-point favorites, but Philly fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter and 20-7 at halftime before coming back for the win. In Week 2, the Eagles fell behind Atlanta 10-6 at halftime and lost 24-20. That is still Atlanta’s only win of the year. In Week 3, the Eagles fell behind the Lions 20-10 at halftime and lost 27-24. Last week, the Eagles fell behind the Vikings 24-3 midway through the second quarter before succumbing 38-20. So when the Eagles fumbled twice in their first seven offensive plays against the Cowboys, it didn’t seem like an anomaly.

If any metric can capture the drop-off between the Eagles’ Super Bowl squad in 2017 and the Eagles the past two years, it’s their slow starts. This year’s Eagles have been behind at halftime five times, more than they were during their entire 19-game Super Bowl run in 2017. That year, the Eagles led the league in first-quarter score differential and were second to the Patriots in halftime score differential. In 2018, they ranked 22nd and 18th, respectively. This year is even worse, as the Eagles rank 26th in first-quarter score differential and 25th in halftime score margin. That was before this Cowboys shellacking.  []

A fork in the road

Tim McManus | ESPN

The Eagles season appears to be a critical point where it can go one of two ways going forward. 

In his Monday press conference, Pederson talked about the 2015 Chiefs team (he was on the staff then) that started 1-5 and went on to win 10 straight to finish the season. Obviously, it's great to use that as motivation and it makes for a nice anecdote, but that's the outlier. And as Tim McManus of ESPN points out, there are far more examples of teams failing to turn their season around after underwhelming starts.

Can it happen? Sure. Would you bet on it happening? Eh... 

For every story of triumph in the annals, however, there's an example that runs in the opposite direction. Take that 2015 season Pederson referenced. While his Chiefs were shaking off a slow start, the Eagles, under Chip Kelly, were in the midst of a hard crash. The most tangible evidence of that came in Weeks 11 and 12, when they lost 45-17 to Tampa Bay and 45-14 in Detroit. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Philadelphia had not suffered back-to-back losses of 17-plus points since -- until blowout losses to the Minnesota Vikings and Cowboys the past two weeks.

Add the suggestion from tackle Lane Johnson that discipline is starting to slip in the form of players showing up late to meetings and practices and anonymous voices offering criticisms of teammates and tactics, and there are other parallels to be drawn between what's happening now and Kelly's final, disastrous season in Philadelphia.

It's a game of choose your own adventure. The truth is nobody knows which direction the remaining nine games will go in.  []

MORE: Rex Ryan slams Eagles coach Doug Pederson, claims dad Buddy would have beaten Cowboys

Where's the urgency?

Les Bowen |

Doug Pederson needs to right the ship, and he needs to do it now. But everything that's been coming out of NovaCare in the last two weeks suggests that there's a problem there that needs to be fixed, and fixed quickly. 

Les Bowen wrote about the current state of the Eagles, and it left him wondering what the team thinks it sees when it looks in the mirror... 

It might have been reassuring to hear Doug Pederson and several Eagles players speak Sunday night about accountability and learning from mistakes and looking in the mirror – except it was pretty much word-for-word what they’d said a week earlier, after getting embarrassed at Minnesota.

How could they have spent the week marinating in the reaction from that 38-20 loss, preparing to visit their biggest rivals – only to go to Dallas and lose, 37-10, after falling behind 14-0 in the first six minutes?

That puzzle took on another dimension Sunday night when right tackle Lane Johnson, doing an interview outside the locker room with NBC 10’s John Clark, was asked about the next team meeting for the 3-4 Eagles, who visit 5-1 Buffalo this week. ...

Why on earth would such laxity be “creeping in” on a team with Super Bowl aspirations that is 3-4, having fallen behind by double digits in six of its seven games? Why would players struggling to save their season be late for anything? ...

Pederson gave his players T-shirts that said “Everything Matters” this past summer. He seems to still be fighting that fight.  []

A week to forget

Sheil Kapadia | The Athletic

In his "10 likes and dislikes" column for The Athletic, former Eagles beat writer Sheil Kapadia recapped the week that was for the Eagles. And boy was it a doozy. 

Oh, in case you were wondering, this fell under the "dislikes."

2. The week that was for the Eagles

A week ago Sunday, they went to Minnesota and left with a 38-20 loss. On Monday, Doug Pederson said during his weekly local radio spot that the Eagles were going to go down to Dallas and win in Week 7. That statement created headlines nationally. Later that day, Pederson released linebacker Zach Brown in an effort to send a wake-up call to his team. On Wednesday, an Eagles player told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that the team dropped the ball by not trading for Jalen Ramsey. On Thursday, Anderson quoted an Eagles source saying they needed to make the offense simpler. And on Sunday, in a big game for first place in the NFC East, the Eagles no-showed and lost to the Cowboys, 37-10. Other than that, things are going great for Pederson’s squad. Big picture, the Eagles have built a big, slow, boring offense where everything is a slog. They are without DeSean Jackson, but teams that fall apart when a 32-year-old wide receiver gets injured are not good teams. Defensively, this is as bad as we’ve seen since Pederson became the head coach and Jim Schwartz became the defensive coordinator in 2016. The Eagles have allowed 75 points in their last two games and have been outscored by 45 in the back-to-back losses. They are 13-12 since their Super Bowl victory with a matchup at Buffalo looming in Week 8.  []

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